Open-Thread is still open, and what about USIA 2.0, USAID, and more

Just thinking out loud…

There is still an open-thread on who will be or should be in the next Administration, so please add a comment with your thoughts or email me directly. I find it interesting that while there’s a fair amount of talk about a USIA 2.0, or as I call it, the Department of Non-State (details forthcoming), nobody’s suggested a person to lead it. Perhaps they’re assuming the entire PD apparatus will be ripped from State, leaving DOS absolutely no effective means of international engagement? Will the same disruption happen at DOD or will they continue to own direct engagement? And if separating PD and PD-like functions from State is intended to create a more independent, arms-length from policy apparatus, then what about the tactical requirements that the arms-length Dept of Non-State can’t and won’t fulfill?

Further, there have been some smart comments on the need for the U.S. to improve its foreign aid. What do we do with USAID? If we’re looking at the British Council as one, or part of one, model for the DNS, then what about the U.K. Department for International Development? Our national security is dependent on more than informational and cultural and education activities, it is dependent on capacity-building. Too few recall or know that America’s public diplomacy was borne out of a reconstruction and development paradigm. The dramatic uptick in volume and intensity of Communist propaganda against the Marshall Plan (which built on a previous increase against the Truman Plan) pushed Congress and the President to move the languishing Smith-Mundt Bill into law. There’s a reason insurgents target reconstruction and new construction projects. Our security requires addressing grinding poverty and disillusionment in regions that are fertile breeding grounds for extremists, terrorists, and insurgents.  Security will come from understanding and correcting these conditions and local perceptions that permits violent extremism, insurgency, and terrorism to take hold and propagate. So, any thoughts on who a Secretary of Development might be? Would this person be within DNS, equal to DNS?


“Our ‘don’t hate me because I’m beautiful’ message isn’t working either.  Like Jim Glassman says, it’s not about us, it’s about them.  The sooner we recognize that, the better.” – Angela Trethewey and Joe Faina in talking about Sen. Lieberman’s Not-So-Straight Talk on Public Diplomacy

“One of the problems with Open Source research is that most of it is farmed out to contractor [companies], who are just using it as unclassified work for people who are in the process of getting their clearance.  This is one of the reasons contractors will NEVER contribute to the field of Open Source.  Their analysts pick up some skills but then are ripped out of there to serve on a higher-paying contract, once they get cleared.  This brain drain is a huge problem.” – Open Source Spy Looks for Upgrade by Noah Shachtman

“The decline of the U.S. military’s acquisitions workforce, and the resulting reliance on private contractors to perform oversight on weapons program, is ‘going to be sooner or latter one of the biggest stories of the military complex in this half of the century,’ according to one longtime defense industry professional.” – Pentagon Weapons-Buying: ‘Dumb as a Bag of $600 Hammers’ by David Axe

“Hackers knocked out Al Qaeda’s online means of communication, thus preventing them from posting anything to commemorate the anniversary.” – Hindustan Times (h/t MT)

Online Symposium at CTLab: Social Science in War starts next week (22 September 2008)

“Google is talking about moving some of their data centers offshore, which in their mind apparently means at sea. … The ‘water-based data centres’ would use wave energy to power and cool their computers, reducing Google’s costs. Their offshore status would also mean the company would no longer have to pay property taxes on its data centres, which are sited across the world, including in Britain.” – Google Going Offshore? by Galrahn (see also Google and Am FP)

“Despite almost seven years of fighting, the administration has still not clearly articulated a strategy and has starved the effort of resources. … Good tactics and more troops are not a substitute for a strategy – and in fact can significantly raise the cost of a bad strategy. Both candidates need to explain the strategy that justifies such a commitment.” – The Good War? by T.X. Hammes

Boyd and Information Operations

From Air University at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base:

In the midst of the Korean War in the 1950s, an American fighter pilot developed a revolutionary concept that changed tactical, operational and strategic war planning.

