News brief for those not aware, private military companies deployed to New Orleans (continental US or "CONUS") and the environs after Katrina. This was generally not covered by the mainstream media, but the blogosphere and alternative press did. This article is on the tamer side of the alternative coverage. MSM (mainstream media) on the other hand, was almost sterile:

The mission is to guard against looters, not fend off coordinated insurgent attacks. But the presence of the highly trained specialists represents an unusual domestic assignment for a set of companies that has chiefly developed in global hot spots where war, not nature, has undermined the rule of law….

Although it’s not likely to become a major source of business, private-sector firms that specialize in rapid response to dangerous situations probably can have more of a role in a domestic disaster’s wake, said Doug Brooks, president of the International Peace Operations Association, a trade group.

Blackwater advertised for people to work NO in their newsletter 19 September 2005: "Blackwater USA has an immediate need for Security Professionals for the New Orleans area. Interested candidates must posses the following…"

[Note: doing some housecleaning in the posting list… this broke back in Sept 05]

Hamas, Cali Cartel, and Winning the Support

With Hamas looking to field candidates in the upcoming palestinianelection, why are we responding by demanding their candidates be
excluded? We did not do this in Iraq? Is this an example of free
elections? Are we demonstrating how to conduct a democracy?

Sitting in an overseas hotel with BBC World on, I see this headline
followed immediately by the admission and stern defense by Bush that he
authorized wiretaps without FISA warrants. The impact of this is clear:
do as we say not as we do. How can the US continue to consider itself a
world leader as it continues to conduct itself in this manner?

Powell’s December 2005 interview with the BBC is a case in point. His annoyance and frustration with the intel he was given was not also inclusive of the IC’s (intelligence community’s) own questioning of the quality of intelligence [this point is emphasized by Col. Lawrence Wilkerson’s comments]. How, he asked, are we supposed to maintain the moral authority to provide a model to follow when we use questionable, in our clear understanding, intelligence; when we use Gitmo, when we use European territory for "secret prisons"? Implicating European ministers into the CIA prison issue, he calls it the "Casablanca Moment" when the inspector exclaims, "Whoa, this is happening here?"

As Alexander Cooley wrote in Base Politics in Foreign Affairs, overseas bases are a definitive element of public diplomacy the typical American citizen is completely unaware of. Cooley correctly observes our foreign bases are frequently foremost in the eyes and minds and hearts of many in the international community, and not just in the country of our foreign base. These bases are particularly sensitive in oppressed countries granting us these rights. 

Turning back to Hamas, they get the nod from the people, their local constituents, not because of their violence, but because they clean the streets and donate to the public good. They address the broken windows like the former Cali Cartels in Columbia. What does the United States do in response? We emply French-style hypocrisy to demand the exclusion of their candidates. The Palestinians see colonial overtones (how many Americans really know the region’s history and how the French and British mandates established the current havoc just a couple of generations ago) when we reject their point of view.

There is a way to win the hearts and minds. This isn’t it. We do not have to accept Hamas, in fact we can continue to deny them participation in the electoral process, but we need to provide alternatives. What are their alternatives? What leadership have we provided? What have we really done to address the corruption of the PA? When the US talks, why should they listen?

[I wrote this post mid-December 2005, but neglected to post it. So now
it posted. So here it is, especially relevant today as Hamas goes into
Palestinian elections tomorrow, 25 January 2005.]

Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems

News brief from on "The Remote Controlled Military and the Future of Warfare":

In a secluded desert in California, two sleek 27-foot-long planes zip across the sky, dipping and swerving like air-show hotshots. But the flying turns vicious when a pop-up target appears and the Boeing aircraft quickly communicate with each other to determine which has the better chance of destroying it. One plane drops a 250-pound GPS-guided bomb from 35,000 feet, hitting the bull’s-eye. Before the planes can react, an anti-aircraft missile zooms towards them, and they each safely roll out of the missile’s path.

