Before reforming public diplomacy, we need a strategy

For all the governement and special commission reports, all of the blogs and media analysis, and for all of the books, the United States still does not get public diplomacy. It does not matter if a team in the State Department "gets it" or if the Pentagon "gets it". What really matters is the very top "gets it". Without participation and buy-in from the very top, we are wasting our time fanstasizing about the efficacy of official public diplomacy, wondering about cultural imperialism of the entertainment industy, and "advocacy" of our "ideals".

The reality of getting "them" to "know us" and what we’re about seems a little misguided when only 33% of American’s like what we do. When the world has lost the seperation between America and American — sentiments like "we dislike your President, but love your country" is in the past — what are we really doing?

The 28 April 2006 Wall Street Journal demonstrates how talk on reshaping US Public Diplomacy apparatus is nothing but folly. We missing the crucial keystone of an effective public diplomacy: acceptance and support from the very top. Until then the public diplomacy of the United States will continue to be a hodge podge of efforts chiefly led by the US military and not the State Department. 

Even before China’s bolder courtship of Africa began to galvanize new attention in Washington, Gen. Jones was executing the Bush administration’s national-security doctrine of preventive action there "in an effort to preclude parts of Africa from becoming the Iraqs and Afghanistans of the future," he says.

He and Deputy Commander Chuck Wald, his point man for Africa at the European Command headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, are overseeing a think tank on Africa. To improve coordination of U.S. initiatives, they have put together a group in Stuttgart with the participation of 15 U.S. government agencies. Gen. Jones has worked with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to bring business leaders with him to Africa. It’s all in service of what he sees as the military’s new role as forward scout and animator for integrated U.S. response.

"The fight in the 21st century," he says, "is about coordinating all elements of national influence so that it works together in a seamless way. If nothing follows the military in Africa, we won’t succeed."

"Coordinating all elements of national influence" sounds a lot like "smart power". Reaching out proactively to engage and understand is generally understood to be the mission of public diplomacy. So where is Karen Hughes in this critical region of national importance?

The value and shortcomings of US public diplomacy is captured in "too many reports", in Karen Hughes’ own words, and books. Yet, very little action has been done or attempted to address these concerns spanning a few years. Ah, you might say bureaucracies take time to change. Surely recreating USIA or something similar isn’t even close to creating the Department of Homeland Security, perhaps the second worse strike against the security of this nation by this Administration to protect our nation (Iraq having slid into #1)? Anything, right or wrong, can be done if the will is there. A commitment from the top is required and the will trickles, or floods, down from there.

Made clear is that Karen Hughes is not on the "take-off’s and
and that Condoleeza Rice will not give or fight for Hughes or her mission. Let’s stop wasting our time wondering how a certain policy of Karen
Hughes will impact public diplomacy. The reality is this President
continues to appointment Ambassadors as political favors without consideration to competency or value to America,
continues to empower the Defense Department as the communicator and
coordinator with civilian agencies and governments, and continues to work around instead of reform programs (e.g. creating the
Millenium Challange Account outside of USAID). Repeatedly, this President reiterates his lack of lack of vision and understanding of the value of image and content, policy and deeds, while at the same time demanding other countries follow up words with action. Until the President understands "small" things like 20,000 non-military security contractors operating in Iraq reflect back on the United States, that Iraqi reconstruction projects after years of effort are still unfinished or extremely poorly done reflect back onto the United States, and that the value of the word of the United States has diminished as a result of his policies (consider Iran’s challenge on sanctions), we will not have an effective public diplomacy strategy because we will constantly be fighting our own messages and actions, leaving no room to educate, engage, or counter misinformation.

The National Security Strategy of 2006 completely ignores notions of mutual understanding
and two-way communication, despite "too many" reports highlighting their
significance. However in a flood of academic articles, the US military increasing acknowledges and incorporates cultural awareness and understanding as critical to "scouting", preventing, and short-circuiting conflict.

