Book Review: Mary Dudziak’s Cold War Civil Rights

I read Mary Dudziak’s book, Cold War Civil Rights a few months ago, but since Dudziak just launched her blog, Legal History Blog, I thought I’d reissue my book review.

The book is a must-read for anyone who thinks Las Vegas tourist ads apply to public diplomacy and international relations. If you think media coverage is intense now, consider the impact of coverage forty years ago and its impact on the global information war of the time. Continue reading “Book Review: Mary Dudziak’s Cold War Civil Rights

Is it Public Diplomacy or Information Operations?

“Is it public diplomacy or is it an information operation?” Maybe this will become a “question of the week” as we come across more sites like The Other Iraq (also see my brief and Paul Kretkowski’s deeper comments), like this one lauding the accomplishments of outgoing Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld (see also Greg Djerejian’s comments here).

Briefly, here are some highlights for your reading pleasure:

  • Overall: A multinational coalition has liberated 50 million people in Afghanistan and Iraq, with formation of representative governments and security forces.
  • Liberated 31 million Afghans from Taliban control and destroyed Al-Qaeda sanctuary – conquering elements that successfully fought off the Soviet Union for over nine years – and stood up a Loya Jurga governing council eight months after operations began.
  • Liberated 26.7 million Iraqis from a brutal dictatorship and turned over sovereignty of the country to an Iraqi government in 16 months.
  • Military to Civilian Conversion: About 20,000 positions previously held by uniformed military personnel are now performed by civilians, freeing up troops for military tasks and assignments.

Verdict: neither. Personally, I don’t think this reminiscing is either IO or PD. I think the intended audience for this propaganda is the defense community itself. Comments?

“Shared Values” must really be dead

A few of us were talking last week about the recent US elections and the topic of the first Muslim Congressman came up. No, not in the incredibly stupid comments of Glenn Beck of CNN during an ‘interview’:

BECK: OK. No offense, and I know Muslims. I like Muslims. I’ve been to mosques. I really don’t believe that Islam is a religion of evil. I — you know, I think it’s being hijacked, quite frankly.

With that being said, you are a Democrat. You are saying, “Let’s cut and run.” And I have to tell you, I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, “Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.”

And I know you’re not. I’m not accusing you of being an enemy, but that’s the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way.

I’m not even going to comment any more on Beck as he wasn’t the focus. No, we were talking about how the US Embassies around the world were surely pumping up the first-ever election to Congress of a Muslim.

Fitting right into the ill-fated and poorly conceptualized Shared Values campaign, you’d think we’d see a spate of stories in the foreign press. Well, I checked last week and again today.

While you can find pages and pages of news items on Google, these are all English language. Using World News Connection gives us a deeper and more realistic look into how the story, if there was one, played out in the foreign press. Enough time should have passed by now, the election was more than two weeks ago, that most if not all the news articles to be translated have been. So what does WNC have for us when searching for ‘Keith Ellison’?

  • Pakistan Writer Asks Muslim Scholars To End Misunderstandings About Islam in US Article by Hamid Mir: “An Encounter With the Condemners of Islam” – Jang – Tuesday – November 21, 2006 – Word Count: 1,061 – World News Connection®
    • Originally in Urdu, first two paragraphs:

      Las Vegas is said to be the United States’ sin city. Until a few years ago, Middle Eastern princes used to stay in that city for several months for some merry making. But the numbers of such visitors to Los Vegas decreased after 11 September 2001. Now the speakers at most of the conferences held in that city of sin consider it a noble deed to criticize Arabs and Muslims. I was given an opportunity to attend a similar conference in Los Vegas last week. This conference was organized in a hotel where the biggest casino in the town is situated. The two-day conference in a hall adjacent to the casino tried to answer the question as to how Islamic extremism should be countered.

      Most of the speakers at the conference, organized by the America Truth Forum (preceding three words in English), criticized Islam instead of Islamic extremism. These speakers were furious over the success of a Muslim, Keith Ellison, in the 7 November mid-term elections. And for the first time I realized that we, Pakistanis, possess more religious tolerance than the Americans, as such hostile speeches are not publicly delivered in our country against Christianity or Judaism.

  • Croatian Commentary: Election Shows United States ‘Divided,’ in Need of Change Commentary by Jurica Koerbler: “A Bill for War in Iraq” – Vjesnik – Wednesday – November 15, 2006 – Word Count: 1,064 – World News Connection®
    • Originally in Croatian, makes only a passing reference to Ellison’s election and in the context of change:

      The election will be unique in many ways. Nancy Pelosi, a fervent opponent of the Iraqi war, is a new U.S. political star and the first woman speaker of the House of Representatives. Democrat Keith Ellison is the first Muslim to be elected into the Congress. The 43-year-old lawyer has also pushed hard for U.S. forces to leave Iraq.

