Event: The Public Diplomacy Council’s Evening with Four Authors

From The Public Diplomacy Council (full disclosure: I’m a member):

The Public Diplomacy Council: An Evening with Four Authors

Bill Kiehl, Sherry Mueller, Mark Overmann, Tom Tuch

Wednesday, March 4, 2009
6:30 – 8:00 PM

1801 F Street NW
Washington DC

Please RSVP to PDC@PublicDiplomacyCouncil.org or call (202) 387-5209

GLOBAL INTENTIONS LOCAL RESULTS: How Colleges Can Create International Communities

by William P. Kiehl, Ed. D.

Global Intentions Local Results is an in-depth look at the influence of campus internationalization on local communities. Case studies at three very different small colleges in three small communities in Pennsylvania illustrate how colleges faced challenges to bring the world to their communities.

WORKING WORLD: Careers in International Education, Exchange, and Development

by Sherry L. Mueller & Mark Overmann

Working World is the perfect resource for making sound career choices, and is particularly valuable for those interested in exploring a career in international education, exchange, and development. It is an intergenerational dialogue about identifying your cause and charting a career

ARIAS, CABALETTAS, AND FOREIGN AFFAIRS: A Public Diplomat’s Quasi-Musical Memoir

by Hans N. Tuch

Arias, Cabalettas, and Foreign Affairs recalls the author’s devoted engagement with music, especially opera, in the context of his 35-year long career in the US Foreign Service. In these memoirs Hans “Tom” Tuch shares fascinating stories from his Cold War service in Moscow, Sofia, and Berlin.

Books will surely be available at the event or through the Amazon.com links above.

A talk with the author of Haliburton’s Army

haliburtonsarmy “It’s about chocolate covered bunnies.” That’s how Pratap Chatterjee explained the his new book, Halliburton’s Army: How a Well-Connected Texas Oil Company Revolutionized the Way America Makes War. In town for a book tour, we met Wednesday at my local Starbucks to catch-up, but mostly we talked about his book. I have to admit I haven’t read it, so I don’t know the details but our discussion about the core theme was so intriguing that while he was talking I started talking notes to post a kind of interview with the author.

Continue reading “A talk with the author of Haliburton’s Army

Book: Threats in the Age of Obama


Previously posted January 22; this post is updated with a new Amazon link.

Congratulations to real-life friend Mike Tanji on editing his first book. It is listed on Amazon here

From Mike’s introduction:

No author here has been a cabinet officer and none is likely to be one, which gives us a considerable amount of freedom. No one here has to face scrutiny on Capitol Hill, which makes our jobs much easier; but by the same token none of us are beholden to parties or institutions with ulterior motives, nor are we playing our cards in a fashion designed to net us comfortable situations. If you are on a mission to change the way government works, particularly in the national security arena, this is one of the few places where some independent thinking is to be found. It is with that in mind that we offer our view of some of the more pressing threats the Obama administration will have to deal with in these early days of the 21st century.

Author list and an excerpt from my chapter are below the fold.

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Bacevich, The Limits of Power

From the History Department at US Army Combined Arms Center comes the following recommendation for Andrew Bacevich’s book, The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism: 

Andrew J. Bacevich, The Limits of Power (Metropolitan Books, 2008), should be on everyone’s reading list over the holidays.  Of special interests are his criticisms of how we view our current operating environment and how we are preparing for it. 

For example, discussing the 2003 invasion plan, Bacevich writes:

"For starters, it was devoid of political context. Narrowly focused on the upcoming fight, it paid no attention to the aftermath. Defining the problem as Iraq alone, it ignored other regional power relationships and made no provision for how war might alter those relationships, whether for good or ill. It was completely ahistorical and made no reference to culture, religion, or ethnic identity. It had no moral dimension. It even failed to include a statement of purpose." (166-167)

His book hits at the heart of what we teach here at CGSC.  While you may not agree with his argument, it will cause you to think about what we are doing here in a new light.  It should be on the Chief of Staff’s reading list.

Unrelated to the book review, the US Army CAC “blog collective” is a poster example of a new dynamic in the U.S. Army to educate and empower new media engagement. The Foreign Service Institute should explore this as should must the State Department as a whole. From DipNote to America.gov to embassy sites should also think about implementing a “collective” model as the FCO is doing.

Handbook of Public Diplomacy

imageThe Routledge Handbook of Public Diplomacy was published today. It’s out and discounted 8% at Amazon so get a jump on your Christmas shopping while they’re a bargain at $161.81 each. However, in an unprecedented move, Routledge is offering a handbook simultaneously in paperback available directly from Routledge here

The book is edited by Nancy Snow and Phil Taylor. Nancy is Associate Professor of Public Diplomacy in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She is Senior Research Fellow in the USC Center on Public Diplomacy. Phil is Professor of International Communications at the University of Leeds and acknowledged as one of the foremost authorities in propaganda history and public diplomacy. The book was published in affiliation with the USC Center on Public Diplomacy.

