Guest Post: Let’s Get Susan Boyle to Sing the National Anthem

By Sherry Mueller

At a recent Washington, DC symposium on public diplomacy entitled “Public Affairs in a Global Information Environment,” I joked to a Swedish colleague: “Success in public diplomacy will be getting Susan Boyle to sing your national anthem.” That is not as far-fetched as one might think. What are the lessons all of us involved in practicing or studying public diplomacy can learn from the Susan Boyle phenomenon?

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BRB – Blogging to resume soon

My apologies for the silence on the blog. Normal commentary will resume soon including a guest post waiting in the wings as well as several other draft posts that require publication. Note that I will not be too prolific this week as I’m up against a deadline as I prepare for my trip to Turkey next month to present at a workshop put on by NATO’s Centre for Excellence – Defense Against Terrorism.

On another note, if you tried to comment on the blog and failed (and at least one person has), the problem should be fixed now.

Guest Post: How to win the GWOT – or whatever it’s called today

By Mark Pfeifle, Jonathan Thompson

America has the finest military and diplomatic leaders in the world. They know how to win on the battlefield and at the negotiating table. Yet, despite those winning ways, there are times when they become victims of circumstances rather than drivers of events. At such times, some may falter with the media and public, and when that happens, they too often lay blame the results on bad press coverage.

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Posting will be light for the next week

Posting will be light for the next week. First I’ll be presenting at the NATO School in Germany and then chairing a panel in Washington, DC. So, in the interlude, please talk amongst yourselves. Be sure to check out, and comment on, these recent posts:

Empowering and Engaging the First Three Feet: an upcoming symposium


The working title of a symposium I have in development is “Empowering and Engaging the First Three Feet”. The symposium will examine the US Government’s role in assisting and developing foreign media, both here in the United States and locally, notably in post-conflict environments and in repressive regimes. Is the United States doing enough to support the media, both American but primarily (for the purpose of this discussion) foreign, to…

  1. Get the truth out;
  2. Counter accidental misinformation and intentional disinformation; and
  3. Export the American concept of “Fourth Estate” responsibilities abroad?

These are the essential questions of this forthcoming event. Details, such keynote(s) to discussants to sponsors to date, are not set as of yet. 

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Guest Post: Three (More) Steps to Better E-Diplomacy

Hillary Clinton’s willingness to embrace the use of technology and bring Alec Ross on as an advisor for innovation is a welcome and critical step for a 21st century State Department operation. Employing social networking tools to share information with foreign publics, collaborating to produce new software to improve services around the world, and working together across borders to improve all facets of State’s work. From a diplomatic perspective, however, installing the critical infrastructure for sharing information is only a first step. There are three crucial next steps that will likely be the difference between a disappointing legacy of good ideas and a lasting legacy of good diplomacy. They are:

  • Closing the global digital divide with open internet access,
  • Engaging, not lecturing, and
  • Expanding and restructuring the Foreign Service’s digital presence at home and abroad.

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Marc Lynch clarifies his comments on Judith McHale made back in January

Marc Lynch responds to comments made last month – and revisited this week – by former Under Secretary James Glassman on Lynch’s description of Judith McHale’s long anticipated and now actual nomination as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy:

[S]ince everyone is quoting the "terrible, terrible pick" line, I guess it’s worth going back to that post to emphasize that that my objection was not personal.  I have no reason to believe that she’s anything but the smart, tough, and experienced woman that her friends and supporters have described.  My criticism was rooted in one thing: that she had no evident experience or background in what I consider to be a vital part of an effective foreign policy apparatus. …

I didn’t think it was so controversial to suggest that, say, heart surgery should be done by a heart surgeon and not by a smart guy who used to watch ER.  But clearly not everyone considers public diplomacy to be heart surgery…

So what do I think now that she’s been nominated?   I want her to be confirmed, and quickly. After watching the position stand empty for months, just like so many other important foreign policy positions, we need an Under-Secretary to take the job and get started.   The President and the good folks at the NSC have been exemplary on the public diplomacy front thus far, but they can’t do it alone — they need the kind of sustained, ongoing engagement across all levels which the appropriate State Department agencies can and must provide.

Will the nomination of P.J. Crowley to Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs help fix Public Diplomacy?

The US News & World Report blog Washington Whispers has an interesting assessment of the nomination of Philip “P.J.” Crowley as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs.

The experience of Crowley, as well as the Paul Bedard’s description of Crowley’s duties, indicate Crowley won’t be the official spokesman for the Secretary as Sean McCormack was. This is very good news as the podium time seriously impairs the Assistant Secretary from managing and moving his share of the enterprise forward.

The article indicates the Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs will revert (finally) to a global communications role below the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, unlike the role of the Assistant Secretary in the Rice State Department. Under Rice, adding “and Public Affairs” to the Under Secretary’s title was nearly meaningless because the two sides had little to do with each other, so much so that the Public Diplomacy shop rarely thought of tapping into the resources of Public Affairs even though PA was (on paper) a sibling organization also under the command and control of their boss, the Under Secretary.

