“Asked about ‘globalization, especially the increasing connections of our economy with others around the world,’ majorities in six of the seven [Muslim] nations polled say that it is ‘mostly good’ for their country. Approval is highest among Egyptians and Nigerian Muslims (79% and 78% saying mostly good, respectively). Sixty-three percent of Azerbaijanis, 61 percent of both Iranians and Indonesians, and 58 percent of Palestinians see globalization as mostly good. While support in Turkey does not reach a majority, a plurality still calls globalization mostly good (39% to 28%). On average across all seven publics, 63 percent say that globalization is good for their own countries. Only 25 percent think it is mostly bad.” – PIPA/ survey results.

“[Joseph] Nye, author of Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics, said that recreating USIA would cost a new U.S. president political capital. Nye said that capital would be better invested in a White House coordinator and strategist for public diplomacy.” From the post Ideas Abound for Improving U.S. Public Diplomacy Effort: U.S. national security tied to success in public diplomacy at Quoted in the post are me, Kathy Fitzpatrick, Joe Nye, and Nancy Snow.

“I also see technology attempting to solve a real and identified problem, but the new processes required are overly complex for the field. This complexity requires training to reach an acceptable level of operational effectiveness. Given the nature of the competing taskings and limited training time, this inevitably results in the reduction or elmination of other training.” Jedburgh in a discussion titled Techcentricity and today’s Armed Forces at the Small Wars Council. In the same thread, Sam Liles, who probably programs in Assembly, cracked the following (very bad and thus repeated here) joke: “There are 10 types of people in the world. Those who understand binary and those who don’t.” As we continue to explore technological advantages, we must not ignore the human in the loop and in front of the sensor.

“By comparison with both allies and adversaries, the U.S. Government investment in public diplomacy is low. In absolute terms, the United States is outspent by France and the Soviet Union and is nearly equaled by West Germany. … A comprehensive, periodic, published analysis of Soviet propaganda in the United States would tend to put Soviet purposes in clearer perspective. It would tend to make the American public and press less vulnerable to Soviet deception.” From a 1979 General Accounting Office (not Accountability) report titled “The Public Diplomacy of Other Countries: Implications for the United States.” So far, very little of the discussion on revising America’s public diplomacy outreach, informational or cultural and educational, has considered the long-considered goal, if imperfectly executed, of informing and inoculating the American public.

“Western leaders face two fronts in their stand-off with Russia over its use of force to re-draw borders in Europe: one is the Russian army on the ground. The other is a propaganda war.” From a BBC report titled Russia’s Propaganda War.

Ashraf Fouad, Smith-Mundt and Al-Hurra

In Losing Arab Hearts and Minds: The Coalition, Al Jazeera and Muslim Public Opinion (see review here), Steve Tatham interviewed Middle East media consultant Ashraf Fouad in 2004 on the creation of Al-Hurra, the U.S.-sponsored television station:

If you look at it from the positive side it is much needed and it is long overdue. They should get involved in the debate. But if you look at it from the negative side then it is unacceptable. How dare you come and air a channel like this to try and brainwash my people, when your law in the U.S. bans you from airing something like this in the U.S.? It is against the Constitution to broadcast a government channel in the States. How dare you say that we are sheep, and that you can show us this, but you can’t show it to the American people? …

While it’s not in the Constitution, the Smith-Mundt Act certainly does prevent Al-Hurra from being broadcast to the American public. Among the various reasons for revisiting Smith-Mundt, the perception it creates of our overseas broadcasts and the lack of transparency of the same is not a myth, even if the modern understanding for the purpose for the prohibition is.

See also:

Book Review: Losing Arab Hearts and Minds by Steve Tatham

In the global information environment, the media influences public opinion and government policy around the world. It conveys to the public not only what the government is doing, but provides a feedback loop to the government through the coverage created by editors and reporters in response to their listeners, viewers, readers, and sponsors, whether advertisers or owners. Policies can no longer be presented to the public in the abstract as they are constantly measured against images on television, in the newspaper, and online, around the clock and around the world.

Reports on American Public Diplomacy and Strategic Communication are filled with examples of how the United States failed to engage the Arab public since 9/11. These have come from the Defense Sciences Board, the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, and numerous think tanks, and more will appear as we near the end of 2008 and the end of the Bush Administration. There are also several books on the subject, see below for more on these, however none closely examines the critical relationship between the U.S. Defense Department and the Arab media and public. There is one book that does explore this “last three feet” of engagement and you’ve probably never heard of it.