Based on his tactical dogfighting experience with North Korean MiGs, Col. John Boyd coined the term OODA (observe, orient, decide and act) Loop, which stresses the importance of collecting, interpreting and reacting to battlefield information faster than the enemy in order to maintain a strategic advantage.

More than 35 Airmen and civilians from installations worldwide converged at Maxwell Air Force Base’s Curtis LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education Aug. 11 through 15 to learn how the OODA Loop and other key concepts apply in information operations.

… “The goal is to give students introductory knowledge of information operations in accordance with Air Force Doctrine Document 2-5,” [course instructor Capt. Ernest McLamb] said.

During the week-long course, students discussed electronic warfare, influence operations and network warfare in the air, space and cyberspace domains. To top things off, students put their new-found knowledge to the test with an exercise simulating an information operations cell within an air operations center. Students like Master Sgt. Michael Brogan were split into three groups to plan an information operations campaign including key concepts such as public affairs strategic communication, network and electronic warfare, and military deception.
“I have a much better understanding how public affairs supports combatant commanders and what we bring to the fight” …

While the graphic is cool (credit: SSgt Jason Lake, author of the above article), it conveys the absolutely wrong image of IO. No doubt unintentional, but note that public affairs is furthest from the foreground.

On the subject of John Boyd, see The John Boyd Roundtable: Debating Science, Strategy, and War edited by Mark Safranski, with a foreword by Tom Barnett. My copy came yesterday; review to come.

(h/t Sam)

Blogger Roundtable with Under Secretary Glassman (Updated with links and transcript)

The Blogger Roundtable with Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs James Glassman concluded a short time ago. Before getting to the roundtable, I have to say it is nice to have an Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy that actually does what he promotes. From op-eds to intense interviews, this Under Secretary is not afraid of the media or of public engagement. With any luck, future Secretaries of State and Under Secretaries of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (or whatever it becomes transformed into it touched) will have the same realization that the Department of State must also be the Department of Non-State and put energy and resources into public engagement.

Continue reading “Blogger Roundtable with Under Secretary Glassman (Updated with links and transcript)

Event: Public Diplomacy and the War of Ideas: Agendas for the Next Administration

Marc Lynch saw the need for a discussion, so he organized one:

Public Diplomacy and the War of Ideas:  Agendas for the Next Administration

George Washington University, September 30, 2008, from 2:00-3:30, Location TBA

Hady Amr, Director, Brookings Doha Center and Fellow, Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings, and co-author (with Peter Singer) of  Engaging the Muslim World: A Communication Strategy to Win the War of Ideas (Brookings, April 2007).

Dr. Michael Doran, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Support to Public Diplomacy, U.S. Department of Defense;  2007 testimony on the war of ideas available here.

Kristin Lord, Fellow, Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings, and author of Public Diplomacy and the New Transatlantic Agenda (Brookings, August 2008)

Marc Lynch, George Washington University, co-director of Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communications and author of Voices of the New Arab Public

Marc notes the roster may expand and more details will be forthcoming. Save the date, however.

For Wed the 17th: Blogger Roundtable with Under Secretary James Glassman

Posting date changed to bump to the top of the page

Heads up: tomorrow there will be a blogger roundtable via conference call with Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs James Glassman. From State:

Under Secretary of State James K. Glassman will address attempts to curb extremist ideology in the Middle East, with particular emphasis on Iran, in a roundtable discussion with bloggers on September 17 at 1 p.m ET. Specifically, he will discuss his department’s overall efforts (and detail some recent programs) to reach out to young people, act as a facilitator of moderate voices, and work with the private sector to curb extremist ideology.

If you are interested in participating in this conference call, contact Glen Roberts at

Other topics to be discussed:

State Dept. seeks democracy videos: Government teams with media orgs on contest (Variety)

The U.S. State Dept. has revealed its latest diplomatic tool: user-generated content. At the U.N. on Monday, representatives revealed the Democracy Video Challenge, a government initiative co-sponsored with half a dozen high-profile media orgs including NBC Universal, the DGA and the MPAA.

