Principles of Strategic Communication

This is Part I of two posts on describing “Strategic Communication.” Part II is here

In the coming months, reports and Congressional legislation will attempt to change how the United States communicates with the world. Called “public diplomacy” or “Strategic Communication,” the importance of this type engagement has finally come to the forefront of our national security debate, at least for those taking a serious look at the present and future. Irregular conflict, the present and future reality of war, is based not on our ability to “kill our way to victory” but to operate in a local and global information environment.

When there are no capitals to take or “hearts” to be “won,” real security comes through enduring engagement of local and global groups in a modern proxy struggle for minds and wills. Operating “by, with, and through” such groups not only extends our reach, but acts as a force multiplier against adversaries who elicit support in the global information environment for money, recruits, and sympathetic actions. Think Hamburg, Madrid, London, and Glasgow.

Continue reading “Principles of Strategic Communication

A Theory of Strategic Communication: ‘like an orchestra producing harmony’

DOD OSD PA Theory of Strategic Communication: like an orchestra producing harmony

This is Part II of two posts on describing “Strategic Communication”. Part I is here.

In addition to the principles of strategic communication, the Defense Department developed the graphical representation of Strategic Communication show above.

Several points to raise with those new to this slide. The analogy of SC as an orchestra has at its middle, the conductor representing the collection of senior leaders, a music score as the SC plan, and an orchestra made up of various SC communities of practice and lines of operation

The “orchestra” can be reconfigured for the desired effect. It can become “strolling strings” or anything else as it reshaped, resized, and repurposed. The tempo, sound, etc. may vary, depending on the desired effect.

First, to me, it best represents a point rather than a dynamic model of action. The iterative process in the slide is controlled by the conductor in a discipline of message and action. This does not fit reality nor should it. Our engagement should not be and cannot be a constant, choreographed message and action stream. Operating in this way, even it was possible, create vulnerabilities in a dynamic environment with multiple, flexible actors.

In the ‘orchestra’ model, when a ‘musician’ hits a flat note, misses the cue entirely, or performs something not on the sheet, the error is prominent. A better analogy, if one must be made, is a jazz jam session. It puts the model into motion. The jazz jam would be a dynamic environment where bad notes don’t stand out as well; members loosely interact, they riff independently or off each other, while all are headed in the same direction. This provides for intentional and unintentional liberty, or deviations, not permitted in the orchestra model.

Second, it is essential to acknowledge the U.S. public and U.S. media are stakeholders and intended audiences, an apt phrase, as this slide does. They, like the allies, adversaries, and neutrals (a collection that includes “swing voters”) are targets of what we say, do, and fail to say and do. The adversary is very good at exploiting our “say-do gap”. We must become skilled in not only preventing this gap but at increasing awareness of the adversaries’ (plural) own shortcomings, which we are terrible at doing.

Third, the model implies a level of calibration that is difficult in a war of perceptions. Orchestra conductors aren’t known for taking feedback, but the graphical representation outweighs the need for an asterisk saying the conductor here will accept dynamic input.

More to come on this. In the meantime, please comment. 

You’re not winning if they don’t know it

War today is based more on perceptions than reality. We hear from the Government that Al-Qaeda is losing the Arab street, but does the street know this? From PIPA/

The US’s ‘war on terror’ has failed to weaken its prime target al Qaeda, according to people in 22 out of 23 countries surveyed in a new poll for the BBC World Service.

On average only 22 per cent believe that al Qaeda has been weakened, while three in five believe that it has either had no effect (29%) or made al Qaeda stronger (30%).

… Countries with the largest numbers perceiving that the US ‘war on terror’ has strengthened al Qaeda include some with whom the US has quite friendly relations–France (48%), Mexico (48%), Italy (43%), Australia (41%) and the UK (40%). Countries most prone to believe that al Qaeda has been weakened include Kenya (58%), Egypt (44%), and Nigeria (37%).

If the people don’t know you’re winning, you’re not.

Event: AFRICOM and Beyond: The Future of U.S.-African Security and Defense Relations

From the American Enterprise Institute:

The October 1 operational launch of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), on the eve of a new American presidential administration, provides an unprecedented opportunity to reshape U.S. strategy toward Africa. Significant attention has been devoted to the structure and functions of AFRICOM–and to its strategic communications challenges. Less thought, however, has been given to identifying the core security interests that should guide U.S. strategy on the continent or to defining the new kinds of partnership with a more self-assured Africa that are most likely to advance those interests.

