The world isn’t flat

Tom Barnett’s New Map has been noted by State.


So that official, Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Sullivan, is on a mini-domestic tour to promote free trade and tout the Bush administration’s commitment to foreign aid.

Somebody from Hughes’ office should be using this map to show where public diplomacy & strategic communication efforts should and must be directed (but not to the detriment of friendly countries… Hamburg anyone, big cities in England…). Not going to happen. No money and no leadership. But please, surprise me. Please!

Waterboarding is Torture… Period

While the new AG won’t admit waterboarding is torture, a man I respect and have talked with in the past disagrees. Read Malcolm Nance over at Small Wars Journal’s Blog:

If you support the use of waterboarding on enemy captives, you support the use of that torture on any future American captives. The Small Wars Council had a spirited discussion about this earlier in the year, especially when former Marine Generals Krulak and Hoar rejected all arguments for torture.

Controversy: FM 3-24 Plagiarism Scandal

Want a good laugh? Have you followed the growing freak-out by anthropologists who fret over the perversion of their profession for national security and saving lives? If you have or haven’t, check out Abu Muqawama’s post (below) on the latest in this culture clash, as well as Sharon’s comment at Danger Room on the same:

Issandr over at The Arabist — whose job description includes reading publications like CounterPunch so Abu Muqawama doesn’t have to — sent over a .pdf file yesterday morning of this article, which you can now read for free. In it, David Pryce pretty much tees off on the authors of FM 3-24, accusing them of plagiarism as well as, hilariously, being "marginally skilled writers" and "desperate people with limited skills." (Nope, no academic elitism here. None at all. Look away, please.)

Yes, folks, it’s a smear piece. (Pryce can’t even be bothered to get John "Jon" Nagl’s name right in the original article, he’s so full of righteous anger.) Yes, it was published by CounterPunch, whose breathless headline was "Pilfered Scholarship Devastates General Petraeus’s Counterinsurgency Manual." (Who writes their headlines? The Sun?) And yes, the charges that Page 3 stunner Montgomery McFate is "prostituting" the field of anthropology to the services of empire is nothing new either. (Abu Muqawama guesses this is because of the obvious financial rewards involved with a Harvard Law graduate working for, uh, the federal government.) But the plagiarism claim is new and deserves attention. Read the article, and don’t feel bad if you skip toward the end to the unacknowledged sources section.

In the final analysis, the folks over at the Wired blog probably have it correct when they write:

Does military doctrine need to adhere to academic standards? No, it doesn’t, it’s not scholarship. Then again, should Pentagon officials really be surprised that academics are acting, well, like academics? No, they shouldn’t be.

Read the rest at AM and Danger Room….

Hughes is leaving

Longtime Bush adviser leaving State Dept:

Karen Hughes, who led efforts to improve the U.S. image abroad and was one of President Bush’s last remaining advisers from the close circle of Texas aides, will leave the government at the end of the year.

It’s too late for memoir season, so thankfully we’ll be spared a book from Ms. Hughes. If one did come out, I’d expect it to be much like Bremer’s.

SecState had this to say while accepting the resignation

"with a great deal of sadness but also a great deal of happiness for what she has achieved" and with the understanding that she would continue to work on several projects.

Rice said that Hughes had made public diplomacy "strong and central" to U.S. foreign policy and had exceeded expectations in the job.

Um. Really?

See also Princess Sparkle Pony on the subject. And, will her blogger outreach program really go away as some have feared (or hoped)?

…and what about DipNote? Will they post on the news of the future departure of their boss? Will they stay out of the discourse that’s building in the blogosphere? Hopefully the public affairs people won’t follow the lead of the public diplomacy blog outreach people do… (courtesy WhirledView)…

Suggested alternative title for this post by Tanji: When does the party start and what can I bring?