Back at State, Hughes’ Four E’s emphasize "advocacy" without understanding and without real listening. Obviously, Hughes did not read the reports or what was in but not reported in the reports. The GAO
report of 2003
included survey questions that were, interestingly, not addressed in the report itself. Among these were questions noting that while 87% of US diplomatic posts responded
"public diplomacy" was a "strategy and/or tactic for meeting other
strategic goals", 77% responded that "mutual understanding" was no in
their Mission Performance Plans. Other questions noted the 42% of the diplomatic posts worked coordinated with the USAID office in country while 59% coordinated with US military elements in country.

President Bush has dictated a policy of unilateralism but the
military sees the writing on the wall. Perhaps it is because they are a
more agile organization than State, but when papers like "Avoiding a
Napoleonic Ulcer- Bridging the Gap of Cultural Intelligence (Or,Have We
Focused on the Wrong Transformation)" (from 2004) are published seeking
cultural-based models of the past, present and future, we have to ask where
is State?

Should we be concerned that Rumsfeld is asked about his vision of USIA? When was the last time Rice was asked about USIA?

Apparently the impact of policy, perception, demographics, and knowledge on our
security is not apparent to State. While the military conducts exercises with media
(TV, radio, web) participating to practice media diplomacy, State Department officers dedicated to
countering-misinformation from speaking directly to the press

National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice once implored we must

their challenges and their cultures and their hopes; to speak their
languages and read their literature; to know their cultures in the
deepest sense. Our interaction must be a conversation, not a monologue.
We must reach out and explain, but we must also listen.

Yet as Secretary of State we don’t see this. Is it really bureaucratic resistance or a lack of commitment to at least establish a policy? Too often we simple attribute the failure of State to move as intranginsince of career officers. It isn’t just State conducting our public diplomacy, and it isn’t just the Defense Department stepping up to the plate. Worthy organizations like Keith Reinhard’s Business for Diplomatic Action step up to fill an obvious void. This is not privatizing as much as its outsourcing by default.

State provides Shared Values and sons of Shared Values. If we just tell the story a little different next time maybe it’ll work. Long term visionaries like Norm Pattiz are cut at the knees because they don’t "advocate" the US position enough or don’t show the "numbers" to "prove" success. As Albert Einstein once said, "Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts." In a Long War we need to have patience.

Listening requires connections through radio or in-person. Consular offices that are described as "Crusader Castles" or maximum security prisons inhibit any kind of communication. Is the "last three feet" the no man’s land / killing zone between the 10′ fence topped with razor wire and the walls with tiny windows? Stories about visa procedures ($100 non-refundable application fee??) and entry problems abound. An over-arching strategy and commitment, if it existed, must trickle down to TSA supervisors and officers to be aware of their role in forming the image of the United States. Instead, we consider huge projects like the "model" terminal in Houston.

In Baghdad, we are building the largest embassy in the world, a facility larger than Vatican City, built with imported Southeastern Asian labor housed in miserable conditions. If the Istanbul Consulate is a "crusader castle", what will this monstrosity be called?

It was General Abizaid of CENTCOM who said

In order to fight this long war, we ought to become as ‘expert’ in the Middle East as we were ‘expert’ in Central Europe for the past 50 years… we have to educate, train and develop the next generation of leadership to be as familiar and comfortable with this culture, it’s threats and opportunities. The near term battle is for linguists, intelligence experts and FAOs (foreign area officers). The long term battle is to develop an Officer Corps (and Senior NCO Corps) that is as comfortable and acculturated operating in this region tomorrow, as we were in Central Europe yesterday.