With its capacity for political as well as military engagement and for conflict prevention as well as traditional war-fighting, AFRICOM has the potential to serve as a model for future interagency security cooperation efforts abroad. But what AFRICOM does is more important than how the command is structured. What is the strategic rationale for increased U.S. security engagement with African countries? What are the emerging threats and challenges in Africa, and how should they be addressed? AEI’s Mauro De Lorenzo and Thomas Donnelly will host two panel discussions with African security experts to answer these and other questions.

When: Wednesday, October 1, 2008  10:30 AM – 1:30 PM

Where: Wohlstetter Conference Center, Twelfth Floor, AEI
1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036

Register here.

See also:

Off Topic: Congratulations, Jimmy, on your sub-24hr 100miler

I have this friend. He’s a really good guy who, like me, thought it was fun to run marathons. Back when we were both marathon coaches for a fund raising organization, and before we were really friends, he heard I was a trail runner and wanted to join me and my dog. So, we set out on a trail. Target distance: about 12 miles across varied terrain with some moderately severe climbing and descending. Jimmy’s jack-rabbit start raises the question of whether he’s really run trail as he claimed. The truth is he’s never run technical terrain with the elevation and ground condition changes (skull size rocks to pebbles to hard pack) that we’re on. Short story: we cut several miles from the course and eliminate the best (and most challenging) single track sections from the return. When we finish, we had eased back and truncated the run so much my dog isn’t even panting. Jimmy noticed that we (my dog and I) didn’t invite him back out for a long time. He shares the story frequently and tells me he uses it as inspiration.

Fast forward to this past weekend. The now married Jimmy completed his second 100-mile running race, the Rio del Lago. Not only did he finish, but he did it in under 24-hours. Finishing time: 19:49. That’s nineteen hours and forty-nine minutes to cover 100 miles in temps that peaked near 100 degrees. Jimmy finished 1st in his age group and 3rd overall. His last 38 miles averaged 9:09 / mile.

Congratulations, Jimmy! Absolutely awesome.

Check out Jimmy’s race recap here.


“One of the major new difficulties here is the vast canvas of the media landscape. No longer can audiences be divided into ‘domestic’ and ‘international’ as they have done in the past. Anything that is published can be potentially viewed by either the domestic or the international audience or in fact a multitude of different audiences with a variety of compositions. And yet, the old view still prevails in a number of communications campaigns. This comes unstuck when your international audience views your domestic output. Steve Tatham provided one example of a British Army advertisement showing British soldiers searching Muslims. This was part of a recruitment drive aimed at UK television audiences, but it had a detrimental effect when it ended up on Youtube, and was deemed highly offensive by some Muslims.” – Daniel Bennett reviewing the symposium How Insurgents Shape the Media Landscape. Read Part One and Part Two.

“We have rarely seen such a work of profound analytic fallacy as the now much circulated study “Baghdad nights: evaluating the US military `surge’ using nighttime light signatures”, which has been making the rounds throughout the blogsphere as of late. … such an assumption ignores much of the literal reality on the ground – valuing remote sensing over the contemporaneous and local accounts of human sources, military commanders, and reconstruction agencies that have lived through the tumultuous progress of the latter stages of the Iraq intervention. It also conflates economic indicators with stability and security…” Deliberately Ignoring the Human Terrain by Kent’s Imperative

“An informed public is central to a properly functioning democracy. As bloggers, you are now part of this modern day newsroom. You are deciding what stories should be posted without the benefit of a traditional gatekeeper in the media that’s often been referred to as the Fourth Estate. … Bloggers play a vitally important watchdog role in the defense of democracy and the Constitutional order.” – LTG Bill Caldwell speaking to the Milblogging conference.

Related to the above, see the Combined Arms Center’s blogging page.

