Blogging will resume, not right now but soon + other comments

The silence on the blog has been unintentionally long. I had planned to post this week while at a conference/workshop this week, but it just didn’t happen. Today’s an abbreviated day for me so I am focusing on correspondence not done while on the plane home. Blogging will resume over the weekend (likely) and return in force next week.

What’s coming:

Ackerman: State Dept Project Signals Foreign Policy Shift

Spencer Ackerman has an article at The Washington Independent on the forthcoming Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) based on his interview of Anne-Marie Slaughter, the State Department’s influential Director of Policy Planning. The QDDR is the State Department’s initial foray into strategic planning. According to State’s website, the QDDR

will provide the short-, medium-, and long-term blueprint for our diplomatic and development efforts. Our goal is to use this process to guide us to agile, responsive, and effective institutions of diplomacy and development, including how to transition from approaches no longer commensurate with current challenges. It will offer guidance on how we develop policies; how we allocate our resources; how we deploy our staff; and how we exercise our authorities.

Anne-Marie says this exercise is “not an abstract planning exercise” and that the “implications go far beyond the budget.” According to Anne-Marie, the QDDR will result in institutional changes, but what remains unknown except that USAID will not be completely absorbed by State.

Anne-Marie put forward three operating themes for the QDDR. First, “U.S. foreign policy is beset with “collective problems” — from terrorism to climate change to pandemic disease — that require joint international action.” Second, is “how State and USAID work with the military to address “the question of civilian operational capacity to crisis.” And third, is the “space between what AID or DIFD [the U.K.’s foreign-assistance agency] or UNDP [the United Nation Development Program] does and what peacekeepers and international armies do.”

Spencer’s interview unveiled who is working on the QDDR. Anne-Marie is overseeing five working groups of senior officials from both State and USAID.

  • Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of State for East Asia, and Karen Turner, director of USAID’s office of development partners, head the group responsible for “Building a Global Architecture of Cooperation.”
  • Maria Otero, the undersecretary of state for democracy and global affairs, and Gloria Steele, USAID’s global-health chief, work on whole-of-government solutions.
  • Johnnie Carson, State’s top African-affairs official, and George Laudato, USAID’s Mideast chief, handle “Investing in the Building Blocks of Stronger Societies.”
  • Conflict prevention and response is under Eric Schwartz, State’s assistant secretary for population, migration and refugees.
  • Susan Reichle, USAID’s senior democracy and humanitarian assistance official.
  • Ruth Whiteside of State’s Foreign Service Institute and JeanMarie Smith, Lew’s special assistant, are in charge of “Building Operational and Resource Platforms for Success.”

It seems to me, as Spencer wrote from our interview, that the QDDR is focusing on interagency processes rather than intra-agency barriers and friction. In this case, it may be safe to say that the interagency process is the “low hanging fruit” that is easier for the picking.

We will see what, if any, real change the QDDR will bring. As I said in the article, the “QDDR will ultimately be just a document. What it spurs will be the real test.”


Understanding and Engaging Now Media

The course I’m teaching titled "Understanding and Engaging Now Media" is next month. There are a few spots remaining if you’re interested. Information and registration is at the AOC website. Updates to the syllabus not online at AOC:

    Module 1 – "Convergence of Old and New into Now" – understanding application of the terms new, old, social media; purpose, utility, and use of various platforms

    Module 2 – "Understanding" – barriers and constraints as "myths"; transformation of "trust"; errors in reporting; speed of transmission and replication; blurred distinction between news consumers and producers

    Module 3 – Guest Speaker G.C.: State Department’s use of new media, lessons learned

    Module 4 – "Engaging" – operating in the (virtual) first three feet and the last three feet; tools, methods, and reasons to track and engage people, information, sentiments, the "canary in the coal mine"

    Module 5 – Guest Speaker A.P.: Adversarial Exploitation of Online Video

    Module 6 – Lessons from the Private Sector: two examples; and conclusion

There will be PDFs and recommended material, including recommendations on books, sent before the course to registered participants.

State Dept Project Signals Foreign Policy Shift

State Dept Project Signals Foreign Policy Shift: Review Could Shift Resources to Civilian Agencies for Foreign Development, by Spencer Ackerman, 22 October 2009, in The Washington Independent.

