Guest Post: Must. Be. AWESOME!

By Christopher Dufour

Too often in government, we settle for the most expedient solution. The cheapest option. The quickest way. The path of least resistance.

We justify it by quoting acquisition regulations. By glomming onto existing authorities. By refusing to challenge the status quo.

It’s this attitude that prevents us from accomplishing big goals. Immense objectives. Tremendous challenges. Gi-normous grand strategy. Instead, we choose to do just enough to get our assignments completed to a preexisting or arbitrary standard. This is the culture of Washington.

We shouldn’t make this choice. We shouldn’t be shooting for "just good enough." Instead, we should be shooting for AWESOME.

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Is this public diplomacy? Close but not quite

Read: Obama scores again, but the game is just starting by Marc Lynch at Foreign Policy

The Good: President Obama is changing the narrative and directly engaging Muslim communities. The President said America’s relationship with the Muslim world is greater than and will extend beyond defeating Al Qaeda.

The Bad: Marc says there is “disarray in the public diplomacy bureaucracy” and continues to say “Obama has already succeeded at the initial public diplomacy phase of his effort to transform America’s relations with the Muslim world.” The President’s remarkable speech is at best a small sliver of "public diplomacy" not to be confused with the full spectrum of options of engagement through communication, exchange, development, capacity building, health programs, and even countering adversarial messages.

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Simple Advice for Dealing with the Media

Very briefly, take a look at the following wallet card. The images are from the front and back of a card distributed to the Swedish Foreign Ministry by the Foreign Ministry.


There are a couple of minor linguistic differences between the Swedish and the English but the major difference between the two sides of the card is the Swedish bullet that’s not replicated: don’t ask sources. Sweden has very strong “whistle blower” protection laws so that a government official even asking about a source is against the law.

All the bullets are sensible and direct and come from a Foreign Ministry that gives media training to nearly the entire organization. Everyone, in their view, is a communicator.


What Does the New Tech Guru at the State Department Mean for Public Diplomacy?

The Washington Post reports Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has a new “senior adviser on innovation.” According to the Washington Post article Diplomatic Efforts Get Tech Support, the adviser, Alec Ross, is “armed with a new set of diplomatic tools including Facebook, text messaging and YouTube.” I’ll get back to the hyperbole below, but the paper’s description of his job is interesting:

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Guest Post: Renewing America’s Global Leadership

By Ursula Oaks, NAFSA: Association of International Educators

When President Obama stood before students and service members at the National Defense University in early March and committed the resources of his administration to “renewing diplomacy as a tool of American power” he rightly said that we cannot “leave dormant any aspect of the full arsenal of American capability.” The bold path our president has charted puts the United States on a new footing in its relationships with the world, one that emphasizes listening and mutual respect as cornerstones of responsible and constructive leadership.  This new course requires our country to become much better informed about and engaged in the world. A proven way to accomplish this is to make international education a national priority.

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Government reports on public diplomacy you may have missed

Several reports on public diplomacy that are worthwhile, even recommended, reading. All but two are US. One is from Sweden and the other is Chinese. All of the below are links on 

Can Social Media organically transform government?

Social media is an appropriate title for much of what is generally called “new media”. Social media creates connection through information dissemination systems that facilitate and encourage dialogue, enhancing the original message to subsequent readers and repeaters.

Technologies like Twitter, Facebook, Digg, blogs and other systems are interesting in their own right, but searching for and mashing up of data is a more interesting and more valuable. The potential for mining knowledge from heaps of noise and clutter that result from dynamic networks that last for only a split-second or for years.

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Robots as Strategic Corporals

This week, the Complex Terrain Laboratory, or CTLab, hosted another of its brilliant online symposiums. The topic of this one is Peter W. Singer’s book Wired for War and robots in warfare.

There are a lot of good posts over there to read. Go check them out.

My first of at least two posts just went up: Robots as Strategic Corporals. The second post will look at justifying the robots based on what can be done according to Western notions which creates, counter intuitively, an engagement model that is too permissive and detrimental to the mission as a whole. Certain acts, justifiable under international law, could backfire if the information effects are not anticipated, planned for, and managed effectively.

Read Robots as Strategic Corporals at CTLab.