It may be that Crowley will be tasked with being an operational lead in coordinating activities between the State and Defense Departments. He has the background to do this. This could fill in a gap left by the demise of the Defense Department’s Office for Support to Public Diplomacy that acted like a “socket” for the State Department’s “plug”.

This appointment could portend good things and an overdue empowerment of the Under Secretary.

Next steps, let’s move the senior advisor on innovation under the Under Secretary (with a dotted line to the Secretary) and revise the title from Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs to Under Secretary for Global Engagement. (“R” by the way never had an attachment to the name of the office or to the guy who came up with “R”, whose has the initials, wait for it, “R.R.”)

See also:

Event: Public Affairs in a Global Information Environment

My company, Armstrong Strategic Insights Group, LLC, is sponsoring an invitation-only event titled “Public Affairs in a Global Information Environment” next week. It will be a small, off the record discussion about ongoing and crisis communication in the modern global information environment. The half-day event will be chaired by former Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs James K. Glassman.

The focus of the discussion will be the keynote by and conversation with Swedish Director-General Mats Ekdahl, formerly of Sweden’s National Board of Psychological Defense. Mr. Ekdahl will discuss “Psychological Defense”, “Media Preparedness”, and Public Diplomacy. His bio is here.

Attending this event are representatives from across the Government and the private sector, including the Departments of State, Defense, and Homeland Security, think tanks, academia, Congress, and the media.

Mr. Ekdahl will also be on a panel at InfoWarCon titled “Homeland Psychological Defense”.

Event: InfoWarCon April 23-24

Next week is InfoWarCon, a conference to discuss “theoretical and practical changes and uses of Information Operations/Information Warfare, Cyberwar, Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy.” Giving keynotes are LTG Thomas F. Metz, Director, JIEDDO, (title: “IO: The Great Enabler") and the Honorable James Glassman, former Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (title:"Can a ‘Conversation’ Win the War on Terror?").

The conference is two days, April 23-24, and in Washington, DC. Check their website for registration details. The panels promise to be interesting. Check them out below:

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Advice from the Former Under Secretary to the Incoming Under Secretary

Amy Harder at the National Journal asked Jim Glassman, the former Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, about his successor.

Glassman has not met with his successor, but he said he would be more than happy to do so if approached. So, what advice does he have for McHale? “I would urge her to not simply talk to the people in the building,” Glassman said. “She needs to understand how the office works within the State Department, but she should also get out and talk to the key players in the interagencies.” He cited the Defense Department as the most crucial agency relationship.

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White House Nominates Judith McHale as Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs

From the White House:

Judith A. McHale, Nominee for Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Department of State
Ms. McHale is a leading media and communications executive whose career has been devoted to building companies and non-profit organizations dedicated to reaching out to and connecting people around the world. She is the former President and Chief Executive Officer of Discovery Communications. From 1987 to 2006, McHale helped build the parent company of the Discovery Channel into one of the world’s most extensive  media enterprises, with more than 100 channels telecast in over 170 countries and 35 languages to more than 1 billion subscribers.  In the 1990s, McHale launched the non-profit Discovery Channel Global Education Partnership, which supplies free educational video programming to more than half a million students across Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe.  After two decades at Discovery, McHale extended her commitment to helping build opportunity for people in Africa.  With the Global Environment Fund, a private equity firm, she worked to launch the GEF/Africa Growth Fund, an investment vehicle intending to focus on supplying  expansion capital to small and medium-sized businesses that provide consumer goods and services in emerging African markets. McHale’s commitment to global outreach efforts also includes her service on the boards of the Africa Society of the National Summit on Africa, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the National Democratic Institute, and Vital Voices. She previously served on the board of Africare.  The daughter of a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, McHale was born in New York City and grew up in Britain and apartheid-era South Africa. Before joining Discovery, McHale served as General Counsel for MTV Networks and helped guide the company’s international expansion.

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Guest Post: An Anti-Piracy Mission Transforms From Interdiction to Strategic Communication

By Chris Tomlinson

Imagine the scene: a U.S. Navy destroyer shadowing a tiny lifeboat carrying four Somali pirates with a U.S. hostage in an Indian Ocean standoff. Most Americans see the USS Bainbridge as the cavalry riding to the rescue. But not everyone will see it that way. The poor and oppressed living in the developing world might see something akin to the lone Chinese civilian standing in front of a Red Army tank trying to reach Tiananmen Square. Where we see a cop stopping a robber, others will see Robin Hood cornered by the sheriff of Nottingham.

Now that the pirates have gotten the attention of the world, a low-profile mission to interdict criminals in the Indian Ocean now is a major strategic communication. Does the Pentagon and the State Deptartment understand that?

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