Archibald MacLeish, a major proponent for cultural diplomacy sixty-five years ago, once proclaimed “the world is wired for sound.” In this spirit, a decade and a bit later Willis Conover, the most famous American American’s have never heard of, went on the air at the Voice of America with his jazz show. This was followed by the State Department asking several musicians to travel abroad as part of a counter-propaganda campaign based in cultural diplomacy.
A New York Times article, When Ambassadors Had Rhythm, looks at a photo exhibition about one such U.S. effort. Worth a read, the article describes how Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., father of Mountain Runner friend ACP III, suggested “real Americana” instead of elitist orchestras (my words not his).
Noteworthy paragraphs in the article:
Armstrong canceled a 1957 trip to Moscow after President Dwight D. Eisenhower refused to send federal troops to Little Rock, Ark., to enforce school-integration laws. “The way they are treating my people in the South, the government can go to hell,” he said. “It’s getting so bad, a colored man hasn’t got any country.”
Administration officials feared that this broadside, especially from someone so genial as “Ambassador Satchmo,” would trigger a diplomatic disaster. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles told Attorney General Herbert Brownell that the situation in Arkansas was “ruining our foreign policy.” Two weeks later, facing pressure from many quarters, Eisenhower sent the National Guard to Arkansas. Armstrong praised the move and agreed to go on a concert tour of South America.
The jazzmen’s independence made some officials nervous. But the shrewder diplomats knew that on balance it helped the cause. The idea was to demonstrate the superiority of the United States over the Soviet Union, freedom over Communism, and here was evidence that an American — even a black man — could criticize his government and not be punished.
Not mentioned in the article is the contents of an anonymous letter in Armstrong’s (if you’ve ever heard me play a note, you’d know there’s no relation, well that, and there is one other characteristic) FBI file that read Armstrong “is a communist, why does State Dept. give him a passport?”
For more on this subject, including a compelling argument that the damage on our international reputation and image by Communist propaganda pointing out America’s racial problems contributing to support at the highest levels for Civil Rights legislation, as hinted at above, see Mary Dudziak’s book, Cold War Civil Rights (review here).
Persuasion on an immense scale is here to stay. Technological advance may have made this as important to diplomacy as the invention of gunpowder to the military. … We still write diplomatic notes, but we try to reach directly into as many foreign homes as we can. Every other major power is doing the same. … I am convinced that unless the United States continues to utilize this new method we shall be left at the post by other countries which are becoming skilled in the use of mass media.
New methods in government, like new discoveries in science, can be used for good or ill. Direct … contact with foreign individuals may be taken advantage of to proclaim falsehood as well as truth. But the potentialities of the direct approach are very great in both directions, and we must understand and perfect the techniques to protect and advance our interests.
Shhh. This delightful children’s book may – or may not – be off-limits to Americans. So let’s pretend you didn’t hear about it from me. But it’s a best seller in the Philippines.
I first learned about Inang Bayan’s New Clothes from one of the few informative articles I’ve come across of late in State the State Department’s in-house magazine so I sent out feelers to see if I could obtain a copy.
Don’t ask how I got it but I did.
That’s best kept part of my “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy – because of an outdated law known as Smith-Mundt that restricts Americans’ access to learning what our taxpayers’ dollars are supporting overseas. Thanks to the Internet, however, you can at least see American Ambassador Kristie Kenney on the US Embassy’s webpage reading from the book to a group of Filipino girls in 2006 when it first appeared. It then took over a year for the story to appear in State – but better late than never.
Suffice it to say that I’ll bet you never dreamed that US government money would help finance a story about two Filipino girls – Feliza and Nurhana, one Christian and the other Muslim – who live in Mindanao, work in a dress shop after school and despite their families’ religious differences are best of friends.
“We see that the CNN effect isn’t the idea of the media leading in the dance, but rather you have a circumstance in which some government officials are using the news media to move their agenda items further up the pay scale, to get it to the secretary’s desk.” Steven Livingston, quoted on page 68 of The Media and the War on Terrorism.