In July, [State Department’s director of policy planning Anne-Marie] Slaughter’s boss, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, announced a new planning and budgeting document, called the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, or QDDR, created to “effectively design, fund, and implement development and foreign assistance as part of a broader foreign policy” every four years. It is the first such effort for the State Department, which is not known for a culture of planning, and is modeled after a planning document produced by the Defense Department that reassesses and guides strategy on a recurring basis. …

The review comes as at a time when the State Department is facing existential questions about its utility to American foreign policy, and some aren’t so sure that it will be as influential as Slaughter believes. In a provocative article last month for Foreign Policy magazine, public-diplomacy specialist Matt Armstrong called the agency “broken and paralyzed, unable to respond to the new 21st-Century paradigm” where both state and non-state actors influence the global agenda. “The QDDR will ultimately be just a document. What it spurs will be the real test,” Armstrong, whose article urged radical departmental restructuring, said in an interview. “As we know from the struggle for minds and wills around the world today, words only go so far.” …

Only one policy option has been ruled out: dissolving USAID and moving development work to the State Department. “There will be no merger,” Slaughter said. “Secretary Clinton has made clear she wants a strong AID, a well-resourced AID, [and] wants diplomacy and development well-integrated.”

Armstrong has a similar focus, but he wondered how thoroughly the QDDR would adopt the critique. “A focus of the QDDR seems to be State’s ability to play well with others,” he said. “But creating more plugs and sockets to connect with other agencies will be of little value if the internal bureaucratic friction that inhibits agility and creativity are not addressed.” He said that the department would need to abandon its bureaucratic “emphasis on national borders”- the State Department is primarily organized around countries, rather than transnational phenomena — if it wants to become “become an effective alternative and counterweight to DOD.”

Bullets and Blogs: New Media and the Warfighter

image From the US Army War College’s Center for Strategic Leadership and The SecDev Group comes “Bullets and Blogs: New Media and the Warfighter” (2.7mb PDF). The report is based on a three-day workshop that took place at Carlisle Barracks in January 2008, one of the best events I have attended. It is required reading for anyone (e.g. more then than the Defense community) involved in the modern information environment.

This report is rich with soundbites and recommendations supported by examples, including operations where the insurgents were the first to write the first draft of history, the draft that usually sticks especially when a factual challenge is not made within days or weeks. It will be required reading for my upcoming class as well as a class I’ll likely be teaching in the spring (details to be announced).

This report deserves a better write up, but for now, download and read it yourself and comment below. More information can be found here:

State Department’s structure hinders public diplomacy

The below structural and operational recommendations by retired public diplomacy officers and diplomats originally appeared at Long in development by the authors, it appeared at AD as a response to Amb. Bill Rugh’s “Enabling Public Diplomacy Field Officer’s to do their Jobs.” The goal of both the below and Rugh’s recommendations is to make the State Department effective – not simply more effective – in today’s global information environment by addressing internal issues that the many studies on public diplomacy from various government groups, think tanks, and academia have failed to really get at. Related reading is Hitting Bottom at Foggy Bottom and How to win the GWOT – or whatever it’s called today.

The merger – abolishment really – of USIA in 1999 was never complete. The recommendations below seek to create an “internal” USIA within the Department. They are not comprehensive or end-all changes, but they are a starting point to centralize the resourcing, planning, and execution of engagement activities.

On the specific recommendations, recommendation #1 – creating a bureau for field operations headed by an assistant secretary (essential) – would put field ops on par with IIP (which is still waiting its Assistant Secretary) and ECA (which is also still waiting for its Assistant Secretary). It is not clear what relationship of the field PD officers would have with this new bureau within Judith McHale’s office – perhaps they’ll comment below – but presumably the field officers would report first and foremost to the new bureau instead of the Ambassador.

Both Recommendation #1 and #2 – transferring regional bureau PD desks to the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs – are ultimately partial steps without top-down pressure to better integrate post or regional bureau PD into Department operations (see the report on the Africa Bureau).

Other – many other – recommendations could be added, I appreciate the brevity the authors sought (most of whom I’ve met). However, I would add at least two more on the short list. First, the functional integration of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, both of which Judith McHale is ostensibly in charge of. We operate in a global information environment and weekly “coordination” meetings are inadequate. Second, elevate the prestige and importance of the public diplomacy “cone”. The Department of State must become also the Department of Non-State. This requires empowering, resourcing, and integrating public diplomacy officers that advise, inform, and engage leadership and publics. 

The commentary is important enough to post it in its entirety. Bold within the text are mine.

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Bruce Gregory: Mapping Smart Power in Multi-stakeholder Public Diplomacy / Strategic Communication

The following was delivered at “New Approaches to U.S. Global Outreach” hosted by The Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication at George Washington University on October 5, 2009. It is available here by permission of Bruce.

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Getting to know America: supporting foreign journalists in the US

Mitch Polman wrote an interesting article last month on the challenges foreign (non-US) journalists face coming to the United States and reporting here. Borat vs. Murat highlights a critical gap in our global engagement: the failure to facilitate foreign media to get to know America and share this knowledge – as authentic communicators – back to their own countries.

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What is propaganda?

What is “propaganda”? Is it bad, good, or neutral? Who does it? Is it what “the other guy” does but you don’t?
Is something “propaganda” because of its content, delivery, audience, intent, effect, all the above or none of the above?

I’m interested in your thoughts. Next week I’ll post one – possibly two – proposed revisions to the definition of propaganda to continue this discussion.


Guest Post: “Brand America” back on top

By Simon Anholt

America has just become, according to my research, the world’s most admired country.

Since 2005, I’ve been running a survey called the Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index (NBI), which measures international perceptions of 50 countries. Each year, around 20,000 people in 20 countries are asked to record their perceptions of each country’s government and its domestic and foreign policies on human rights, the environment, and international peace and security; of the people of each country, their talents, education, skills and their kindess to strangers; of each country’s cultural heritage and popular culture; about the quality and attractiveness of the products and services it produces; of the landscape and climate and tourist appeal of each country; of the economic and educational opportunities each country offers its own population and to immigrants. The NBI has been conducted fourteen times, and now consists of over a billion data points recording “how the world sees the world”. A parallel study, the Anholt-GfK Roper City Brands Index, performs a similar analysis of 50 cities (the 2008 topline results of both surveys can be queried interactively at

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Armed Services Committees Authorize Funds and Activities for State Department information operations (Updated)

If you haven’t read the National Defense Authorization of Act for Fiscal Year 2010 that came out of conference this week – and I’m guessing you haven’t – then you may have missed a potential precedent.

The Armed Services Committees of the House and Senate this week authorized $55 million for the State Department for what amounts to information operations (or call it public diplomacy, strategic communication, or global engagement). This is not so-called “1207” funding that allows Defense to transfer money to State for security and stabilization – there is another $100m (or more) of security and stabilization money the SASC/HASC direct DOD to transfer to State – nor is it, for the wonk in you, “1206” or “1208” funding. This is a direct authorization for State (and BBG if you prefer to separate them out) for specific activities.

The appearance of these authorizations in the Senate bill back in July took many by surprise. This could create questions over accountability of funds and confusion over guidance by adding more cooks who generally do not confer much and speak different language in this kitchen.

The big question is whether the authorities will be funded. This is unlikely considering neither the House or Senate defense appropriators have included this in their pre-conference bills. However, the Armed Services Committees created an opportunity for the defense appropriators to send a significant message. Whether the appropriators take that opportunity is to be seen.

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In DC next week for meetings

I’ll be in Washington, DC, next week – Wednesday through Friday. On Friday, I’ll be at a special luncheon at the State Department remembering and commemorating a man that was instrumental in almost every significant event that helped transform the US from an isolated nation to a superpower: George C. Marshall. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US Army Chief of Staff George W. Casey will give remarks and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates will receive the George C. Marshall Foundation Award. Clinton, Gates, and Casey each occupy a position previously held by Marshall, a five-star General of the Army. (See also The Intended ‘Psychological By-Products’ of Development.)

I’ll also be on the Hill Thursday for meetings.

An Introduction to Using Network Maps in Public Diplomacy and Strategic Communication

By Ali Fisher

We live in a networked world. Whether known as family, kinship, tribe, village, neighbourhood, community, work place colleagues, or online social network, they are all networks in the sense of being a series of relationships between different individuals.

Social network analysis (SNA) explores the relationship between actors within a network by identifying the points that people “huddle around”. Network maps allow a researcher to visualise and analyse data on complex interactions or relationships between large numbers of actors. In these maps the dots (nodes) are actors within the network and the lines (ties, edges or arcs) identify a relationship between the nodes which the tie connects.

Through the maps, groups (or cliques) can be seen more rapidly than a through a text based list. Groups that have high levels of interaction with each other form clusters of dots in different areas of the network map.

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Guest Post: Foreign Based Reporters in America are an Underutilized Public Diplomacy Resource

By Mitchell Polman

According to a report released earlier this year by the Pew Project on Excellence in Journalism, 1,490 foreign correspondents were accredited to the Foreign Press Center in Washington as of October 2008. That is an almost ten-fold increase since 1968. Foreign accredited journalists represent nearly 800 media outlets from 113 countries and territories. Journalists from Africa, the Middle East, and China account for much of the increase. From a public diplomacy standpoint, the foreign journalists working in Washington are underutilized. The State Department needs to work on developing ways to bolster the ability of foreign journalists to get the most out of their U.S. experience.

