Registration is now open plus other announcements

Registration for the Smith-Mundt Symposium – A Discourse to Shape America’s Discourse – is now open. Registration is free, open to the public, and required to attend the event on Tuesday, January 13, 2009.

The Symposium will be held at the Reserve Officer’s Association across the street from the Senate and House office buildings in Washington, D.C.

For details on this event, see

There is also a discussion forum built specifically for this event: From here you can register to attend the Symposium as well as discuss the Smith-Mundt Act and suggest and discuss questions for the different panels. This site will host the electronic library to be available to registered attendees prior to the Symposium.

To register for the Symposium, go to and click on Registration in the menu bar near the top. Even if you cannot attend the Symposium, because you are reading this you will probably find the discourse at the website interesting and your contribution will increase the value for everyone.

Send any questions, comments, or issues, including registration problems, to Matt Armstrong at

Event: International News Coverage in a New Media World

A joint Broadcasting Board of Governors and GWU Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communications event:

The Broadcasting Board of Governors and the GWU Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communications in commemorating the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights for a discussion of:

  • International News Coverage in a New Media World: The Decline of the Foreign Correspondent and the Rise of the Citizen Journalist
  • Experts will examine the dramatic shift of traditional media away from foreign reporting, the growth of web-based citizen journalists, and their effects on coverage of international news and human rights issues.

Date: December 10, 2008
Time: 11:30 am – 1:15 pm
Location: George Washington University, Jack Morton Auditorium
  805 21st Street, NW
  Washington, DC 20052


11:30 – 11:50
Light Lunch

12:00 – 12:15
Welcome and Remarks by James Glassman, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (invited)

12:15 – 1:15
Panel Discussion

Steve Roberts – J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Professor of Media and Public Affairs, George Washington University


* Sherry Ricchiardi – Senior Writer, American Journalism Review and Professor, Indiana University School of Journalism
* Patrick Meier – Research Fellow, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative
* John Donvan – Correspondent, Nightline ABC News (invited

RSVP: or (202) 203-4400

Should be an interesting discussion. Very related to the Smith-Mundt discussion of informing Americans of what is going on overseas, as well as granting oversight by Americans into what is being said and done in their name and with their (our) money.

See also:

More on the Al-Qaeda slur

From Evan Kohlman at the Counterterrorism blog:

Global reactions to Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri’s controversial condemnation of U.S. President-Elect Barack Obama as a "House Slave" (or, alternatively, "House Negro") have begun to pour in — including via the top jihad web forums used by Al-Qaida to disseminate its propaganda. Though hardcore Al-Qaida supporters have predictably dismissed any criticism of Dr. al-Zawahiri and are fiercely backing his choice of words, there is a rather ironic (if not entirely unfamiliar) twist to this issue. After observing international press reporting on the incident, these same supporters are now bitterly attacking the media for its "unfair" pro-Obama bias and for deliberately "confusing" the meaning of al-Zawahiri’s message.

In related news, Zawahiri’s audio statement also appears to have created a palpable, tense confrontation between Al-Qaida and a significant cross-section of African-American Muslims. Several U.S.-based Muslim organizations immediately held press conferences or issued statements to strongly criticize al-Zawahiri and his manipulation of the words of the late Malcolm X. Conversely, these conferences and statements of response have not gone over well within the jihadi community, with some Arabic-speaking commentators issuing angry rants about the apparent treachery of American Muslims, including specifically the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). One Al-Qaida supporter cautioned his quarrelsome online colleagues, "Brothers, this does not apply to all American Muslims. Do not forget our brother [Adam] Yehiye Gadahn, a naturalized Muslim and U.S. citizen."

See also:

USAID: Why the Story that U.S. Foreign Assistance Is Working Must Be Told

USAID: Why the Story that U.S. Foreign Assistance Is Working Must Be ToldForeign aid, from humanitarian relief to reconstruction and stabilization programs, are at their core public diplomacy missions. They communicate interest, respect, and generate understanding of both sides. They are also absolutely essential in today’s global struggle for minds and wills. The mother of all reconstruction and stabilization programs, the Marshall Plan, included the “standard” rebuilding but also incorporated education programs, cultural exchanges, and rebuilding civic society.