Losing Arab Hearts and Minds: The Coalition, Al Jazeera and Muslim Public Opinion is by Steve Tatham, a serving officer (now Commander) in the Royal Navy. He was the Royal Navy’s public spokesman in Iraq from 2002-2003 and is uniquely qualified to give an outsider’s “inside” view of the Coalition’s engagement with the Arab media, or rather their intentional non-engagement with Arab media.

Drawing on first hand experience and other resources, Steve carefully and thoroughly describes the media affairs of the Coalition, notably of the United States. He does so on a foundation he establishes in the first one hundred pages as he explores the biases of the Americans, the British, and the Arab world. This includes superb analysis of the public statements from the Bush Administration, the American media environment (including “The Fox Factor”), lessons learned from the 1991 Gulf War, and Hollywood influences. He also looks at the major Arab media and their evolution, America’s response, such as the creation of Al-Hurra, with a scholarly, yet conversational, examination. His insider’s view of operations at and the people running the Information Centers in Doha, Kuwait, and Bahrain amplifies the theme of the book: that the United States public affairs were focused almost exclusively on the American public.

The tactical maneuvering of ignoring the Arab media created substantial handicaps in our ability to get the word out. By excluding a critical link to the Arab public, the very people the President would claimed was the purpose for the invasion (“to bring democracy”), air time would be filled not by our information and explanations. The resulting information product would spiral down.

To exclude significant media who speak to major target audiences was a combination of naivete and even arrogance and was not restricted to the Arab media. Threaded through the book is the truth the United States, and the military in particular, has only recently begun to come to grips with: that perceptions matter more than intent and that operational activities must be formed and guided by the information they generate and not followed ad hoc by a communication plan. Steve quotes an Al Jazeera executive, who said

By merely disseminating a point of view the battle is not finished. It take more than information to convince public opinion of your good will towards the Arab world.

Steve does a superb job exploring the frustration, prejudice, and ignorance displayed by America toward the Arab media and Arab public opinion and how it undermined the engagement and understanding of a critical, if not the critical, audience in the global struggle for minds and wills. Losing Arab Hearts and Minds is required reading for those interested in Public Diplomacy, Strategic Communication, Information Operations, and general military-media engagement. The failure of the Coalition, and the United States Defense Department specifically, to engage the Arab media was lost the battle for ‘hearts and minds’ before it really began.

Related Reading:

Essential reading: the difference between public diplomacy and propaganda, by John Brown

John Brown, formerly of the Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review, wrote a terrific short discussion of the differences between public diplomacy and propaganda. I recommend you read it.

At its best, public diplomacy:

  • Provides a truthful, factual exposition and explication of a nation’s foreign policy and way of life to overseas audiences;
  • Encourages international understanding; 
  • Listens and engages in dialogue;
  • Objectively displays national achievements overseas, including in the arts.

At its worst, propaganda:

  • Forces its messages on an audience, often by repetition and slogans;
  • Demonizes elements of the outside world;
  • Simplifies complex issues;
  • Misrepresents the truth or deliberately lies.

Both public diplomacy and propaganda, at their best or their worst, can achieve credibility with their audiences. However, the best public diplomacy achieves credibility through careful presentation of fact and thoughtful argumentation, while the worst propaganda achieves credibility by falsification and sensationalism. As a rule, public diplomacy at its best, which appeals to the intellect, is believed in the long run, while propaganda at its worst, which inflames atavistic emotions, is believed only for short periods. The best public diplomacy convinces audiences that its content and purpose mesh, and that therefore it is honest; the worst propaganda leads audiences to believe that its contents do not reveal its true purpose, and that therefore it is dishonest.

Off topic: William Saletan at Slate argues for social promotion

In a complete waste of digital “ink,” Slate runs an incomprehensible article by William Saletan on Michael Phelps’ 100m fly medal. Saletan, who obviously never swam competitively, argues that Milorad Cavic may have beat Phelps because, well to paraphrase Saletan, “it seems so awfully close.”

… In the pictures, Cavic appears to have arrived by the second frame, if not the first—at a minimum, tying Phelps. (See for yourself.) And Phelps is moving so much faster and more forcefully that you have to wonder: Given the delay between contact and pressure, if the touch pad recorded Phelps’ pressure only one-hundredth of a second before Cavic’s, how likely is it that Cavic made initial contact before Phelps did?

Give me a break. Sure, they are called touch pads, but as any experienced swimmer will tell you, you have to do more than faintly caress the pad lest the force of the water taps you in. As is clear in the underwater imagery, Cavic not only glided into the wall, he, fatally, lifted his head. Lucky for Phelps, Cavic incredibly lost the race by inexperience. Mike’s half-stroke and don’t finish until it’s finish effort wouldn’t have been enough if Cavic finished at the wall, and the pad, and not before.

