Feeling left out…

Ken Silverstein follows up on a previous post of his about… 

a program run by the Pentagon’s Office of Public Affairs. This program seeks to bypass the mainstream press by working directly with a carefully culled list of military analysts, bloggers, and others who can be counted on to parrot the Bush Administration’s line on national security issues.

I’m a milblogger, off the beaten path, but still a milblogger. Heck, I’m even card-carrying (not much a profile, I know, but still…). Well, perhaps I won’t parrot somebody’s line (unless I agree 100%), so I might not have what Silverstein sees as entry creds.

Not to restate the obvious, but OPA isn’t practicing “Public Affairs” as much as “Private Affairs” because, well, they aren’t exactly reaching out the public. I remember debates within the “public diplomacy” crowd that said if it ain’t wide open, it ain’t “public diplomacy”. We know there are similar debates in the PA community. Remember OSI?

If PA is used to speak directly to the US public (PA officers speak to foreign publics, but nevermind that for now) and they have an inherent responsibility to tell the truth, what part of the truth is absent from the OPA conference calls that a simple guy like me can’t be in on?

What does this say about the current purpose of PA? Where does it fit into Strategic Communications, that concept that may be DOD’s answer to Public Diplomacy, a concept that is so poorly defined and executed that a new “theory” of “smart power” is required to return PD to its roots? But perhaps I digress….

Admin note: this post seems as good as any to create a new category on “public affairs” to focus on IO focused on US domestic audiences, a topic I had lumped into PD for simplicity.

Armut Bekämpfen mit “Blackface” (updated)

sondernuberhauptnicht Fighting poverty and illiteracy in Africa with blackfaced kids. Brilliant! Why I didn’t think of that? Right, I know why…

Looking at this as a Barnettian (does it sound like “Martian” or “bar-net-ian”?), this is another example of how elements in the Core don’t get the Gap. And like Pink Floyd’s lament that you can’t eat your pudding if you don’t eat your meat, you can’t really help if you don’t understand who you’re helping. (See Brea’s posts on Bono and for real fun consider the requirements of counterinsurgency and the requirements of understanding who, what, and why.)

(BTW- if you have any interest in Africa, read Jen Brea)


Monday Mash-Up July 16, 2007

delayed due to network issues

John at OpFor writes there are only 8 Spectres. Eight?? Are we doing the equivalent of circling the bombers around the city to make it look like we have more (ala early Cold War Soviets “showing off” their “immense” strategic bombing fleet).

Preeti Aroon at Foreign Policy posted one way to strike at extremist “pop culture.” Ah, the power of association and persuasion at work.

Foreign Policy also lists “the world’s stupidest Fatwas.” Let’s remind people who can and cannot issue a fatwa and use that in our IO. Let’s start with UBL…

Tom Hayden has this sad diatribe at the Huffington Post:

But counter-insurgency, being based on deception, shadow warfare and propaganda, runs counter to the historic freedom of university life. Why then should Harvard collaborate? Is it now a violation of academic freedom to demand there be protocols limiting professors providing support and legitimacy for inherently secretive, classified and deliberately deceptive programs designed ultimately to kill people?

…the Pentagon occupation of the academic mind may last much longer than its occupation of Iraq, and may require an intellectual insurgency in response.

This is the same ivory tower argument of Roberto Gonzalez. Poor Tom doesn’t get it. He’s the screaming left liberal who apparently didn’t read the COIN manual or understand modern information war.

I have encountered the resistance poor Tom is putting up personally. Comporting with Carnes Lord’s quip that, “like journalists, public diplomats are liberal,” I fought a losing battle against this “liberal” side when I sought support for an open, cross-spectrum discussion on privatization of war and its impact (among other initiatives). Yes, it’s easy to keep your head in the sand and you won’t hear the bad thoughts, but your ass will get (sun)burned.