However, foreign aid has little in the way of a domestic constituency. Like public diplomacy’s international information programs, there’s little awareness within the United States not just about the effectiveness of these overseas endeavors but that anything is being done at all.

USAID just released a significant and interesting report on how it needs to improve engagement both overseas and here in the United States.

Unfortunately without comment (time constrained), I highly recommend this report. ‘Tis the season for reports on changing America’s voice, so if you have limited time, I recommend this be very near the top of that pile.

Foreign assistance is at the center of the most comprehensive reformulation of this nation’s strategic doctrines in more than half a century. The development community will play a key role in meeting the nation’s unprecedented challenges.

Our own well-being as a nation is closely linked to events in developing countries on fronts including trade and investment, infectious diseases, environmental protection, international crime and terrorism, weapons proliferation, migration and the advance of democracy and human rights, among others.

Americans, however, have only a rudimentary understanding of the design, scope and impact of U.S. foreign assistance programs. Public opinion is characterized by misconceptions and prejudices that must be countered if we are to sustain the foreign assistance commitment that our humanitarian and national security objectives require.

Detect a bit of Smith-Mundt in there? You should… The Act was passed largely because America’s “whisper” was inadequate to support the mother of all foreign aid programs: the Marshall Plan. Despite the American role in liberating the continent, “knowledge of the United States [was] being systematically blotted out” by Communist information activities that were compared to a “tremendous symphony orchestra” playing all the time. The Smith-Mundt Act was passed to make known what we were doing and to counter distortions and misinformation propagated by the enemy. Together, the Marshall Plan and the Smith-Mundt Act constituted a denial of sanctuary program central to Kennan’s containment that was not, contrary to many modern believes, based on force of arms but on the force of ideas and deeds.

In other words, USAID should be very interested in returning to the principles, purposes, and intent of the Smith-Mundt Act.

Download the report here.

See also:


“All this leaves the Pentagon chief in the unusual position of arguing for greater funding for the State Department, which was sidelined under Rumsfeld.” – Anna Mulrine writing about Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in US News & World Report. This sentence, the first of the last paragraph goes directly to the of America’s public diplomacy/strategic communication problem: a lack of leadership at State that not only sidelines the Department but creates a spiral to the bottom by undermining Congressional confidence (and thus limiting funding) and the perceived utility of the Department across the Administration. Secretary of State Rice has so marginalized herself in these debates that she is an implied problem better left undisturbed and unmentioned.

SIGMA has a website: “SIGMA is a new concept in public service "think tanks"– we are a voluntary association of speculative writers who have spent our careers exploring the future. We offer that experience and expertise pro bono to the government for the good of the nation.” Full disclosure: I’m a friend of SIGMA.

“A leading Russian political analyst has said the economic turmoil in the United States has confirmed his long-held view that the country is heading for collapse, and will divide into separate parts.” – Novosti. The quoted “political analyst” is Professor Igor Panarin, “a professor at the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and has authored several books on information warfare.”

“…armed groups attack humanitarians to prevent them from winning the minds and wills of populations.” Chris Albon at War and Health. Public diplomacy is not just about informing and discussing with people the alternatives but building an alternative future. Foreign Aid, reconstruction and stabilization or core efforts of the struggle for minds and wills. It is worthwhile to remember that the Marshall Plan, the mother of all reconstruction and stabilization programs, was very much a denial of sanctuary program in the struggle for minds and wills. It is also worthwhile to know that the enemy’s response to that program caused Smith-Mundt to be passed.

Google hosts millions of Time photos here.