  • Selection List: Egyptian Press 11 Nov 06 The following lists selected items from the Egyptian press on 11 November. To request additional processing, please call OSC at (800) 205-8615, (202) 338-6735; or fax (703) 613-5735 – Egypt — OSC Report – Saturday – November 11, 2006 – Word Count: 1,159 – World News Connection®
    • Originally in Arabic, this index report does not translate the referenced text but interestingly (and possibly appropriately) frames Ellison’s election: Article by Muhammad al-Shabbah argues that a Muslim candidate like Keith Ellison would not have won a seat in Congress if he had not been fighting for gay rights.
  • Saudi Press Selection List, Highlights 9 Nov 06 The following lists selected items from the Saudi press on 9 Nov 06. To request additional processing, please call OSC at (800) 205-8615, (202) 338-6735; or fax (703) 613-5735 – Saudi Arabia — OSC Report – Thursday – November 9, 2006 – Word Count: 1,606 – World News Connection®
    • Original in Arabic, this index briefly mentions of Ellison. The second is simply that he was elected without any other electoral results. The first: An inner-page report headlined: “Keith Ellison: I Refuses To Be Labeled According To Any Religion or Color; Bush Has Failed in Iraq.”
  • FYI — Pan-Arab Media Treatment of US Mid-Term Elections 8 Nov (1) – Middle East — OSC Report – Wednesday – November 8, 2006 – Word Count: 867 – World News Connection®
    • English document stating… well article title says it all. The Ellison reference in the article is essentially the same as the Croatian article above.
  • Israeli Pundit: Growing Muslim Influence on US Voter To Cause Pressure on Israel Commentary by Sha’ul Schiff: “Muslim Arabs Getting Close to Congress” – Hatzofe – Thursday – November 2, 2006 – Word Count: 741 – World News Connection®
    • Originally in Hebrew, this was written before the election.
    • According to an assessment by Al-Watan, a newspaper published in Saudi Arabia, the overwhelming majority of Arab and Muslim candidates for the US Congress will not succeed in getting elected. It transpires that there will be quite a few of these candidates who will be seeking the US voter’s support on 7 November: 37 Arab and non-Arab Muslims, and 17 Arab Christians.

      Nonetheless, one of them does have a chance. Keith Ellison, an American Muslim, is a Democratic Party candidate. If he wins, Ellison will be the first Muslim candidate of US origin to be elected to Congress. Behind Ellison and some of the Arab and Muslim candidates is a lot of money and professional advice from the best brains, and the AIPAC lobby would do well not to belittle the organization of the Muslim vote vis-a-vis the Jewish vote and Jewish money.

Not much. Only six entries and not much really said. Nothing to indicate some kind of full-court press of Ellison’s election and that we’re “Muslim-friendly”. Well, at least Glenn Beck didn’t appear in a search.

An interview with UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jane Holl Lute

Some highlights from an interview by the United Nations Association of the United States of America (

BM: Do you find certain countries want to participate more than others?

JL: At the moment, we have over 100, nearly 110, troop-contributing countries, and their numbers can vary, from many thousands, to only a handful. There are countries, at the moment, who represent a larger share of the peacekeeping forces on the ground, but that can change over the course of time, and certainly through the history of the UN, various countries have been at the top of the troop-contributing list. But again, as I said, the contribution of every country to the success of peacekeeping is both important and valued.

Yes, certain countries do participate more than others and have been for sometime, creating something of a trend. But answering the question directly is counter-productive. See near the bottom of this post for recent figures on participation in peacekeeping operations.

Of course not mentioned is China’s strong surge in numbers of troops contributed to peacekeeping. Nor did the interviewer ask, and of course he wouldn’t as this was only a puff piece, about the US contributions. For example, what does it mean that the US peacekeeping contribution is via a private military company? Is that still a contribution by the state?

In closing, Ms Lute gets at the need for an Article 43 force that establishes a standing force for the Security Council and a reduced reliance on ad hoc peacekeeping (the status quo):

BM: …What are two or three things that would really help strengthen peacekeeping in the future?

JL: …We could certainly use things like more planning—for example, a greater emphasis on standing training capacity, a standing cadre of peacekeeping professionals that we can draw on. As you mentioned earlier, we put each mission together each time as if for the first time. There are these kinds of things [we need]. But most important, I think, and you put your finger right on it, is an in-depth understanding of the value of this tool of the international community to help bring peace to bear.

