House Appropriations Concerned Pentagon’s Role in Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy (updated)

American public diplomacy wears combat boots. That was the first sentence of my chapter in the Handbook of Public Diplomacy published last year. I argued that public diplomacy and its related strategic communication had gone too soft and that the Defense Department necessarily, if unwilling and sometimes clumsily, stepped in to fill a gap left by an absent State Department. Today, the situation is different with Defense running increasingly sophisticated efforts, often with the collaboration and support of State and other entities within the Government. And of course, the Smith-Mundt Act has an effect here on public diplomacy and strategic communication.

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Traveling – no posting until next week

I will be traveling and not posting until next week. Be sure to read the updated House Appropriations Concerned Pentagon’s Role in Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy (a few additional comments plus the Senate Armed Services Committee’s from their report on the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2010). I will be on email.

Remember the post where I asked for help coding locations? The dataset was the Twitter followers of as of one day last week, publically available through the Twitter API. I suggest you read the comments on post Question: what does it mean if the demographic of two-thirds of your audience is not your target demographic?.

Recent posts be sure to read:

Guest Post: Superfriends and the Strategic Communication Continuum

By Larisa Breton

Forget Smith-Mundt; the Hill’s call for a rethink padlocks the door on an empty barn. Americans already enjoy the gentle second-and third-order effects of an imported comic pantheon from Marvel Comics’The 99”, courtesy of private (or semi-private) commerce. New Yorker Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa, now Chairman of Teshkeel Media Group, commercialized “The 99” in 2006 as a way to promote and make relevant the historic virtues of Islam while peacefully reaching out to a burgeoning youth population in the Levant. (“The 99” refers to both the 99 attributes of Allah, and to 99 mystical gems which confer special powers to those who discover them in the comic series.)

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Guest Book Review: Drugs and Contemporary Warfare

By Chris Albon

drugsandcontemporarywarfare In his latest book, Drugs and Contemporary Warfare, Paul Rexton Kan attempts to understand the relationship between drugs and armed conflict. Kan is not the first to connect the two topics, such as Gretchen Peters’ book on poppies in Afghanistan. However, Kan’s book is exceptional for developing an overarching theory on drugs and armed conflict in modern history. Kan knows what he is talking about. An associate professor at the U.S. Army War College, Kan’s previous monograph explores the implications of drug intoxicated irregular soldiers on the battlefield (available for download free).

Drugs and Contemporary Warfare is organized into six chapters: Hazy Shades of War, Drugging the Battlefield, High at War, Narcotics and Nation-Building, Sober Lessons for the Future, and Shaky Paths Forward. Kan’s first chapter summarizes the history of the drug trade’s influence on warfare, with emphasis on conflicts after the Cold War. With insightful anecdotes, Kan both introduces readers to the topic and lays the groundwork for concepts presented later.

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What is the purpose of Public Diplomacy if not to influence?

Briefly, as I explore different definitions for public diplomacy (see here and here and here), one thing is constant: the purpose of public diplomacy is to convince people of something. Thus, the below quote, with all due to respect, struck me as patently false:

"The aim of public diplomacy is not to convince but to communicate, not to declare but to listen." Manuel Castells (source)

I like Professor Castells (and not just because he gave me an A a few years ago) but this statement, shared by a surprising many, is part of what is wrong with America’s global engagement. It harkens to the (amazing) belief that you can inform without influence and is, I believe, a carry-over from decades of increasing passivity and misunderstanding of public diplomacy in which we failed to understand the global environment (who we were was self-evident) and a lack of insight and foresight into the global security situation (information as a weapon).

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Request for assistance: feel like typing a number between 1 and 4?

I have nearly 2,000 rows of data that I need coded to do some analysis. That is, I have some information that in its present form cannot be easily analyzed. The instructions are simple:

Enter a "1", "2", "3", "4" into the data entry box based on the the location. A "1" means the location is within the United States, "2" means outside of the United States, a "3" means the location indicates both inside and outside of the US, and a "4" means there is not enough information to determine which other number to use.

You will only see the location data and each entry could take as little as a second for you to process. Devote a minute and you could power through 40-90 records. If there are twenty volunteers, then the work will be done in less time than it takes to respond to a Tweet.

Your work, should you decide to help, will be the basis of a future post / analysis. All I will say now is the analysis is on the global audience of a social media application.

If you’re interested, simply go here and type a number between 1 and 4, depending on the data of course.

