Quite simply, Ms. Hughes op-ed in today’s Washington Post is very revealing. After throwing out stats of falling support of AQ, she has this one money paragraph:
Al-Qaeda’s growing Internet propaganda activities glorify violence and seek to exploit local grievances, from political oppression to a lack of economic opportunities. In contrast, America’s public diplomacy programs are engaging young people constructively, through English-language teaching, educational exchanges, music and sports diplomacy.
Ordinarily the “money” paragraph would be where the writer nails the opposition. Here, she’s showing her cards. She doesn’t feel a need to attack AQ’s “glorification of violence” or counter the local grievances that OBL is effectively exploiting. No, she believes young people are the only answer.
As one woman in Algeria put it, “They are criminals who want to sabotage the country.” That’s a message bin Laden’s words don’t convey, but his actions do. Six years after Sept. 11, good and decent people of many faiths and cultures are increasingly rejecting his brutal methods.
Yes, six years later, people, good and descent is subjective, are rejecting AQ for a variety of reasons (including rejecting the prohibition against smoking), but what has Ms. Karen Hughes, as America’s Chief Information Officer done to assist this?
Ms. Hughes makes it crystal clear she doesn’t connect the dots between enemy propaganda and her mission. Ignoring action-reaction, the struggle for minds and wills and even hearts, she proves in this op-ed once again that she views her mission as having little potential impact in the near future and relegated to helping children. But into what kind of world will the kids grow up?
While OBL is playing the role of info magi over there, she’s playing with kids over here. No doubt kids are important, but so are the adults who are being deceived or exploited, often times with assistance from our own alienating policies. No wonder the defense side of USG is sponsoring conferences on public diplomacy and strategic communication.
(H/T to John Brown’s PDPBR for the heads up)
2 thoughts on “Karen P. Hughes: I don’t need no dots”
I agree – a very revealing piece.Most revealing to me is how Hughes compares OBL’s tactics (“Al-Qaeda’s growing Internet propaganda activities glorify violence and seek to exploit local grievances, from political oppression to a lack of economic opportunities”) to those of the United States (“…America’s public diplomacy programs are engaging young people constructively, through English-language teaching, educational exchanges, music and sports diplomacy.”). Well yeah, that’s great. But she’s comparing apples and oranges. OBL is doing what he think works best to achieve his goals, and the U.S. is doing what it thinks works best to achieve IT’S goals. In the end, tactics don’t really matter. Results do.
It is unclear whether the changes in public opinion she brags about have anything to do with U.S. public diplomacy efforts. Still, if the trends are accurately reported, we should indeed be happy. Thing is – this is the “easy” public diplomacy…the type of PD that is basically a popularity contest. No disrespect to Hughes and her team, but I don’t get too excited when mothers in Lebanon ages 26-34 (or whatever) agree that suicide bombs are bad. I’m more interested in what communications strategies are being used at the ground level in Afghanistan. How, for example, is the PD team at State interacting/collaborating with counterinsurgency planners at DoD to further the cause in Iraq?
We should all be happy that The Washington Post is publishing a piece that purports to be about public diplomacy. But PD is about more than just poll numbers. It’s about results. A 795-word laundry list of tactics doesn’t do us much good without a clear connection to how it’s all being incorporated into a broader strategy to achieve U.S. national security objectives.
thanks for your comment and pointing out the original purpose of this post: apples v oranges of karen Hughes. I would suggest a better comparison is apples v donkeys: Ms Hughes isn’t even playing fruit against fruit. Seeming confused and even annoyed at how this game is played, she seems unwilling to participate, to the detriment of our national security and with the result of Americans and others losing their lives.
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