“We’ve seen over and over again that the blogs are the most effective fact-checking tool that we have.” – McCain spokesman, Michael Goldfarb, to Michelle Malkin. (h/t AS)

Treat audiences as investors was the message of a recent short post. This week I threw up another post (sourced again from H&K) about proxy engagement, which is fundamentally what public diplomacy is all about: talk to people, influentials preferred but not required, so they tell two friends, and so on like the old U.S. commercial. The firm behind the program in the latter post caught my mention of their client and followed up with me today to see if I needed more information. This is a ‘digital outreach team’ that is on top of it (GolinHarris, if you were wondering). That’s good follow up to promote the message and help it spread. This is where the Madison Avenue model really digs in but it’s also the approach that’s uniformly ignored by USG folks who invoke “Madison Avenue”.

“I think DMA is one of the most exciting things to happen to public affairs in a long time,” Hastings said. “It’s our opportunity to change the way we deliver news and information to our internal audience.” – Bob Hastings talking about the Oct 1 establishment of the Defense Media Activity. (h/t Galrahn)

Following up the testimony before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs’ Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia, see

Event: Under Secretary James K. Glassman to Speak at National Press Club Oct. 3

From the NPC:

James. K. Glassman, under secretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs, will speak at a luncheon on Friday, Oct. 3, on “The New Age of Public Diplomacy.”

Since taking up his position in June, following confirmation by the U.S. Senate, Glassman has been leading the government’s efforts to win a war of ideas to combat violent extremism, and his speech will outline his views on how best to achieve this goal.

Event: “Defending Hamdan” at CTLab

Starting today and continuing through next Friday, the blog The Complex Terrain Laboratory is holding an online symposium titled “Defending Hamdan.” The symposium is CTlab’s first, and is the first in a series entitled Social Sciences in War. This symposium revolves around the personal account of Dr. Brian Glyn Williams, an historian of Central Asia and Al Qaeda based at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, of his experiences as an expert witness in the Guantanamo Bay trial of Salim Hamdan, “bin Laden’s driver.”

Scholars from the the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand will participate in the symposium.

  • David Betz: Insurgency Research Group, Dept. of War Studies, King’s College London
  • Christian Bleuer: Political Science, Australian National University
  • John Matthew Barlow: History, Concordia University
  • Craig Hayden: Int’l Communications, American University,
  • Kevin Jon Heller: Law, University of Auckland/University of Melbourne,
  • John Horgan: Psychology, Pennsylvania State University
  • Thomas Johnson: Cultural Studies, Naval Postgraduate School
  • Jason Ralph: Politics & International Studies, University of Leeds
  • William Snyder: Law, University of Syracuse/Maxwell School
  • Marc Tyrrell: Anthropology, Carleton University, blogger
  • Tony Waters: Sociology, Chico State University
  • L.L. Wynn: Anthropology, Macquarie University

The first five installments of Dr. Williams’ account have already been posted to the weblog:

With the fifth post, the symposium will be formally launched with two forthcoming introductory blog posts, one providing the background and outlines of the symposium, the other surveying coverage of the Hamdan trial in the law blogosphere.

This will be an event worth following. The implications are substantial and go beyond the immediate issue of Hamdan and should go toward basic understanding of the culture and rule of law and perceptions.

Blogging on Public Diplomacy: the UK in the USA

I have been pushing for our  overseas embassies blog, conduct blogger roundtables similar to the Under Secretary’s Blogger Roundtable that was based on a format established by the DOD Blogger Roundtable. And while I was told it is happening in the EUR bureau, I never heard the details.

All the while, the Brits have been doing it here. Andy Pryce, First Secretary Public Affairs Washington (gasp, Public Affairs is Public Diplomacy??), drew my attention to a plethora of FCO blogs around the world. There are parallels here to DipNote, the State Department’s public affairs blog, such as both are published by the respective foreign ministries and both include multiple voices. I think DipNote is doing well and has come along way, but it might look at the FCO effort for tips (including dumping the dark background).

As far as the current (as of this writing) post titled The Importance of Being Credible, I think Nick Cull’s seven steps are missing a tremendously important step (disclosure: I studied under Nick for my Master in Public Diplomacy): understanding. Yes, you must listen, pay attention to the implications of a “say-do” gap, realize you’re operating in a global information environment, etc. But unless you understand what you’re hearing when you listen and the what the target and non-target audiences are hearing when you speak and act, everything else crumbles. This is perhaps the greatest vector that public diplomacy is “not about you” but about them. Especially today, it is not “us versus them” but “them versus them”.

Check out Andy Pryce’s blog and poke around the Foreign Commonwealth Office’s other UK in the USA blogs.

