Two Public diplomacy reports you probably haven’t read

Two reports I wanted to throw out into the wild for discussion. I’ll discuss in depth later.

Brand Sweden: The road to an updated image of Sweden abroad. I really enjoy speaking with Swedes about their public diplomacy. The Swedes really get the need to have a hub organizing that supports country-wide efforts. The chief of staff (strategy, evaluation, coordination etc.) at the Swedish Institute, a public agency (like the British Council or the Goethe Institute etc.) that is responsible for working with a huge part of Swedish public diplomacy as two titles, one in Swedish for Swedes (“Director of Coordination”) and the other in English for everybody else (“Director of Branding”). 

The Foreign Ministry also understands the importance of perceptions, both local and global. The FM gives media training, with reminders on wallet cards o all member of the Ministry. The cards reminds the reader to Respect the role of the journalist; Be helpful in providing information; Never lie; Take the time to check facts; Assume you are on the record; and Stay calm. The card also provides a Swedish phone number to contact the press service, including a number to call after hours. (I should scan mine and post it up.)

The Public Diplomacy Of Other Countries:Implications For The United States. This 1979 Government Accounting Office report looked at six countries – Britain, France, Japan, the Federal Republic of Germany, the People’s Republic of China, and the Soviet Union – and offered the following conclusions:

  • By comparison with allies and adversaries, the U.S. Government investment in this field is low.
  • The U.S. can improve impact and efficiency of overseas programs by further cultivating cooperation with its allies.
  • While leading allies and adversaries put heavy emphasis on teaching their languages to foreigners, the U. S. has neglected important opportunities in this field for more than a decade.
  • The present ban on the domestic availability of International Communication Agency products should be re-examined.
  • A periodic, public report and analysis of aims, content, and methods of Soviet propaganda in and concerning the United States would give the U.S. press and public new perspective on Soviet purposes.


Making Diplomacy Public

Continuing on the subject of defining public diplomacy, it’s important to recall that a key feature of international relations is and always has been the need for and ability of individuals to affect – and defend against – influence. Classic realpolitik authors from E.H. Carr, writing in The Twenty Years’ Crisis, and Hans Morgenthau, in Politics Among Nations, described the importance of public opinion and national morale in international relations.

Briefing 2.0 by Sean McCormack (see similar from the UK) and roundtable discussions by Under Secretary Jim Glassman are important to loop the public into the process. It can also spark an interest by the mainstream media, something the DOD Blogger Roundtable is rather proud of.

It is essential the public, both foreign and domestic, be realized as central to the enduring psychological struggle of minds and wills. They are not only the target the persuasion from information activities to cultural and educational exchanges, but the agents of influence themselves. As I wrote in the Routledge Handbook of Public Diplomacy,

Continue reading “Making Diplomacy Public

Defining Public Diplomacy: Preparing for a new Administration

What is public diplomacy? It can’t be everything otherwise it is nothing. Is it a dialogue or a monologue? It is based on the speaker, the means of engagement, or the targeted audience? Is “convening” discourse between, within or between foreign audiences public diplomacy? What about the content or force of the message? Is public diplomacy passive hoping to “win hearts” or can it be actively engaged in a psychological struggle to change minds and encourage the will to act in an audience? Does it have to be focused on physical security or can it apply to all elements of national security from economics to global health?

Continue reading “Defining Public Diplomacy: Preparing for a new Administration

Kristin Lord on DOD’s $300m “Public Diplomacy” push

The Brookings’ Kristin Lord asks why the DOD is getting resources for public diplomacy in the Christian Science Monitor:

Today’s public diplomats wear boots, not wingtips. Increasingly, the Defense Department is at the forefront of US efforts to engage public opinion overseas. While the State Department formally leads the effort, the Pentagon has more money and personnel to carry out the public diplomacy mission.

