Symposium Transcripts: Under Secretary Glassman’s keynote and my welcome

Transcripts for the January 13, 2009, Smith-Mundt Symposium will begin appearing online as I review them. Federal News Service did a superb job transcribing the 8.5 hours of audio so quickly.

The first transcript to be posted is that of my opening comments and the morning keynote by now-former Under Secretary of State Jim Glassman. A PDF of the transcript can be downloaded here (65kb PDF). Audio of the same can be downloaded here (54 minutes mp3, 13mb). The Under Secretary’s comments begin at the bottom of page 5 of the transcript and at the 13:45 mark of the audio.

Excerpt below the fold.

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Arming for the Second War of Ideas

Arming for the Second War of Ideas by Matt Armstrong, 20 January 2009, at Threats in the Age of Obama

Today, perceptions created and forged by words and deeds, some of which may be violent acts, are part of orchestrated efforts to gain strategic influence over friends, foes, and neutrals.

…America’s adversaries have quickly adapted to the new environment using information as force multipliers. Today, bullets and bombs have a much smaller impact than the propaganda opportunities they create – opportunities to influence public opinion and build public support.

…While the U.S. has come around to the importance of public opinion, forward progress is, at best, slow. Policymakers and legislators continue to debate the role of persuasion through means other than brute force to national security imperatives from economics, health, terrorism, and war. Our adversaries, however, are moving ahead and increasingly using the tools and techniques developed within the United States.

Smith-Mundt Symposium in Pictures

Briefly, over 260 people signed up for the Symposium. About 180 attended. Some people left because they had other appointments and few of those returned. A year ago, it was hard to imagine 50 people would be interested in a discussion about the Smith-Mundt Act.

Tuesday’s event was well attended through to the end, 8.5 hours after it started (if include the sign-in and continental breakfast, 9.5 hours).

After the fold, I’ve posted just a few pictures of the Smith-Mundt Symposium taken by my good friend (and fellow Masters of Public Diplomacy graduate) Yael Swerdlow. Yael was one of two photographers at the event. The other was from the Associated Press.

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Symposium Audio: Glassman and Doran Keynotes

Complete audio for the 2009 Smith-Mundt Symposium will be available soon. The transcript will be available in about two weeks. Below, however, are mp3’s for the two keynotes.

I think many will find both interesting and very worthwhile to listen to sooner than later. Without comment (yet):

Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Jim Glassman’s keynote and questions & answers begins 13:45 into the mp3 at the link below. The beginning nearly fourteen minutes is my introduction to the Symposium. (54 minutes total, 13mb)

Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Support to Public Diplomacy, now Special Advisor at the State Department, Mike Doran’s keynote and questions & answers may be downloaded at the below link. (1 hour and 3 minutes, 15mb)

InfoWarCon 2009

Briefly… ever want to talk to the authors of “Unrestricted Warfare”? InfoWarCon 2009 will be the place to do it.

InfowarCon 2009 is sure to be the premier Information Operations event of 2009! InfowarCon 2009 examines the numerous theoretical and practical changes and uses of IO/IW, Cyberwar, Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy techniques and experiences learned in Iraq, Afghanistan, China, and Georgia-Russia to predict the future of IO.

More details are after the fold.

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The Smith-Mundt Symposium

The 2009 Smith-Mundt Symposium was last night. The goal was to foster an interagency, inter-tribal, and cross-governmental discussion on the fundamentals of America’s global engagement. While the organizing principle was the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, it was really an act of subversion to have a discourse on shaping America’s discourse.

My desired outcome of the Symposium was not to generate new legislation, but to shake up the perceptions of what we are doing, how we are doing it, and why are doing it, “it” being global engagement, known in some tribes as “public diplomacy” and others as “strategic communication”. I believe that mission was accomplished.

Keynotes by Under Secretary Jim Glassman and now-Special Advisor (former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense) Mike Doran both included new ideas, which of course generated a lot of good questions (as all the questions were through the day), as well as some humor. 

