In case you missed it…

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held the confirmation hearing today, Wednesday, at 11:15a. CNN so far is the only one reporting on it, but to say they "reported" on it is a stretch.

The man nominated to head public diplomacy at the State Department said Wednesday that al Qaeda is doing a better job than the Bush administration in winning friends over the Internet….

"Our enemies are eating our lunch in terms of getting the word out in digital technology," said James Glassman….

Glassman said the United States must overturn a misconception in the Muslim world that it is a military threat, that it wants to weaken and divide the Muslim world and spread Christianity.

One member of the committee, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, asked Glassman, "Do we broadcast what people want to hear or what they need to hear?"

Glassman replied, "We have to be honest. If we tell them lies they are going to figure that out very quickly."

Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, introduced Glassman to the committee, saying the public diplomacy post is "the closest thing to a supreme allied commander in the war of ideas and one of the most important posts in Washington."

Glassman’s prepared remarks are here. Light highlight:

Since I was nominated as Under Secretary on December 11, many friends have congratulated me and perhaps just as many have offered condolences. They were half-joking, I suppose, in their reference to how difficult this job must be.

From the VOA reporting on the hearing:

"OK, what can you do? You have only got a year to do this," asked Senate Democrat Bill Nelson.

In response Glassman said the United States must aggressively fight misinformation and work to counter a perception that it doesn’t care or take into account views of other nations.

That won’t be easy, he says, in the face of an ideology based on a distortion of Islam. He adds that "You Tube" and a new State Department blogging site are among tools now being employed, and urges greater use of what he calls credible Muslim voices. "That is an area we need to do better in encouraging Muslim voices to step forward and say exactly what you are saying, that you have built an ideology which is a violent and vicious ideology on top of a religion that is not like that at all," he said.

When Senate Democrat Robert Menendez asked whether U.S. public diplomacy should "tell it like it is", Glassman said "we have to be honest" adding "we don’t do propaganda."

Senator Russ Feingold, a committee Democrat, pointed to criticisms of U.S. public diplomacy efforts. "As you are well aware however, this bureau [public diplomacy effort] has been criticized for having a weak communications strategy which obviously raises questions about its ability to meet its important mission," he said.

See also:

What would you ask Jim Glassman? (Updated)

If you had the opportunity to ask a question of James Glassman at his upcoming Senate confirmation hearing as Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, what would it be?

My questions, below, are still in draft form, so feel free to hack, jack, and ridicule:

Today the United States is engaged in a war of ideas and perception. A war we are barely participating in. Sixty years ago, Public Law 402: The United States Information and Educations Exchange Act of 1948, commonly referred to as the Smith-Mundt Act was passed to formalize the institutions needed to fight the last war of ideology and understanding. Today, far removed from its original purpose and the crafters intent, Smith-Mundt is broadly interpreted to apply not just to certain elements of public diplomacy, specifically those of USIA and VOA, now both rolled into the Department of State, but to the operations of the Defense Department while at the same time ignoring other U.S. government communications for both overseas and domestic consumption.

The communications revolution of the 1940s that in part spurred Representative Karl Mundt (R-SD) and Senator Alexander Smith (R-NJ) still shapes our communication with the world. But the simple communications models of the 1940’s have been replaced by global networks of formal and informal media. Careful deliberation by both media and the consumers of media is gone. Today, perception too often trumps fact. By the time the truth comes out, the audience and media have moved on.

Question #1: Mr. Glassman, what are your thoughts on Smith-Mundt? Does it apply to the whole of the United States government? To a part or all of the State Department? What about the Defense Department or the President’s Press Secretary or other departments or agencies in the Executive and Legislative Branch? Are they covered under Smith-Mundt?

Smith-Mundt institutionalized the often recalled United States Information Agency. The Smith-Mundt committee made it clear the USIA must, to be effective, tell the truth; explain the motives of the United States; combat misrepresentation and distortion by our adversary; and aggressively interpret and support American foreign policy.