Seriously though, get or borrow a copy of this 400-page doorstop, there is some seriously good writing in it (mine excepted of course ;). Table of Contents after the fold.

Continue reading “Handbook of Public Diplomacy

Book Review: Losing Arab Hearts and Minds by Steve Tatham

In the global information environment, the media influences public opinion and government policy around the world. It conveys to the public not only what the government is doing, but provides a feedback loop to the government through the coverage created by editors and reporters in response to their listeners, viewers, readers, and sponsors, whether advertisers or owners. Policies can no longer be presented to the public in the abstract as they are constantly measured against images on television, in the newspaper, and online, around the clock and around the world.

Reports on American Public Diplomacy and Strategic Communication are filled with examples of how the United States failed to engage the Arab public since 9/11. These have come from the Defense Sciences Board, the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, and numerous think tanks, and more will appear as we near the end of 2008 and the end of the Bush Administration. There are also several books on the subject, see below for more on these, however none closely examines the critical relationship between the U.S. Defense Department and the Arab media and public. There is one book that does explore this “last three feet” of engagement and you’ve probably never heard of it.

Losing Arab Hearts and Minds: The Coalition, Al Jazeera and Muslim Public Opinion is by Steve Tatham, a serving officer (now Commander) in the Royal Navy. He was the Royal Navy’s public spokesman in Iraq from 2002-2003 and is uniquely qualified to give an outsider’s “inside” view of the Coalition’s engagement with the Arab media, or rather their intentional non-engagement with Arab media.

Drawing on first hand experience and other resources, Steve carefully and thoroughly describes the media affairs of the Coalition, notably of the United States. He does so on a foundation he establishes in the first one hundred pages as he explores the biases of the Americans, the British, and the Arab world. This includes superb analysis of the public statements from the Bush Administration, the American media environment (including “The Fox Factor”), lessons learned from the 1991 Gulf War, and Hollywood influences. He also looks at the major Arab media and their evolution, America’s response, such as the creation of Al-Hurra, with a scholarly, yet conversational, examination. His insider’s view of operations at and the people running the Information Centers in Doha, Kuwait, and Bahrain amplifies the theme of the book: that the United States public affairs were focused almost exclusively on the American public.

The tactical maneuvering of ignoring the Arab media created substantial handicaps in our ability to get the word out. By excluding a critical link to the Arab public, the very people the President would claimed was the purpose for the invasion (“to bring democracy”), air time would be filled not by our information and explanations. The resulting information product would spiral down.

To exclude significant media who speak to major target audiences was a combination of naivete and even arrogance and was not restricted to the Arab media. Threaded through the book is the truth the United States, and the military in particular, has only recently begun to come to grips with: that perceptions matter more than intent and that operational activities must be formed and guided by the information they generate and not followed ad hoc by a communication plan. Steve quotes an Al Jazeera executive, who said

By merely disseminating a point of view the battle is not finished. It take more than information to convince public opinion of your good will towards the Arab world.

Steve does a superb job exploring the frustration, prejudice, and ignorance displayed by America toward the Arab media and Arab public opinion and how it undermined the engagement and understanding of a critical, if not the critical, audience in the global struggle for minds and wills. Losing Arab Hearts and Minds is required reading for those interested in Public Diplomacy, Strategic Communication, Information Operations, and general military-media engagement. The failure of the Coalition, and the United States Defense Department specifically, to engage the Arab media was lost the battle for ‘hearts and minds’ before it really began.

Related Reading:

Book Review: The Art of Global Public Relations


There’s a new book on the block that will is required reading for anybody seriously interested in the relationship between information activities, cultural and educational exchanges, advocacy, and Congressional and executive branch bureaucracies. This book is Dr. Nick Cull’s The Cold War and the United States Information Agency: American Propaganda and Public Diplomacy, 1945-1989.

As a trained historian, Nick delivers a rich narrative of the United States Information beginning with the seeds of the USIA at the end of World War II and through the end of the Cold War that marked the beginning of the slow death of agency. As an academic, he supports the story with deep research, including one hundred personal interviews, that leave very few stones left unturned. Unlike most of other books on the subject, he focus on both the “slow” engagement of educational and cultural exchanges or the “fast” engagement of the information activities.  

For the many reports being written today on the future of U.S. public diplomacy and whether and how to recreate the USIA, this is a must read. For current and future students of public diplomacy, strategic communication, and global engagement, this is a valuable and necessary resource.

There is one unfortunate problem with the book, however: the price. Hopefully the publisher will drop the price on the soft cover (don’t know if one is planned yet or will ever).