Matthew Yglesias thinks VSs TDF coverage is lacking… yup

A bit off-topic, but Matthew Yglesias wrote Friday that “bicycle racing — at least as broadcast by VS — isn’t a very interesting television sport.” He’s right. When broadcast by VS, TDF isn’t very interesting and hard to follow. You just can’t get into a rhythm  with the frequent, repetitive, and long commercial breaks. This year’s coverage is better than last year’s, which was far better than before. But still, it sucks. For example, on Sunday’s exciting Stage 8, what happened to Robby McEwen? Stuart O’Grady? Bare mentions during the race, no real comment, and nothing even in the “expanded” (condensed really) coverage in the evening. (McEwen’s out because he missed the time cut off. O’Grady crashed about the time Levi’s chain skipped, got back on the bike, but left for the hospital complaining of back pain.)

Sadly, the VS coverage must be supplemented by the TdF site (stage 8 specific), Eurosport, Pez Cycling (don’t miss the distractions). My recommendation is if you are watching live, is to watch the live feed from VS, mute it, and listen to EuropSport’s live audio (caveat: that was my recommendation in the past, I haven’t listened this year). Phil and Paul are descent (I like Paul’s reality, Phil’s color gets old), but they leave out so many, too many important details. Al and Bob are descent (Bob’s good), but again, too many details are missing. More Bob’s would be good and that’s what you get (got?) with EuroSport coverage.

It’s almost funny that EuroSport has literally start to finish coverage and rarely if ever leaves the scene (they’ve figured how to put commercials in the corner or bottom of the screen) and yet it isn’t boring like VS’s abbreviated, commercial’s over action, coverage. PLUS, EuroSport TV has these cool after-event Q&As w/ a bunch of cyclists at once, in addition to the one-on-ones VS shows. Last year this time I was in Madrid and watching in German (I have some competence), which was way better than VS any day.

Yglesias, you’re right. VS does not make TdF very interesting. If you can get past it the limitations of US coverage (and its fanciful color that leaves out many of the real nuances), it’s a very exciting sport.

Better yet, is being there, riding in front of the race, and hanging out to watch the swag caravan and then the race go by and snapping photos as you cheer. There’s no matching riding the Alps or watching the Tour in person.

(photo credit: MountainRunner)

Linking to and from

Two blogs added to the blogroll to highlight. First up is Swedish Meatball Confidential. As Michael points out, this is quality blogging that might not be acceptable for workplace browsing. Read it for IO, STRATCOM, public diplomacy, and the scenery.

The other late addition (to MountainRunner, everybody else already had them) is the essential Kent’s Imperative.

In the spirit of Thomas Barnett, as adopted by SWJ, here are a few of the blogs linking to MountainRunner.

Enjoy your Monday.

That squirrel might really be watching you

spysquirrelJust because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean everyone isn’t out to get you. Turkish official media is reporting IRNA, Iran’s official news agency, that Iran has captured 14 “spy squirrels”.

Iranian police has captured 14 “spy squirrels” equipped with modern technology including GPS units, cameras, and listening devices.

The report said that the squirrels that were trained for espionage and information-gathering, are believed to be sent to Iran by Israel.

Yes. The squirrel uplinks to the pigeon loitering overhead who relays it to a gopher in his command bunker who then tasks the badgers, who are training in Basra.

Donate to the Smart / Small Wars Journal Empire

MountainRunner has financial virility! I did and I got this really cool certificate for it (no t-shirt, just a certificate). Dave and Bill spend a lot of time and energy on the Small Wars empire, like the Magazine, Council, and Blog.

Have you donated? Where else are you able to engage the likes of Dave Kilcullen, Bing West, much of MNF-I, and so much more?Just think of all that money you never gave to Sally Struthers and think of all that knowledge, insight, and distraction you received from the SWJ Empire.