Question #2: Is it time to have another agency, insulated from the whims of the Oval Office and Congress to become a credible and trusted voice for news and information to replace the haphazard solutions put forth by various parts of the United States Government today?

When speaking with those who practice public diplomacy or strategic communications, the distinction is for another question, frequently heard is how conversations with foreign audiences are shaped more by how our own people will interpret the discussion than the listener standing in front of us.

Question #3: Given the way the media environment has evolved since Smith-Mundt was enacted, how realistic is it to think we can separate messages according to the audiences they’re supposed to influence (or not)?  Whoever you think the law applies to, doesn’t it give them an impossible assignment?  Should we just get rid of it or rewrite it to provide more realistic regulation, given modern media conditions?

These are wordy but I’ve listened to these confirmation hearings before and in that context, the above might actually be too brief ;). Post your questions and suggestions in the comments below or email me directly.

In the spirit of collaboration, the questions have been enhanced by a suggestion from Steve.

Update: Jim Glassman was confirmed 4 June 2008. The office was vacant for 172 days…

Upcoming events on Africa

Heads up on two upcoming events on Africa. The first is titled AFRICOM: The American Military and Public Diplomacy in Africa and will be at the University of Southern California February 8, 2008:

The USC Center on Public Diplomacy at the Annenberg School and the USC Center for International Studies are pleased to announce the upcoming conference, AFRICOM: The American Military and Public Diplomacy in Africa. The first of a series of conferences on public diplomacy, this conference will be held on Friday, February 8, 2008 at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

This conference will feature panel sessions addressing U.S.-African relations, the State Department and Department of Defense concepts of public diplomacy in Africa, and African perspectives on the issue. Some questions to be discussed include how AFRICOM should be presented to African publics, to what extent African nations and regional organizations will be involved in shaping AFRICOM’s role, and how AFRICOM will work with other developmental and humanitarian projects on the continent. The conference hopes to provide AFRICOM as a case study for a discussion of public diplomacy in a broader sense, considering who should conduct public diplomacy and how it can be better integrated into government policy.

Confirmed panelists include: Jendayi Frazer, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs; Ryan Henry, Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense; Nicole Lee, Executive Director of the TransAfrica Forum; Amb. Brian Carlson, State-DoD Liaison in the Office of the Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs; Mark Malan, Peacebuilding Program Officer at Refugees International; and H.E. Peter N.R.O Ogego, Kenyan Ambassador to the United States. The conference will be recorded and followed by the publication of the transcript and briefing papers. All sessions will be open to the USC community, the news media, the Los Angeles consular corps, and the general public.

For further information, please contact Lisa Larsen, Assistant Director for Programming and Events, at (213) 821-0768 or

The second event is a 1.5 day event, February 28-29, 2008: Countering Terrorism in Africa through Human Security Solutions at The Fletcher School at Tufts University.

The Jebsen Center for Counter-Terrorism Studies—with support from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and co-sponsorship from the Conflict and Human Security Studies Program at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point; the Fletcher Institute for Human Security; the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University; and Synexxus, Inc.—presents a two-day conference, “Countering Terrorism in Africa Through Human Security Solutions” on Thursday, February 28 and Friday, February 20 at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

The conference will explore the mutual concerns of development, human rights, and security professionals working in a region that, due to poverty, civil violence, and mismanaged security interventions, may be susceptible to: influence and activity carried out by global terrorist networks such as al Qaeda and affiliated movements (AQAM); radicalization and the formation of independent violent terrorist cells; and the use of violent, civilian-focused terrorist tactics. Through three panels and two keynote addresses, the aim of this conference is to explore collaborative efforts to improve human security in Africa by addressing both development and security issues, which could help to improve conditions on the continent and, by extension, prevent terrorist networks from exploiting grievances and garnering support.

Both look interesting and worthwhile.

See also:

“Get Me the Defence Department, Entertainment Division!”