The interest in the event was high. Over 260 people registered for the event. The final attendance was, I believe, more than 190. Due to the capacity of the venue, over twenty remained on the waiting list.

Two indicators that the event was useful to the audience was the surprisingly few empty seats at 5:30p and that many who had to leave actually came back to finish the day.

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Admin Note: in DC

I’m in DC this week for Tuesday’s Smith-Mundt Symposium so posting will remain light and shallow this week. Pre-raceevent carbo load at Matchbox in Chinatown Monday night.

Smith-Mundt Symposium Banner

Other notable happenings this week:

Smith-Mundt Symposium: Updates

Below are a couple of brief updates on the Smith-Mundt Symposium that will take place this coming Tuesday, January 13 at the Reserve Officers Association.

  • Congressmen Paul Hodes (D-NH) and Adam Smith (D-Wash) are confirmed for the fourth panel
  • Several documents have been added to the Symposium’s Library
  • William P. Kiehl has been added to the third panel
  • This week’s media roundtable generated some blog posts

No new registrations for the event will be accepted except for Congress members and staff and the media

Following Up on the Smith-Mundt Symposium’s Media Roundtable

Yesterday Two days ago (already) was the media roundtable pre-event in advance of the Smith-Mundt Symposium that will take place next week, January 13, 2009. I am grateful to AOC for arranging and hosting this event and for Ken Miller’s hard work in setting it up, as well as a special thanks to Joel.

On the panel were Rear Admiral Greg Smith of CENTCOM, David Firestein from the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, George Clack of IIP, and me. Jeff Grieco from USAID was unable to attend.

Overall, I think the event went well. Although, for the most part the mainstream media failed to show, except for Adam from Congressional Quarterly, making this event predominately a blogger roundtable.

AOC – Ken specifically – will provide a transcript and the audio recording of the event next week.

In the meantime, some reactions from the bloggers (in no particular order)

I’ll post more links as they get posted by the other bloggers. 

See also:

And of course, visit the Smith-Mundt Symposium website.

Thanks Armchair Generalist

Jason, the Armchair Generalist, gives his suggestions on a new category for the 2008 Military Weblog Awards.

These [other military-specific] sites are popular, given their (generally) good writing skills and focus on first-person perspectives, but I’m discouraged (whining) that there is not a competition for a best national strategy blog – that is to say, those blogs where the discussions revolve more around the development and execution of national security and foreign policy. I would submit to you my top ten list (alphabetical, not preference):

Arms and Influence
Democracy Arsenal
Don Vandergriff
Foreign Policy Watch
Kings of War
Opposed Systems Design
Sic Semper Tyrannis
War, the military, COIN and stuff

Best national strategy blog… good idea and a good list. I don’t mind the inclusion of this blog either. Thanks for the nod, Jason.

update: where’s Small Wars Journal?! Thanks Selil for pointing out that most obvious fact. I can’t believe I missed that. It must have been those Old Speckled Hens I had at Bilbo Baggins with Chris and Craig after the media roundtable this afternoon….

Your thoughts? (on the list, not the beer or pub)

China isn’t a nail

Bill Gertz’s article in The Washington Times is a perfect example of the old saying that if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. From “China’s Pearls“:

A recently published U.S. military report identifies China as the most significant potential threat for the U.S. military in the future and discloses new details of what it describes as Beijing’s efforts to build political influence and military power along the strategic oil-shipping route from the Middle East to China — a so-called "string of pearls" strategy.

The report, "Joint Operating Environment 2008," was produced by the Norfolk-based U.S. Joint Forces Command. It lists China as the main emerging nation-state threat that U.S. forces could confront in a future conflict, along with potential threats from Russia, the Middle East and other places in Asia. It was made public Nov. 25. …

This type of article gets me going. China isn’t the "most significant potential threat for the U.S. military" but a "significant potential threat for the U.S." (I won’t get into whether they are the “most” anything). We are too focused on military threats and military responses, a focus both the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs want to break.

Look at the big picture people. The struggle is global, not non-US, and its broad. it’s economic and political. Fighting “wars” in those two realms is not only cheaper but creates an enduring victory, unlike military action.