The Brownback Bill: S.3546 to Establish the National Center for Strategic Communication

Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) this week introduced S.3546 titled “The Strategic Communications Act of 2008.” The Senator knows the bill will not be passed in this Congress and feels more discussion on the subject matter is required. His bill is, in part, intended to provoke that discourse.

The National Center for Strategic Communication is largely based on the National Counter Terrorism Center model. The bill recognizes that the current system is flawed and needs to be fixed. Driving this bill are concerns over the present-day quality of broadcasting, concerns over the Broadcasting Board of Governors, and a general failure of the public diplomacy apparatus to function effectively since 9/11. To the delight of many I know, this bill nukes the BBG.

The bill, as presented (but prior to receiving its number), is available here (Adobe Acrobat 6 or later is required). I (and others) are interested in your thoughts on the bill.

What follows are some of the concerns I have raised in off-the-record and constructive and relevant meetings (e.g. beyond the Brookings event). The problems are such that I do not support this bill in its present form.

It emphasizes the “us versus them” construct as it focuses on who we are and not the increasingly important struggle between foreign audiences. “Us versus them” is extremely important here at home but “them versus them” is more important beyond our shores.

It only focuses on a specific group, using a word, “Islamist”, that is indistinguishable to most of the globe from general Muslims. Equally, if not more important, this singular focus does not establish a comprehensive ability to participate in future informaticized wars, conflicts, and struggles. It is very likely the next “war” will be information-based without bullets or bombs, or with those “kinetics” in complete support to the information activities of the adversary, be it state or non-state. The focus in this bill does little to prepare the United States for a broader struggle.

The director has limited reach into other USG thinking, planning, and personnel. Personnel concurrence, agreements on the selection of personnel, is absent and budgetary oversight is limited to this new silo of excellence. A possible solution is a 1206-style budget model.

Public diplomacy is ripped out of the State Department, effectively making it only a Department of State when the central criticism is it must be acting as a Department of Non-State and engaging publics. Most “traditional” diplomacy is conducted in public to pressure and create awareness in foes, allies (ours and theirs), “swing voters”, and our own public. By removing public diplomacy, the proactive, engaging, narrative and context-based practices of public diplomacy are torn from the Department. What is left is public affairs that largely operates reactively, by press release sans context, and largely under the theory that one can and must inform without influence.

Public diplomacy and strategic communication elsewhere in USG remains untouched even as it is ripped from State. The advisory panel is inadequate. The military, ironically, operates completely opposite from the American public. Whereas John Q. Public looks at the law as a guidance of what cannot be done, the military constantly refers to the law (and strategy documents) to see what they can do. There must be a channel established to permit and even encourage, but not necessarily legislate (which is what they want to avoid), the military to use the NCSC.

The U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy was intentionally left untouched. This bill must push for revised criteria for USACPD membership. The original Commission’s were filled with professionals with experiences in media, persuasion, and communication. In fact, the original Commissions were “blue ribbon” panels presenting public reports to Congress that were critical critiques aimed at improving operations and effectiveness every six months.

The necessary professionalism in international engagement is not addressed. A motivator behind this bill was VOA Iran broadcasts and arguments that feature selection was based on objectivity. The bill must focus on professionalism. VOA staff, BBG staff, etc are by and large a very professional bunch. A major purpose of the Smith-Mundt Act was to make permit America’s international broadcasting to raise the level of professionalism because, while well-intentioned, the quality was at times poor and the messages possibly counter-productive.

A link to capacity-building is required. Foreign audiences often need to see and receive capacity-building to appreciate the “them versus them” discourse. They need development assistance, electricity, etc. To counterinsurgency experts, it comes as no surprise that Smith-Mundt, the information and counter-misinformation act, was passed largely in response to enemy activity against a major capacity and educational program, the Marshall Plan.

Private media support should be expanded as domestic media, especially, pulls back from international coverage. The Smith-Mundt Act legislated that private media be used whenever possible. The Informational Media Guarantee, a supplement to the Smith-Mundt Act put into the Marshall Plan, helped get U.S. media products, from newspapers to Disney films, overseas. This should be expanded.

The principles of the bill should be focused less on specifics, and on broader common ground. Some suggested language to be included is here.