I didn’t come up with the title of this post. No, I stole it from a Canuck writing the Queen’s English. Besides enjoying the slight accuracy of title (I’m thinking of the Pentagon’s Hollywood liaison, a position a friend of mine is aiming for… a good use of his Ranger tab, don’t you think?), this bit caught my eye (as well as John Brown’s):

One of the problems that [RAND’s Enlisting Madison Avenue by Todd Helmus, Chris Paul, and Russell Glenn (see this post and this post)] aims to address is the military’s general failure to project a unified message about their product (euphemism=war) to their consumer (euphemism=foreign civilian). The book’s authors suggest more coordination between Public Affairs and Information Operations, but cites “legal barriers” as an obstacle. The book’s treatment of this issue is rather delicate, but it does cite the 1948 Smith-Mundt Act as one of these barriers. Here’s what the book says:

PSYOP suffers from additional barriers to successful shaping. First, Public Law 402, the U.S. Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 (the Smith-Mundt Act), prohibits DoD from targeting U.S. audiences. With the reach of the Internet and 24-hour news, however, many of the Pentagon’s information efforts can wind up in the U.S. media. Currently, PSYOP forces need to obtain the direct permission of the Secretary of Defense before distributing material on the Internet, even in a foreign language.

(On a side note, this is interesting because the book has a section dedicated to military use of blogs as a means of persuasion. The book notes that blogging, like word of mouth advertising, is an extremely credulous medium because the reader generally believes that the opinions are presented honestly, without ulterior motives.)

While the book was fairly cautious about this issue, there are other voices that are less so. The Mountain Runner, a blog with the subtitle, “Public diplomacy, unrestricted warfare, privatization of force, and civil-military relations”, has been a vocal opponent of the Smith-Mundt act, and has something of a following in the military community.

I have two big concerns about this. First, this law, though it seems very [important] to me, is very obscure, and it seems that the only people who really know about it are trying to get rid of it. Second, I wonder how such a law could even be enforced.

If a military is caught lying outright to its own people, presumably a law against propaganda could be enforced. But what’s tricky about public relations, or PYSOP, or propaganda, is that it’s often very hard to identify it as such. We’ve come a long way since reefer-mad red scares, and these early propaganda campaigns now seem ridiculous precisely because the persuasion industry has become so sophisticated. Operation Sterling Silver – the Canadian Forces’ grey cup stunt – is particularly brilliant from a PSYOP perspective because it makes no propositional assertions at all. It simply presents a series of images for the spectator, and these images resonate on a pre-rational, emotional level.

I am unaware of any Canadian law prohibiting the dissemination of domestic propaganda, and even if there is, Operation Sterling Silver obviously flew well below the radar.

Continue reading ““Get Me the Defence Department, Entertainment Division!”

Return to blogging…

After a blogging hiatus brought on by last week’s travel and a flu that came on after a busy family weekend, I’m back.

If you didn’t notice, this blog’s subtitle has changed and my dog’s profile has been replaced by a less attractive mugshot of me. However, the icon for the site will remain the dog and not a minature me.

And now, back to blogging…

Transforming U.S. Public Diplomacy

From Marwan M. Kraidy: Arab Media and US Policy: A Public Diplomacy Reset

It’s a very interesting read. I’ll post this snippet and comment later (I need to prepare for tomorrow’s workshop session):

In addition to fostering this independent localism in the news media, a series of basic, commonsensical steps should be undertaken by the US government. First, create an empowered and more autonomous public diplomacy organism and give its head an office in the White House as special advisor to the president, which would give him/her more power than currently enjoyed by the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy. Second, increase public diplomacy funding, expand Arab language training, and set up a structure of incentives to learn Arabic; for example, shortening rotations in the Middle East, which are currently among the longest for US diplomats. Third, provide Arab journalists with wider and easier access to US sources; facilitate visa and airport entry procedures, especially
for students and journalists; and make sure US consular staff are adequately trained in human relations.


Posting will be light…

Posting will be light to non-existent this week. For the why, see this post. However, feel free to talk amongst yourselves. If you’re at the Army War College this week, give me a shout via email.

If you’re here for the first time, check out the Highlighted Picks on the right and the categories on the left and enjoy.