One audience member posed a general question for the panel "what is the feasibility of reestablishing US Information Agency (USIA)?"
Answer was "We absolutely must"
A follow on question by another Audience Member was "How do we make that happen?"
The Answer was "Legislation makes that happen"
Anyone else find it fun to read questions about recreating USIA in Defense Department forums? They happen at State (I asked Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy Chairman Bill Hybl about it — I couldn’t help myself), but it is so obvious at Defense and seemingly there’s more enthusiasm for it there as well.
Strong words from the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. Strong and brutally honest. The Commission, an organization reporting directly to the President, has submitted a report unlike any other before it. Not the Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Research Service, the Defense Sciences Board, or any other body has assessed the human resource element of U.S. Public Diplomacy in such depth. The topic for this report originated with the Commission. The findings will be presented tomorrow, Wednesday, 25 June 2008, but the report is available at the Commission’s website now. This blog was granted permission to share the report prior to its official release. The function of the Commission is to provide independent oversight and make recommendations on the activities and effectiveness of America’s information activities and education and cultural exchanges. It was established by the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and was originally two different bodies, the Advisory Commission on Information and the Advisory Commission on Educational Exchange.
Earlier this evening, I had the opportunity to sit down with the chairman of the Commission, Bill Hybl, to discuss the report to be publicly presented tomorrow. Bill described a core requirement of public diplomacy is to address people and issues in local terms, including identifying common ground. This requires engagement, something Bill noted is absent. It also requires continuity at the very highest level, which he said has been missing with the turnover at the Under Secretary position.
A driving factor of the report, and a repeated refrain from Bill, is that the U.S. “should be able to do better.” To this end, Bill emphasized that public diplomacy officers want to communicate with foreign populations but can’t because 90% of their job descriptions and work requirements are something else, like administration.
For the first time, we have a report that (while pulling some punches) looks at the impediments to implementing an effective public diplomacy. This report is of particular interest for those like myself who are more interested in the structure of how public diplomacy and information activities are conducted than about the specific messages employed.
The 41-page report is split into seven sections, plus the introduction. It is an easy read, even for the beginner not conversant in public diplomacy. Each section begins with a background statement, followed by findings and analysis, and closes with recommendations. The recommendations are real and often substantial. Many are obvious, some may be easy, several will take a strong commitment and leadership from State, the White House, and Congress to implement.
This is the first report to point out that there is no one overseas whose primary job responsibility is to interface with foreign audiences. The Commission surveyed employee evaluation reports and found that direct foreign engagement was a low priority and had little, if any, positive impact on performance reviews. This fits in with a five year old 2003 GAO report that surveyed public affairs officers and found 77% did not have a goal of “mutual understanding” in their FY04 plan. As the report asks, if no one in the field has primary responsibility to engage and influence foreign publics, who job is it?
For a Department short on funds, precious time and money spent on training public diplomacy officers in cultural and linguistic awareness and skills are wasted. The report portrays these officers as having little opportunity, and even less expectation, to engage foreign audiences. Further, when they are trained, the training is better described as identifying public diplomacy and not engaging in it. Little to no instruction is done on practicing persuasion and culturally and linguistically specific engagement. If DOD can use simulators, real and virtual, why not State? The report’s discussion on what was and wasn’t included in employee evaluations is startling. For example, the first five (out of eleven) work requirements for a “senior-level public diplomacy officer at a mid-sized African post” were: “Plan, develop and implement programs…”, “Administer…”, “Supervise, counsel and support staff members…”, “Oversee the operations…”, and “Utilize opportunities to explain U.S. foreign and domestic”. Largely, if not entirely, absent from the sample of work requirements surveyed by the commission where phrases like “Influence public discourse…”, “Shape the terms of the debate…”, “Persuade key interlocutors…”, “Correct inaccuracies and misrepresentations appearing in the local media…”, and “Appear on talk shows on television and radio…”.