While there are several parts of the bill that concern me, one pleases me. The Brownback bill removes the distortions to the Smith-Mundt Act in 1972 and 1985 by eliminating the prohibition against domestic dissemination. See specifically Sec 4(c)2 of the bill, or page 5, line 5: “by striking subsection (a)”. Subsection (a) of 22 USC 1461 reads:

(a) Dissemination of information abroad The Secretary is authorized, when he finds it appropriate, to provide for the preparation, and dissemination abroad, of information about the United States, its people, and its policies, through press, publications, radio, motion pictures, and other information media, and through information centers and instructors abroad.

Subject to subsection (b) of this section, any such information (other than “Problems of Communism” and the “English Teaching Forum” which may be sold by the Government Printing Office) shall not be disseminated within the United States, its territories, or possessions, but, on request, shall be available in the English language at the Department of State, at all reasonable times following its release as information abroad, for examination only by representatives of United States press associations, newspapers, magazines, radio systems, and stations, and by research students and scholars, and, on request, shall be made available for examination only to Members of Congress.

The bill does, however, offer a definition of “strategic communication” (note: most refer to the concept in the singular “communication” and not the form in this bill):

The term “strategic communications” means engaging foreign audiences through coordinated and truthful communications programs that create, preserve, or strengthen conditions favorable to the advancement of the national interests of the United States.

As for an external to State Department entity doing America’s public diplomacy, that’s for another post but suffice it to say that some outreach must remain within the functional departments while becoming increasingly cooperative and engaged in the interagency process. What is missing in everything to date is a functional rethinking of what public diplomacy and strategic communication really mean. Without understanding the needs and requirements, how can we build the systems?

Enough by me on this right now. What are your thoughts?

National Defense Authorization Act and Strategic Communication, Propaganda, and the SCMB

The defense authorization conference report passed last night with provisions related to Strategic Communication, referred to as Public Diplomacy by some tribes, but not all. The following comes from the Joint Explanatory Statement to accompany S. 3001, the Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009.

Reports on strategic communication and public diplomacy activities of the Federal Government (sec. 1055)

The House bill contained a provision (sec. 1074) that would require the President to submit to Congress a report on a comprehensive interagency strategy for public diplomacy and strategic communication efforts for the Federal Government.

The Senate bill contained no similar provision.

The agreement includes the House provision with a clarifying amendment. We note that numerous studies from independent commissions, the Government Accountability Office, and the Defense Science Board have indicated a lack of clearly articulated strategic goals for the Federal Government’s efforts at strategic communication and public diplomacy. Taken as a whole, these studies point to deficiencies in the U.S. approach to this mission that have not been adequately addressed by previous strategies, or by any other official government initiative. For example, these studies indicate that the Federal Government’s approach to strategic communication and public diplomacy has not been effective enough at garnering greater participation from the private sector, academic institutions or other non-governmental organizations. We commend the establishment of the Global Strategic Engagement Center at the Department of State, but note that its role within a whole-of-government approach to strategic communication and public diplomacy still needs to be further clarified.

“Strategic communication and public diplomacy”… the NDAA conference report didn’t, and wouldn’t, define either. To some, PD is a subset of SC. To others (including me), they are synonymous as everything we say and do, as well as what we fail to say and do, has an effect. I this the fissure between the two is based largely on the modern perception of public diplomacy based on the last few decades of beauty contests rather than the full spectrum psychological struggle for minds and will that preceded and has more relevance to our requirements today than the engagement model of the 1980’s.

Back to the NDAA, Rep. Paul Hodes’s (D-NH) broad brush and knee-jerk reaction needs, thankfully, clarification, but it’s not adequate.

Prohibitions relating to propaganda (sec. 1056)

The House bill contained a provision (sec. 1075) that would prohibit the use of Department of Defense funds for propaganda purposes not specifically authorized by law. The Senate bill contained no similar provision. The agreement includes the House provision with a clarifying amendment. We intend the term "publicity or propaganda", as used in the provision, to have the meaning given to such term in decisions of the Government Accountability Office on this subject.

The Strategic Communication Management Board was not adopted.

The House bill contained a provision (sec. 1031) that would require the Secretary of Defense to establish a Strategic Communication Management Board to provide interdepartmental and interagency coordination for Department of Defense strategic communication efforts.

The Senate bill contained no similar provision.

The agreement does not contain the provision.

While the SCMB didn’t make it, permission to establish an advisory panel to improve coordination between DOD, DOS, and USAID did.