Transitioning from precision-guided munitions to the next generation of weapons will have a huge impact on war, peace, and everything in-between. The flashy world of "smart bombs", with their fantastic public relations / media entertainment value (Xbox masquerading as CNN), is really a world of "obedient weapons". These are devices, remotely controlled either by a pilot, RWO, or even some other grounded operator. Firing a Hellfire into a vehicle or a building from a Predator is a great extension of the long arm of the law (perhaps I shouldn’t use "law" since it implies police… are we in a war or a police action? nevermind…).

Real smart weapons are what is coming in the area of "unattended,
unmanned, and remote war technologies". These semi or fully autonomous
devices include remote sensing, discriminating, and detonating or
alerting devices are force multipliers. They may also be boon or bane.
The notion of plausible deniability went out the window a while ago, or
did it?

Larry Pintak comments that our media coverage looks at us through a lens of what we do (action, not being). Comparatively, our media looks at "them" as what they are
(being, not action). If our direct actions are excusable because it is
just something we did, which "in reality does not reflect who we are",
how might this be extended when actions are indirect? When semi or
fully autonomous technologies execute war for us. Is it them something
we did?

Consider the two examples Robert Entman dissect in Projections of Power. Analyzing the media, Entman finds attribution to "technical glitches" as causal factors in the shooting down of the Iran Air Boeing by the USS Vincennes. The personification of the incident, specifically naming Captain Rogers, and visually implying a dizzying area of technology the US operators were supposed to work with, all pushed readers toward the conclusion it was something that just happened and wasn’t who we are. The counter-example of the KAL 007 shoot-down (in fact, why can I recite the KAL flight number and not the Iran Air flight number?) was de-personalized and framed explicitly that the Soviets "should have known" it was a civilian airliner. The USS Vincenees was never put in the position, by the US media, of "should have known". The whole story of the KAL shoot down was the "saturated with morally judgmental words and images". The Iran Air tragedy was not. What we do, who they are.

How will this translate into remote warfare and the use of the Gladiator Tactical Unmanned Ground Vehicle and other fun toys (also see Autonomous Operations (AO) for Future Naval Capabilities).
The realm of unmanned, unattended, autonomous, and remote monitoring
and warfare will likely fall into the same legal gray area of private
military companies, privateers, piracy with indirect accountability,
fall-back claims on technology malfunctions etc. I also see an impact on Public Diplomacy as what we do is what we are to other people.

More on US Military as Public & Cultural Diplomats

Are we using our military resources appropriately? In Conflict-Post-Conflict (CPC) transitions, "securing the peace" is essential. As was seen in Iraq (and New Orleans), failing to provide adequate infrastructure, including personal (beyond personnel) security, for civil society results in a breakdown at the seams. Equatable with the war-peace seam of Barnett, it is nevertheless a widely known fundamental. It is even coded in the Laws of War as the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The US military found itself with sufficient resources to win the war but not win the peace. Besides Ambassador Bremer’s mea culpa, we can look at back at before the war and the conflict between General Shinseki and then-Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz. The military, trained in long views and case study analysis, comes up with a variety of inter-connected plans.

Looking at their human resources, the "cannon-cockers" were found to be available for secondary duty.  Of course, after the major operations are done, the need for heavy (and field?) artillery diminishes, as we saw in Gunner Palace.

A note on vocabularly. "Civil-military relations" in the context below is not the same civil-military relations as I explore on this blog. Here, they are talking about civil affairs in the realm of civil operations, peace, rebuilding, etc.

This is an effective re-tasking of resources, especially in when MOOTW are more prevalent and operations will rely less on the big guns. As I have mentioned before, place the military in the lead for civil outreach (i.e. public diplomacy as the military is the representative of the State; and cultural diplomacy as the military is the American face and experience the locals get) may be problematic in the long run. The integration of civilian police and support structures into the post-conflict response is critical to remove the US = Military experience of the civilian population at the earliest possible time.