China and Africa, a brief update

At the beginning of 2006, China released an impressive policy towards Africa that had all the right nouns and verbs for an effective public diplomacy strategy. The real result was to be seen over time as China needed to overcome its reputation in Africa, despite some successes that were mostly lauded by China itself.

This month, however, China seems to be finding some success with its new policy: China and African Nations Set Trade Deals Worth $1.9 Billion.

China and a number of African nations agreed Sunday on 16 trade and investment deals valued at $1.9 billion, as Beijing extended its efforts to create a broad economic and diplomatic partnership with Africa, a resource-rich continent.

President Hu Jintao also pledged to extend $5 billion in loans and credits to Africa, forgive past debts and double foreign aid to the continent.

The aid announcement and deal-making capped a weekend of meetings that brought high-level representatives of 48 of the 53 African countries to Beijing. It was an unusually sweeping diplomatic initiative by China, which until recently had tended to focus mainly on domestic development rather than overseas expansion…

More recently, Mr. Hu has made cultivating new economic and diplomatic ties to Africa a foreign policy priority even as the United States concentrates on combating terrorism.

China has been busy throughout Africa. While China actively moves into areas ignored by and to the detriment of the United States, we continue to borrow from them, partly financing their forays around the continent. As we address problems through largely superficial methods, they are softly and quietly creating (potentially) long-term partnerships.

Let’s not be naive and think China will immediately ‘win’ Africa and have partners for life. For sure China still has to follow through with its commitments and perhaps more importantly, do a better job integrating with Africa to not annoy the locals. However, they are much further along the path of combating the root-causes of terrorism than we are.

On the bright side, al-Qaeda and its associates movements will probably learn to hate the Chinese as well. I’d be interested to hear how believers in the Clash of Civilizations will frame anti-Chinese attacks (when they happen ‘in public’).

See earlier posts on China in Africa.

Technorati tags: China, Africa, Public Diplomacy

Contractors Rarely Held Responsible for Misdeeds in Iraq

It seems the media is starting to get a handle on the real issues with contracting. Earlier this month, on the heels of the final nails in the coffin of the Special Inspector (although the nails could be removed by a Democrat Congress), comes the Washington Post article with surprising and ‘new’ awareness of limited accountability in Iraq.

The list of alleged contractor misdeeds in Iraq has grown long in the past 3 1/2 years. Yet when it comes to holding companies accountable, the charges seldom stick.

Critics say that because of legal loopholes, flaws in the contracting process, a lack of interest from Congress and uneven oversight by investigative agencies, errant contractors have faced few sanctions for their work in Iraq.

Doing a fair job of identifying problems, it does drop the ball on the Custer Battles case. The federal judge’s ruling was based on the origin of payments and not on the amount itself. The federal judge ruled that the plaintiffs could only go after the money the US paid Custer Battles and not after monies paid by the CPA, which was ostensibly, if far from reality, an Iraqi or at least non-US entity.

More critical are the examples of incomplete projects.

For example, auditors reviewed 14 projects by one contractor, Parsons Corp., and found that 13 had serious defects. Among the problem contracts was one to build 142 health clinics. Only six have opened.

Yet Parsons will not have to return any of its profit, nor is it likely to face any kind of formal punishment. Its contracts were what are called “cost-plus” deals, widespread in Iraq, in which the government bears much of the risk.

And we wonder how we’re not winning believers that we can make the country a better place.

The article does bring out an interesting point:

Bowen said the government should have been willing to fire contractors when it realized that projects were going awry. “I started pushing for terminations for default, which is how you hold underperforming contractors responsible, in the summer of 2005,” Bowen said.

But his calls were rarely heeded. The reason? “Litigation fear,” he said. “It was viewed as too much trouble.”

Because the contracts are so poorly written and managed, the government is afraid or coerced into not terminating. That may be part of the problem but Griff Witte, the WaPo reporter, gets down to brass tacks and nails one of the problems of endemic outsourcing:

Frederick F. Shaheen, an attorney with the firm Greenberg Traurig LLP who represents contractors, said firing a contractor is difficult because the military is so dependent on them.

If an official were to try to cancel a meal-service contract, for example, “some colonel is going to be on the phone to you ripping your lips off saying, ‘Why aren’t my troops being fed?’ ” Shaheen said.

The threat of canceling a contract “is normally the sharpest quiver in the bag of the contracting officer. But there’s no arrowhead on it any more,” Shaheen said. “So the checks and balances are gone. The system is broken.”