Scripting Jihad: pulling back the curtain and exposing uncertainty and manipulation from MSNBC (h/t JMW)

Voices of America: U.S. Public Diplomacy for the 21st Century

Voices of America: US Public Diplomacy for the 21st Century Kristin Lord’s report, published by Brookings, was released today. I wasn’t at today’s release, but had a chance to review it. Here is an excerpt from the executive summary:

This report presents concrete steps to strengthen America’s efforts to engage, persuade, and attract the support of foreign publics. As part of a comprehensive plan to enhance our government’s public diplomacy, it urges the creation of a nimble and entrepreneurial new non-profit organization, the USAWorld Trust, to complement and support U.S. government efforts. The USAWorld Trust will draw on the enormous goodwill, creativity, knowledge, and talent of the American people and likeminded partners overseas to

  • present a more accurate and nuanced vision of America to counterbalance the one-sided
    views sometimes promulgated by popular culture and foreign media
  • contribute to an environment of mutual trust, respect, and understanding in which cooperation is more feasible
  • promote shared values and their champions
  • inform and support our government’s public diplomacy efforts through the sharing of knowledge regarding communication, public opinion, foreign cultures, and technology.

The report recommends creating a new entity, the USAWorld Trust, a 501c3 non-profit. It would be in many ways a RAND-like organization but with the additional charge of executing public diplomacy programs, not just monitoring. It would conduct research as a hub for extranet engagement with the private sector, academia, and NGOs. As a non-governmental organization, it could receive external funding and at the same time operate like a venture-capitalist promoting public diplomacy programs from the tried-and-true to experimental. According to the report, the distance would not only create additional freedom of action but distance from the government to encourage participation by groups inside and outside the US who would otherwise be skeptical of collaborating with the government.

The report is posted here. I welcome your thoughts.

Brookings will post a transcript of the release event here.

See also:


Ruminate \ˈrü-mə-ˌnāt\ v.t. : to go over in the mind repeatedly and often casually or slowly

My son turned three years old not too long ago which means we’re now reading longer bedtime stories. To satisfy the demand and to push his envelope, I turned to a fifty year old book series that as far as I know was my mother’s: Through Golden Windows. Reading Aesop fables, Johnny Appleseed, Paul Bunyan, tales from the Grimm collective, and other stories “of adventure”, some “magical”, got me thinking. Instead of ten different copies of Abe Lincoln on our international reading lists, what about the “old” children’s tales (many of which were never intended for children) that inform through parable, the communicative method largely dropped from American society but very strong elsewhere? They inform who we are, where we came from, and are (often) entertaining, if not simply captivating.

Just thinking out loud on this… thoughts?

Also looking back:

Event: Tackling Piracy at Sea Conference

Without comment:

Tackling Piracy at Sea Conference, 18th and 19th March 2009, London, UK

Register now at

Somalia is now the backdrop against which increasing levels of piracy are seen.  With both the frequency and violence of attacks thought to be growing, there is mounting pressure on governments, international agencies, and the shipping industry to tackle the problem.

Tackling Piracy is an international conference that will bring together all those concerned with or affected by piracy at sea to discuss what solutions can be found.  As insurance companies offer kidnap negotiators under owners` policies, is it right for ship operators to pay ransoms to pirates in order to minimalise risk to crews and cargo?  Or is their willingness to pay up encouraging piracy, with attackers motivated by their enhanced chances of commercial or political gain?

By examining a whole range of solutions, from improved international co-operation, the provision of greater naval protection or deployment of private security organisations, to looking at the effectiveness of preventative measures and the argument for industry to fund policing, Tackling Piracy will offer an ideal forum to both assess the problem and pinpoint some possible answers.

Conference Chaired by: David Jamieson, former UK Shipping Minister

Speakers already confirmed:
  Paul Agate, Swinglehurst
  Stephen Askins, Ince & Co
  Guillaume Bonnissent, Hiscox
  Toben Janholt, Danish Shipowners` Assocation
  Chris Moore, Drum Cussac
  Pottengal Mukundan, International Maritime Bureau
  Neil Young, Armor Group

For further details go to or tel 44 (0) 20 8348 3704 or email

Events: Public Diplomacy 2.0

From the New America Foundation:

How the State Department, with partners like YouTube, Google and Facebook, is taking advantage of social networking technology to tell America’s story and to encourage young people with political grievances to find outlets for their protests other than violent extremism.

featured speaker
The Hon. James K. Glassman
Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs
Steve Clemons
Director, American Strategy Program
New America Foundation

To RSVP for this event, click on the red button, or go to the event page:

See also:

Bacevich, The Limits of Power

From the History Department at US Army Combined Arms Center comes the following recommendation for Andrew Bacevich’s book, The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism: 

Andrew J. Bacevich, The Limits of Power (Metropolitan Books, 2008), should be on everyone’s reading list over the holidays.  Of special interests are his criticisms of how we view our current operating environment and how we are preparing for it. 