There are basic prerequisites to the transition, of course, including the establishment of basic and essential civilian security. Basic city services (water, electricty, sewage, and waste collection) each follow (probably in reverse order). The military is already working on the coordination team, JPASE.

I could continue on this, but that’s for another post…

From the Marine Corps Times 6 Dec 2005:

Artillery units will now take the lead on civil-military operations in
their respective Marine division.
Hagee directed the deputy commandant for combat development and
integration to establish a task force that will meet by month’s end to
coordinate integration of civil affairs military occupational
specialties with headquarters elements of artillery units to serve as
trainers and subject-matter experts.

Currently, the Corps’ ability to conduct CMO is limited to the
expertise of its two Reserve civil affairs groups, staffed with only
about 150 Marines each.

“If we’re going to do the things we think we’re going to be doing in
the future, the kinds of fights that we’re getting into, the kind of
stability operations … we need more civil affairs capability,” said
deputy commandant for plans, policy and operations, Lt. Gen. Jan Huly,
during an Oct. 19 interview.

Corps policy makers have said artillery units are ideal for the CMO
mission because those operations occur only after the need for
artillery fire support has passed and because artillery units contain
the necessary communications and transportation equipment.

Laying foundations for wider ICT implementation

TnlaptophandsideNews brief from the Times of India on Microsoft’s train-the-trainers program. Details on the $100 laptop referenced in the article, pictured at right, can be found here.

Microsoft’s India division has committed to train 20,000 teachers in India as part of the Partners-In-Learning program. The goal is to educate government teachers on how to use computers and technology so they can teach their students more effectively. Tech-savvy teachers create a learning environment with more possibilities. Everyone talks about the digital divide, and the problem is that not everyone has an equal chance at knowledge. To address this issue from the hardware side, many companies have teamed up to produce an inexpensive laptop that is hand-crank powered so even those in the remotest locations can experience the power of the PC for learning and entertainment. Having the hardware is only part of the solution. Kids can only do so much without a teacher’s help. The hardware and software are just tools. Thanks to Microsoft’s new program, these teachers get an "upgrade" which in turn helps the students upgrade themselves as well.

Public Diplomacy Quote

A quote courtesy of someone else: "Communications without intelligence is noise;  Intelligence without communications is irrelevant." Gen Alfred. M. Gray, USMC

Public Diplomacy without awareness of the audience and the hearing the listening will generate is noise. Having the knowledge of how to win friends and influence people (i.e. win hearts and minds) but not acting on it is irrelevant.

Chavez’s public diplomacy: Playing to American Poor

First it was Citgo / Chavez offer to subsidize 25 million gallons of heating oil for 100,000 US households, now it is is Castro offering free eye care for US poor. The opportunity for both Chavez and Castro to exploit American (as in US) poor is an opportunity the Administration has not intercepted. Consider the news coverage of the Chavez / Citgo offer and consider the coverage the Castro offer will get. Pay attention to the response, both verbal and policy, by the Administration. What type of rejection will the Bush Administration give? The Chavez offer, followed by the "exposure" by Katrina, and then the Castro offer… how will the Administration counter the image that is being generated? The Chavez story was widely picked up in the US and elsewhere around the world. The Katrina story, without the benefit of a sophisticated Administration response, grew and festered (from the Bush POV) and demonstrated the Administration was out of touch (demonstrated by "Heck of a job" to Cherthoff’s unawares). The Castro story may or may not sprout legs (it just appeared today), but the image in Latin America of the US will not be improved by this mockery. Will Karen Hughes jump to the rescue? Doubtful, she’s still amazed at least one country is larger than hers.