There is no gray area. Phelps touched out Cavic in the way it matters: pressure on the pad. Next time, Cavic won’t pull up short. 

Update: Saletan finally sees the photos I linked to ten days ago but still can’t accept the finality of the subject.

(h/t AS)


“…the people formerly known as the audience refused to behave like one. They brandished video cams, iPhones and recorders, doing their own documentation of what was under way.” David Carr in the New York Times

“The goal is to bring down the walls of the convention and invite in an audience that’s as large as possible. Credentialing more bloggers opens up all sorts of new audiences.” Aaron Myers, the director of online communications for the Democratic National Convention Committee, quoted in the New York Times.

“…most notably 1946 to 1974, when a pervasive concern to combat and contain communism prompted an unprecedented yet uncoordinated array of initiatives by the federal government to export American culture as exemplary illustrations of what the free world had to offer Europe as well as developing nations.” Michael Kammen writing in the book The Arts of Democracy: Art, Public Culture, and the State, quoted by John Brown in his review of said book.

“During the Cold War, the transatlantic community understood that pulling allies closer, not just countering enemies, was a priority for public diplomacy.” Kristin Lord in Public Diplomacy and the New Transatlantic Agenda.

“Since the Russian invasion of Georgia there has been a lot of discussion about the media war and who won it. … But another aspect seems to have received a little less attention – namely the nature of the media’s coverage and how it differed from other wars.” Daniel Korski in the Future of War Reporting.

Defense Media Activity: centralizing information practice and understanding

From the Defense Media Activity website:

The Department of Defense (DoD) is undertaking an initiative designed to modernize and streamline media operations by consolidating military Service and DoD media components into a single, integrated and transformed organization, the Defense Media Activity (DMA).

It seems the Defense Department is finally realizing that it too needs a central coordinator of information. Very probably the leadership role will be on the order of what State Department’s Under Secretary of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs is supposed to be in the absence of a United States Information Agency (USIA) or its Director who was to sit at National Security Council meetings and be in the take-offs of policy.

There are too many information assets within the Defense Department, some on the right track, others not, but always fighting some kind of turf war. I won’t get started on the Air Force’s attempt to boot up Cybercommand. It’s one thing to have a hacker and counter-hacker team, but it’s another to claim information transmitted through a certain medium is your domain. Do we have a bureau to address information in newspapers and another for radio broadcasts? No…

Back to the DMA, interestingly it does not have a news feed or other means of staying in touch. Perhaps they’re waiting for the “energetic and imaginative executive” to lead them. See also Walter Pincus in the Washington Post on same.) 

The War of Ideas: UK edition

The new Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Jim Glassman, reinvigorated the concept that the “War of Ideas” is central to our national security. It is, as he describes it, a field of battle whose purpose is to “use the tools of ideological engagement — words, deeds, and images — to create an environment hostile to violent extremism.” While admittedly the phrase isn’t perfect, as he acknowledges, it conveys purpose and mobilizes the Government for the struggle minds and wills.

How do you arm yourself for this struggle? You understand the adversary and its support systems. In the case of Al Qaeda, an organization that has arguably lost much of its central operational capabilities (although there are arguments it is rebuilding and gaining strength), you undermine the brand on which hopes and myths are based. To be effective, the message must reach all elements of societies in all corners. The key effort must be to separate the base from the group and to isolate the group. Creating questions in the support group and the ‘swing voters’ that the adversary cannot answer, has proven it cannot answer, reduces the moral, social, and financial support, not to mention their ability to recruit.

On this point, read The Guardian’s Britain’s secret propaganda war against al-Qaida:

The document also shows that Whitehall counter-terrorism experts intend to exploit new media websites and outlets with a proposal to "channel messages through volunteers in internet forums" as part of their campaign. …

The report, headed, Challenging violent extremist ideology through communications, says: "We are pushing this material to UK media channels, eg, a BBC radio programme exposing tensions between AQ leadership and supporters. And a restricted working group will communicate niche messages through media and non-media." …

The government campaign is based upon the premise that al-Qaida is waning worldwide and can appear vulnerable on issues such as declining popularity; its rejection by credible figures, especially religious ones, and details of atrocities.

The Whitehall propaganda unit is collecting material to target these vulnerabilities under three themes. They are that al-Qaida is losing support; "they are not heroes and don’t have answers; and that they harm you, your country and your livelihood".

Of course, this isn’t original. A certain element of the Defense Department has been working the angle of attacking Al-Qaeda’s brand for a year or more. What is new is that it’s in the public sphere.