Talking about talking

Activities I wish I were at this week include two conversations about conversations and a third discussion on contemporary conflict. The first was (by now) at the National Defense University:

Strategic Communication: Focus on the Future

The Department or Defense (DoD) Worldwide Strategic Communication (SC) Seminar will be held at the National Defense University (NDU) on July 11-12, 2007, at Roosevelt Hall, Fort Leslie J. McNair, Washington, D.C.  The theme for the seminar is Strategic Communication: Focus on the Future.  This unique global SC event is designed to bring together Service and COCOM SC directors and representatives from SC, Public Affairs (PA), Information Operations (IO), Psychological Operations (PSYOP), Visual Information (VI), J-2, J-3, J-5, State Department and Interagency personnel.  The seminar will promote a common understanding of SC, advance the QDR SC Roadmap implementation progress, and discuss future direction and needs.  The two-day seminar will include daily plenary sessions, break-out sessions, and working exercises.  Senior department leaders and external thought leaders will address key issues surrounding SC.

The Second is right now at the New America Foundation (previously blogged here):

Iraqi Insurgent Media

In their just-released special report, “Iraqi Insurgent Media: The War of Images and Ideas,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty regional analysts Daniel Kimmage and Kathleen Ridolfo take an in-depth look at the multi-layered media efforts of Sunni insurgents, who are responsible for the majority of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq.

Insurgents and their supporters communicate with the world through daily press releases, weekly and monthly magazines, books, video clips, full-length films, countless websites, and even television stations. Mainstream Arab media amplify the insurgent message to a mass audience.

Update: watch the discussion here.

There a third event, the 2007 Boyd Conference, generate some good discussions on what is perceived (but not really… more on that later) to be a “new” attack on national morale and will, even if there is an overabundance of heaving the misleading and poorly defined construct known as Fourth Generation Warfare, or 4GW, about. It should, however, See Smart, er, Small Wars Journal’s blog post on the event here.

In the struggle for minds and wills, how is the US doing? If you listened to the President’s news conference this morning, it’s clear neither the strategic nor tactical imperatives have been internalized. The need to operationalize the struggle to guide both tactics and strategy is required but far from a reality. Maybe these two events will help influence this shift. I’d comment more, but I’m completing my own argument on this.

Upcoming movie screening: No End in Sight

If you are in Los Angeles Tuesday, July 24, 2007, you might want to checkout “No End in Sight”, a movie direct by Charles Ferguson, a political scientist and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Based on over 200 hours of footage, this critically acclaimed film provides a candid retelling of the events following the fall of Baghdad in 2003 by high ranking officials such as former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Ambassador Barbara Bodine (in charge of Baghdad during the Spring of 2003), former Chief of Staff to Colin Powell, Lawrence Wilkerson, and General Jay Garner (in charge of the occupation of Iraq through May 2003), as well as Iraqi civilians, American soldiers, and prominent analysts.

A panel discussion evaluating the arguments set forth by the film will follow the screening.

RSVP for this event here.

7p at the Landmark Theater in West Los Angeles

10850 West Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064

AFRICOM gets a commander

From the DOD, yesterday General William E. Ward, current deputy commander EUCOM, was nominated for re-appointment to the rank of general with assignment as commander, U.S. Africa Command, Stuttgart, Germany. Noteworthy is Gen. Ward is the US’s only black four-star, and the fifth to achieve that rank (he was promoted to it May 2006).

His new gig won’t be a full command until September 2008. Until then, he’ll probably keep his house in Stuttgart, Germany.

EUCOM, the majority “owner” of Africa for now, may have tapped the right man for the job. Let’s hope so. It’s at least good potential diplomacy with the publics of Africa.

Required Reading: two posts on Small Wars Journal

swjblog Quickly becoming the site to find thought leaders in modern conflict, the Small Wars Journal has two new posts that should be required reads for anyone interested in understanding modern conflict, and more importantly, the value of information in a world of blurred lines between civilian and military in friend and foe alike.

From Malcolm Nance, an expert with a very long resume and author, comes a post on aggregating the enemy for US domestic political purposes. Malcolm goes a different direction than Clark Hoyt. Instead, he focuses on details of who is doing what and why and explains why this aggregation will prevent success.