(H/T AW)

State’s Upcoming Blackwater Announcement

From State’s DipNote blog:

Look tomorrow (9/28) for an announcement naming experts outside of the State Department who will be part of the Washington-based review on personal security contractor operations in Iraq that was announced last week. Secretary Rice decided today, after a meeting with several senior advisors, on the structure of the review. Pat Kennedy will lead a small team to Iraq early next week to begin establishing a baseline set of facts about these contractor operations and provide Secretary Rice with an interim report no later than next Friday. (Note: Pat has already done a lot of groundwork in Washington since last Friday when the review was announced.) The soon to be announced outside experts will also receive the report. I expect they will also travel to Iraq, either with Pat or separately, to conduct their own ground truth assessment. Meanwhile, Pat will continue his work, feeding his findings to the senior outside experts. Based on Pat’s work, as well as their own assessments, the panel will then make a set of recommendations to Secretary Rice several weeks from now. About the review, she said that she wants "…it to be 360 [degrees], to be serious, and to be really probing."

A change from the normal story-telling, DipNote offers a (new) media alert. I don’t expect to be asked to be named onto this team, not because I’m not in Washington and not because I’m not a widely known expert (if I’m an expert at all), but because of my (possibly overly) harsh criticism of State and its role in the Blackwater imbroglio. I look forward to reading who is on this team.

Can I add this is at least 3 years too late or is that too much to say? What about if I mention that a few friends, including former Blackwater personnel, reminded me that BW used to have cameras in their vehicles back when they were running Mambas. Also, vehicle cams caught the infamous "Elvis" video and the famous ERSM video (famous if you’ve followed the industry in Iraq for more than a month or a year). But that was before State took over…

WTF? Pentagon vs. Hobby Shops

From Noah:

Inside the Pentagon reports that "your local hobby shop has recently had to charge little Timmy 40 cents extra to purchase an $8 toy model kit with the likeness of a U.S. military vehicle, according to the Hobby Manufacturers Association (HMA)."

Timmy has had pay up since defense contractors began pressuring scale-model manufacturers and distributors to pay licensing fees in order to use the designation or likeness of the life-sized military vehicles, HMA says.

The contractors have sought 2 to 8 percent of the costs of each unit from toy manufacturers, according to the association. This expense, which amounts to an increased cost of $6,000 for 15,000 units, is passed on to the consumer, driving down demand and putting small hobby shops in jeopardy, the association argues on its Web site.

So Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ) included a provision in the House version of the fiscal year 2008 defense authorization bill requiring the Pentagon to license trademarks, service marks, certification marks, and collective marks relating to military designations and likenesses of U.S. weapon systems to any qualifying company upon request.

“The fee charged for a license would be no more than required to cover the cost to the government, and the license would be non-exclusive,” the bill states.

The Pentagon, however, “strongly opposes” Andrews’ provision, devoting an entire page to the issue in its latest authorization appeals package. Such appeals are typically reserved for last-ditch efforts to save big DOD programs from funding cuts.

DOD “can envision no valid reason why a trademark owner should ever be compelled to allow another entity to use that intellectual property, even for reasonable license fees,” the appeal says.

The HMA, however, can envision several reasons.

One is that model kits can serve as a recruitment tool and free advertising for DOD. Another is that military designations are determined by a Pentagon system and the vehicles’ designs are funded by taxpayers.

While that last paragraph is important, more generally what the hell is Andrews thinking? Aren’t there better things to do with his and his staff’s time?

State’s Diplomatic Security chief resigns

State Department’s Diplomatic Security (DS) chief resigns:

Richard Griffin, the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, announced his decision to step down at a weekly staff meeting, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, adding that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accepted the resignation, which is effective Nov. 1.

I find dark humor in Griffin’s resignation. This goes to my point that State doesn’t internalize their role in shaping and transforming opinions through their presence and actions. While Defense increasingly understands what their personnel on the ground are "the last three feet" of engagement through direct contact with people and indirectly through media, State pretends it’s on another level.

State is its own worse enemy here. Blackwater, on the other hand, is like most contractors (Custer Battles is a poster exception) and was just doing its job as a) the client instructed, and b) the client permitted. In all of the emotional rhetoric that’s increasingly distanced from reality on contractors, Jeremy Scahill being the prime example, lost is the hiring party’s culpability.

In the end, this is another example that the State Department, under the leadership of Rice and Hughes, fails to accept what it does, from moving around Baghdad to hiring private vendors, shape opinions. They’ve done such a bad job of managing their security provider that not only are they completely dependent on Blackwater, operations in Iraq and elsewhere are likely to come to halt again as contractors pull out, spurred by Iraq repelling CPA Order 17 in the wake of September 16.