Open Source Counter-Propaganda

In order to win the “War of Ideas” we need to mobilize and empower the masses. It’s one thing to talk about New Media, it’s quite another to make it available. Commercial outsourcing information activities is one thing (and potentially distasteful resulting from incredibly poor short-term judgement), outsourcing the struggle for minds and wills to indigenous population is another. The struggle must be, after all, ultimately conducted by, with, and through the local population for legitimacy, participation, and durability of the message and effect. After thinking more about Sean’s observation on improved connectivity in Baghdad, a friend and I were talking. While “neutral” media websites provided CENTCOM may not be the answer (we arguably squandered this opportunity five years ago), getting information and communication technologies into the hands of the general public is.

The insurgent is using off the shelf software and free tools to capture, brand, and transmit their messages. Why not do the same for ordinary Iraqis? We’ve talked about doing the same in Iran a few years ago: distribute free Farsi blogging tools and hosting to facilitate online discussions.

This “open source counter-propaganda” must be used to expose misinformation, atrocities, and adversarial “say-do” gaps as well as promote the positive and success stories.

Something to think about. The advantages will outweigh and beat the disadvantages in the long run. Capacity and connectivity are good.

(H/T Mike)

See also:

Public Diplomacy tip: speak to audiences as if they were investors, because they are

From the interesting (and required) Hill and Knowlton blog, another tip for public diplomats (or global communicators) and those looking to revamp America’s global engagement.

Lots of hits on your [Investor Relations] website does not equate to IR success.  It may just be your webmaster and employees hitting the site and inflating your stats.

Putting together an impressive IR presentation with lots of cool graphics does not equate to IR success.  Cool graphics are no substitute for good performance and direct communication of your strategy.

Hosting an event and having lots of analysts and investors in the room does not equate to IR success – I hate to tell you this, but many of those guys in the room are probably there for the free lunch.

Meaningful and engaging communication with analysts, investors, and prospective investors – now that’s IR success.

This meaningful and engaging communication happens via telephone, email, one on one meeting, group meeting, quarterly earnings call, or blog interaction.

For some reason, many companies (especially small caps) don’t get this.

Yup, for some reason, people in general just don’t get this.

See also:

More on the Media’s bias toward money not informing

Briefly, Paul Fahri writing at the Washington Post nails NBC News for its in depth coverage of the Olympics:

"SportsCenter" had a bit of news about the Olympics, but only a bit. …

"Nightly News," by contrast, was all over the Olympics. Man, were they all over them. First, Ann Curry gave the opening "billboards" for the top stories, which included a couple of Olympics-related features. Then, on came the Olympic news like the parade at the Opening Ceremonies. Curry mentioned Bolt, the medal count, and the news that an athlete from Afghanistan had won his country’s first medal ever. … Oh, yeah: Curry managed to squeeze in a story about the Spanish plane crash and a new presidential poll (I don’t think either mentioned the Olympics).

In other words, "Nightly News," which rarely cares about sports, was out-reporting "SportsCenter," the leading sports-news broadcast on TV, about the Olympics. High-fives, NBC News!

But hold on a second.

What I was really witnessing was a little lesson in media economics. The contrasting priorities of "SportsCenter" and NBC tell you loads about how money can drive the TV news agenda.

NBC has a massive investment in the Olympics (parent General Electric shelled out $894 million in rights fees alone), and has made an equally massive commitment to showcasing the Games on "the networks of NBC." Said networks (CNBC, MSNBC, etc.) are devoting a record 3,400 hours, on the air and online, to the Big Show this time around.

But all those decisions were made on the corporate side of NBC, not in the news division. Call me old school, but in the journalism textbooks, it says the news division is supposed to make up its own mind about what to cover without being too mindful of what the bosses in corporate are pushing. In other words, GE’s need for a return on its investment in the Olympics isn’t supposed to be NBC News’ problem.

Yet for the past two weeks, the line between NBC News and NBC’s corporate priorities has seemed awfully blurry. Since the Olympics began, "Nightly News" (emanating live from Beijing) has been larded with the kind of soft-focus/feel-good Olympic stories that are a staple of the soft-focus/feel-good stuff that’s appearing on NBC in primetime.

NBC responded to Fahri with a list of “hard hitting” news stories on China beginning just over a week before the Opening Ceremonies. While Fahri notes NBC’s coverage was still fluff, he misses the point that NBC’s network news was not covering the world but, in the week prior to the Games, priming its audience for China. Since the games started, all news coverage, and even the quasi-news show “Today” as Fahri points out, focuses almost entirely on the Olympics with barely a mention of global events.