Countering Ideological Support for Terrorism

Briefly, countering ideological support for terrorism (CIST) is a catch-phrase that predates Dr. Michael Doran’s appointment as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Support to Public Diplomacy, as he admits, but he has readily adopted it and is, as far as I can tell, the only person still promoting it "publicly". I put that in quotes because you rarely see his name in print, even if you’re paying attention. However, it’s worthwhile to read what he says, not just because he’s helping to set policy but because he’s got the right ideas. ran an interview last week with Mike. It’s short and worthwhile read.

The GovExec interview was an overview, but this foreign press briefing with Mike a month ago give the details. Time limits any depth, so here is an excerpt:

…I want to put the focus, actually, on al-Qaida itself. Because I think when you look at it closely, you see that the major reason for the successes against al-Qaida are to be found in the nature of al-Qaida’s ideology itself. The ideology contains the seeds of its own destruction and I think that’s true for four major reasons.

The first is that al-Qaida’s global ideology makes it very unresponsive to the local needs of the population in Iraq and anywhere else where we find people adhering to the ideology. The second reason is that it advocates the killing of fellow Sunni Muslims. And the third reason is that it advocates the killing of innocent civilians of all kinds. And the fourth reason is that the teachings of al-Qaida that justify the indiscriminate killing of innocents flies in the face of about a thousand years of traditional Islamic teaching.

Now this was a foreign press briefing. I’ll highlight some of the questions and then I want you to think whether you could imagine an American journalist asking the same question.

Mounzer Sleiman with Lebanon’s Al-Mustaqbal Al-Arabi. The success that you’re mentioning in Iraq, you associated it with the surge, while there was more — it is about local solution than being associated with military operations. That would lead to the narrative that has been used by the administration about waging this ideological warfare, the long war. And I think it needs to be examined if the solution to this is not military. But it’s based on the local intervention, even with the absence of governments. But this danger, if even when government exists, it’s better to be left to the government to deal with it, to the local to deal with it. How about — do you think it’s serving the purpose of throwing words like Islamo-facism and other terms associating with Islam when dealing with ideological warfare against al-Qaida and other extremists?


Hi, my name is Arshad Mahmud and I represent the daily Prothom Alo of Bangladesh. Your title says that you are the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Support to Public Diplomacy and I expected you to focus more on how public diplomacy can help the problems related to al-Qaida and other extremist groups. And I agree with this gentleman that you attached more importance to the success of the surge in undercutting al-Qaida.

Do you personally feel — and I also see that you are from the academia, you were a professor at Princeton. Do you sincerely believe that the military might can actually defeat these problems? Because worldwide, the American foreign policy is perceived to be lopsided: It helps the people like Israel, the Government of Israel vis-à-vis the Palestinians; and also, it supports the repressive regimes in the Middle East. And that’s how all these al-Qaida and other groups have come up. And if you even — I take for argument’s sake that if you defeat them, there will be another group that will be launched from somewhere else because they are fed up with these kind of policies. And how you do deal with this as a person from public diplomacy? Thank you.

This last question is very good and one that should have been addressed by Karen Hughes and will hopefully be better answered and synchronized with actions under James Glassman.

For Mike’s answers and other questions, read the transcript (PDF).

There’s more to it than security

The Los Angeles Times today has a story, new to some old to others, on getting Iraqis to participate in government, as well as giving them something positive to do. The U.S. has created Concerned Local Citizen groups, or CLC, around the country. Going by different names here and there, CLC’s give locals the opportunity to fill gaps in security but more importantly, to become part of the solution. In some areas, they have been instrumental in pushing out al-Qaeda, not because AQ was killing Americans, but because AQ and the Iraqis didn’t get along (which, if you check your program, has been part of our messaging for a while).

The important ‘twist’ to Peter Spiegel’s report is the transition from security to reconstruction.

…U.S. officials have begun a pilot program to develop a civil service corps to employ the men.

"We’ll teach them skills, like repairing pipes, electricity, sewage," [day-to-day commander in Iraq, Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T.] Odierno said. Still, officials aren’t certain such programs can absorb the huge numbers of the concerned local citizens.