By the time the threat is kinetic, it’s too late. Until we get competent leadership in State (and elsewhere) to return State to a position of relevance, this type of reporting will simply continue. 

The hammer is telling us to buy more tools… let’s hope the right people get into position to start resourcing and reorganizing so the appropriate tools can be used.

See also:

Media Event: Journalist Roundtable on the Smith-Mundt Symposium

(I am not the organizer of this event, just a participant. If you are interested in attending this roundtable, appropriate contact information is below.)

AOC Journalist Series roundtable tomorrow, Tuesday, January 6, 2009, from 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. (EST), in Alexandria, VA. Media interested in attending in person or via conference call, contact Ken Miller at or (703) 549-1600.

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Change for America: A Progressive Blueprint for the 44th President

Change for America: A Progressive Blueprint for the 44th President by Doug Wilson, 5 January 2009.

Posted on MountainRunner here: U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy: no one in PD conducts PD overseas.

In this lengthy collaboration Jolin, of the Center for American Progress, and Gren, president of the New Democracy Project, gather a comprehensive series of essays for the new president’s consideration, arranged into four broad categories: the White House, domestic policy, economic policy and national security policy. Along with suggestions and goals for the first 100 days, contributors like Tom Freedman, Karen Davenport, Jessica Stern and Lames Lee Witt paint sobering portraits of areas in need of overhaul.

Matt Armstrong’s blog post, 24 June 2008, is cited in this book.

Off to DC

Blogging will be slow and/or superficial the next two weeks due to the upcoming Smith-Mundt Symposium. I’ll be in DC this week (Jan 5+) for the media roundtable (and other meetings) and again next week (Jan 12+) for the Symposium itself (and other meetings).

Israel and the War of Perceptions

I’ve seen a good number of articles praising Israel’s handling of the war of perceptions in the media. In the offline critiques of Israel’s strategy and tactics by information experts there is much less congratulatory language. A close look at the praise reveals a self-licking ice cream cone or a limited understanding of the battlespace.

The following is an interesting assessment, and indictment, of Israel’s foray into the war of persuasion not generally discussed in the mainstream media.

Foreign minister Tzipi Livni, whose poor command of the English language may have been a factor in Israel’s agreeing to UN Security Council Resolution 1701 two and a half years ago, now has a blog. The text is in Hebrew only and most of the posts are videos of interviews with her on various television networks.

At YNet, Esti Applebaum-Polani argues that Israel’s biggest problem with public relations is a lack of fluent English speakers.

Hamas’ professional assistance is manifested through Arab experts who reside in Western countries and are used as commentators on foreign media outlets when needed (interestingly, Israel academic experts who live abroad are often opposed to the Israeli government’s policy.) The campaign is also reinforced by Arab politicians who were educated in the West or lived there for a long time and speak fluent English. In addition, there are the foreign correspondents who view the battle as one pitting David (Hamas) against Goliath (Israel,) because on television it always appears as though one side is strong and the other is weak.

Meanwhile, Palestinian spokespeople who reside in the West and speak fluent English resort to “sweet talk” on global television stations. …

You may have noticed over the past week that the IDF spokesperson’s office has gotten into the Internet – setting up a YouTube account (and then a LiveLeak account) and a blog. All of this is being done by the North American desk – an outfit that may not have existed two and a half years ago (they didn’t contact me if they did exist). …

Read the whole thing here.

MountainRunner on Facebook

If you didn’t know it, this blog has a Facebook page and even a half-dozen fans. I don’t yet have a strategy for the Facebook presence, but at least I’m there. (It doesn’t take reading Groundswell to know “just to be there” is not a good enough reason.)

logo2 has a Facebook application also. The application creates integration options including signing into using your Facebook ID. Beyond that, I really don’t know what I’ll do with the FB app. Suggestions?

On the subject of ICT (Information and Communication Technologies), is also on Twitter

btw- the image above was a masthead of the blog long ago. It’s kind of cheesy I know…