It’s worthwhile to note that while, according to Fahri, the Spanair crash received coverage on NBC, on Al Jazeera English my interview was delayed nearly twenty minutes and my segment was squeezed from ten minutes to one because of Spanair and other pressing international news.

Who’s more focused on the news?

See also:

Blackberries and Wireless Networks in Baghdad

This could be filed under Friday morning light news or it could be a sign of improving conditions in Baghdad, but Sean McCormack, State’s Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, notes that Blackberries now work in Iraq’s capital. Let’s hope the network will be accessible to locals to rebuild the economy, local accountability and governance, and enhance security, all of which are standard aims of Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D). 

After getting to the first meeting site at Prime Minister Maliki’s residence, I asked one of the embassy personnel with us what had happened. They said that IRAQNA (Orascom Telecom Iraq Corporation) had happened and that they now had the pleasure of having to answer yet another question from Washington at 2:30 AM in Baghdad just because their Blackberries worked at home. (My first thought was to mention that answering e-mails at obscene hours will only beget more such e-mails but quickly decided my colleague could either figure that out for himself or continue to live a sleepless existence). Baghdad Blackberries had worked for about two months. In celebration and cost savings, our embassy was getting rid of the ubiquitous cell phones with a U.S. area code that served as the only means of mobile communication for civilians. The second surprise awaiting me in Baghdad was a wireless network at the Prime Minister’s office building, which I used to send a blog post to my colleagues in Washington. The journalists traveling with us shared in the good fortune, using the network to file their initial stories from Baghdad without traveling either to our embassy or to a press filing center.

Neither of these small changes will change much in Iraq nor change many opinions for that matter. But for some reason, they struck me as worth sharing. Perhaps it was because the road in Iraq has been such a costly and difficult one, and maybe because progress on big issues has come only recently. However, both of these minor technological advances reinforced the perception formed during the past few trips there that Iraq is moving forward in large and small ways — though there is a long way to go.

Any chance this will enhance media coverage of Iraq?

See also:

Richard Barrett’s Al-Qaida’s Strengths and Vulnerabilities

As the United States concludes the seventh year of what has been described as a Global War on Terror and the Long War, too many are still too far from understanding the true nature of the adversaries strengths and sources of power. The overdrawn focus on a tactic, terrorism, has ignored the basic attractiveness to the adversaries cause, whether Al Qaeda, Hamas, or Hezbollah.

Success will be measured not in dissuasion in the use of a tactic, but in the principles of the act the tactic symbolizes. The general aggregation of the many adversaries does not serve the purpose of effective engagement but potentially blinds us to the required solutions that, to put it in political term, will separate the adversary from their base. In the short term, success is not a binary condition of win or lose, but a constantly evolving struggle as the adversary adapts to survive and compete.

This has been packaged as a “War of Ideas.” In his first speech as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Jim Glassman described this “War” central to our national security whose purpose to “use the tools of ideological engagement — words, deeds, and images — to create an environment hostile to violent extremism.” Many people, he noted, do not like this term, especially the practitioners. (My suggestion is the time tested “struggle for minds and wills”, but it doesn’t roll off the tongue as “War of Ideas” even if it’s more appropriate.)

The term is one thing, the concepts it represents is another. Richard Barrett’s concise report Seven Years After 9/11: Al-Qaida’s Strengths and Vulnerabilities (PDF, 15pp) describes the primary target of the War of Ideas. Exploring the strengths and vulnerabilities, Barrett arrives at a containment and strangulation solution based not on kinetic engagement supported by information, but informational engagement supported by smart kinetics.

Where Al-Qaida succeeds is in providing a framework for individuals to express their opposition to whatever it is they oppose, even if the roots of their anger lie in issues completely unknown and uninteresting to the Al-Qaida leadership. Al-Qaida manages to offer its supporters a sense of belonging and importance by taking personal or local grievances and setting them in a global context. … Its opponents should therefore avoid intentionally or unintentionally saying or doing anything that appears to support its claims, from the use of terms to describe Al-Qaida to the introduction of policies that would appear to confirm its argument that the Muslim world is under attack.

Recognising the self-destructive nature of the movement, the international community should help Al-Qaida suffer from its internal contradictions and lack of coherence; it is not well-organised, nor particularly effective, and depends greatly on its ability to exploit events through effective propaganda. That propaganda relies greatly on media that are available to all sides. A free debate, whether on the Internet or elsewhere, is likely to weaken Al-Qaida, particularly as its skill lies more in spreading propaganda in set piece films,
videos or audio tapes, rather than in the interactive, consumer led form that has come to dominate the web.