The effort to inoculate, a word used by SACEUR General Jones to Congress in 2005, is the goal of the mission described in the Wall Street Journal article. It is import to deny sanctuary to terrorist beliefs, support networks (implicit and explicit), and overall build up the security and, more importantly, capacity of states around the world to reject terrorists and guerrillas. But again, where is State and where does all of this fit into our Public Diplomacy strategy? Until we pressure for a top-level strategy, we’re justing wasting bandwidth, time, and energy chasing windmills while Bush and Company go about their merry way.

links for 2006-04-29

  • The Ijaw population in the Niger Delta lives in extreme poverty despite the oil wealth that surrounds them. The failure of the government in Abuja to address the concerns of the Ijaw effectively means that militias will continue to organize and mount smal
  • Small step from pirating a company to a country… it’s called misinformation in the intangible world.
    (tags: China)
  • Mr. Oberwetter had never set foot in the desert kingdom before he became Ambassador two years ago. His resume boasts a stint as chairman of the American Petroleum Institute, which lobbies on behalf of over 400 oil and gas interests in Washington D.C., and

links for 2006-04-28

  • State failure is a relatively new label that encompasses a range of severe political conflicts and regime crises exemplified by events of the 1990s in Somalia, Bosnia, Liberia, Afghanistan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire).
    (tags: ICT4D Africa)

links for 2006-04-27

  • As Africans and their international partners gear up for a major push to fuel development and poverty reduction, Africa has a new opportunity to push the development agenda and to improve conditions for the continent’s poor. In July 2005, the Group of E
    (tags: Africa Nigeria)
  • Well worth repeated visits

PLA to disallow tattoos

Briefly, while the US Army is hurting for recruits and has started to allow obvious tattoos it previously banned, the People’s Liberation Army is tightening their image:

…tattoos "tarnish the military’s image".
Traditional ethnic tattoos will be allowed if they are not too obvious when the recruit is wearing shorts.

Incidently, the PLA is also banning heavy snorers. Not sure if there’s a link or if there’s a comparable with the USA.

Air Force One Graffiti Hoax

The internet can create news where there isn’t any and give a platform to those who otherwise would be voiceless. In Mexico, the Zapatista’s so effectively used global communication that a new paradigm was named for them: Zapatista Effect. The Netwar is less denial-of-service attacks and more of what the Air Force One Graffiti Hoax symbolized its potential.

A startling internet video that shows someone spraying graffiti on

President Bush’s jet looked so authentic that the Air Force wasn’t immediately certain whether the plane had been targeted….

"We’re looking at it, too," said Lt. Col. Bruce Alexander, a spokesman
for the Air Mobility Command’s 89th Airlift Wing, which operates Air
Force One. "It looks very real."

Swift-boating to a new level, a determined party will take advantage of the 24-hour news cycle (and its inherent desperation). This requires deep and effective counter-information capabilities with speakers who understand how to communicate and have an established level of trust.

See the original video here.

Navy: The United States Navy is not patroling Somali Waters

Link: Navy Times – Officials refute reports of expansion in Somalia, Black Sea.

The Navy has no intent to build bases on the Black Sea in Turkey, nor has it been asked to patrol Somali waters for marauding pirates, according to official denials of recent news items.

Spokesmen for 6th Fleet/Naval Forces Europe in Naples, Italy, and 5th Fleet/Naval Forces Central Command in Manama, Bahrain, refuted news articles from mid-April claiming the Navy would be reaching further into previously uncharted waters, so to speak.

Confusing messages or accidental comments?

…U.S. ships patrol in international waters off Somalia, but not in Somali waters.

Cmdr. Jeff Breslau, public affairs officer for 5th Fleet in Bahrain, said no
one has asked the Navy to patrol Somali waters for pirates, as was
reported in several news outlets.

links for 2006-04-23

  • (NSS 2006) US is in the first years of a long struggle…. clear marching orders…. bull. 4 April 2006 reiteration of something that is not: a unified plan for public diplomacy of these United States.
  • An influential advisory panel to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is exploring the military implications of powerful Internet search engines like Google, online journals and other new tools for accessing and distributing information.
    (tags: DoD ICT)

Asian sea piracy information centre to be established

Briefly, Asian sea piracy information centre to be established:

Asian sea piracy information centre to be established
Singapore: A 24-hour centre dedicated to sharing information about pirate attacks around Asia is expected to be established here by December, media reports said Friday.

The facility will act as a nexus for 16 countries including India, China and Japan in their bid to stamp out piracy.