Standing advisory panel on improving coordination among the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and the United States Agency for International Development on matters of national security (sec. 1054)

The House bill contained a provision (sec. 1071) that would require the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, and the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to jointly establish an advisory panel to review the roles and responsibilities of the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and the USAID on matters of national security and make recommendations to improve collaboration and coordination.

The Senate bill contained no similar provision.

The agreement contains the House provision with an amendment allowing the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, and the Administrator of the USAID to jointly establish an advisory panel to advise on ways to improve coordination among the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and USAID on matters relating to national security, including reviewing their respective roles and responsibilities.

Side note: the report also prohibits contractors from interrogating detainees. 

Wall Street Bailout = Pentagon Cuts?

Briefly, Noah notes the Defense Department budget next year is the largest ever and that “many analysts — even before the bailout — predicted that the gravy train was going to have to slow down, under the weight of the costs for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.”

Funny thing about that. There’s a reason our adversaries conduct “asymmetric warfare.” We like to think it’s because they can’t match our military might. The subtext being that they want to, but they just can’t. Al Qaeda, China, Venezuela, they don’t want to and they don’t need to. Information to persuade and dissuade is cheap, relatively cheap compared to the cost of weapons systems.

New: Assistant Secretary of State for International Information Programs (IIP)

And so it begins… A new post has been established at the State Department: Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP). The President nominated Mike Doran, currently Deputy Assistant Secretary for Support to Public Diplomacy at Defense, for this new position. The elevation of the leadership of IIP will undoubtedly strengthen the bureau, even if Mike doesn’t get confirmed. Some think he will, others, well, not so much. Regardless, this is a positive step for IIP. Also, congratulations to Mike, although I doubt he’s rethinking his commute quite yet.

Interestingly, it comes the day after the Brownback bill was introduced in the Senate. This bill, which is intended to provoke discussion (it has) rips out all of Public Diplomacy, eliminates the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy job (the language of the bill, number forthcoming, doesn’t indicate the if an Under Secretary is reconstituted for Public Affairs or a lesser position is to be created), repeals the Smith-Mundt provision preventing domestic dissemination, defines Strategic Communication and its goals, creates a National Center for Strategic Communication (NCSC) based largely on the National Center for Counter Terrorism (NCTC), among other things. 

Put on your seatbelts, these last few months may get bumpy…

More to come on all the above. The announcement from the White House is below the fold.

Continue reading “New: Assistant Secretary of State for International Information Programs (IIP)

Understanding Public Diplomacy

When talking about Public Diplomacy, what definition do you use? What’s your understanding of the concept of Public Diplomacy, or Strategic Communication while we’re thinking about this? While I’m still working on a concise phrase, here are some thoughts from others on Public Diplomacy.

The purpose of public diplomacy is to “promote the better understanding of the United States among the peoples of the world and to strengthen cooperative international relations.”

How you do this is by making “known what our motives are, what our actions have been and what we have done to assist peoples outside our borders.” It is important to do this because “it is very hard for us here at home to comprehend the degree with which we are not comprehended and the degree with which we are misrepresented.”

Why you do this is because “real security, in contrast to the relative security of armaments, could develop only from understanding and mutual comprehension.”

Perhaps a tactic is Under Secretary Jim Glassman’s concept of a “convener of discussions,” for example, because “truth can be a powerful weapon on behalf of peace.”

The goals for public diplomacy efforts could be

  • Tell the truth.
  • Explain the motives of the United States.
  • Bolster morale and extend hope.
  • Give a true and convincing picture of American life, methods and ideals.
  • Combat misrepresentation and distortion.
  • Aggressively interpret and support American foreign policy. 

Do these sound good? I think the quotes and list are spot on. We’re trying to rediscover how to interact with non-state actors, and to influence or even undermine state or non-state actors through people-centric engagement, when we’ve gone through this before. As the discussions heat up around undoing the “unilateral disarmament” of our “arsenal of persuasion,” it is important to know that at one time we had a Department of Non-State: it was called the United States Information Agency, which, incidentally, was created five years after the above were written or spoken and nearly two decades before ‘public diplomacy’ was coined.

The sources for the above, in order of appearance, are below the fold.