To the question of whether the PD officer had an impact on how the U.S. or U.S. policy was viewed in country, the answer was typically no. The problem is perhaps that State went too far to integrate public diplomacy, pushing a square into a round hole. Performance reviews, the report says, are often written in ways that it is impossible to know what country the officer serves in.
Back in the United States, the fate of public diplomacy officers is no better. Nearly ten years after the merger, or “abolishing”, of USIA, dozens of public diplomacy officers at Main State, Washington, D.C., headquarters, are administrators and liaisons that do not perform public diplomacy.
The report also points out these significant shortcomings:
State does not recruit for public diplomacy
State does not test for public diplomacy
State does not train for public diplomacy
State has a glass ceiling for public diplomats
The last bullet raises the specter that State does not value the skills or have confidence in the public diplomacy officers. While it is noteworthy a public diplomacy officer has never held the Under Secretary position, more interesting is the under-representation of public diplomacy in senior management positions. While State has made progress incorporating public diplomacy, it still has a way to go. This report says, among other things, that those in the public diplomacy “cone” (career track) are not promoted to senior positions on par with their numbers vis a vis other State cones, economics, political, consular, and management.
Bill Hybl commented that it “felt different” investigating the present public diplomacy arrangement as compared to the USIA.
The Commissions recommendations are not binding but will hopefully spur action in vested parties from State, the White House, and Congress. Public diplomacy is a keystone of our national security and must be treated as such. It was at one time and it must be again. We must move beyond claims that money is short and realize this is a national security imperative. Engaging in information and ideas is ultimately cheaper tha n engaging with bullets, bombs, and combat boots.
As my conversation with Bill came to a close, he said that “if we don’t do this effectively, those who wish to do harm to us will beat us in an area where we should dominate… we can do better.” Agreed. We can and must do better.
There appears to be a shift the posture American public diplomacy underway. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy (and Public Affairs) Jim Glassman, writing in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, stakes out a stance for public diplomacy more like the aggressive information activities of the early Cold War than the passive beauty contest of the last couple of decades.
In this op-ed, Jim describes his goal of leaving a “robust legacy” for the next administration. In laying out what is likely the first of many position statements in the coming weeks, he demonstrates a confidence not seen in the position since (and for a long while before) 9/11:
Unlike the containment policy of the Cold War, today’s diversion policy may not primarily be the responsibility of government. My own job, as the interagency leader for the war of ideas, is to mobilize every possible American asset – public and private, human and technological – in the effort.
He continues to set a new and very active course for public diplomacy. It is clear the “fast” tools of public diplomacy, information activities, are his low-hanging fruit to be picked and fixed in his six months in office (although four may be a more realistic number due to the normal end of term turnover), but the “slow” engagements through exchanges are not ignored.
Invoking language more commonly seen from the Defense Department, in fact Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates is named in his essay while the Secretary of State does not, he states the need to “confront the ideology of violent extremism directly.”
The most credible voices here are those of Muslims themselves – especially Islamists – who have publicly disavowed al Qaeda’s methods and theology. Lately such apostates include Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, also known as Dr. Fadl, who laid the foundation for the movement’s bloody ideology and has now repudiated it, and Noman Benotman, a Libyan close to Osama bin Laden who rebuked al Qaeda bluntly last year.
Our public diplomacy efforts should encourage Muslims, individuals and groups, to spread the denunciations of violence by these men and others far and wide. But non-Muslim Americans themselves should not shrink from confidently opposing poisonous ideas either.
This is followed by, as he calls it, the “diversion” that inculcates against extremism.
The task is not to persuade potential recruits to become like Americans or Europeans, but to divert them from becoming terrorists.
We do that by helping to build networks (virtual and physical) and countermovements – not just political but cultural, social, athletic and more: mothers against violence, video gamers, soccer enthusiasts, young entrepreneurs, Islamic democrats. For example, there is an emerging global network of families of Islamic victims of terrorist attacks. While winning hearts and minds would be an admirable feat, the war of ideas needs to adopt the more immediate and realistic goal of diverting impressionable segments of the population from being recruited into violent extremism.
There is a token, and out of place and seemingly forced, mention of Iran.