It is hoped that the centre’s work will help persuade Lloyd’s of London to take the Malacca Strait off its list of war-risk areas, Singapore’s Transport Minister Yeo Cheow Tong told The Straits Times.

Private Security Companies of the Malacca Strait

Briefly, Companies turn to private navies to combat pirates of the Malacca Strait:

As many as five companies have set up in the last year, including three British firms and an American security company. Other security firms are now trying to get into the lucrative new market, where the price of missions to protect cargo ships starts at US$50,000.

Heavily armed special forces veterans are among the Western ex-military personnel, some with experience in Iraq or Afghanistan, who will either ride shotgun on the vessel or patrol alongside it in their own craft. Some even claim to be able to rappel out of helicopters to recapture ships or oil rigs hijacked by pirates.

Nobody doubts the risk to shipping. The Malacca Strait isn’t a lazy backwater; the waters run past the glittering sky scrapers of Singapore and carry around half the world’s oil, making it perhaps the most important strategic seaway in the world.

Piracy is the lingering fault line of international commerce, trade, and state capacity. It is the opportunity that invites both states / IGOs and guerrillia / terrorist organizations to move in and launch operations.

American Military Partnership Makes Big Hit in The Gambia

EUCOM is really expanding in Africa. US soldiers are becoming cultural links between Gambians and the United States.

The security partnership between the U.S. Defense Department and TheGambia has come in for praise, in part because of a recent visit to the
country by soldiers of the U.S. European Command (EUCOM), who shared
valuable experiences with their Gambian counterparts.

headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, is responsible for military
partnerships with most sub-Saharan African nations.  It organized the
March 13-17 visit to The Gambia in cooperation with the U.S. Embassy in
Banjul, The Gambia, and the Office of Defense Cooperation at the U.S.
Embassy in Dakar, Senegal.

According to the U.S. Embassy in
Banjul, the soldiers’ conversation centered on operations aimed at
helping Africans secure their countries against terrorism as well as
counter crimes like illegal fishing and piracy.

The Americans were well received and drew "enthusiastic reactions from the Gambian government and media," the embassy reported….

The event coincided with a successful donation project operated by
the Defense Department called the Humanitarian Assistance Program
(HAP).  In The Gambia, HAP spurred the donation of excess U.S. property
to nongovernmental organizations, including a vehicle, medical supplies
and school and office furniture.

Compared to Defense Department
partnerships with larger African nations, the overall U.S.-Gambian
military relationship is relatively modest — funded at between
$100,000 and $150,000 a year.  The centerpiece of that involvement is
the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program, which
brings foreign officers to the United States for professional training
at service schools.

In 2003, IMET spent more than $11 million to train more than 1,500 African troops from 40 countries in Africa.

This is how we win the "hearts and minds". Why is it being led by the Defense Department?

Security is "a regional problem and requires a regional solution," the
admiral said.  "These nations need to protect their natural resources
and provide for safety and security to their coastlines."  To that end,
he said, the meeting gave the United States "the opportunity to build
effective peer networking among the African professionals and
strengthen our emerging partnerships with those nations."

Security of the region is important not just to deny sanctuary but also to protect oil and other natural resources. Developing deep partnerships through cultural and public diplomacy is far cheaper than waging war and goes a lot further in the trust deparment.


The volume of military involvement in Africa is increasing while the responsibilities are divided between THREE combatant commands:

  • Pacific Command (PACOM) gets the island of Madagascar (east coast of Africa
    (excluding the waters north of 5° S and west of 68° E). (PACOM gets 50% of the earth’s surface.)
  • Central Command (CENTCOM) gets the Horn of Africa.
  • Europe (EUCOM) gets the rest.

Wouldn’t it make sense to consolidate this AOR under one roof and move beyond Huntington’s wonderment if Africa is it’s own civilization? It isn’t one civilization but it should be one Command.

Review of the Blackwater Lawsuit

The Nation has a good article on the Blackwater lawsuit that is slowly working its way through the court system. In Blood Is Thicker Than Blackwater, Jeremy Scahill describes actions by a company that is the worst fear by many opposing privatization (did someone mention CusterBattles?).