Ah, one of the hidden problems of contracting.

The Other Iraq

Example of Kurdish public diplomacy or information operations, depending on what chair you’re sitting in.

Have you seen the Other Iraq?
It’s spectacular.
It’s peaceful.
Welcome to Iraqi Kurdistan.
Where democracy has been practiced for over a decade. It’s not a dream.
It’s the other Iraq.

Check it out:

A few details about this site:

Upcoming conference in Brussels on PSCs

Well, it’s not the quickest they could have acted, but at least the conversation will happen soon. A half-day conference in Brussels next month (7 Dec 06) by the Security & Defence Agenda has two panels on privatization of force:

How Should EU Policymakers see the role of "Private Armies"

The crucial role of private security companies in Iraq looks increasingly like a pointer to the future. Private contractors are offering not only new reserves of skilled manpower but also sophisticated services ranging from intelligence-gathering and infrastructure protection to the provision in Iraq of command-and-control that links reconstruction and counter-insurgency operations. With many of these specialist security companies originating in Europe, how should EU policymakers see their roles developing? As Europe’s defence and security identity takes shape, what should be the inter-relationship between EU member states’ often hard-pressed military and the growing numbers of private sector security operators?

followed by

Are the NGOs and Private Security Companies Allies or Foes?

At first sight, NGOs involved in humanitarian relief or development work are far removed from private security companies. Yet they often pursue the same goals of protecting non-combatants and institution-building. How are private security specialists likely to fit into future EU-led relief and peacekeeping operations, and is there a need for a more clearly defined relationship both with EU battle groups and with the NGOs that administer the Union’s world-leading aid effort?

Both of these 90min sessions ask interesting questions, but the panel titles are intentionally leading. This should not be surprising considering the SDA’s target audience: Brussels-based international press. Still, it should be interesting what is said. I’m not going, but I’ll be interested in their report. The different portrayals of private security contractors by different media is interesting and understudied.

Interesting book: Private Actors and Security Governance

Private Actors and Security Governance looks like an interesting book that may ask the right questions about private forces. Much of the US discourse on non-state actors convienently ignores private security companies and their potential (actual is a better word) to influence foreign policy. The book’s teaser:

"The privatisation of security -understood as both the top-down decision to outsource military and security-related tasks to private firms and the bottom-up activities of armed non-state actors such as rebel opposition groups, insurgents, militias and warlord factions -have profound implications for the state’s monopoly on the legitimate use of force. Both top-down and bottom-up privatisation have significant consequences for effective, democratically accountable security sector governance as well as on opportunities for security sector reform across a range of different reform contexts. This volume situates security privatisation within a broader policy framework, considers several relevant national and regional contexts and analyses different modes of regulation and control relating to a phenomenon with deep historical roots but also strong links to more recent trends of globalisation and transnationalisation."

I haven’t read the book, so I can’t give a review but I’d be interested to hear from anybody who has. I’m curious how the book approaches the topic and what, if any, recommendations it makes.

China’s Africa Policy coming to Latin America

This article in the WashingtonPost indicates China’s taking its Africa Policy on the road:

BOGOTA, Colombia — Elizabeth Zamora is a busy mother and executive. Still, for three hours every Saturday, she slides into a battered wooden desk at Bogota’s National University and follows along as Yuan Juhua, a language instructor sent here by China’s government, teaches the intricacies of Mandarin.

Zamora already speaks German and English, but she struggles to learn written Chinese characters and mimic tones unknown in Spanish. She persists for a simple reason: China is voraciously scouring Latin America for everything from oil to lumber, and there is money to be made. That prospect has not only Zamora but business people in much of Latin America flocking to learn the Chinese language, increasingly heard in boardrooms and on executive junkets.

Technorati tags: China

Aid to Iraq: Remembering the difference between intent and reality

From Foreign Policy’s September/October issue:

Some $6.3 billion of the 2005 aid total was U.S. aid to Iraq, probably the largest single-year transfer between two countries since the Marshall Plan. But the index counts aid to Iraq at just 10 cents on the dollar, because the World Bank puts the country ahead of only Somalia when it comes to combating corruption and enforcing the rule of law. Sadly, events in 2005 confirmed fears about the country’s rampant graft and violence. Senior Iraqi government officials estimate that as much as 30 percent of the country’s budget is lost to corruption—ranging from bribery to padded contracts and influence peddling. It isn’t just the Iraqis who are poor administrators. Even the U.S. government estimates that $8.8 billion disappeared during the first 14 months that the Coalition Provisional Authority ran Iraq. As of early 2005, at least 40 percent of U.S. reconstruction aid was spent on security. “I’d say that 60, maybe even 70 percent [of what] we see as reconstruction aid goes into nonproductive expenditures,” says Ali Allawi, Iraq’s minister of finance.