See also:

State’s insular world

A short while back I wrote about the cost the U.S. incurred by State’s unchecked desire to keep its principals off the ‘X’ and a while back I arranged discussions on the role of private military contractors play in public diplomacy. Nicholas Kralev, writing in the Washington Times, has more on State’s inept understanding of the environment in which it works.

The State Department cited legal reasons in turning down a 2005 request from Blackwater USA to install cameras in official U.S. motorcades protected by employees of the security contractor in Iraq, The Washington Times has learned.

Blackwater’s request is more than about protecting Blackwater, it is about the U.S. protecting itself and its mission. Blackwater is an agent of the U.S. and a representative of the U.S. This is about the U.S. participating in and countering enemy propaganda. State has systematically denied its role in the war of perceptions and this is just the latest example of how it rejects reality.

In contrast, the Defense Department provides massive amounts of video, a broadcast channel, even going so far as to create a YouTube account for MNF-Iraq. And don’t forget to count soldiers’ personal video recorders as well. (Of course, there are the differences in State and Defense’s approach to the blogosphere).

Instead of providing more information, State sticks to its 19th Century role of speaking privately and taking the corporate defense that less information is better (which is extendable to destroying data as soon the retention schedule permits it, or rather, when legally permissible to do so, which I’m sure will surface soon). State minimizes information so it can’t be held accountable — which is a false hope. Even if it shuts its eyes really, really hard, others saw the event and a vastly greater audience heard unchallenged reports of the event. Closing its eyes and pretending the world of information isn’t an adequate defense. For the criticisms of Blackwater, they knew the value of video recording.

Hell, even NATO is seeing the value of sharing video.

The imbroglio over contractors is good. It’s a discussion that’s long, long overdue. It’s unfortunate, however, that the spark was State’s failure to comprehend and manage its presence in Iraq. Information continues to come out how the tactics of Blackwater were encouraged and explicitly or implicitly condoned by State.

And while we’re talking about public diplomacy, where is Karen Hughes’ office in this? Are her bloggers still slinging "official government positions" in the comments sections of blogs? Hard to say, but not much to say to cover up a bad policy.

UPDATE: Iraq is moving to repeal CPA Order 17 and of yesterday (23 Oct 07), rumor has it Blackwater is "flying out 90-120" of its contractors a day, although that seems high.

See also:

A bigger problem than Blackwater: DynCorp (Updated)

You want a bigger and deeper problem than Blackwater? Consider DynCorp, a much larger private military firm "providing" a range of services that impact Iraqis and the U.S. mission in far greater ways than Blackwater. From David Phinney:

The State Department so badly managed a $1.2 billion contract for Iraqi police training that it can’t tell what it got for the money spent, a new report says.

Because of disarray in invoices and records on the project — and because the government is trying to recoup money paid inappropriately to contractor DynCorp International, LLC — auditors have temporarily suspended their effort to review the contract’s implementation, said Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart W. Bowen Jr.

Maybe investigators should look into DynCorp’s relationship with its prime subcontractor, Corporate Bank, aka, The Sandi Group, aka, TSG.

See: Marking Up the Reconstruction

You could play the What If? that Blackwater’s profile (and profits) wouldn’t be what it was if DynCorp (and others) had done their part in training the police, building the infrastructure, and creating jobs for Iraqis as they had been charged with doing.

Oh, and by the way, when the U.S. sends police on U.N. peacekeeping missions, they aren’t employed by the U.S. Nope, they’re DynCorp-paid cops. Blackwater? They’re just the whipping boy for the emotional. Blackwater is small change compared to DynCorp.

Also see Phinney’s more recent post on State’s IG here.

Update: see the NY Times article on State contracting.

See also:

Automation not a factor in ‘Robotic rampage’?

From New Scientist Tech:

A female soldier tried to free the shell, but another shell was accidentally fired, causing some rounds in the gun’s two near-full ammunition magazines to explode. The gun began firing again and swung in a circle, leaving nine soldiers dead and eleven wounded.