The last sentence is important for two reasons. Note the focus on SWET: sewage, water, electricity and trash, the basic services necessary for civil life. The military hard proof that focusing on SWET reduces insurgent attacksGeneral Stone has talked (raw transcript here) about the need and pressure for a New Deal-style employment option, which would extend this across the board.

As I wrote before, we must focus on the reconstruction efforts if we are to win the struggle. Those who think surgical kinetic strikes are all that is necessary are smoking something.

JCS Chairman Wants Gitmo Shut Down

Very briefly, in another example the military gets that we’re in a war of perceptions and ideas, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wants to close Gitmo. From the Associated Press

The chief of the U.S. military said he favors closing the prison here as soon as possible because he believes negative publicity worldwide about treatment of terrorist suspects has been "pretty damaging" to the image of the United States.

"I’d like to see it shut down," Adm. Mike Mullen said Jan. 13 in an interview with three reporters who toured the detention center with him on his first visit since becoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff last October….

Asked why he thinks Guantanamo Bay… Mullen said, "More than anything else it’s been the image – how Gitmo has become around the world, in terms of representing the United States."

Predicting Counterinsurgency

I’m reviewing (again) British Brigadier General Frank Kitson’s (who’s still apparently alive, by the way) Low Intensity Operations (1971) and found this:

[Peter de la Billier’s ‘Changing Pattern of Guerilla Warfare’, R.U.S.I. Journal, Dec. 1969] comes to the conclusion that low-level urban insurgency combined with propaganda and economic pressure, is likely to be the most popular form of operation in the future, but it is too early to know whether this prediction will be fulfilled.

Just sharing… talk amongst yourselves about this.

What’s in your reading pile?

Among the dozen or so books in the "I really want to read these before I graduate" (I graduated last month…), there are two books that are personal priorities:

  • BuccaneersRealm Buccaneer’s Realm by Ben Little. I’m almost done with this one. Buccaneer’s Realm explores the culture of privateers, buccaneers / boucaniers, filibusters / flibustiers, and pirates in a fourteen year slice. This is a great follow up to his Sea Rover’s Practice that looked at how ‘pirates’ operated, functioned, and organized themselves. In Sea Rover’s Practice you’ll see how financial interests could and did overcome racial and other prejudices and that democracy works well when everyone has a stake.
  • Guernica Guernica and Total War by Ian Patterson. I have only opened it and skimmed a few pages, and it looks good. This was an appreciated gift from a fellow blogger.

A short list of other books on the ‘to read’ pile that I feel safe recommending, even without reading:

  • Mike Waller’s Public Diplomacy Reader (no, I asked him, that’s not his dog on the cover). I have flipped through this and cited it, but haven’t given it the read through it deserves and requires.
  • Robert L. Dilenschneider’s Power and Influence: The Rules have Changed. Don’t know who the author is? He is the former President and CEO of Hill & Knowlton. Don’t know Hill & Knowlton? Then you might enjoy Manheim’s case study. (And while we’re at it, if you’re picking up Manheim, you should have what I consider an equally, if not more important read from Entman.)
  • Sarah Percy’s Mercenaries. Based on an early draft of a chapter she sent a while back, she’s done some amazing research. Looking forward to reading her book.

While I’m at it, here’s an additional list of some of the books I recommend that I recently (last few months) read. No time to pen something substantial (or anything in some cases), but these deserve much more than the casual glance and should be read.

First State, now the White House?

