A collection of noteworthy posts and articles.

 Speech by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, at the Annual Meeting of the Atlantic Treaty Association (ATA)

We are now rapidly approaching NATO’s 60th Anniversary – or “60A”, as our Public Diplomacy gurus are calling it.  What better opportunity for the ATA to demonstrate its undiminished relevance?  What better opportunity for trying out new ways of reaching out to our publics?

Today, we are launching an exciting new experiment in public diplomacy: the “NATO Talk Around the Brandenburg Gate”. Tomorrow six discussion panels in six Embassies will deal with the key challenges facing NATO.

This is a truly innovative idea – and I would very much like to thank the German ATA and NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division for their imagination and hard work in laying the foundations.  And I should also like to thank all the Embassies that have helped to put this idea into practice.

It’s much less challenging to conceive of public diplomacy as engaging all publics when the myth of geographic isolation has long been broken, as is the case in Europe. Within the U.S. we still imagine some sort of division between non-U.S. communication and domestic communication despite the reality of information flows.

USAID Hosts Leadership Meetings for Syrian and Palestinian Americans (USAID press release)

“It is extremely important to keep in touch with the Middle Eastern American communities and keep them informed of our work and good will,” said Walid Maalouf, Director of USAID’s Office of Public Diplomacy for Middle Eastern and MEPI Affairs. Three major issues are important for Middle Eastern Americans he continued, “Peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis, freedom and democracy in the whole region and USAID development.” In order to learn more about USAID’s Middle Eastern public diplomacy efforts, please visit

Africa Command Tackles Traffickers in First Drill by Nate Hodge

Flintlock 2008, a joint military exercise that kicked off last week in Bamako, Mali, [is] the first military exercise overseen by U.S. Africa Command, which was formally activated last month.

Max Blumenfeld, a spokesman for Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahara and the exercise public affairs officer, told DANGER ROOM the exercise would test the ability of participants to respond to “transnational” threats like human trafficking, drug smuggling, or terrorism. …

Flintlock will also feature a sort of “hearts and minds” campaign, with exercise participants setting up rural medical clinics in Senegal and Mali. I observed one such Medical Civic Action Program in a village outside Bamako, the capital of Mali. Military doctors dispensed medicine and peformed medical exams in an improvised field hospital; the waiting lines (pictured here) were pretty long. Another team ran a separate veterinary clinic.

AFRICOM needs the good press. The new command is supposed to create a more coherent structure for U.S. military activities on the continent: In the past, responsibility for Africa was divided between European, Pacific and Central Commands. But while U.S. military planners have emphasized that they expect to keep a “light footprint” on the continent, many African governments have been concerned that AFRICOM spells a greater militarization of U.S. foreign policy.

FDI shoots up in West Africa by Mark Weston

Defying the global financial crisis, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia and Guinea have recorded sharp rises in foreign direct investment in recent months. Trouble is, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, most of the increase is drug money. “Foreign direct investments in these (three) countries, unexplained so far by their economic performance, have exploded. Remittances have grown. Even the currencies of the region are being revalued,” says the beleaguered head of the organisation, Antonio Maria Costa. “This is a form of money laundering, it comes in as foreign direct investment, it goes into rural real estate, purchase of land, hotels, tourism,” he told West African leaders in Cape Verde, who are meeting to discuss the problem.

 Comment by Mr Egypt on Arabic Source

A problem that i noticed, most of those writing about the Arabs happiness and rejoice about Obamas victory fail to understand the social formation of the Arab society. Meaning that most of these surveys and analysis depened on data from cosmopolitan cities like Cairo or Beirut, but seriously has anyone went futher? Absolutely NOT. Picking out a random sample in any major Arab city wouldn’t be representing anything for real. One question that I believe should be posed; why would the Arabs be interested in American Politics? In my opinion for no other reason than the US “political” involvement in the ME, and concerning this point most of the Arabs believe that the US has some kind of imperial strategy in dealing with the Arab world, and this strategy has nothing to do with whos the American president is, let me add another challenging yet interesting fact too, many many Arabs believe that Israel and the Israeli lobby actually dominates DC and the Decision making in the US administration, actually if anyone tried to survey a less educated Arab citizen; he would get answers like; America is actually ruled by the Jews and the Zionist, and they have some major desgin to rule the world and they are controlling the political and economic centers in the World. This point is critical because it means that problem was never with the American president, rather the American policies, and so, people in the Arab world would see the US president as good or bad according to the policies he would adopt and directly effect their lives, nothing else.

image VOA Studio Tour Hailed as ‘an Undiscovered Gem’

The Examiner ( is hailing the Voice of America’s (VOA) Studio Tour, a free guided, audio-visual tour that introduces the public to U.S. international broadcasting, as an “undiscovered gem” in Washington, D.C.

“You’ll have the opportunity to watch live radio and televised broadcasts to countries around the globe. Fascinating,” wrote Risa Sanders.

“You’ll go behind the scenes and have a chance to observe the technical equipment as well as the broadcasters. An added plus is the chance to see the room where the President and other heads of state and dignitaries are filmed when they are interviewed,” the article said.

  • I don’t know about the official tour, but my tour a while back was really cool. Thanks Kim! Just getting into VOA and you’ll see the really interesting socialist / New Deal murals on the walls. Huh? Because the VOA building was the original Social Security Administration. The picture above is one of many of Ben Shahn’s “The Meaning of Social Security”.

Minds, Wills, And Fruit Trees, an aptly named post by Chris Albon citing Michael Yon

On 02 September, the enemy sniper was at it again, and so five British snipers (in the photo above, one sniper was behind me) were searching for probable firing positions. At one point, there was credible information that the Taliban told the sniper that they could provide him an American scope. The sniper said he was happy with his iron sights. He was a terrible shot, but sooner or later he might get lucky.

The Brits know exactly who the sniper is. About half a dozen fruit trees occluded fields of fire, so the soldiers cut them down. The Brits offered to pay for the trees, but were bound by regulations on how much they could pay. Major Adam Dawson told me the amount was something like $20 per tree, which of course is tantamount to zero. Achmed, an Afghan neighbor, came to collect the money, but the owner of the fruit tress had told Achmed not to accept payment. The owner was livid, saying: “I can’t believe Achmed let them cut down my trees! I’m going to go @#%& his wife!” I don’t know if anything happened to Achmed’s wife, but I do know that the Brits said the owner of the fruit trees bought himself a sniper rifle. He’s been shooting at [FOB] Gibraltar ever since.

Lastly, Small Wars Journal has a roundup of articles about Nir Rosen’s “embedding” with Taliban. All this talk about Rosen got me thinking about Robert Young Pelton’s “embedding” with various terrorist groups. I haven’t talked to RYP in a while, or about his views on Rosen, so I’ll just say his World’s Most Dangerous Places books are very interesting.