Off Topic: Race across Manhattan

Off topic is this link I’ve been sitting on for a while. Not only a MountainRunner, I was also a MountainRider (bartered my 22.9 lb full-suspension cross country mtn bike for massages… a lot of massages) and a RoadRider (and tri-geek). Now the rollers, CompuTrainer, and bikes just rot in the garage begging to be used. Enough of the tears. To share the joy of riding, check out this vid of the NYC Drag Race of Feb 2004 (50mb so it’ll take a few to download, but it’s good, turn up the sound). If you don’t know anything about bikes, some of these guys are on track bikes: no brakes and no freewheel. You pedal and the wheels turn. Stop pedaling and the wheels stop turning.

Your friendly internet police

News brief on the Great Firewall of China from RConversation. The internet police Jingjing_1Chachaof Shenzhen now, as they fly on manhole covers, a "face" to go with the name. The Chinese "Big Brother" and "Big Sister" of the Cyberworld would look out of the place in the Matrix, but not in China. Check out the details.

Probably the only interesting perceptual change on information communications technology is that having a "face" makes the threat or intimidation that much more real. Anytime something is branded, you further its recognition. Will they make these characters into avatars for the massive multiplayer games? Will Chinese gold harvesters see one of these soon?

More on expanding the US military’s public diplomacy capabilities

News brief: The US military has clearly signed off on communicating their story in the modern media environment. As part of the Transformation of the US military, the United States Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) has announced JPASE to set "the pace for joint military public affairs".

A still-developing group of joint public affairs professionals have helped to bring a constant flow of timely, accurate information from combatant commanders to news organizations that set up camp wherever American forces operate…

The speed of the Internet, cable news and other media all contribute to rapid shaping of public opinion of military operations. Armed forces public affairs personnel and their communication skills are indispensable to meeting this challenging information environment, according to military leaders.

Preventing misinformation and setting up media access while initial public impressions are forming has been a formidable challenge for the Department of Defense, until now…

In the past, public affairs planning largely involved pulling together individual practitioners from around DoD-an approach that consistently lengthened the spin-up time for a new operation.

The new JPASE concept provides a scalable cadre of experienced senior public affairs officers and non-commissioned officers, who are familiar with the various agencies in a joint operating area and provide media a full perspective of the operation in progress…

Also see Public Diplomacy section.

Technorati Tags: Public Diplomacy, Civil-Military, JPASE

Alexander Strategy Group and Eritrea

Interesting (and old) news from PR Watch 8 Nov 04.

From The O’Drwyer Report — Eritrea “signed Alexander Strategy Group, a firm with strong Republican ties, to a contract worth more than $300K a year to improve its ties with the United States.” According to Amnesty International, “torture, arbitrary detention, ‘disappearances’ and ill-treatment of political prisoners” are common in the Horn of Africa nation. Human Rights Watch reports, “The Eritrean government has lobbied the United States to use Eritrea’s Red Sea ports as military bases in the war against terrorism.” The contract “forbids the [Alexander Strategy Group] from discussing its work without the consent of Eritrea.” The Alexander Strategy Group’s other clients include the Nuclear Energy Institute, Blackwater USA and PhRMA.

It seems the lobbying was unsuccessful as the US forces are apparently based further south.

War News Radio

News brief for those interested in information communication technology and cultural diplomacy. A recent story on NPR’s Day to Day highlighted a college’s attempt to reachout and communicate directly with Iraqis.

War News Radio uses Skype and Yahoo messenging, and their respective directory systems, to contact English-speaking Iraqis. This type of grassroots outreach demonstrates more than journalism adapting to technology and barriers to interview (another story on NPR’s Morning Edition interviewed a reporter who no longer interviews the "person on the street" due to security problems). Technology may enable the so-called CNN Effect, but it also facilitates this type of peer to peer grassroots communication.

The online awareness and recruiting the led to the "Battle in Seattle", cultural diplomacy outreach could be advantaged by leveraging these technologies at the individual level. The Cold War United States Information Service facilities, vast (and less micromanaged) VOA broadcasts, and other cultural reachouts (thanks to the Honorable Helms) may be past relics, but these technology options may fill an important niche in the modern security-challenged era.