The challenge in question will be to create a three-minute video completing the phrase “Democracy is…” in hopes of receiving a prize package that includes set visits, tickets to the Universal Studios L.A. theme park, and meetings with everyone from U.S. government officials to “new-media experts.”

Debating in the New Media: State Department dialogues with Ahmadinejad’s media advisor

 America knows that bullets alone will not win this war (op-ed by the U/S in the UK’s The Independent)

Public diplomacy is, very simply, diplomacy aimed at publics, as opposed to officials. While some people associate it with marketing – with building a national brand – the truth is that public diplomacy, like official diplomacy and like military action, has as its mission the achievement of the national interest. Public diplomacy performs this mission by understanding, informing, engaging, and persuading foreign publics.

 Is America Equipped to Win a World-Wide Propaganda War?

Admin note: comments are re-enabled

A quick note to say the comments are re-enabled. While this blog isn’t known for having lots of comments (offline discussions are far more numerous the online), I saw that several readers tried and failed to post comments recently. Please retry for the benefit of all readers.

Recent posts looking for comments:

Event: Reforming U.S. Public Diplomacy and Strategic Communication: Views from Congress

At the Brookings Institution next week:

On September 23, the Brookings Institution will host Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) for a discussion on the future of U.S. public diplomacy and strategic communication. With increasing force and frequency, members of the United States Congress are calling for reforms to U.S. public diplomacy, strategy, organization and practice. These proposed reforms seek to improve U.S. relations with foreign societies, advance American interests abroad and counter extremist ideologies. Seven years after 9/11, the question remains: is the United States communicating effectively with foreign publics? Is it undermining support for extremist ideologies around the world?

For more information, and to register, go to the event’s website.

I’ll be at this event immediately after a 1.5 day seminar at the George C. Marshall Conference Center.

See also:

Debating in the New Media: State Department dialogues with Ahmadinejad’s media advisor

I haven’t had a lot of kind words for State’s Digital Outreach Team (note to McCain campaign, the image was there long before the RNC), but over a couple of weeks this summer, they successfully “outreached”. To who? Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s media advisor, Ali Akbar Javanfekr. The debate, which took place on Mr. Javanfekr’s personal blog, was printed in the Persian language newspaper “Iran” on Aug 27, 2008.

Read the transcript here. Below the fold is a fifth response from the Digital Outreach Team that is not in the transcript and not printed in “Iran.” This is how the State Department opens its description of the discussion:

Ali Akbar Javanfekr, the president’s adviser in media affairs has for some time been writing his views about different political and social topics in his personal weblog and even publishes tens of pro and opposing views with his own replies. The up-to-datedness of the blog’s topics and their correlation with the country’s current events has attracted the media to it in a way that not only the content of this blog but the views of supporters and critics of the government and the replies of the president’s adviser have become newsworthy and the print media and news sites have given these subjects special attention.

It is an interesting back and forth between an official representative of the United States, the Digital Outreach Team (DOT), and Javanfekr, speaking in his personal capacity and not as the media advisor to the president. Most remarkable is the extent of the discussion and that it was printed in this particular newspaper.

A few brief comments on the transcript.

DOT and Mr. Javanfekr go back forth on the economy, Iran Air 655, Dr. Mosadegh and other subjects. The DOT emphasizes the standard line that the Administration’s issue is not with the Iranian people but with the Iranian government, which Mr. Javanfekr does not accept. On Mosadegh, the DOT had this to say:

It’s interesting you speak of Dr. Mossadegh [“Ms. Madeline Albright the secretary of State of the Clinton administration showed rare bravery in accepting responsibility for some of USG’s past mistakes especially the coup against Dr. Mosadegh…”] to justify your view but fail to mention that the policies of the current leadership in Iran differs greatly from the political principles of Dr. Mossadegh. Using Dr. Mossadegh’s name when it is convenient for you and serves your cause could be interpreted as insincere. How many major landmarks in Iran are currently named after Dr. Mossadegh? I believe the answer to that question is zero. I am sure you remember when the name of Pahlavi Street was changed to Mossadegh Street after the revolution only to be changed again shortly after that.