Blogs and other online news sources have suggested the incident may be due to software problems, highlighting the danger of automated weapon systems. But Jim O’Halloran of defence publication Jane’s Land-Based Air Defence says the incident is more likely the result of a simple mechanical failure.

Interesting, this emphasizes my point that the presence of automation has the power to changes the debate over an incident, which is in the survey.

Good news: it’s not just us fighting al-Qaeda

Over at the Long War Journal is a bit of good news.

The divisions between al Qaeda and their erstwhile Sunni allies in the insurgency intensified over the weekend as the Islamic Army of Iraq and the terror group battled in Khannasa, just south of the city of Baghdad near Salman Pak. Over 60 were reported killed in the three day battle, which occurred after al Qaeda kidnapped a leader of the insurgent group.

Al Qaeda continues to overstep its boundaries and kills, kidnaps, and coerces Sunni insurgent groups for failing to follow its rules. “The attacks took place in the past few days after terrorists from al-Qaeda kidnapped the head of the Islamic Army in Madain, Wahid Arzuqi,” Adnkronos reported. “Various witnesses said Arzuqi was kidnapped after receiving various threats, in particular a fierce verbal attack in a meeting organized with other Iraqi guerillas. Tensions between al Qaeda and the rival militant organization have reportedly been ignited in recent weeks after the deaths of several members of the Islamic Army in Samarra, Kirkuk and al-Duluiya.”

I hope we’re helping deepen this fissure.

The new black for the stylish soldier or insurgent?

Just two, three years ago, the big talk was 5.11s. Seems there’s a new black now. From Noah, Care Bear Body Armor:

By now, you’ve probably seen — and are so totally over — the Hello Kitty AK-47.  Luckily, the genius gals at ("combin[ing] the girliness of glamor with the practicality of military expertise") have a whole lot more hardware up their frilly, sequined sleeves.  Like a carbine, festooned with My Little Pony.  And a claymore mine, inspired by Martha Stewart.  But I think this cuter-than-cuter piece of protective gear is my favorite item in the GlamGuns arsenal:Carebeararmor

Not sure how to categorize this post. Cultural Warfare? Public Diplomacy? Military Diplomacy?

Recent links to MountainRunner

It’s been a big 10 days of links to MountainRunner. Lots of links to my recent posts on robots in war.

Noah Shachtman at Danger Room linked to Robot kills 9, injuries 14, which was picked up by Boing Boing, and many, many others.

Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic, Madisonian, linked to Implementation of ethical controls on robots.

CANinKandahar linked to DOD Approved Strategic Communication Plan for Afghanistan.

Josh Foust at A Second Hand Conjecture linked to The real Diplomacy of Deeds and Congress continues to screw up its priorities and we still don’t get privatization issue.

PR Watch picked up my article in GOOD Magazine and linked to MountainRunner, as did ZenPundit and Noah.

Both Andrew Sullivan (big shout out to Sullivan, Thanks for the links!) and Small Wars Journal (same to you Dave!) linked Revising History.

And, Kent’s Imperative linked to both Noting DipNote’s Noteworthiness (Updated) and A role model for DipNote? 

Thanks for the links everyone.

NATO acks 21st Century info war, says time to copy Taliban’s PD strategy

Briefly, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer moves NATO into the struggle of minds and wills in the Information Age. During a conference titled "Public Diplomacy in NATO-led Operations" (thanks Henrik), SecGen Scheffer was almost out of the box considering NATO and out in front of the U.S. in many ways:

…three basic facts that I think are clear to us all:

First, that we need to speak clearly and effectively to our public and Parliaments, not just to explain what we do, but to succeed at what we do.

Second, that the information environment has changed profoundly from what it was just ten years ago – not just in terms of technology, but speed, access, audience and in fact who is generating news.

Unfortunately, the third fact is that we in NATO are not doing nearly well enough at communicating in this new information environment. And we are paying a price for it, not least over Afghanistan.

The whole speech is smart and should be required reading for those interested in the role of public diplomacy in national security and information operations in general. Video is here.

Continue reading “NATO acks 21st Century info war, says time to copy Taliban’s PD strategy