This trend is risky. The message foreign publics receive – not the message the US sends – changes when the Pentagon is the messenger. Putting our military, not civilians, at the forefront of US global communications undercuts the likelihood of success, distorts priorities, and undermines the effectiveness of US civilian agencies.

The Pentagon should play an important role in public diplomacy, but as a partner – not the principal. For its part, the Congress should give public diplomats the tools they need to do their jobs, and then hold them accountable.

Read the whole article here. The first line should sound familiar

Mark your Calendar for the Smith-Mundt Symposium: Jan 13, 2009

Mark your calendar for January 13, 2009.

That is the confirmed date for “The Smith-Mundt Act of 1948: Past, Present, and Future”, a symposium to discuss the sixty-year old law that continues to set the parameters of America’s international engagement.

The Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 was passed as we were beginning a “war of ideology…  a war unto death,” as our Ambassador to Russia at the time described it. But, beginning in the 1970’s, instead of promoting international engagement through information, cultural and educational exchanges, the law has been distorted into a barrier of engagement. From propaganda and counter-propaganda intentions, it became an anti-propaganda law for reasons that had little to nothing to do with concerns over domestic influence. 

It is time to put the law into its proper context, especially in today’s information environment, is essential. We’ve seen the Defense Department step up to fight the information fight. The State Department has begun to do the same under the leadership of Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Jim Glassman. The keynotes given by both Under Secretary Glassman and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Mike Doran demonstrate the interest in and the importance of this event.  

The symposium is set for January 13, 2009. It will be in DC and open to the public. There will be no registration fee, but registration will be required. The details on registration and the location will be forthcoming.

There will be four panels plus two keynotes. The panels will be 90-minutes each and structured to encourage discourse and audience Q&A rather than monologue and PowerPoint.

The first panel examines the history of Smith-Mundt. The second panel, tentatively named “America’s Bifurcated Engagement,” looks at the present-day impact of the law. The third, “Limiting the Arsenal of Persuasion,” looks at a future with Smith-Mundt. The fourth panel, “What to do and How,” focuses on legislative issues.

To receive event updates via RSS or email click here.

The organizer and point of contact for this event is Matt Armstrong.

See also:

Tomorrow: Blogger Roundtable with Under Secretary Jim Glassman

There’s another blogger conference call – “roundtable” – with the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs tomorrow, Tuesday, 28 October 2008. The focus of the call will be on South America. Jim will probably discuss the public diplomacy / citizen diplomacy within Colombia against FARC.
The official invite:

You are cordially invited to call-in to an on-the-record blogger’s roundtable with Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs James K. Glassman on Tuesday, October 28, 2008, at 2 pm EST.  During the roundtable, Under Secretary Glassman will provide an update on public diplomacy efforts, with an emphasis on recent efforts and successes in combating terrorist groups in the Western Hemisphere.

Should you wish to join, please RSVP to, by noon on Monday, October 27, and, if it’s your first roundtable with us,  please provide a link to your blog as well as a brief biography of yourself.  A link to U/S Glassman’s biography is attached.  Because we wish to facilitate a valuable discussion of the issues, we unfortunately need to limit the number of available callers, so please RSVP quickly, as callers will accommodated on a first-come, first served basis.

The number to call and the passcode to enter the conference will be provided to you upon receipt of your RSVP. Also, a transcript will be provided 24 hours after the roundtable.

Interested? The contact information is above.

Admin: Back Online, finally

Immediately prior to the DC trip last week, my hard drive decided to start skipping a beat. I’ve reinstalled most of the applications I want and most of the data has been restored, so posting and other work can continue.

If you’ve ever replaced a hard drive you’ll know that it’s not fun. I don’t necessarily mind upgrading to a new system, but replacing a drive is really a pain, especially when the backups fail because of bad sectors.