From Opinio Juris

The White House is thinking of starting a blog — or at least a blog-like substance. From Dana Perino’s press conference today:

At 6:15 p.m., the President departs the White House on Marine One to head for his trip to the Middle East, the first stop being Jerusalem.
One note. As we leave for the Middle East trip today, we will begin posting periodic updates from the senior staff that’s traveling with the President on a website — on our website, It will be called "Trip Notes from the Middle East." This is new to us. We encourage you to log on and to check back often to read some of the updates that the staff will be posting throughout the trip. So it will be just a little bit of a blog.
Q Blog?
MS. PERINO: A little bit like a blog, yes — dare I say.
Q Bolten? Hadley? You?
MS. PERINO: Probably all of the above. Ed Gillespie is also on the trip. And also Bill McGurn, our speechwriter, he’s on the trip. So they’ll be available at, and we hope to do something daily, but we’ll just see how the trip goes.
Q Is it just for the trip?
MS. PERINO: Yes, because it’s a trip to the Middle East. (Laughter.)
Q Trip notes — there could be another trip.
MS. PERINO: Well, we’ll see how it goes, and then we may do it in the future as well.

Will Barney post as well?

America’s upper classes have gone AWOL

Peter A. Gudmundsson makes much the same argument I’ve been making in my presentations and papers on the expanding use of private military companies in the conduct of U.S. national security policy, Gudmundsson smartly puts the problem of disassociation of war from the upper class as a factor in presidential campaign discourse.

During this presidential campaign, voters will hear much about the divergent economic realities between "the rich" and "the middle class." Yet there is another partition in America that is less visible, but no less troubling. The great divide between the civilian and military communities leaves the nation and its electorate ill-equipped to make informed judgments about military and international affairs.

I recently returned from a trip to San Diego, during which I toured the Marine Corps Recruit Depot and spent two days at sea with the officers and crew of the USS Nimitz. To say the least, it renewed my respect for the professionalism, competence, dedication, and sacrifice of America’s men and women in uniform. I was deeply impressed by the vigor and apparent confidence with which they attend to their duties.

A quick glance at the troops I met immediately revealed a broad representation of America’s ethnic groups – a diversity that’s typical throughout America’s armed forces. Statistics reveal high standards of educational attainment and the near nonexistence of illegal drug use or criminal backgrounds. Many come from families in which military service is a common experience. Yet I can’t help concluding that the upper and upper-middle or "elite" social classes seem to be conspicuously absent.

A Navy admiral told me, "America is not at war. Its military is." He was acutely aware that a prominent segment of society had little but tax money invested in the outcome.

When I was at the U.S. Naval Academy a couple of years ago for a conference, I found Forestall Lecture speaker Admiral Timothy J. Keating’s observation on how the parking has changed since he was a midshipman. He said that back when he was a middie, the parking lot was full of Corvettes and Porsches. In 2005, he noted the lot was full of pickup trucks.  

The comment by the admiral in Gudmundsson is not unique. See this photo of a white board in this previous post.

So what to make of it? Here’s what Gudmundsson says:

No electorate can make informed decisions about the exercise of military power in a far-off theater if it lacks a reasonable measure of collective experience with military matters. And any society that restricts its information and analysis to the sound bites of "embedded" journalists and political pundits will find itself highly susceptible to the manipulations of partisan politicians and interest groups at either extreme of any debate. It is simply too difficult to separate hope from fear and fiction from fact….

It is only with an experienced and knowledgeable citizenry that we as a nation can prosecute sound strategy to achieve US policy goals while avoiding the pitfalls of failure and their attendant human, financial, and diplomatic costs.

I agree.

(H/T John Brown)

Blogging will be light next week

A heads up that posting next week will be very light to nil. On Monday, 14 January, I will be chairing two panels at the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Conference in Los Angeles. These are the same panels I chaired in May of last year in D.C.: Science as Diplomacy and Blogging for Technology: Science and the New Media.

And perhaps because I’m just not happy with the weather here in Los Angeles, Tuesday through Thursday (14-17 Jan), I will be at the Army War College for a workshop, New Media and the Warfighter. And then on Friday, 18 January, I’ll be in D.C., flying home that evening.

If you’re around any of these locales, drop me an email…

Al Qaeda taps cell phone downloads

If you think this isn’t a war of information, think again

Al Qaeda video messages of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri can now be downloaded to cell phones, the terror network announced as part of its attempts to extend its influence….

In a written message introducing the new cell phone videos, al-Zawahri, al Qaeda’s No. 2 figure, asked followers to spread the terror group’s messages.