UPDATE: Thank you to those who helped out. All of the nearly 2000 rows have been coded and there were very few errors.

Congrats to Dan for figuring out the source of the data.

Here are the statistics: 982 of the rows were self-identified as in the United States, 149 did not give a location but selected a US time zone (likely US resident), 320 self-identified as outside the US (including apparent Americans who listed Tehran), 59 gave a location that was both US and outside of the US, 132 gave indeterminate locations (iPhone geocoding typically put here), and 159 had no location and no time zone specified.

Rough analysis: out of the 1908 records, three times more users are in the US as outside the US, add time zone data and the multiplier goes up to 3.5.

Broadcasting Board of Governors: empty seats at the public diplomacy table

The Broadcasting Board of Governors, or BBG, is the agency overseeing all United States public diplomacy broadcasting, that is non-military broadcasting for audiences outside of the territorial US.

It is also the name of the Board that governs those broadcasts that nominally consists of nine members, eight of which are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. By law, no more than four members may be from the same political party (in effect, four Republicans and four Democrats). The ninth member is the current Secretary of State (ex officio).

The BBG is also the agency everybody seems to love to hate.

In the spirit of the popular incumbency chart published here on the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, below you’ll find a unique chart and timeline on the membership of the Board that you won’t find anywhere else.

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Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy is at Odds with Social Media, and What to Do about It: an interview with Matt Armstrong

Over a week ago I discussed public diplomacy with Eric Schwartzman for his OnTheRecordOnline program. The 30 minute interview is now online here.

Public affairs and public diplomacy blogger Matt Armstrong of Armstrong Strategic Insights Group, LLC discusses U.S. Public Diplomacy, repairing America’s image abroad and whether or not the U.S. Department of State will ever be adequately resourced to lead the nation’s global engagement efforts through social media.

Mountain Runner is a blog on the practice and structure of public diplomacy, public affairs and public relations. It is read by senior government officials, practitioners, trainers, academics, and analysts from the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Defense, the United States Congress, related institutions, think tanks, and government agencies around the globe.

Eric has a good index with time codes for the topics covered at the interview website.

One note: at the beginning of the interview, I said “culture” wasn’t a part of “security” in a way that could be construed to mean cultural diplomacy etc is not important to public diplomacy and national security. That is not what I meant and I should have worded my response better in the interview. Cultural diplomacy is certainly very important.

Elevating public diplomacy and strategic communication as national security priorities

Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy’s plans to create a team to improve coordination and collaboration within the Defense Department and across Government were announced. The team, led by Rosa Brooks, will also, according to Defense News, “will be tasked with reaching out to key members of Congress on specific issues.”

Flournoy is "establishing a small team with responsibility for global strategic engagement issues," said Army Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington, a Pentagon spokesman. "This team will assist policy offices and senior leaders with the development of outreach and engagement plans, and will help coordinate DoD-wide engagement efforts."

Withington said the team will be composed of about five existing policy shop employees, and will be headed by Rosa Brooks, a principal adviser to Flournoy and a former Los Angeles Times columnist.

The goal is to "improve overall coordination of DoD public diplomacy and strategic communication efforts," the spokesman said.

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Guest Post: Explaining Why Afghanistan Matters – Whose Job Is It?

By Tom Brouns

As highlighted in this blog and others, the use of “new” and “social” media by military and government organizations as a part of their public communication strategy is undergoing a quiet evolution – or in some cases, revolution.  Where consensus between allies is not a concern, organizations like US Forces – Afghanistan are taking the bull by the horns: their Facebook page amassed 14,000 fans in six weeks, and their 4500+ followers on Twitter are nothing to sneeze at.  In an alliance like NATO, progress has to be a bit more tentative and exploratory.  Regardless of the pace, increasing dialogue and transparency between military organizations and their publics should be seen as a positive thing.

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Discussing Conspiracy Theories: a CO.NX webchat with Todd Leventhal

CO.NX, a State Department’s online conferencing tool, hosted a conversation with Todd Leventhal, State’s “disinformation and conspiracy theory specialist”. Todd is also the author of’s Rumors, Myths and Fabrications.

There are some interesting questions in the transcript which, by the way, is available online at the US Embassy in London. Because of an interpretation of the Smith-Mundt Act that disallows information created by specific offices in the State Department for foreign audiences, Todd’s expertise and this transcript are intentionally not available from the website to make it easier for Americans to see this conversation

A suggestion: State should host CO.NX style conversations with Americans to go beyond dispelling the same rumors, myths, and fabrications, as well as better engage and inform the public. A model would be the Defense Department’s Blogger Roundtable combined with DipNote’s focus on people and actions that don’t get a lot of coverage.