While I don’t agree with the logic of many of Mr. Javanfekr’s arguments, I understand his with the DOT remaining faceless and names. At one point he says that “from now on refer to you as her Excellency Madam Rice, the distinguished US secretary of State unless you identify your position/standing at the US Department of State to the readers of this blog.” The response by DOT:

Thank you for the promotion but I am not the Secretary of State. I am a member of the Digital Outreach Team which is an entity within the US Department of State. Our goal is to establish communications and have a candid conversation with the people of Iran and answer questions about US foreign policy. But I think it’s better instead of focusing on personalities and job titles to focus on issues.

For me, this is a point for Mr. Javanfekr and indicative of a larger problem at State. Yes, the DOT is an “entity within the US Department of State”, but that does not mean the person, who obviously has authority to speak on behalf of the Department, and by extension the Government, should remain anonymous. This is another example of inhibiting the empowerment of the employees at State that does not fit with the requirements of the modern era, let alone the New Media environment. Signing the comments simply as DOT is just shy of anonymous. In the real world, the “meatspace”, would someone from the State Department not give his or her real name when debating an issue?

This is, to me, another example of the reticence of the Department of State from a necessary transformation into the Department of State and Non-State. Regardless, for now, read the transcript. I would appreciate your comments (hopefully comments are working again). DipNote authors have names. authors have names. State must think in terms of empowering ALL of its people.

Continue reading “Debating in the New Media: State Department dialogues with Ahmadinejad’s media advisor

Off Topic: Victory over Darkness premiere

In what seems like another lifetime (but was only four years ago), I was a guide for, briefly coached, sponsored, and had a room available for indefinite periods – for training and racing – for some special triathletes. These aren’t your normal triathletes (not that triathletes in general are normal). These guys and girls are legally blind. Some are completely blind and have been since birth, and others are legally blind. Some were victims of tragedy (add’l details) and others have degenerative conditions.

Finally, tomorrow night, Tuesday September 16th, a movie about these amazing athletes will premier in Los Angeles. There’s no trailer as of yet to link to, but I’ll post one when it’s available Click here for a trailer (.mov). Check out C-Different to learn more about the organization that helps these athletes race everything from spring to Ironman.

I’ll let you know how the movie is and how you can see it. If you ever questioned yourself on a run, a swim, a ride, or simply said something was too hard. Imagine closing your eyes and being guided through waves of other swimmers (you’re in the regular race without any special assistance other than the guide) in a beach-start triathlon where you have to get through the Pacific’s waves entering and exiting. Imagine trusting the driver on the tandem that he’ll give you the audibles for starting, stopping, and slowing and won’t crash for an hour or eight. Then imagine going for a run over unfamiliar terrain, that may include a sand ladder, trail, or simply curbs.

Next time you’re going out for a run, think about wearing those headphones and what sounds you’re missing (not to mention the safety hazard of running outdoors sans a critical sense). Personally, it made my trail runs that much more special.

By the way, the kid I guided raced an Olympic triathlon two weeks ago. Time: 2:14. This past Saturday he raced another Oly distance (1.5k swim, 40k bike, 10k run): 2:04.

That’s all. Now back to the regularly scheduled programming.

Blog problems

I noticed a couple of readers tried to comment but couldn’t. The comment script apparently went rogue so my host shut it down. I have confidence that the host, who supports this MovableType installation, will resolve the issue quickly. This is probably related to the 4.2.1 MT upgrade performed next week.

Related, the 4.2.1 upgrade included some features I’ve been waiting for to re-launch ConflictWiki. More immediately, the reading lists that include recommended Public Diplomacy, Strategic Communication, and Information Operations-related books and reports will be going up sooner than later under an easier access paradigm that not only allows searching, commenting, and excerpts, but user-submitted content as well.