United States Government Counterinsurgency Initiative

Briefly, the Departments of State and Defense held a joint conference late September 2006 on counter-insurgency (COIN). Attendees included senior officials from the National Security Council; the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, and the Treasury; the U.S. Agency for International Development; and the intelligence community; as well as members of Congress and their staff; and representatives from think tanks, academia, the media; and the Governments of the United Kingdom and Australia.

Unfortunately, MountainRunner wasn’t invited as media this time (maybe next?).

At present I don’t have many comments about the content at the web site (more later as I have time to delve deeper),, save one on Dr. Eliot Cohen’s keynote address. I found it odd that he used our war (is that what we call it now?) on the American Indians as an example of how "winning hearts and minds" isn’t always possible:

There was no question of winning Indian hearts and minds; merely of quelling their resistance and herding them, eventually into reservations. [T]here might be local episodes of American diplomacy to secure the assistance or neutrality of some tribes, but in the long run, this was a contest that could have, and did have, only one outcome – the complete subjugation of the native Americans. The style of warfare that emerged reflected these imbalances.

Is this example really instructive for today? This model, no matter where you stand, is based on imperialist expansion usurping rights and constant breaking of trust by the US Government. Pacification or at least peaceful co-existence was never an option unless the Indian was completely subjugated and put off to the side where the White Man wanted them. Is this really the model Dr. Cohen wants to suggest is our plan in today’s world? That’s not counter-insurgency, that’s called imperialism and I can’t see how the COIN best practices of the conferences contributors could be applied because of this.

Rummy says Farewell at Kansas State

I was watching Secretary Rumsfeld talk live at Kansas State University yesterday on the Pentagon Channel and I was struck by his answer to a question from the audience (transcript available here) when asked on what advice he’d give to a young person today:

Study history… We need context. We’ve staked everything in this country — if you think about the gamble, we stake everything on the people, that they can — given sufficient information, will make the right decisions. They need context. We need context. History provides that context. And if there’s one piece of advice I could give, it would be to focus on that and think about it and understand it. It will improve the ability of all of us to function as citizens in this great republic.

I have no doubt the SecDef felt he was doing the right thing, but the conflict between the reality and his statement above is, quite literally, awesome.

Technorati tags: GWOT, Rumsfeld, War

Reporters without Borders: dodging the blame

A recent analysis by Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans Frontiers, or RSF) paints a disturbing picture of the United States: we have less freedom of the press. According to their Press Freedom Index 2006, is tied for 53rd in press freedom with Botswana, Croatia, and Tonga.

This makes for an interesting dichotomy. On the one side you have people complaining about the liberal anti-war press looking for every opportunity to bash the Administration and the Iraq War. On the other, you have (rather had) people complaining about Fox News being the mouthpiece of the Administration. Remember Jon Stewart joking that when Tony Snow got his new job, nothing was really changing but the logo on the screen?

On the first point, sentiment like this is heard:

“The people of America have no clue what it really happening here and that is because they are being spoon fed anti administration propaganda by a democratic leaning media.”

I’m continually fascinated by this revisionist argument that isn’t supported by the facts. The real blame, which RSF places displaces onto the Administration and away from the reporters, is the Administration for keeping the effort from an ‘all out’ effort and hiding / obfuscating facts and requirements from the press. The RSF report declares the US media as significantly not free while ignoring the media’s own self-censorship to play along with the hand that feeds.

Relations between the media and the Bush administration sharply deteriorated after the president used the pretext of “national security” to regard as suspicious any journalist who questioned his “war on terrorism.” The zeal of federal courts which, unlike those in 33 US states, refuse to recognise the media’s right not to reveal its sources, even threatens journalists whose investigations have no connection at all with terrorism.

The “necessity” to play along with the Scott McClellan / Tony Snow show is ignored. Also ignored is the self-enforced point that the media ITSELF does not feel they have a story UNLESS they have somebody inside the Administration / Government to speak against the same government (this is called “indexing”, Robert Entman writes about this). You can easily trace the traction and trajectory of stories through these means to get a better idea. I still love hearing that Fox News is part of the liberal media bias… even the Administration’s own cheerleaders have been turning against them, which is ignored in sentiments like that above.

Technorati tags: Media, Iraq, GWOT