Continue reading “Understanding Public Diplomacy

Public diplomats: positive and grim

Quick post as I am still in DC. Didn’t go to the below Senate hearing, almost did, but opted for the Brookings event with Senator Brownback and Rep. Adam Smith instead of the below Senate hearing. That choice allowed for a follow on meeting at Jury’s over Guinness and pretzels (not with the Senator or Congressman).’s Kellie Lunney reports below on a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, The Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia. The hearing was spurred by the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy report earlier this year. Dirksen room 342 must have been a fun place to be (not).

"On the public diplomacy side, there is some positive news, but it’s a grim picture overall," Amb. Scott DeLisi, director of career development and assignments in State’s Bureau of Human Resources, said before a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee. …

The Foreign Service overall is short at least 1,000 officers "just to fill the jobs we have," DeLisi said. DeLisi, who spent most of his career in the field and assumed his current post just a year ago, called the situation "frightening." Even with those slots filled, many officers are not getting the training they need to be successful overseas, he noted, adding that the agency also would benefit from the creation of additional positions. "We need more [officers] in China, India, parts of Africa, the Middle East and parts of Indonesia," he said.

There’s more to this, of course, but it’s good to get more attention on the huge lack of resources for State. Tell me, where’s the senior leadership hammering Congress to actually commit itself to both allocating money and resources to State? Secretary Gates does not count. State’s leadership, with Congressional support, must push for not just more $$ for hiring FSO’s, but programming flexibility, hiring FSN’s, a training float (hear about this? seeking details), etc.

Prepared statements for the hearing can be found here.

Convening (and seeding) the discussion…

One in a series of quick posts compiled from the plane, in other words, a quick run through the ‘to review / comment’ pile… 

From Hill and Knowlton, the essential link on any good public diplomacist, strategic communicator, and IO’er’s reading list:

Most people are well aware of the growing influence of bloggers, and of course the "power of mom" has been well documented for decades – combine the two and a powerful force is created.  The folks at McDonald’s a few years ago decided to go head-on with a variety of myths and misconceptions and urban legends with regard to the quality of their food.  I read about their latest chapter in this week’s Advertisign Age, which highlighted McDonald’s Moms’ Quality Correspondents – a group of moms that McDonald’s invites to check out where their food is made, ask questions to their nutrionists, see the ingredients and much more.

Its a great example of a company that identified a crucial challenge to their success – opinions of moms who visit their restaurants every day – and decided to open the door wide open and invite them in to have a look.  And bonus points of course for McDonald’s to embrace the blogging community and provide an example of transparency that others could definitely learn from for their own efforts. 

Connect with the people and get them to give the stamp of approval and they tell two friends… Any good struggle that you can’t just “kill your way to victory” can only be fought / engaged by, with, and through spokespersons the broader target audience represents. It is these trusted spokespersons that can get the most mileage out of each word. They have the legitimacy and trust and you can’t do something to blow their trust because, boy, will they be upset…

Smart power is the effective use of economics and development, diplomacy, force, and truthful information

One in a series of quick posts compiled from the plane, in other words, a quick run through the ‘to review / comment’ pile… 

From Thom Shanker in the New York Times, The Secretary of Defense, not State,

…challenged Western powers on Friday to avoid past mistakes of lurching between excessive military resolve and excessive restraint, as the world faces threats from a resurgent Russia, violent Islamic extremism and rogue leaders seeking nuclear arms. … He suggested that Europe and the United States help rebuild Georgia and, at the same time, put the Kremlin’s desired membership in global economic organizations on hold until Russian leaders return to acceptable behavior.

The Spectacle of War: Insurgent video propaganda and Western response

One in a series of quick posts compiled from the plane, in other words, a quick run through the ‘to review / comment’ pile… 

A brief reminder of Andrew Exum’s, the man formerly behind the curtain at Abu Muquwama, May 2008 article The Spectacle of War: Insurgent video propaganda and Western response:

Until recently, complains U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel John Nagl, one of the authors of its new counter-insurgency field manual adopted in 2006, information operations was a field of battle completely abandoned to the enemy. The U.S. knew only how to engage the enemy in physical battle – it had no plan to exploit or explain such operations in the public sphere. When U.S. forces clashed with the Taliban in Afghanistan, for example, the Taliban contacted Arabic-language satellite channels immediately following the clash to make claims of civilian casualties and, in short, spin the battle in their favor. The U.S. public relations officers, by contrast, valued caution over timeliness and often waited days before issuing a statement confirming or denying the casualties.