When firms act like this, as Blackwater is alleged to have done, it not only taints the industry but also the United States. As an interview in the movie Shadow Company demonstrates, Stephen "Scott" Helvenston, Mike Teague, Jerko Zovko and Wesley
Batalona were attacked not because they were contractors or because they might have been military, but because they were thought to be CIA by the locals. While Americans tend to see contractors as independent operators, others see them as extensions, or a part of, the US Government (USG). The thousand or so deaths in Fallujah that were a direct result of the alleged failure of Blackwater to protect its men and the international coverage had tremendous impact on the image of the United States. Blackwater didn’t take the hit and in fact may have gained value from it (this is not to suggest it was intentional or even desired publicity). For the United States, this is image management and public diplomacy by proxy without recourse or management.

Below are some the highlights from the article.

to former Blackwater officials, Blackwater, Regency and ESS were
engaged in a classic war-profiteering scheme. Blackwater was paying its
men $600 a day but billing Regency $815, according to the Raleigh News
and Observer. "In addition," the paper reports, "Blackwater billed
Regency separately for all its overhead and costs in Iraq." Regency
would then bill ESS an unknown amount for these services. Kathy Potter
told the News and Observer that Regency would "quote ESS a price, say
$1,500 per man per day, and then tell Blackwater that it had quoted ESS
$1,200." ESS then contracted with Halliburton subsidiary KBR, which in
turn billed the government an unknown amount of money for the same
security services, according to the paper. KBR/Halliburton refuses to
discuss the matter and will not confirm any relationship with ESS.

All this was shady enough–but the real danger for Helvenston and the others lay in Blackwater’s decision to cut corners to make even more money. The original contract between Blackwater/Regency and ESS, obtained by The Nation, recognized that "the current threat in the Iraqi theater of operations" would remain "consistent and dangerous," and called for a minimum of three men in each vehicle on security missions
"with a minimum of two armored vehicles to support ESS movements." [Emphasis added.]

But on March 12, 2004, Blackwater and Regency signed a subcontract, which specified security provisions identical to the original except for one word: "armored." Blackwater deleted it from the contract.

"When they took that word ‘armored’ out, Blackwater was able to save $1.5 million in not buying armored vehicles, which they could then put in their pocket," says attorney Miles. "These men were told that they’d be operating in armored vehicles. Had they been, I sincerely believe that they’d be alive today. They were killed by insurgents literally walking up and shooting them  with small-arms fire. This was not a roadside bomb, it was not any other explosive device. It was merely small-arms fire, which could have been repelled by armored vehicles."

On March 30, 2004, Helvenston, Teague, Zovko and Batalona left Baghdad on the ESS security mission. The suit alleges that there were six guards available that day, but McQuown intervened and ordered only the four to be sent. The other two were kept behind at Blackwater’s Baghdad facility to perform clerical duties. A Blackwater official later boasted, the suit says, that they saved two lives by not sending all six men….

The four men were, in fact, working under contracts guaranteeing that they would travel with a six-person team.

charge that Blackwater knowingly refused to provide guaranteed
safeguards, among them: They would have armored vehicles; there would be
three men in each vehicle–a driver, a navigator and a rear gunner; and
the rear gunner would be armed with a heavy automatic weapon, such as a
"SAW Mach 46," which can fire up to 850 rounds per minute, allowing the
gunner to fight off any attacks from the rear. "None of that was true,"
says attorney Callahan. Instead, each vehicle had only two men and far
less powerful "Mach 4" guns, which they had not even had a chance to
test out. "Without the big gun, without the third man, without the
armored vehicle, they were sitting ducks," says Callahan.