Most importantly, the international community must continue to prevent by all means possible the opportunity for Al-Qaida leaders to connect in person with their supporters. The best ways to prevent this is to keep the leaders concerned about their own security and to keep them pinned down in the remote areas of the Afghan/Pakistan border and allow them to suffer the fate of all other outsiders who have attempted to establish themselves in the region.

As Under Secretary Jim Glassman noted, the Al Qaeda ideology contains the seeds of its destruction. It’s time we nurtured those seeds.

See also:

Outsourcing the fight to counter misinformation

Briefly, success in the contemporary conflict environment, counterinsurgency or otherwise, depends on winning the struggle for minds and will. In this, information must conquer information. Perceptions must be met not by brute force, but the psychological equivalent. In Iraq, IO is being outsourced to private firms to bring support in the informational battlespace. From PRWeek:

The US military expects to hire a firm to provide “information operations” support in Iraq to counter insurgent misinformation tactics. The bids were due on Friday, August 22.

Army public affairs officer Paul Boyce said the reason for the RFP is primarily the military’s need to counter misinformation spread by hostile parties. Stopping rumors is a particular need for the Army, but finding out about those rumors is difficult if the language and culture of the area of operations is not well understood.

“We’ve had an insurgent population that has sought to kill our soldiers,” Boyce said. “By communicating with people in Iraq in as many ways possible what we’re trying to do to help them, and what we’re trying to do to prevent people from using these ruthless roadside bombs that blow up people in streets, in schools and mosques, we find that a very important thing.”

Work for the account involves a wide range of communications activities, including monitoring and analyzing Arabic and Western media; spokesperson training; and development and dissemination of TV, radio, newsprint, and Internet “information” products, according to the RFP, originally issued by the Department of the Army’s Joint Contracting Command in late July.

The minimum amount for the one-year contract, with two, one-year options to renew, is set at $250,000, and the maximum amount is $300 million.

Boyce noted that while the US military has gone to considerable effort to train soldiers in Arabic languages and improve their understanding of local culture, development of that sort of knowledge takes so much time and effort, and the need is so great that contractors are simply needed to meet the demand.

“Oftentimes, outside contractors bring outside talents or abilities, or previous experiences that might not necessarily be readily available within the government,” Boyce said. “Or they can bring a dedicated resource to the task [that might] already be used elsewhere within the government.”

As described in a “statement of work,” provided by the department of Multi-National Force-Iraq called Strategic Communications Management Services, insurgents in Iraq have sought to discredit US and allied forces, as well as the Iraqi government, through various means, including psychological warfare, terrorism, murders, and other “asymmetric” means intended to counter the US allied forces’ stronger military.

The ripple effect from insurgent use of improvised explosive devices in Iraq intended to kill and destroy Coalition forces and equipment is severe. Recording and branding the attacks for global distribution as marketing vehicles of not only David versus Goliath imagery but to gain support against their peers is secondary, or even tertiary to their strategic impact. The strategic value of IEDs to the insurgent is the psychological insecurity they create by inducing a negative spiral in training, techniques, and procedures that goes against the requirements for effective counterinsurgency. The deployment of armored Humvees and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles (MRAPs) was indicative of the reduced trust of the indigenous population. The resulting withdrawal from the “sea of the people” by Coalition forces severely undermined counterinsurgency efforts as the increased distance between the indigenous population and the warfighter “actually assists the enemy in accomplishing his objectives.”

Cold War II?

The Russian invasion and dismantling of Georgian infrastructure and military has led some to call for a new Cold War against Russia. As Putin-Medvedev debilitated Georgia, they knew there would be no substantial and credible responses from NATO, the EU, and the United States. They were right. The failure to anticipate Russian moves and the consequences of such actions has created an unnecessary quandary to which the Secretaries of State and Defense are sending mixed messages. The Secretary of State speaks in soft diplomatic language inappropriate for the situation while the Secretary of Defense speaks in blunt language that is far less equivocal.

What to do? Mark Sasfranski points out over at Pajamas Media that knee-jerk reactions to our own failure to think and plan strategically is not the answer.

Let us have no illusions. Putin and Medvedev are running an autocratic, nationalist, and sometimes cruel Russia that would like to become an arbiter of global energy markets, particularly in natural gas, and seeks to reassert Russian hegemony over weak neighbors. Russia, however, is not the totalitarian Soviet Union, either internally or as a military threat. We are not seeing the mighty Red Army that once threatened to storm the Fulda Gap; that the competent movement of a few armored brigades into tiny Georgia is cause for Western amazement shows how far Russia has fallen as a great power, not how high it is rising.