Defeating, disarming or buying out key insurgent groups could yield greater results and a lessening of combat losses through targeted military operations, negotiation, reconstruction, civil affairs projects and cash.  From down here at the deck plates level this seems like common sense but it has yet to filter up to the policy makers.

If General Petraeus and his excellent counterinsurgency advisor David Kilcullen are to succeed then the hard reality of enunciating to the American public requires that the terms we use to label the opposition have to be changed.  If this is part of an aggressive information operation, as some have suggested, to turn the Iraqi people against the Iraqi Insurgents by giving them all a bad name (AQI), then it’s a desperate gambit as most Sunnis know who the real insurgents are in their neighborhood.  This rhetoric has already had a negative operational effect by making our own soldiers believe that all of the Sunni insurgents and community supporters are Al Qaeda.  This may have led to several instances of battlefield murder, torture and abuses of prisoners. 

The other post is from John Sullivan, a lieutenant in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department, a member of the Los Angeles Terror Early Warning Group, and co-editor of Countering Terrorism and WMD: Creating a Global Counter-Terrorism Network. Implicit in his argument is all information is global and one can easily take away from his argument the antiquated “anti-Goebbels” provisions of the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 must be removed, as well the need for an active and functional diplomacy with publics, foreign and domestic, against modern subversion.  

Countering the reach of the global jihad within networked diasporas is a global security priority. Police and intelligence services worldwide—especially in “Global Cities” with international political and economic importance and transnational connections—must develop relationships with diaspora communities. These efforts must build upon community policing and develop the cultural understanding and community trust required to recognize the emergence of extremist cells, radicalization, efforts to recruit terrorists, and efforts to exploit criminal enterprises or gangs to further terrorist activities. These efforts need to be linked to develop the intelligence needed to combat a global networked threat. This requires more than “information-sharing” and co-operation, it requires a multi-lateral framework for the “co-production” of intelligence so police and intelligence services can recognize global interactions with local impact and local activity with global reach.

The US still does not holistically approach the struggle for minds and wills, instead conducting isolated campaigns that hopes to “win” support like a model walking on a catwalk. Counterinsurgency and counterterror thought leaders understand the need for functional information networks that both inoculates and informs.

When will the supposed thought leaders in American public diplomacy drink the same punch? More on this in a later post, my editor probably wants me to finish my chapter on the subject, but read my recent comments (and here, here, and here) on the leadership of public diplomacy. (As an aside, I had an excellent conversation with the new DOD Office to Support Public Diplomacy. Two comments. One, I find it slightly ironic that OSPD is led by someone who cuts his teeth on extremist websites when Hughes isn’t sure how many bloggers she has. And two, OSPD gets it. That’s it for now.)

Question: Will there be any representatives from public diplomacy at the New America Foundation’s discussion on the report from RFE/RL, itself a poster organization for public diplomacy, on Iraqi Insurgent media?

Monday Mash-Up for July 9, 2007

This Thursday, the New America Foundation is hosting a discussion on the very interesting report from RFE/RL on Sunni insurgent media blogged here earlier.

Meanwhile, Clark Hoyt, the new “public editor” for the New York Times, looked at the Administration’s media strategy of aggregation: everything is Al-Qaeda.

While Al-Qaeda is probably happy with the brand promotion by Washington, America must do a better job of changing its media image. Our office of public diplomacy might consider reading Washington Post’s Susan Kinzie and Ellen Nakashima look at “reputation management” as relabeled public relations that works at a most granular level: person to person. 

In Iraq, the mini-Americas that double as bases are might be confused for suburban malls if you take away the guns according to the Los Angeles Times’ Molly Hennessy-Fiske. She writes about the (too) expansive menus of “fattening fare, from cheese steaks to tacos and Rocky Road ice cream” that is causing hungry soldiers to gain more than 15 pounds on a deployment.