Is America Equipped to Win a World-Wide Propaganda War?

"Is America now equipped to win a world-wide propaganda war" was the framing question for the interview debate on BBC’s HARDtalk last week between Stephen Sackur and Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Jim Glassman. The 23 minute discussion – online video is available – is unlike anything you’ll see in the United States, which is unfortunate. Imagine if this and future Administrations were subjected this level of intelligent debate that includes prep and no shouting? (Also, what if our presidents were subjected to the Prime Minister’s Questions?)

Briefly, the opening question – "do you see yourself as America’s Chief of Propaganda" – gave the Under Secretary the chance to redefine his role and the mission of public diplomacy as distinct from past Under Secretary’s. This led to a discussion based on comments by Price Floyd (see this article from Price that is similar to but not the one published in the British press Sackur was referring to). Price, formerly the director of media affairs at the State Department (and now director of external relations at CNAS), said quite accurately that good marketing can’t sell bad policies. The Under Secretary agreed that bad marketing doesn’t work but disagreed that "this" is a failed policy, which went to the essence of the responses in the debate. This represented a common underlying theme of the discussion as the interviewer frequently asked about the past and the present impact of past policies while the Under Secretary often responded with how America’s policies have evolved.

A few quotes from the Under Secretary:

  • His job is to “put in place a an apparatus, a structure that will last beyond this administration.”
  • “We live in a world where preaching to people doesn’t work very well.”
  • “We’re in the persuasion business…better as a conveyor / facilitator to get people to talk about these issues…” [clearly to expose the holes in adversaries’ ideology]
  • He is “head of the Interagency on the war of ideas.”
  • In some countries “public diplomacy can do more than official diplomacy”
  • When asked about Egypt, who receives $2b in US aid, the Under Secretary said that as head of the BBG, that his experiences with the Egyptian government were “not completely satisfactory” when trying (unsuccessfully) negotiating FM broadcasting of Radio Sawa.
  • That this is a War on Islam is “flat out wrong" … this is "single biggest misconception”
  • “Any responsible foreign policy must look at issues of stability”
  • public diplomacy must expand beyond the traditional tools [paraphrase]

The militarization of public diplomacy through both the conduct of our foreign policy and the prominence of military public affairs was obviously central in the debate.

If you are interested in public diplomacy and strategic communication, this is a must see interview. What are your thoughts on the interview? 

The big question: why hasn’t DipNote or linked to the Under Secretary’s interview? Here is a man with the best USG communication resources that continue to go underutilized.

Supporting Citizen Media

When Big Media closes foreign bureaus and limits foreign affairs coverage, the need doesn’t change. For the seemingly distant issues, those problems that may become future flash points, we are increasingly reliant on citizen journalists for knowledge and analysis. Friend David Axe is one such brave soul, traveling to such places as Chad not to long ago.

From David’s post at Danger Room on the subject:

My trip to Chad this summer was 20-percent crowd-funded. In the wake of the trip, I got an offer from crowd-source photojournalism Website Demotix to join their stable of regular contributors. Now Demotix is running its first photojournalism contest, with a new camera as a prize. I’m a finalist with two of my photos: "Darfuri refugees" and "A Chadian soldier in Abeche" [see Danger Room post]. (Context for that photo found here.)

David is a finalist in contest where the prize is a camera, a Nikon D80. Go to Demotix – The Citizen Wire and vote for David’s picture.

Wanted: Islamic Religious Specialist for COIN and IO

Walter Pincus writes in The Washington Post about Bagram’s expansion:

Bagram has become a central location for holding detainees picked up in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Similar to its activities in Iraq, the U.S. military has begun hiring intelligence contractors, many with military experience, to screen those captured to determine whether they should be held as enemy combatants. This month, the military advertised for an “Islamic religious specialist” to support “counterinsurgency and information operations” in the Bagram prison.