…Without a detailed map, they took the
most direct route, through the center of Falluja. According to Callahan,
there was a safer alternative route that went around the city, which the
men were unaware of because of Blackwater’s failure to conduct a "risk
assessment" before the trip, as mandated by the contract…

Attorney Marc Miles says that shortly after the suit was filed, he asked the court in North Carolina for an "expedited order" to depose John Potter. The deposition was set for January 28, 2005, and Miles was to fly to Alaska, where the Potters were living. But three days before the deposition, Miles says, "Blackwater hired Potter up, flew him to
Washington where it’s my understanding he met with Blackwater representatives and their lawyers. [Blackwater] then flew him to Jordan for ultimate deployment in the Middle East," Miles says. "Obviously they concealed a material witness by hiring him and sending him out of the country."…Blackwater subsequently attempted to have Potter’s deposition order dissolved, but a federal court said no….

Blackwater has not offered a rebuttal to the specific allegations made by the families, except to deny in general that they are valid. It has fought to have the case dismissed on grounds that because Blackwater is servicing US armed forces it cannot be sued for workers’ deaths or injuries and that all liability lies with the government. In its motion
to dismiss the case in federal court, Blackwater argues that the families of the four men killed in Falluja are entitled only to government insurance payments. That’s why the company moved swiftly to apply for benefits for the families under the Defense Base Act.

"What Blackwater is
trying to do is to sweep all of their wrongful conduct into the Defense
Base Act," says Miles. "What they’re trying to do is to say, ‘Look–we
can do anything we want and not be held accountable. We can send
our men out to die so that we can pad our bottom line, and if anybody
comes back at us, we have insurance.’ It’s essentially insurance to

In the end, Scahill notes President Bush mocks the question of private security companies. It is incredible, but unfortunately not surprising, that the President does not have an answer on how such a large number of people (to call them a group would imply some sort of larger unity) that has direct impact on our public diplomacy and foreign policy is regulated or controlled.

Did we send too many troops to Iraq and scare off the flower-throwers?

This is just too sad to be true. Further entrenching themselves in fantasy, it seems there are those in the Pentagon who believe the collapse of civil society and the resulting power vacuum was preventable if we only engaged indigeneous forces in Iraq. Were these the people who were supposed to greet us with flowers?

From the Army Times:

From think-tank analysts to angry retired generals to Capitol Hill lawmakers, it has become nearly universal conventional wisdom that the U.S. invasion force that conquered Iraq in 2003 lacked the manpower to secure the country after Saddam’s fall.
But the Pentagon’s civilian policymakers may have learned a much different lesson. According to a defense official, the problem with Operation Iraqi Freedom was not too few U.S. troops, but too many.

Fortunately Thomas X. Hammes, Michele Flournoy, and Stephen Biddle all disagree with that assesment coming from Rumsfeldians.

Somali Government Agrees, or Not, to US Navy Help

From the State Department Briefing of April 18:

QUESTION:  Apparently, the Somali Government has given the U.S. Navy permission to patrol its waters for pirates.  I just wondered whether you had any details on this.  There seemed to be kind of conflicting reports coming out of the region.  There was also this story last November where a U.S. company, Bobcats — was it Bobcats?  Or Top Cat, sorry.  Top Cat Marine Security was given this big contract to fight
piracy.  I just wondered where the U.S. Navy fitted in with this and was the embassy involved in trying to negotiate a deal.

MR. MCCORMACK:  I’ll look into it for you, Sue.  Anything else on —

QUESTION:  Can I just — so was that — so you can’t confirm the fact that the U.S. has made a deal to —

MR. MCCORMACK:  With respect to piracy, our military forces are very active in that region around the Horn of Africa and the Department of Defense has talked many times about the operations, counterterrorism operations
that they’ve had as well as meeting whatever international obligations they may have with respect to preventing piracy.

Now, on the discrete question of has the United States been in contact with the Government of Somalia on this particular issue, I’m happy to look into it for you.  I don’t have the particular information for you on that.
I can speak in general about the fact that our military is very active in that region for a variety of different reasons.

But just to make that slightly more specific there, according to the copy that we have out of Nairobi, transitional Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi has said that they secured a “milestone” agreement, which is a very specific agreement, to undertake these patrols there.  So we need a sort of confirmation or a yes or no —

I’m happy to look into that for you, Peter.  I don’t have the
information up here and it’s not an issue that I discussed with people before I came out.