Technorati Tags: ICT, Public Diplomacy, Technology

Mother Jones Interview with Marc Lynch – Voices of the New Arab Public

News brief: I had the opportunity to speak at length with Marc recently about the Middle East (and other topics). The recently unmasked blogger, Abu Aardvark, has some very interesting and intriguing thoughts and ideas on the Middle East. A recent Mother Jones interview is available, which is a good read. Also, check out Marc’s blog on the book and the press it has received.

Technorati Tags: Public Diplomacy, Middle East

Islamic Republic News Agency (Iranian official news) reaches out

I have a GoogleAlert for “public diplomacy” and it gave me a link the following headline: UK Foreign Office urged to improve public diplomacy. What is interesting about this post is the source is the Islamic Republic News Agency (English version). The IRNA site is offered in nine languages: English, Russian, Chinese, Serbian, Spanish, Turkish, Arabic, and Farsi. The content changes based on the language, presumably to provide targeted information to the national audience of the selected language. The Iranians have the outreach down far better than most government communication services, Western or otherwise. Very impressive and deserving of a deeper discussion on their own efforts at media diplomacy through this site.

Technorati Tags: Public Diplomacy, Iran

CIA Torture Flights… UK Memo

News brief from the Scotsman:

Memo points to more ‘rendition’ flights: A leaked memo from the Foreign Office to Downing Street last night revealed uncertainty in Whitehall over the number of so-called
"rendition" flights operated secretly by the US through British

The is a great resource for information. They exploit internet technology the way it should be. Here is a page of dynamic content on the CIA flights and the RSS feed for same.

China’s Africa expansion

News briefs from UPI and People’s Daily Online. First, the raw story, later an analysis.

First, from UPI: China’s Africa expansion

the last decade China and the continent of Africa have gradually been
building diplomatic and economic ties in the hopes of further advancing
globalization and enjoying mutually beneficial cooperation. But now
with a mounting global oil crisis and reforms underway at the United
Nations, China has emerged as a growing ally to most of the 57 African
territories, stepping up efforts to expand its ties to the continent,
host of the world’s least-developed countries.

Continue reading “China’s Africa expansion

Consultants Advisory Group (CAG) as UN PMC?

Kathryn Cramer has an interesting post on Consultants Advisory Group (CAG),what it is apparently doing in Haiti under UN contract, its new
Panamanian location (to hide from US? media? Kathryn?), arrests of
somebody with diplomatic immunity, use of TopCat boats, and more. This
almost reads like spy novel. Given how poorly the TopCat and Somalia deal was structured, the use of an Emoryville address, etc. it is hard to not suspect the at times bumbling ways of CAG.

Kathryn’s post…

a lot of ground, ranging from a mysterious company owned by US ex-pats
placing spies disguised as journalists in the audience of Haitian
presidential debates, to CAG arranging for the detention of people who
wrote to me to ask for information about CAG and complain about CAG’s
involvement in human rights violations in Haiti. So bear with me. This
is my second post about CAG, and part of an ongoing series on Top Cat
Marine Security.

Making Our (Retired) Soldiers Pay

News brief: In an effort to further break civil-military relations, or at least demonstrated lack of understanding and support of the sacrifices made by our soldiers and their families…

The Pentagon hopes to reap billions of dollars to pay for ships, aircraft and other weapons by doubling or tripling health insurance premiums paid by military retirees and driving 600,000 of those pensioners out of the military medical system, charges a coalition of veterans’ organizations….

Defense Department officials have complained for
years that skyrocketing health care costs, particularly for retirees,
are cutting into money needed to equip today’s troops. The Pentagon’s
medical expenses have doubled in the p ast five years and could reach
$64 billion annually by 2015, according to Pentagon estimates.

From The Virginian-Pilot story notes the appropriate concern for rising health care costs. The "comparisons between civilian and military health premiums ignore the hardships that go with military life" and furthers (demonstrates?) the image that military service is an occupation and not an institution in the mind of many.