That person’s job would be to “deliver Islamic religious services for enemy combatants detained” with the facility and also “act as a linguist/interpreter in emergency situations,” according to the statement of work attached to the contract solicitation.

I hope the military, or their contractor, reads Task Force 134’s Strategic Communication Plan

For our purposes as the counterinsurgent force, we will consider it an absolute imperative that our actions are fully congruent with the ideals that we promote. There can be no “gap” between what we say and what we do.

Beyond reading the plan, will they follow the requirement of working by, with,and through locally legitimate and trusted resources?

See also:


“The media policy for the Islamic State [of Iraq] is using exaggeration, to the extent of lying.” – one of a series of letters from Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda’s Number 2, to Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). See

“Even Zawahiri recognized that [al Qaeda in Iraq] has lost credibility in Iraq.” – General David Petraeus commenting on al-Zawahiri’s letters mentioned above. See The Long War Journal.

“28 million copies of the DVD [Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West] are being distributed nationwide throughout September” “only being distributed in ‘swing’ election states.” A spokesman for the producer of the 2005 film “said the intent is not to sway voters’ opinions about the presidential candidates.” See Editor and Publisher’s blog.

“Vetting” Veep’s: Andrew Sullivan looks at Gov. Sarah Palin while Fabius Maximus goes after comments on Sen. Joe Biden’s gaffes.

“The [House Appropriations] committee believes that traditional U.S. military operations are not an appropriate response to most or many of the challenges facing Africa.” – the House Appropriations Committee on wanting to cut 80% of AFRICOM’s budget. See David Axe and a prior MountainRunner post on AFRICOM.

“Mexico has the second-largest number citing the US government as the perpetrator of 9/11 (30%, after Turkey at 36%). Only 33 percent name al Qaeda.” Results from the poll on who was behind 9/11.

“Over the last seven years, our policies have evolved” (Updated)

Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy Jim Glassman was on BBC Radio this morning. Listen to the short 5:33 interview in which he reiterates that likability is no longer the goal of U.S. public diplomacy. He notes that in our seven years since 9/11 that our policies have evolved and that out "standing of the U.S. in the world is important because it makes it easier for us to achieve our interests, but … improving our image is not an end itself." Public diplomacy must, as he says and as I’ve written, must expand beyond the traditional tools.


"We can’t kill our way to victory, and no armed force anywhere — no matter how good — can deliver these keys alone. It requires teamwork and cooperation." – Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the House Armed Services Committee on the need for capacity-building and not just bullets, bombs, and roads. See CNN.

“Ever since my release from prison on August 7, 2004, I have been spreading my message across Kashmir. I have a three-point programme. First to impose an Islamic nizam (Islamic system) [in] Kashmir. Islam should govern our lives, be it in our political thought, socio-economic plans, culture or [other…]. The creed of socialism and secularism should not touch our lives, and we must be totally governed by the Koran and the Sunnat (precedents from Prophet Mohammad’s life). … Osama has come only during the last few years. People like me have been fighting for this all our lives. I do not want to be compared with Osama.” — Syed Ali Geelani, former Jamaat-e-Islami leader who currently heads the hard-line, pro-Pakistan and Islamist faction of a secessionist alliance in Kashmir.

“I cannot lie to you. The [Pakistan] army comes in, and they fire at empty buildings. It is a drama — it is just to entertain.” Entertain whom? “America.” – Taliban commander in FATA interviewed by Dexter Filkins in the New York Times Magazine.

Bulletproof designs add style to growing Mexico security industry – AFP news headline on a response to declining state capacity (and confidence) in America’s southern neighbor.

“The president would come armed with what Hadley called ‘sweeteners’ — more budget money and a promise to increase the size of the active-duty Army and Marine Corps.” – Bob Woodward’s preview to his new book in the Washington Post. See also Armchair Generalist and Abu Muqawama on same.

“POLITICO’S decision to make its content available for major new media outlets is another kick in the contract for The Associated Press war with newspapers.” – Tim McGuire on new competition the AP is facing from See E&P and McGuire’s post.