Calls for a new Cold War with Russia because we have been embarrassed by the inept performance of a client state are wrongheaded, at times venal but certainly detrimental to American national security. We have potential national interests and a few vital ones that span all the states of the former Soviet Union, including Russia. Not to mention a real shooting war with al-Qaeda and other forces of Islamist terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We need, at the highest levels of government, to sit down and take the long view of what America’s strategic policy toward Russia should be, in a process free of the input of registered foreign agents and special interest K Street lobbyists.

On some issues the United States will need to lead in opposing Russia and on others we will seek her cooperation. But to declare Russia our enemy, out of misplaced Cold War nostalgia or on behalf of allies who will continue to do business as usual with Moscow while we bear all of the costs, is to play the fool.

With the additional saber rattling by Russia in response to the agreement with Poland to deploy interceptors, Russia is playing a dangerous game and unless we do plan strategically with our allies, the presidents of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are rightly concerned.

Read all of Mark’s editorial here.

A new voice in the Smith-Mundt discussion

Briefly, if you are at all interested in the Smith-Mundt discussion with Sharon Weinberger, I recommend you check out two posts by Craig Hayden on the subject. First, Fearing a world without Smith-Mundt?

… Weinberger’s argument about propaganda is logically a slippery slope fallacy. There are no obvious reasons why a domestic information ministry would spring to existence after Smith-Mundt is scrapped. Why should it? As research has shown for decades, the U.S. press has shown little inclination to represent the rest of the world from a perspective other than U.S. policy-makers (this is supported by Bennett’s well-known “Indexing Hypothesis“). In fact, as Dan Hallin has shown, critical coverage only tends to arise when there is disagreement among policy-makers (see Piers Robinson’s piece on media and politics for a summary). We don’t have to be closet fans of Herman and Chomsky’s “Manufacturing Consent” to realize that the U.S. news media rarely strays from the government line. So what is there to fear from abandoning Smith-Mundt? …

Second, After Smith-Mundt: What next?

… I think what Matt is getting at is more than just exposing U.S. message strategy to academics and policy wonks. It’s about involvement in a larger process of policy awareness, feedback, and input with synergistic effects on outflow of U.S. messages to the rest of the world. Implicit in Matt’s rethinking of Smith-Mundt is an invitation for Americans into the process of crafting, conducting, and implementing public diplomacy. It’s putting the public back into public diplomacy. (Ok, that was cheesy).

This implicit expansion of the policy community, however, would be a fundamental shift in how policy is crafted and implemented in this country. Unlike domestic policy, the constituents for foreign policy (let alone public diplomacy) are less than obvious. Sure, we know generally that public opinion does matter to policy leaders, and that interest networks can shape policy construction. But foreign policy shaped by public opinion doesn’t necessarily make it democratic. And an open-sourced public diplomacy goes against historical trends in the domestic sources of U.S. foreign policy. …

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On the Air in three, two… and you’re done, thanks for coming

I’ll be on Al Jazeera English tonight talking about the struggle for minds and wills with anchor Shihab Rattansi with a lead in by Barnaby Phillips’ American Challenge series. I’m told the live broadcast will be 20 minutes into the 7:00p PT (0200 GMT) News Hour.

Since most Americans can’t get AJE, watch online or check back here as I’ll post a link when the video’s available.

Update: No video yet, not sure if there will be one. Because of other news, instead of a 10 minute discussion beginning at 7:20, it was about one minute that began around 7:35. It was during my second answer that I learned the segment would be truncated. There was no follow up. I had planned to go into the struggle of minds and wills more, the understanding of local dynamics, the need for security and capacity building that is done by, with, and through Iraqis for participation and buy-in, raise Medical CMO, the good part of CERP, etc. The original plan was a discussion/debate with two people and the anchor, but as the segment was severely truncated, it’s good they couldn’t find somebody to disagree with me, so I was told I’d have the whole 10 minutes. They also didn’t mention MountainRunner… hopefully next time.

From RAND’s Vision of the Future

Briefly, an alternative view from Philip Bobbit’s market-state from David Ronfeldt and Danielle Varda in RAND’s Issues over the Horizon:

…we predict the emergence of the “nexus-state” — something quite different from the traditional nation-state or recent notions of an approaching market-state or network-state. The nexus-state will integrate multiple modes of governance. It will be stronger than the nation-state but also more embedded and circumscribed. It will revolve around a new kind of administration in which officials remain concerned about what is happening in their offices but become increasingly oriented by the new sensory and sectoral networks into which they are plugged.