There is precedent in State. Former Under Secretary James Glassman held a few roundtables (with the bloggerati of public diplomacy but everything starts small) and out of public affairs (which Sean McCormack was working on before he left – he was even looking to integrate bloggers into daily press briefings).

Back to Todd. Select bits of the conversation are after the fold, but it is worth reading the whole article to get a feel for what is going on. Thanks Todd for sending this.

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Defining Public Diplomacy (again)

Here’s my latest working definition of public diplomacy.

The purpose of public diplomacy is to identify, empower, encourage (and possibly equip) self-organizing systems. The self-organizing systems engaged should be those that currently or potentially support, directly or indirectly, the foreign policy objectives of the public diplomacy-sponsoring actor. The support networks of groups that oppose or compete with the same foreign policy objectives should also be engaged as minds can be changed.

Your comments are appreciated.

Tehran acknowledges the power of Twitter and Public Diplomacy?

An interesting week long seminar advertised by the International Center for Journalists with interesting sponsors [emphasis mine]:

Modern communication course to be held in Tehran

Posted on: 13/07/2009
Basic Journalism
: Iran

Tehran’s Imam Sadiq University will hold a training course on "modern thinking in theories of communication sciences" from August 1 to 7, media reported. Registration is being accepted on a rolling basis.

The week-long course will feature topics including: Islam and communication sciences, philosophy and communication and political [communication] and public diplomacy.

The course is sponsored by the students’ branch of the Basij force, the Mowlana Foundation, and the Centre for Media Studies and Research in Tehran.

Do you think they’ll cover Twitter or other social media platforms?

Anyone have details on the Mowlana Foundation? @Orbitus and I would like know.

Guest Post: China’s Image Marketing: How Well Can Confucius Do?

By Tiger Zhang

Only 35 years ago, Confucius was widely condemned in China’s public rhetoric as a representative of the “corrupt segments of traditional culture” and a reactionary speaker of the hierarchical society that prevailed in China for at least 2 500 years. Not anymore. Today, he’s begun to serve singly as the “cultural diplomat” for China with such new titles as “the great mentor,” “representative of China’s traditional culture” and “advocate of a common faith and social order.” As part of China’s public diplomacy efforts, over 300 Confucius Institutes have been established in more than 80 countries so far. The number is expected to reach 500 by the end of next year and finally around 1 000 in all major cities around the world.

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Al-Jazeera: A Culture of Reporting at in Layalina’s Perspectives

Layalina Productions publishes a new monthly “forum by academics and leading practitioners to share their views in order to explore key concepts in the study and practice of public diplomacy and Arab media.” The third author to contribute is Dr. Abderrahim Foukara, the Washington Bureau Chief of Al-Jazeera Network.

In the final analysis, TV per se is neither a bridge-builder nor a bridge-buster. I believe that the battle to close the gap between nations is often fought in the trenches of political action, not by TV programming alone.

The perception issue between American and the Arab worlds will also be determined by what actions Arabs will take not just in the Middle East but also in Washington, where important decisions are made which affect their region and the rest of the world.

The article is worth your time and can be accessed here.

The two prior essays were:

In America? Smith-Mundt means no SMS updates on the President’s Ghana speech for you!

imageTo let the American public get updates to the President’s speech via SMS is dangerous and, presumably, equivalent to Al Qaeda and Taleban propaganda. No wait, those messages come through just fine so it must be worse than that and even Iranian, Russian, and Chinese Government propaganda. If you’re an American, you cannot sign up for SMS updates to what surely will be an excellent speech by the President – nor could you sign up for the previous much anticipated and lauded speeches – because the Smith-Mundt Act prevents American public diplomacy activities from reaching sensitive and impressionable American eyes and ears. If you’re in the 50 United States ("US minor outlying islands" don’t count) then you’ll have to hope the State Department’s Public Affairs

does something, but, call me a pessimist, I wouldn’t hold your breath.

See also:

How will you respond to a customer complaint in the age of Social Media?

Recommended reading in the age of now media: How will you respond to a customer complaint in the age of Social Media? at FASTforward. This is a lesson fully applicable to public diplomacy, strategic communication, global engagement, or whatever your tribe uses to describe the struggle for perceptions, relevance, and support. Unlike Las Vegas, what happens in new media doesn’t stay in new media.

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