For example, discussing the 2003 invasion plan, Bacevich writes:

"For starters, it was devoid of political context. Narrowly focused on the upcoming fight, it paid no attention to the aftermath. Defining the problem as Iraq alone, it ignored other regional power relationships and made no provision for how war might alter those relationships, whether for good or ill. It was completely ahistorical and made no reference to culture, religion, or ethnic identity. It had no moral dimension. It even failed to include a statement of purpose." (166-167)

His book hits at the heart of what we teach here at CGSC.  While you may not agree with his argument, it will cause you to think about what we are doing here in a new light.  It should be on the Chief of Staff’s reading list.

Unrelated to the book review, the US Army CAC “blog collective” is a poster example of a new dynamic in the U.S. Army to educate and empower new media engagement. The Foreign Service Institute should explore this as should must the State Department as a whole. From DipNote to to embassy sites should also think about implementing a “collective” model as the FCO is doing.

Readings on Future Threats

National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends 2025

"Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World" is the fourth unclassified report prepared by the National Intelligence Council (NIC) in recent years that takes a long-term view of the future. It offers a fresh look at how key global trends might develop over the next 15 years to influence world events. Our report is not meant to be an exercise in prediction or crystal ball-gazing. Mindful that there are many possible "futures," we offer a range of possibilities and potential discontinuities, as a way of opening our minds to developments we might otherwise miss.

Some of our preliminary assessments are highlighted below:

  • The whole international system—as constructed following WWII—will be revolutionized. Not only will new players—Brazil, Russia, India and China— have a seat at the international high table, they will bring new stakes and rules of the game.
  • The unprecedented transfer of wealth roughly from West to East now under way will continue for the foreseeable future.
  • Unprecedented economic growth, coupled with 1.5 billion more people, will put pressure on resources—particularly energy, food, and water—raising the specter of scarcities emerging as demand outstrips supply.
  • The potential for conflict will increase owing partly to political turbulence in parts of the greater Middle East.

Related: BBC’s Key Points, Enterprise Resilience Management’s key points, Jonathan Landay’s comments at Nukes and Spooks, and Tom Barnett’s disappointment.

See also: 55 Trends Now Shaping the Future of Terrorism (March 2008) and 55 Trends Now Shaping the Future (April 2008)

Routledge Handbook on Public Diplomacy: errata

The first edition of any book has errors and the Routledge Handbook on Public Diplomacy is no exception. The first paragraph of my chapter, “Operationalizing Public Diplomacy”, should read:

American public diplomacy wears combat boots. Over the last two decades, American national security has increasingly relied on the threat of a muscular military, intelligence, and technological resources while ignoring more effective, and cheaper, tools of persuasion. The downward spiral of Iraq and Afghanistan, and plummeting public opinions of the United States around the world, suggests the U.S. has decoupled the “big stick” and “speaking softly” of Theodore Roosevelt’s time-tested adage without understanding its insight or utility. Fortunately, the value of speaking softly is being rediscovered, albeit by the Defense Department.

In the printed edition, the comma between “muscular military” and “intelligence” is missing. I didn’t meant to coin the phrase “muscular military intelligence,” which could be applied to Human Terrain Teams or PRTs, especially not in 2007 when I wrote the chapter.

There are other corrections, but that leapt out and needed to be addressed. Hopefully I’ll be able to fine-tune the chapter for the second edition, including updating some thoughts like new knowledge about the Smith-Mundt Act.

Update: the paperback is now available at (mouse over or click for price).

Reforming U.S. Public Diplomacy for the 21st Century

Required reading for today: Heritage’s latest titled Reforming U.S. Public Diplomacy for the 21st Century by Tony Blankley, Helle C. Dale and Oliver Horn. (also required: President-elect Obama, we need a new kind of public diplomacy by Heritage’s Kim Holmes.)