What is worse, from the perspective of the U.S. military is that while the ponderous American defense bureaucracy has been slow off the mark, the enemy – the insurgent groups against which the U.S. has fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan – have proved more than proficient at the art of propaganda, media manipulation and shaping the way operations and events are perceived by enemy, friendly and neutral populations.

In the same way, though the U.S. and its allies talk of the "comprehensive approach," it is more often than not groups like Hizbullah and Jaish al-Mahdi who best understand military operations as part of a combined effort incorporating "political, military, diplomatic, economic and strategic communication" efforts.

To a large degree, though, the U.S. military cannot be blamed for being caught off-guard by their enemy’s sophistication in managing the way battles and campaigns are perceived. In the past two decades, insurgent, terrorist, and guerrilla groups in the Middle East have grown exponentially more sophisticated in the way they use the media available to them in order to affect the way battles are perceived.

Steve Tatham’s book is a must read for a detailed look into the DOD-media relationship.

To an even larger degree, the U.S. Government can be blamed for being caught off-guard by the enemy’s sophisticated incorporation of political, sociological, cultural, and informational efforts. This is notably true of the State Department that has been even slower and more resistant to change than the Defense Department. “Too many” report from just 9/11 have told Congress, White House, and the State Department something needs to change.

The Defense Department has made remarkable progress in shaking off past ideological and structural constraints of “traditional” war where somebody else handles the “PR” into a population-centric engagement. Opponents to the wholesale shift to counterinsurgency, such as MacGregor and Gentile, ignore the realities that public opinion matters today and tomorrow, just as they did in the great example of “traditional” war: World War II. In fact, today and tomorrow they matter more with broader and deeper informational and physical connectivity. But why has the Defense Department been able to make this change and State has not, with the very notable exception of the still-new Under Secretary of Public Diplomacy Jim Glassman?

For three reasons: resources, resources, and world view. The State Department does not have the personnel capacity to permit its people to rotate through professional education. Nor does it have a substantial educational infrastructure. Compare both to the Defense Department’s relatively incredible amount of time to spend at the U.S. Army War College, the Naval War College, National Defense University, Command and Staff College, Air University, Marine Corps U, not to vast number of peer-reviewed publications… it’s no surprise the Defense Department has adapted to an era of non-state actors that includes individuals as well as organizations.

The State Department’s world view has largely, with again the notable exception of the dynamic “new” ideas from Under Secretary Glassman, remained fixed on states when it should have been on states and non-states. More to come on this.

Sharia courts in Britain

One in a series of quick posts compiled from the plane, in other words, a quick run through the ‘to review / comment’ pile… 

From across the Pond:

Five sharia courts have been set up in London, Birmingham, Bradford and Manchester and Nuneaton, Warwickshire.

The government has quietly sanctioned that their rulings are enforceable with the full power of the judicial system, through the county courts or High Court. Previously, the rulings were not binding and depended on voluntary compliance among Muslims.

Lawyers have issued grave warnings about the dangers of a dual legal system and the disclosure drew criticism from Opposition leaders.

Dominic Grieve, the shadow home secretary, said: "If it is true that these tribunals are passing binding decisions in the areas of family and criminal law, I would like to know which courts are enforcing them because I would consider such action unlawful. British law is absolute and must remain so."

In July, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the Lord Chief Justice agreed that Muslims in Britain should be able to live according to Islamic law to decide financial and marital disputes.

Mr Siddiqi said he expected the courts to handle a greater number of "smaller" criminal cases in coming years as more Muslim clients approach them.

Two more courts are being planned for Glasgow and Edinburgh. "All we are doing is regulating community affairs in these cases," said Mr Siddiqi, chairman of the governing council of the tribunal.

There are concerns for women suffering under the Islamic laws, which favours men. Mr Siddiqi said that in a recent inheritance dispute handled by the court in Nuneaton, the estate of a Midlands man was divided between three daughters and two sons.

The judges on the panel gave the sons twice as much as the daughters, in accordance with sharia.

Had the family gone to a normal British court, the daughters would have got equal amounts. In the six cases of domestic violence, Mr Siddiqi said the judges ordered the husbands to take anger management classes and mentoring from community elders.