And if the money spent on fattening up our warfighters with unhealthy food, and the lives endangered by transporting all of that crap, isn’t enough, consider IraqSlogger’s post on Colin Powell describing his two and a half hours trying to convince President Bush not to go into Iraq.

Randomly, here are the top 5 Google searches used to find MountainRunner on July 5th, 2007:

cheetah cubs
arab mobile email reports
somalia uranium
ivory coast private military
the worst directors in nollywood

Brief reminder, if you want to read MountainRunner on your Google homepage, get the MountainRunner gadget. Comments on the gadget are welcome.

Contracting out national security: connecting the dots of the media surge

Wow, the media is surging on the contractor front again. From T. Christian Miller’s Los Angeles Times article comparing the number of US-paid contractors in Iraq to American military forces to James Risen’s New York Times article telling us <gasp!> contractors get PTSD as well to Glenn Kessler’s Washington Post article on shoddy contractor work on our biggest monument to public diplomacy to, finally (as of this writing), Renae Merle’s Washington Post article on the government’s failure to keep pace with managing and overseeing contracts. It makes NPR / American Public Radio’s Marketplace query on private contracting seem all that more timely, doesn’t it? (Not commented on here but also recently available is the CRS report on private security contractors, courtesy FAS.)

Sadly, the only new data here is T’s story shedding light on the expanding reliance on the private sector to support the mission in Iraq. It’s important to keep in mind T’s focus on US-paid contractors because if you go beyond that select group, the number, according to the PSCAI itself (the Iraqi-trade association) sky rockets. At one time, the PSCAI acknowledged that for every private security guard they knew about, they were sure there was another they didn’t. (By the way, T. Christian Miller is the author of Blood Money: Wasted Billions, Lost Lives, and Corporate Greed in Iraq.)

Some quick highlights that caught my eye.

Continue reading “Contracting out national security: connecting the dots of the media surge

Karen Hughes: our chief public diplomat

Frances Townsend, Joshua Bolton, and Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen HughesPresident Bush spoke at the Islamic Center of Washington last week and took along a few buddies. This picture is perhaps one of the best examples of how public diplomacy, however you may define it, simply is not understood by our leadership.

In the front row of the picture is Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Frances Townsend, Chief of Staff Joshua Bolton, and of course, our lovable Karen Hughes, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. Karen Hughes was clearly unprepared for the visit. Her quickly donned head cover appears to be more Jewish than Muslim, but it’s something (I think). Isn’t she supposed to be on top of this type of stuff with her outreach and all? What happened to protocol?

If Townsend was going to the National Cathedral, would she wear the same top?

Update: Steven Emerson at the Counterterrorism blog has more on the apparent failure to prepare for this event:

The White House has admitted to a senior government official that it did not vet the audience members in attendance at President Bush’s speech last week at the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C., despite having been warned of the potential presence of individuals who might have triggered national security concerns.

(Thanks Michael for passing the original along)

Growing Google

From the Financial Post, Google: You ain’t seen nothin’ yet

…Google is interested in so much more than that. It has reportedly approached the Federal Communications Commission recently about obtaining wireless spectrum…

Google Inc. has been putting together a massive cable network to provide customers around the world with telecommunications services ranging from broadband Internet to home and mobile phones…

For at least the past three years, the company has been buying up swaths of unused fibre-optic cable — so-called “dark fibre” — around the world…

The company is estimated to have between 40 and 70 data centres filled to the brim with computing and storage power, with at least five new facilities under construction in the United States alone. By comparison, Canada’s second-largest telephone company Telus Corp., has eight…

recent reported moves have been even more indicative of its move into telecommunications. Rumours surfaced this week that the company is looking to buy GrandCentral Communications, a Web startup that allows users to consolidate their different home, work and mobile phone numbers into one through an Internet application…

Google may not want to be a phone company per se, Mr. Surtees says, but the old definition of what a phone company is no longer applies. Just as Google redefined search and advertising, so too is the company changing the definition of telecommunications.

This makes questioning Google’s foreign policy a bit more interesting.

(h/t KurzweilAI.net)