I have a Dell and the support has been generally pretty good. This laptop has been pretty good, but it did replace a one-month old lemon a while back. The lemon was itself a replacement for a 3.5yr old laptop that went through two (or three?) system boards, two CPUs, three hard drives, two screens, and a keyboard. If I hadn’t refused to replace the exterior shell, it would have been a completely new machine instead of the obviously well-worn and travelled device it really was (nevermind the existential question of what “it” was considering all the new parts).

Anyways, back in business after a productive trip. Good news to follow.

Posting will be light to nil until next week

Off to D.C. tomorrow for a few days so talk amongst yourselves.

In the meantime, be sure to read these posts:

Or buy these books:

Plus lots of other interesting posts can be found in the archives.

Lastly, checkout the new blog on the block: SOUTHCOM Commander’s Blog by Admiral Jim Stavridis.

An example of Smith-Mundt protecting the people from the State Department

In 1947, as Congress weighed the fate of the Voice of America, then described as America’s “fast” engagement with the world, Secretary of State George C. Marshall said it was essential to make known what our motives are. It is, he continued, hard for us to understand how much we are misrepresented and not comprehended. It was well understood that policy was linked to perception and that everything we did reflected on who and what we were. Everything we do and say, and everything we fail to do or say, reflects upon as, as Eisenhower later said.
Continue reading “An example of Smith-Mundt protecting the people from the State Department

Doolittle’s spies: Pigeons, Squirrels… time again for Project ACORN

In July 2007 it was spying squirrels from Israel. Now, it’s pigeon spies:

Iranian security forces have apprehended a pair of "spy pigeons," not far from one of the country’s nuclear processing plants. If local media reports are to be believed, that is.

One of the pigeons was caught near a rose water production plant in the city of Kashan, down the road from the Natanz uranium enrichment facility.  It had "a wired rod" and "invisible threads… fixed to its body," an unnamed source tells the Etemad Melli newspaper. A second, black pigeon was nabbed earlier in the month. …

Time once again for Project ACORN, the Autonomous Coordinated Organic Reconnaissance Network (first fielded July 2007):

Isn’t capitalism about building capital?

Just a thought, but as we look at the causes of the economic crisis, shouldn’t we remember that capitalism is (was?) about building capital and not short-term, pecuniary gain? I’m not economist, but it also seems to me that the engine of functional and enduring economies is a large and vibrant middle class whose membership, as well as the membership above and below, is dynamic. Should that engine fail to start or sputter, then social upheaval is guaranteed. We know this. It’s what drove the Marshall Plan and is central to our maturing doctrine and practice for building state-capacity elsewhere.

Arming for the Second War of Ideas: the Department of Global Affairs

Some suggest the War of Ideas is simply between us and “violent extremists”, “Islamists”, or some other derivative label for Al-Qaeda, Taliban, and associated movements from the Middle East to South Asia and eastward. There is even proposed legislation that places boundaries on who the adversaries are. However, while some of our policy makers continue to ignore or even reject the importance of information and persuasion in international relations from economics to war, our major competitors do not.

The dean of international relations at the Russian foreign ministry’s Diplomatic Academy said

The Russian government must prepare to fight information wars which are becoming an ever more important part of geopolitical life, restoring parts of the Soviet-era system and going beyond that as well…

The Chinese meanwhile are spending time exploring informatized warfare, “attitude warfare”, “perception warfare”. All of which are fundamentally based on Sun Tzu’s dictum of defeating an enemy without fighting. Unrestricted Warfare will attack the enemy’s strategy and diplomacy, contend for “hearts, minds and morale”, and focus on enemy’s decision-making skills and personal traits.

Interfering with the OODA loop is not new to us, even Hans Morgenthau described the importance of morale and the quality of diplomacy (as did George Kennan in his intentions on containment).

The U.S. is still not armed for the Second War of Ideas, a war we’re already 7-10 years into. To be effective, we need a Department of Non-State, functionally if not bureaucratically, armed with the appropriate tools and comprehensive collaboration across agencies and countries and organizations. But we also need a Department of State as traditional diplomacy is not obsolete. The War Department changed to the Defense Department at the end of World War II and the beginning of the First War of Ideas, maybe it’s time to change the Department of State to the Department of Global Affairs.