Margaret Thatcher once said that America is the only nation in the world "built upon an idea." This idea–liberty–has transcended geography and ethnicity to shape American identity and to inspire political discourse, both domestic and foreign, since the nation’s founding nearly two and a half centuries ago. Indeed, John Adams wrote that the American Revolution occurred first "in the hearts and minds of the people." Ideas lie at the very core of this country.

It is therefore both frustrating and ironic that the United States should have such difficulty conveying ideas today. Seven years into the war on terrorism, it has become apparent that final victory must be won not only on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in the hearts and minds of people.

Margaret Thatcher also said that the media is the oxygen of the terrorist. The same is true of the counterterrorist and the counterinsurgent. Being able to communicate ideas and counter misinformation and distortion has always been essential to peace, stability, and national security in general. Understanding that everything we say and everything we do is linked and shapes perceptions is, fortunately, becoming vogue.

Continue reading “Reforming U.S. Public Diplomacy for the 21st Century

Al-Qaeda is not the only threat

John Sullivan, the co-founder of the Los Angeles Terrorism Early Warning group and lieutenant with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, focusing on emerging threats, reminds us that Al-Qaeda is not the only threat. As such, public diplomacy and strategic communication planning that focuses only on Al-Qaeda is too limiting.

From Danger Room:

While the public and media are occupied with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the potential conflict with Iran, the downward spiral in Pakistan, and a global economic meltdown, a new, rapidly-evolving danger — narco-cartels and gangs — has been developing in Mexico and Latin America. And it has the potential to trump global terrorism as a threat to the United States.

Read the rest at Danger Room and a longer article on Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency at Defense and the National Interest.

Ayman al-Zawahiri’s racial epithet

MountainRunner friend Spencer Ackerman nails it on Zawahiri’s use of "House Negro" in Al-Qaeda’s latest propaganda:

With an American president as loathed as George W. Bush around the world, it’s easy for Al Qaeda to portray the U.S. as venal and stupid and brutish as he’s proven. Obama complicates the narrative significantly: the very color of his skin, precisely what Al Qaeda mocks, symbolizes America’s willingness to change. That’s exactly what Al Qaeda fears most. …

Still, as Ilan Goldenberg notes at Democracy Arsenal, "Al Qaeda’s narrative is now under siege and it’s clearly uncertain about how to react." That sort of disruption is precisely what the U.S. needs to rapidly exploit. In both policy and public-diplomacy terms, the clay is still wet. Why haven’t we seen the State Dept.’s blog hit the Zawahiri "House Negro" tape yet?

I have all the respect for the DipNote staff, and for that matter, but they just don’t have the agility or flexibility to respond to this message. Of course the argument could be made that a response highlights the attack. But in this case, as with most, we know the message is being received and a reply like Spencer’s strikes at AQ’s vulnerability. AQ is losing the struggle for minds and wills and this very message highlights that they will grasp at anything to attempt to regain control of the narrative.

DipNote and should be one of the many platforms used to post accessible responses. Reposting the above is out of the question, but at a minimum a short response echoing or linking to Spencer is better than silence and would get traction. I can think of several people that could bang out a credible response.

State’s foreign media hubs are one thing, but what about online? I’ll wager Defense has already started to respond to this the Zawahiri message on the Internet. State needs to respond both to U.S. audiences (ostensibly DipNote’s mission) and abroad (’s mission). Seriously, even China is implementing an agile response capability.

I don’t think we’ll see anything from DipNote or on this. It would be great to be wrong. Prove me wrong.

See also:

Event: Voices of America: U.S. Public Diplomacy for the 21st Century

From Brookings, a major report on revising America’s public diplomacy:

Tuesday, November 25, 2008, 10:00 am — 11:30 am

The Brookings Institution, Falk Auditorium, 1775 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC

Public opinion holds more sway now than at any previous time in history. Information and communication technologies are cheap and ubiquitous. It is in this context that the United States must increasingly engage, persuade and attract the cooperation of foreign publics to achieve its national interests. Yet, the United States must do this in a world that has changed markedly in the years since its public diplomacy institutions were created.