More important is the end, which returns to the purpose of information activities to elicit support and build networks of allies.
What we seek is a world in which the use of violence to achieve political, religious or social objectives is no longer considered acceptable, efforts to radicalize and recruit new members are no longer successful, and the perpetrators of violent extremism are condemned and isolated.
Military success is necessary, but it is not sufficient – for the simple reason that we face as an enemy not a single nation, or even a coalition, but a stateless global movement. Without a vigorous war of ideas, as we kill such adversaries others will take their place.
The words are one thing, but in what Defense calls the “say-do” gap, what we do must match what we say. I’m sure Defense is fully onboard with Jim’s position. Hopefully the White House, Congress, and State jump on as well and the Under Secretary gets a seat at the take-offs and not just the landings.
The Al-Hurra hubbub is symbolic of a larger problem of how we perceive and practice our information activities (or propaganda if you wish, which is a pejorative only to Americans). While I have not yet watched the 60 Minutes piece, I did read Craig Whitlock’sWashington Post article and have some observations on the larger debate.
The Al-Hurra shines a light on the transformation of American information activities from active and aggressive participants in the struggle for minds and wills to something much more passive, a beauty contest perhaps. This change, I argue, began happening even before “public diplomacy” was coined in 1965 as borders were established and, more importantly, we realized people actually listened to what we had to say.
Gone are the days when Edward R. Murrow could confidently state his staff could go up against any major media agency. Too often the emphasis is not on building trust and legitimacy with listeners but quick ratings and a resulting lack of editorial control and confused programming.
We must empower intelligently select editors and staff and empower them. Audiences come if the product is useful and interesting. Al-Jazeera English, for example, is useful and interesting. It is noteworthy that AJE is, I’m told, increasingly the news station of choice, displacing CNN, in one prominent government news agency. If you build it, they will come.
A while back I met and talked with Norm Pattiz and he was convinced that music attracted listeners. In other words, if they came for the music, they’ll stay for the news. But I believe there’s a reason Westwood One radio stations aren’t the template for international news agencies.
While we argue over the quality of programming, we cite a law that prevents us from monitoring, which in fact was intended to address the quality issue in the first place.
Dear Reader: my apologies if you had the misfortune of reading an earlier copy of this post.
Briefly, for the last several years, most definitely since 9/11 but arguably before, American Public Diplomacy has been rooted primarily in the “showcase” model that highlights only certain aspects of our “who we are.” Falling on deaf ears as the pictures and words had little resonance with target audiences, it was a steep departure from our tried and tested model of a “mirror” that reflected who we are, warts and all (with some filtering of course) to foster understanding and build trust.
On November 4, 2008, U.S. embassies and consulates will host thousands of guests and journalists to watch the election results on live television feeds from America. The U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Press Centers in Washington, D.C. and New York will hold similar gatherings for resident foreign media in the United States. These election night galas will cap months of intensive effort by the State Department’s Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs to provide foreign journalists and audiences worldwide with an understanding of the complexity and significance of the 2008 American Elections.
More than 83 U.S. embassies and consulates conducted 320 election-related programs by June 2008.
Since the summer of 2007, the Bureaus of Public Affairs, Educational and Cultural Affairs, International Information Programs, as well as U.S. embassies worldwide, have worked in a variety of ways to illuminate the election process, including:
Foreign Journalist Reporting Trips to primary states, caucuses, debates, and conventions
Expert Briefings and Interviews for foreign journalists
Comprehensive assistance to foreign television crews
Election Study Tours in the United States for over 4,000 foreign government officials, academics, students and journalists
Speakers, over 200 to date, from academia, the media, think tanks and polling organizations have traveled abroad or done Digital Video Conferences, Telepress conferences, and Webchats
Articles, analyses, videos, podcasts, blogs, and interactive maps on expanded State Department international Website
Electronic Journals in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, and Arabic
Um, Digital Video Conferences? Is that compared to an analog video conference? Was “digital” necessary? And, what is a “telepress conferences”? Who talks like that? I’ll just assume these are key phrases for the target audience.