Ideas are not confined by geo-political borders, including our own. Myopic and temporally challenged visions of who the enemy is and will be and where and how the struggle takes place must be challenged.

See also:


“An overview of the review team’s mission obtained by The Post says that including other government agencies and other nations in the planning will ‘mitigate the risk of over-militarization of efforts and the development of short-term solutions to long-term problems.’ … Another priority is to take a regional approach to the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including more robust diplomacy with neighbors and a regional economic development effort.” – from a Washington Post article by Ann Scott Tyson on General David Petraeus’s 100-day assessment of strategy in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq.

“We also pride ourselves on our ability to move ahead of the sound of guns. If we can move ahead of the sound of guns, and prevent them, we’re all better off.” – SOCOM Commander Adm. Eric T. Olson quoted in the Los Angeles Times. SOCOM’s operating mantra of “by, with, and through” the indigenous population is how informational activities must also act.

“The United States’ current counterterrorism strategy lacks any efforts to break the terrorists’ ties to the communities that conceal them and the culture of martyrdom that inspires them.” Malcolm Nance in Foreign Policy (subscription req’d)

“As we’ve noted before, today’s jihadists don’t just use the Internet, occasionally.  ‘They don’t exist without the Web,’ says Naval Postgraduate School professor John Arquilla. Everything from recruiting to training to propaganda is handled online.” – Noah Shachtman at Wired. Twenty years+ ago is was “media is the oxygen of the terrorist.” Today, New Media and traditional media are the oxygen of the terrorist, the insurgent, the counterinsurgent, and the counterterrorist.

“A project at the University of Sao Paulo aims to overcome one of these hurdles by using the sun to power a self-contained wi-fi access point.” – BBC World Service. This is an ICT4D application that empower and engage poor communities in susceptible regions. See also Picking ICT Targets and ICT to Deny Sanctuary.

“When conducting HA missions, PSYOP is necessary for initiating and coordinating reliable communications among aid workers and with the local populace. … CA operations cannot succeed without winning “the hearts and minds” of the people, and PSYOP cannot succeed without CA support.” – short paper by Myrtle Vacirca-Quinn, M.D. Sternfeld and Luis Carlos Montalván at Small Wars Journal.

“German diplomats, for example, spend a year in a sort of Foreign Service boot camp and are expected to speak fluent French and English before being posted abroad. American diplomats typically get seven weeks—most of it spent learning rules and regulations, not economics or political science or history or even management skills—before they’re thrown into a consular job somewhere overseas.” Andrew Curry writing about the Foreign Service Officer Test in Foreign Policy. See also the report by the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy.

“This is the imperative to rely far more on traditional diplomacy, public diplomacy and foreign aid delivered through civilian means to begin to repair America’s face and effectively conduct its business abroad.” – Pat Kushlis at WhirldView.

Last note: I have the Paret edition, how about you?

Operationalizing Public Diplomacy

Operationalizing Public Diplomacy by Matt Armstrong, 14 October 2008, at Routledge Handbook of Public Diplomacy

In the 21st century, perceptions matter more than facts as “super-empowered” individuals wield technology and manipulate public opinion for their own purposes unburdened by the truth and unchecked by less adroit global powers as they seek support across borders. This chapter looks at the origins and purposes of modern U.S. public diplomacy as a means to engage foreign publics directly, bypassing their governments, in a struggle to support the peace and security of the United States. This diplomacy with publics, which included carrots and sticks similar to traditional diplomacy, was required to fight an unknown enemy that seemed to be everywhere and set on destroying the American way of life.