It’s not clear to me in what way the Nexus-State will be stronger than the nation-state. Commercial relationships are notoriously fickle, always looking for a better deal. Brand management is challenged not just by quality, but by quantity and price. Perhaps that’s why the market-state is dismissed in favor of the network hub model of collaboration and mutual awareness and understanding. Based on the description, it would seem the Nexus-State would be, by definition, a master of public diplomacy and global engagement.

The Nexus-State model seems at odds with Jerrold Green’s “issue” in the same publication: The Future of Diplomacy: Real Time or Real Estate

…with some imagination, many embassy-based functions could be effectively conducted on a need-to-be-in-situ basis. Of course, some diplomats will always be stationed overseas to handle particularly sensitive, specialized, or high-level tasks. But their number will be far fewer than today and their office spaces more practical, low key, and less vulnerable than are traditional embassies.

…Unfortunately, as currently configured, embassies are impediments to gaining these valuable insights because they seclude and “immunize” their personnel from local life rather than immersing them in it. As evidence, all citizens should experience first-hand the security gauntlet that places all American diplomatic legations virtually off limits to all but those who work in them. …

The security environment is one thing, how well the mission integrates with the local population is much more important. Perhaps instead of focusing on architecture, Green would do well to look at this report. I think that as we become more engaged, we’ll need a better presence, not a necessarily a smaller presence. Can anyone argue that any of our embassies are overstaffed? If anything, they are, with the exception of Baghdad, understaffed.

Target: French and other NATO publics

The large, coordinated attack against the French is a  judicious use of force by the Taliban. Instead of picking targets of opportunity in a game of attrition, it is very likely this operation was executed primarily for specific informational effects. Nukes and Spooks asks which of two theories of the attack is applicable. More than likely, it is both. If so, we should be concerned. 

So why did it happen? There are two theories being considered here at the Pentagon. One is political and the other is strategic.

The first is that the Taliban was retaliating against the French for sending 700 more troops in Afghanistan under pressure from NATO and the Bush administration.  French President Nicholas Sarkozy took a lot of criticism from his people in April, when the additional troops arrived. And today, some Frenchmen charged that their troops died for America, not France.

By attacking the troops, the Talbian sent a message to future NATO allies that their troops are not safe.

The second is that the Taliban is trying to rattle Kabul, psychologically. They are under no illusions that they can take the capital, the theory goes, but if they can keep launching these kind of attacks, residents will be paralyzed.

Today’s Recommended Reading on Public Diplomacy

Several recommendations for you on the subject of public diplomacy.

Check out and subscribe to Craig Hayden and Shawn Powers’

The Intermap website and blog presents news, opinions, and research on issues related to communication-centric foreign policy, public diplomacy, global media and news flows. More broadly, this site aims to investigate the intersections between communication, media studies and international relations scholarship that deal directly with how global controversies and politics are carried and sustained through media. We call this media argument: where media outlets, technologies, and tactics represent the symbolic and visual space for the contest of ideas between nations, citizens, non-state actors.

Recent posts:

Read David Steven’s June post The new public diplomacy and Afghanistan at the Global Dashboard.

… I believe there are three key interlocking problems:

  • A lack of understanding. …
  • A lack of interoperability. …
  • A lack of understanding and interoperability translates into persistent strategic and tactical failings. …

The starting point for change is to:

  • Accept that influence is now core currency for all arms of international relations – foreign policy, development assistance, and military operations.
  • Build a common language and joint concepts across these disciplines – not just at a national level, but internationally, in order to allow the effective operation of multinational, multi-sectoral coalitions and networks.

However, the barriers to change are sizeable, while the knowledge to surmount them is fragmented across sectors and disciplines. The first battle for ‘hearts and minds’ therefore needs to be won in our own organisations – within governments, between governments, and between governments and a range of non-governmental organisations.

See Marc Tyrrell’s 3-part series a lengthy and very scholarly discussion on asymmetric conflict as a struggle for minds and wills

It is important to remember that the goal of warfare for many of the current groups is control over the interpretive framework of a population, not actual, physical control over the geographic area, that will flow inevitably from control over the framework and massive military costs. For many of these groups, kinetic operations, “violence”, is merely a means to an end that is shaped not by the logic of violence but, rather, by the logic of communications; a lesson learned from Vietnam where the insurgents lost almost all of the battles, but won the war.


Also, check out the latest addition to the blogosphere, Chasing the Flame. This is Samantha Powers’ project to “tell the story of the peace-maker Sergio Vieira de Mello and introduce audiences to the kind of conviction and insight that inspires movements.” That movement is to build a “movement for a smart U.S. foreign policy.”