This post could have been titled, “Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.” …
McFate has apparently learned enough from her gender and sexuality courses in anthropology — and let me stop to thank Yale University once again for unleashing this little darling onto the world — to know how to turn them inside out. Indeed, I myself often “joke” with students that, “If you want to learn the arts of dictatorship, repression, and control, you can find all the answers in anthropology, especially in the more radical courses.”
I do agree with Max in that I seriously doubt anything on the I LUV A MAN IN A UNIFORM! blog should be taken with any more than a grain of salt. It is an ongoing joke. But, having talked with her, I seriously doubt that it is a either about “laughing all the way to the bank” or “get[ting] fired”. Having had her scholarship attacked as “shoddy“, and being accused of being a spy both for the military and corporations, I would suggest that she is certainly under a large amount of pressure not only from the Pentagon but, also, from her fellow Anthropologists (and with friends like this, who needs enemies?).
In the first of a two part program broadcast in England, Dr. Noel Sharkey interviews Dr. Ron Arkin, Dr. Peter Asaro and me on his Sound of Science program. Stream or download the interview from England here. (Note: two minutes of station promotion precedes the discussion.) The interview series looks at the ethics issues of using military robots that are allowed to apply lethal force on their own terms, the Laws of War and the international laws on discrimination, as well as their role in war.
This first episode includes:
Dr. Ron Arkin, Regents’ Professor, College of Computing, Georgia Tech about some of the dangers facing us in the near-future with robots that decide who to kill. Professor Arkin tells us about his work on developing an Artificial Conscience for a robot and about some of the difficult ethical decisions that both soldiers and robots have to make in war.
Dr Peter Asaro, the exciting young philosopher from Rutgers University in New York. Peter talks about a range of issues concerning the dangers of using autonomous robot weapons. He cautions us about the sci-fi future that the military seems to be heading towards and how a robot army could take over a city. Interestingly he makes the provocative claim that one of the first uses of insurgency was the early Americans against the British redcoats.
Matt Armstrong, an independent analyst specialising in public diplomacy and strategic communications working in California. Matt writes a famous blog called MountainRunner. On the programme he discusses the “hearts and minds” issues, a term he dislikes and the problems with having a robot as the “strategic corporal” of the future.
My segment begins around the 44-minute mark. Briefly, I don’t want to comment in depth on the interviews now, but my views on the subject are based on public diplomacy, counterinsurgency doctrine, and civil-military relations. To be more specific, I am looking at the informational effect of these systems, the need to build trust and show commitment among local populations, and the impact of the commodification of violence, and the reduced the cost of violence, on Congressional oversight and Executive decision-making, among other considerations (see more here).
This was my very first radio interview so unsuprisingly there were a couple of significant points I didn’t get to, but hopefully, the essential points were captured. Listening to my interview again, there are a few words and phrases I will avoid next time (like referring to “passages” in FM3-24), as well as other changes. Live and learn.
The second episode will include interviews with Rear Admiral Chris Parry, Richard Moyes from Landmine action and military robotics people from NATO, the German and Swedish Armies as well as from the French Defense Ministry.
An important correction:I unintentionally demoted Lieutenant Colonel Chris Hughes, when I referred to him as a Captain in the Najaf example.
Also, a clarification from Ron after listening to my interview:
For future reference though I’d like to point out, that I have never advocated that robots be used as prison guards. I only use Abu Ghraib as an illustration of the propensity of ethical violations by human beings. A system capable of independently monitoring human performance would be helpful I’d suspect – but I agree completely that humans should not be removed.
I further advocate, as you do, that robots should *never* fully replace the presence of soldiers, but rather serve as organic assets beside them for very specialized missions such as room clearing, countersniper, and others as pointed out in my scenarios. These are also not intended (at least in my work) where active civilian populations are present, but only for full-out war (declared). The systems I am working on are for the next conflict (not the current one) whatever that may be – and also for the so-called “Army after next”.
As Noel and Ron said, the more we talk about this in the open, the smarter we’ll be in the deployment of robots.