This chapter begins with a look back at the original purpose and function of public diplomacy borne out of the total war period of the early Cold War years. I then describe how public diplomacy transformed from an active and holistic engagement into a passive practice based on emotions as part of a U.S. re-election campaign. This is followed by two sections that form the heart of this chapter. The first is an overview of the importance of information in modern conflict and the second is recommendations to operationalize public diplomacy so that it sits between and informs both strategy and tactics. This chapter concludes with the assertion that this view of public diplomacy must be reinvigorated and made central in Information Age warfare where perceptions trump bullets.

Handbook of Public Diplomacy

imageThe Routledge Handbook of Public Diplomacy was published today. It’s out and discounted 8% at Amazon so get a jump on your Christmas shopping while they’re a bargain at $161.81 each. However, in an unprecedented move, Routledge is offering a handbook simultaneously in paperback available directly from Routledge here

The book is edited by Nancy Snow and Phil Taylor. Nancy is Associate Professor of Public Diplomacy in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She is Senior Research Fellow in the USC Center on Public Diplomacy. Phil is Professor of International Communications at the University of Leeds and acknowledged as one of the foremost authorities in propaganda history and public diplomacy. The book was published in affiliation with the USC Center on Public Diplomacy.

Seriously though, get or borrow a copy of this 400-page doorstop, there is some seriously good writing in it (mine excepted of course ;). Table of Contents after the fold.

Continue reading “Handbook of Public Diplomacy

Propagating emotional responses for supporting the cause


Recommended reading: Lines and Colors’ post on Propaganda:

It’s commonly thought that “propaganda”, a technique of spreading misinformation, or slanted opinions, for the purpose of manipulating opinions, has been utilized primarily by oppressive regimes like Imperial and Nazi Germany in the early part of the 20th Century or the Soviet Union or Communist China in the latter part.

That in itself is a form of propaganda, which can be, and often is, utilized by Western democracies. Propaganda is simply a technique, not a set of values. It can just as easily be employed in a “good” cause as an “evil” one.

What distinguishes propaganda from information, aside from the fact that it is often disinformation, is that it is calculated to appeal to the emotions and circumvent rational judgment. One of the key features of propaganda is that it most often (almost always, in fact) taps into the power that images have to reach us on an unconscious level.

(h/t JB)

Realizing the value of Foreign Aid

The importance of foreign aid programs in building capacity, empowering foreign populations, and denying physical and ideological sanctuary to our adversaries is finally coming to the forefront. The militarization of America’s foreign policy is more than Defense leadership in informational engagement and propagating a comprehensive approach to stability operations, but in the management of foreign aid for development. As was noted in a conference call with LTG Caldwell this week, the percentage of the foreign aid budget the Defense Department manages has skyrocketed.

Continue reading “Realizing the value of Foreign Aid

Senator urges suspension of Iraq publicity contracts

Briefly, from CongressDaily:

Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., on Thursday sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates asking him to suspend $300 million in contracts for civilians to produce pro-American news stories, entertainment programs and public service ads in Iraq until the Senate Armed Services Committee and the next administration review the contracts.

Webb’s letter follows a Washington Post story detailing the Pentagon’s decision to award four firms a combined $300 million for public information campaigns in Iraq.

“At a time when this country is facing such a grave economic crisis, and at a time when the government of Iraq now shows at least a $79 billion surplus from recent oil revenues, in my view it makes little sense for the U.S. Department of Defense to be spending hundreds of millions of dollars to propagandize the Iraqi people,” Webb wrote.

His letter underscores continued congressional concerns over military contracts for information operations. The fiscal 2009 defense authorization bill requires the next Defense secretary and president to submit a report to Congress on strategic communications and public diplomacy initiatives.

“The contracts being let seem to fly in the face of this clear statement of congressional concern,” Webb wrote.

While some details of the contract might benefit from additional review, Sen. Webb’s letter seems to indicate a failure to understand and appreciate the importance of information and perceptions to our national security, but also the cost effectiveness of informational (and cultural and educational) activities.

See also: