Iran’s Blogosphere and Grassroots Voices: Risks and Rewards of Engagement
Date: Monday, April 12, 2010 Time: 9:00a – 12:30p. Location: George Washington University, Jack Morton Auditorium, 805 21st St NW, Washington, DC 20052 Co-sponsors: Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) & Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication (lPDGC), George Washington University (GWU).
The tactical guys in the field understand the significance of influence. From Command Sergeant Major Michael T. Hall at NATO ISAF HQ:
[The words on this cardboard] encapsulates everything we’re trying to achieve in Afghanistan at the strategic, operational and tactical level on a single piece of cardboard that is understood and practiced at every level in Fox Company.
We have all have got to take the mental leap and realize that the best way to protect ourselves and the population is thru the Afghan people and the ANSF.
Everywhere we build trust, there are examples of this. The ANSF are, our relief, treat them that way, help develop them that way, and understand it has to be an Afghan way, or it will not be sustainable and everyone knows that. We have to push as hard as we can, but the push can only be lead by example, and sometimes that doesn’t seem to be enough, but, remember, we have tours, this is life for them.
The cardboard reads from Fox Company 2/2 US Marines reads:
Best counter to IEDs: #1 The Afghan people, #2 ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] partners and then metal detectors, dogs, [Afghan] BOSS, [Airplanes], etc. More than 80% of our IED finds have been the direct result of tips from local nationals because of the respect that you show to the people – and because they’ve watched you ruthlessly close with and destroy the enemy. Never forget that the best X-IED TTP’s = #1 the Afghan people & #2 our ANSF partners.
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, delivered a speech at Kansas State University as part of the Landon Lecture Series on Wednesday, March 3, 2010. Some highlights are at the top, full text, including Q&A, is below the fold.
U.S. foreign policy is still too dominated by the military.
Secretaries Clinton and Gates have called for more funding and more emphasis on our soft power, and I could not agree with them more. Should we choose to exert American influence solely through our troops, we should expect to see that influence diminish in time. In fact, I would argue that in the future struggles of the asymmetric counterinsurgent variety, we ought to make it a precondition of committing our troops, that we will do so only if and when the other instruments of national power are ready to engage as well.
Because frankly the battlefield isn’t necessarily a field anymore. It’s in the minds of the people. It’s what they believe to be true that matters.
…quality of people, training and systems over quantity of platforms. It means that we choose to go small in number before we go hollow in capability. And it favors innovation in leaders, in doctrine, in organization and in technology.
In another sign that we need a strategic review of our public diplomacy – the White House / NSC Section 1055 report required by Congress provided a framework not a strategy – an element of America’s global engagement continues to exist on appropriations and not a permanent authorization. The situation was similar over sixty years ago when the State Department went to Congress to make VOA and other outreach methods and mediums permanent rather than, as was the case for a period, operating only on appropriations in the absence of Congressional authorization. As the most visibly active member of Congress on the issue of public diplomacy, Senate of House (there are Representatives on Armed Services Committees who are active behind the scenes), it is no surprise Senator Richard Lugar introduced a bill last month to permanently authorize Radio Free Asia.
U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar introduced legislation today that would promote the free dissemination of information in East Asia through the permanent authorization of Radio Free Asia (S.3104).
Sens. Kaufman (D-DE), Franken (D-MN), and Inouye (D-HI) are original cosponsors of the bill.
This week, NPR broadcast an interesting story on The Villages, a burgeoning retirement community in Florida. What made it interesting was the developer of the project “owns just about everything.” This includes the local media. As NPR’s Robert Siegel explained:
The local radio station, which of course plays oldies, its also piped by loudspeaker to the two downtowns – is owned by the developer. So is The Villages’ Daily Sun, a full-sized newspaper with multiple sections. It has a local reporting staff and runs AP stories about the rest of the world.
The peril of a lack of competition in news media came out in an interview Siegel had with Joe Gorman, the president of the property owners association in The Villages, a natural adversary to the developer.
SIEGEL: Joe Gorman says that after his group raised that issue, over a thousand homes were eventually repaired. He says the vinyl siding story escaped the notice of the local paper and the radio station completely, as does his organizations work in general.
Siegel also interviewed Andrew Blechman, the author of Leisureville, a book about The Villages. Blechman describes The Villages as a benevolent totalitarian government:
Everything is owned by the developer. The government is owned by the developer. Everything’s privatized and they’re happy with that. You know, they traded in the ballot box for the corporate suggestion box.
Why is this interesting? Because it demonstrates the American fear of propaganda by Big Brother. The developer is an effective propagandist in this situation not because certain stories are broadcast and others are not, but because there is a lack of competition, which would result in both accountability and a broader spectrum of news. This also creates the environment of Big Brother: the media and the ‘government’ are one and the same and support each other.
The federal government is suing KBR Inc., the largest military contractor in Iraq, over what prosecutors say were improper charges to the Army for private security services. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington, charges that KBR knew it could not bill the government for private armed security for the company and 33 of its subcontractors, but did so anyway.
This is an old issue that was long buried and ignored: that some, if not much, of the money spent on private security in Iraq was illegal. The reality of security contractors, despite the claims of so many that they are inherently outside the law, is they have always been potentially liable if the client, in this case the US Government, chose to make them so. Ultimately, their impact on the struggle in Iraq was significant. For all the talk on the importance of rebuilding and the invocation of the Marshall Plan, it would have been hard to come up with better methods of so-called ‘development’ to alienate the people more.