I have recently received a conditional offer of employment from the Foreign Service in the Public Diplomacy career track, and am undergoing the clearance process (ugh!). Your site was a HUGE help in my prep for the oral assessment, not only as a research resource, but also to broaden, stimulate and challenge my thinking about PD. I know it must not be easy to keep posting while you’re busy with other things, but I want you to know how much I appreciate your efforts. One of these days I’d like to thank you in person, hopefully as a colleague.
…I am looking at the informational effect of these systems, the need to build trust and show commitment among local populations, and the impact of commodification of violence, and the reduced the cost of violence, on Congressional oversight and Executive decision-making, among other considerations…
Last year, David Firestein visited the University of Southern California’s Center for Public Diplomacy and as “12 Tough Questions about Public Diplomacy.” David, the senior advisor to the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, intentionally wears the mantle of provocateur. The questions are grouped into four clusters: 1) examining the “Do they hate us?” question, 2) what is the nature of the current public diplomacy challenge facing the United States, 3) is public diplomacy a form of branding, and 4) thoughts on fixing public diplomacy from the inside-out.
If you have questions, thoughts, or answers to the presentation, feel free to post them in the comments or email me and I’ll pass them along.
At the same time, I’ll point out a reading list I’m putting together on the same topic (very draft at this time, subject to radical change and expansion), except it goes by the name of Public Diplomacy. We seem to forget that the bilateral nature of exchanges and information that is what was and is public diplomacy are essentially tools of intelligence. Cultural and educational exchange are the “slow” transmission and information activities are the “fast”, but both seek to provide intelligence on what the Other thinks, operates, and ticks and to provide the Other with insight into how you think, operate, and tick.
Don’t tell public diplomats this, they usually cringe at the suggestion. But that’s not how it always was.
The difference between the two lists is the scientific approach and methodology. One uses experts to dissect the mind of one side while the other strives to increase the awareness and knowledge of both sides about the other. One expert imparts deep knowledge versus having many people with qualified insights. Both are necessary, neither is fully supported.
As a result of public education, the rise of mass-media and commercial advertising, Western nations and Japan, some earlier but all by mid-20th century, became relatively homogenized in the processing of information as well as having a dominant vital “consensus” on cultural and political values with postwar Japan probably being the most extreme example.
With some (ok a lot) hesitation, here is my response to the Meme of 7, which I answer only because I caused an earlier meme…
I have been tagged (twice) and will open the kimono a little here.
Here are the rules:
1. Link to your tagger (see above) and post these rules on your blog. 2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird. 3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs. 4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog. 5. Present an image of martial discord from whatever period or situation you’d like.
The image of martial discord is from the Cold War, "a war of ideology and a fight unto the death."
Here are the facts (the selection of which may be influenced by a recent post):
1. I learned to type when I was 8 (maybe 6) on a game called Adventure, a text-based game in the age of green screens and modems with acoustic couplers. I could type “get axe” and “throw axe” really, really fast, even though the game was anything but real-time. “Plugh”.
2. I watched a Charles Bronson movie “in” an outdoor theater on Mali Losinj, an island off of what was then Yugoslavia.
3. I met my wife because of 9/11 and triathlon. I filled in for her Team in Training triathlon coaches when they were forced to drive instead of fly to a race because all the planes were grounded.
4. I have a modeling injury: a permanent scar resulting from an all day Maxim photo shoot.
5. I sat on the curb twice before struggling to finish my first 5k.
6. My typical training weekend for the years I raced Ironman triathlons included 90 – 105 mile bike on Saturday, usually with lots of hills, followed the next day by a 3 mile ocean swim and a 10-18 mile run. No family (or blog) back then. I was also 40 lbs lighter than when I ran my first 5k.
7. I sang for beer in a Karoke bar in Fujishiro when I was high school freshman on student exchange. My co-singer, a red-headed exchange student, and I were the only geigen in the place, and needless to say, we were a hit (doubtful it was because of our dulcet tones) and were rewarded with more beer.