On November 25, Kristin Lord will present Voices of America, a new Brookings report on the effectiveness of public diplomacy that includes specific recommendations for the next administration.  Drawing on extensive research, approximately 300 interviews and the advice of a distinguished board of ten advisers, Voices of America presents a comprehensive vision for U.S. public diplomacy in the twenty-first century. It argues for the creation of a new non-governmental organization to tap extensive private sector expertise and mobilize the talents of Americans and partners around the world. The report also presents wide-ranging recommendations regarding strategy, leadership, organization, resources and methods of U.S. public diplomacy and how this important instrument of statecraft should be integrated into a broader foreign policy strategy.

Lord will be joined by a distinguished panel of experts including Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings Institution; Thomas A. Miller, vice president of Business for Diplomatic Action; and Charles Vest, president of the National Academy of Engineering. Senior Fellow Martin Indyk, director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, will offer introductory remarks and Carlos Pascual, vice president and director of Foreign Policy, will moderate the discussion. After the program, panelists will take audience questions.


 Public diplomacy expectations by Helle Dale in The Washington Times

What is specifically needed is a new U.S. Agency for Strategic Communication under the guidance of a director of strategic communications. Its director should have the confidence and trust of the president, though maybe not necessarily at cabinet level, and his responsibility would be to coordinate the informational activities of the entire U.S. government, including the vast resources currently commanded by the Pentagon. He would also be responsible for formulating a much-needed comprehensive new communications strategy that would address the activities of U.S. public affairs, public diplomacy, international broadcasting and military information operations.

The State Department itself is in dire need of reform, and should lose an array of public diplomacy activities and assets, which it has been wasting. It should focus more narrowly on traditional diplomacy in state-to-state and multilateral settings. Meanwhile, the Pentagon, where most of the new thinking on this topic has taken place, could be called in to coordinate activities through its combatant command structures, which are the prime examples currently of U.S interagency coordination directed at different regions of the world.

Iranians Flood VOA with Messages for Obama – VOA press release

Iranians are flooding President-elect Barack Obama with personal messages on a special Persian-language website the Voice of America (VOA) created for people to express their views.

VOA’s Persian News Network (PNN) has received hundreds of messages on topics ranging from U.S.-Iranian relations to access to student visas since it invited its audience last week to write to Obama at the website The messages, posted on the site, will eventually be transmitted to the president-elect’s transition office.

Dictators Prefer Botnets –

In the African nation of Mauritania, the military dictatorship has used Cyber War techniques to shut down two opposition web sites that provide the most information on what is going on inside the country. The generals apparently hired several botnets … to smother the anti-dictatorship websites with phony visitors (a "DDOS attack").

Should Arabs Use Violence Against the U.S.? – MEMRI

Jordanian university lecturer Dr. Ibrahim ‘Alloush: I’d like to salute whoever conducts resistance against the Zionist-American hegemony in this world – whether by means of politics or by means of weapons. …

Kuwaiti journalist Sami Al-Nisf: This is the same formula of Stalin, Hitler, Kim Il-Sung, Qaddafi, Saddam, and so on. They all used bombastic words, all had ‘deep throats,’ but at the end of the day – and that’s the greatest mistake – one should look at the figures, rather than the words. These people destroy their countries.

 HARDtalk interview with former US National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski from 14 October.

A look at State Department’s FY09 budget

Patrick F. Kennedy, Under Secretary for Management, discussed the State Department’s FY09 budget request today. The budget request includes 450 new positions for training. Three hundred are for language training, seventy-five are to permit a training float for professional training, and another seventy-five are for training at the military colleges – Army War College, Air University, Leavenworth, Naval War College, ICAF and NDU at Fort McNair.

There’s more. The budget also add 50 to the policy advisor cadre.

And there’s public diplomacy.

There’s also been discussion about what is our outreach: are we doing enough in the public affairs and public diplomacy world. There are 39 positions in the budget to expand public diplomacy and educational and cultural exchanges, again, focusing on what the Secretary sees is major needs in the time ahead.

Continue reading “A look at State Department’s FY09 budget