The State Department, to its credit, does operate press centers in Washington and New York that assist foreign journalists with briefings, information, and other tools that enable them to keep track of policy debates and develop contacts. The Bush administration closed a third Foreign Press Center that was in Los Angeles.

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Keeping Perspective on America’s Jump to #1 in the Nation Brands Index

Nick Cull adds some necessary perspective on America’s surprising jump to #1 in the most recent Nation Brand Index by GfK:

It is received wisdom among those who monitor the ebb and flow of national reputations that major movements are rare. … Mostly the rankings have been surprisingly stable, with France, Germany and the United Kingdom jostling for the top slot in the leading index, the Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index. Against this expectation of stability, the results of this year’s Anholt index are all the more startling. The United States has soared from the doldrums of number seven to the top spot as the most admired country in the world. The founder of the Index, Simon Anholt, attributed America’s jump to one factor: the election of Barack Obama to the presidency. However, due to the spread of categories which comprise an index rating, in order to move so dramatically the United States has had to ‘move the needle’ not only in its politics, but in the reputation of its people, culture and as a tourist destination.

But before America pops the champagne, a word of caution. It would be nice to say that America’s jump in the index (or the earlier jumps in the Pew Global survey) is the product of a massive investment in public diplomacy, but this is not the case. That investment still remains an unfulfilled election promise. In fact the ‘good news’ might yet emerge as ‘bad news’, as it removes the urgency from the issue of PD reform. The US can not live off the reputation of its President alone. To stay at the top the USA needs to both invest in and to reform its public diplomacy, to address the prominence of the military in the delivery of the ‘brand America’ experience and create a workable inter-agency mechanism. Whether she speaks for the ‘top nation’ or not , Under Secretary Judith McHale still has a massive challenge ahead.

I agree with Nick. I am fairly certain that McHale and her boss won’t seriously laud the rise, even if they do highlight it in public. I do hope some within the public diplomacy apparatus doesn’t think they are a big cause of the movement.

I echo Nick’s concern that this ‘good news’ will remove the urgency, but I sincerely believe it won’t. In part because there remains too little urgency in the first place, regardless of the current debates in Congress over Defense spending and leadership in global engagement. It’s important to keep in mind that the Defense appropriators and authorizers are not actively working with the appropriators and authorizers for State. In other words, reducing the “prominence of the military in the delivery of the ‘brand America’ experience” is simply that: reducing the military without increasing State (at least not as of this writing). I am certain, however, that few in Congress will see this as a metric of success and suggest slowing down planned expansion of public diplomacy. Wait, there is no serious planned expansion of PD, never mind….

Imagine if the White House and State had not failed to capitalize on the engagement opportunities afforded by our charismatic leaders over this past year.

Looking for a research topic on public diplomacy and strategic communication?

Are you a graduate student looking for a research topic? Then I’ve got two topics for you. Actually I have a dozen topics, but here’s two, one I’ve shared several times over the last couple of months and another. I haven’t spent a lot of time refining these so don’t bang on me too hard on the wording but a discussion is encouraged.

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21st Century Family of Man: A Photo Exhibition

The USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is hosting a photo exhibition by Paul S. Rockower, a student in the USC Master of Public Diplomacy program. According to the brochure,

(1) thumb This selection of photographs by Paul S. Rockower pays homage to The Family of Man exhibition that opened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1955. Born into an age of Cold War antagonisms, as well as longstanding divisions segregating mankind by color, caste and creed, the brilliance of The Family of Man was that it reflected the world as one. The messages were universal, the images timeless–it connected with humanity everywhere it was seen. The Family of Man exhibited the fundamental values that mankind shares: birth, life, death, and all experiences in between.

The photos are visually stunning and draw you in. They are well worth viewing. To me, the title was a bit misleading, however. With the exception of one of the city photos, it’s not clear – to me at least – that this "21st Century" edition of The Family of Man captures a world any different than what was potentially captured in 1955, except that instead of the original’s focus on Americans ("crassly" in the words of USC professor Nick Cull), Paul Rockower focused on worldly locations with people as props.

If you’re near USC, do check out the photos in person. If not, the second best option is to view some of them on the website.

A longer review by someone a bit more artistic than me can be found here.