For a more comprehensive book review, I’ll defer to Martha Bayles, who reviewed it in the The Wall Street Journal today. I look forward to other reviews (personally, I’d like to see a review from John Brown). A snippet from Bayles’s review:

Mr. Cull admits that America’s image is shaped by many actors, from U.S.-based transnational corporations (especially the titans of the entertainment industry) to thousands of NGOs, ranging in size from behemoths to pipsqueaks. But because most of these operate with little or no political oversight, the traditional tools of public diplomacy — the foreign service, government-supported international broadcasting and a whole range of military-related communications — remain crucial to the conduct of U.S. foreign policy.

Mr. Cull’s invaluable contribution is to divide public diplomacy into five components, beginning with the most important: listening. Initially, USIA did research and analysis of foreign opinion, and the director sat on the National Security Council and shared these soundings with policy makers. (This changed under President Nixon.) The second component, advocacy, is also tied to policy, in the sense of shaping an overall propaganda "message" in its favor.

Read the review in its entirety here.

One sad note on USIA: Charles Wick, the last USIA director discussed in the book, died yesterday (LA Times article here).

On the reading pile

Briefly, a few books that may be of interest.  The first two are topic for the blog and the third looks interesting. 

America Between the Wars: From 11/9 to 9/11 by Derek Chollet (should have asked him to sign it)

 Weapons of Mass Persuasion: Strategic Communication to Combat Violent Extremism edited by Steve Corman, Angela Trethewey, and H.L. Goodall, Jr. (all of COMOPS) (which Steve did sign 😉

 The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why by Amanda Ripley

Book Review: Information Operations: Doctrine and Practice


The United States is unquestioningly involved in a global struggle for the minds and wills of men and women.  The fundamental weapon in this struggle is information.  Informing the people, fueling ideology, suggesting tactics, fostering perceptions, and deception is information in action.  Giving information context is critical, without context, it is as useful as a bullet on the ground.  If you don’t pick it up and use it, someone else will to your detriment.  It is also useful to hide or deny the existence of the bullet. 

As New Media changes the notion of power, influence, and access, success and failure in modern conflict increasingly relies on adaptability to and in the global information environment.  Over the last several years, we’ve seen the U.S. military make tremendous strides and become, as necessity has required, a learning organization.  The can be seen in significant changes in doctrine, from Counterinsurgency Manual (FM 3-24) to the Operations Manual (FM 3-0).  Both address the effects of information with an entire chapter (unfortunately) named “Information Superiority”.

Whether modern military operations are kinetic (things going boom) or not (humanitarian assistance), there is a need to manage and disseminate information to inform and influence.  This is done either through the Public Affairs or somebody else.  Collectively, that “somebody” else is Information Operations, or IO.  Understanding what IO is, and perhaps more importantly what it is not, has been challenging for those not practicing it (but even then, there’s some confusion). 

Over the last several years, only a few military monographs of note have explored the role and purpose of IO.  As far as text or reference books, only Leigh Armistead’s edited work is the only substantial post-9/11 resource.  There’s a new book that incorporates the lessons and evolutions of the last several years

Dr. Christopher Paul’s Information Operations–Doctrine and Practice: A Reference Handbook is a necessary update to IO literature.  It is setup and reads like, just as the title states, a reference handbook focused on military IO.  Chris, a social scientist, methodologically pulls together relevant doctrine, pertinent works, historical examples, and provides analysis, challenges, and tensions of and between the elements of IO.  

In analyzing the elements of IO, Chris is guided by three major themes.  The first is integrating IO with higher (and broader) spanning the whole of the U.S. government.  Second, recasting IO’s five core capabilities — psychological operations (PSYOP), military deception (MILDEC), operational security (OPSEC), electronic warfare (EW), and computer network operations (CNO) — into two pillars, one based on systems and the other on content.  And third is the tension between “black” and “white” information. 

There is nothing inherently controversial in the book.  Although some may take exception with (absolutely correct) statements like “Counterpropaganda features prominently in PSYOP doctrine, but it is also part of the public affairs portfolio.”  And, he continues,”It isn’t clear who has the lead.” 

To most practitioners, there may be nothing new, but Chris has done a tremendous service in bringing together and discussing all the elements of IO.  If you have Armistead’s fine book on your shelf, this book replaces it with new discussions and analysis on the transformations that have occurred over the last several years, including Defense Support for Public Diplomacy, Blogs and OPSEC, civil-military operations, the tension with Public Affairs, among others.

If you are studying, or simply interested in, military information operations, then this is a required resource that puts it all in one place with details not found in any other book or paper.   

Book Review: Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Gerry Loftus

Imperial LifeGerry Loftus, the Avuncular American, reviews Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone at USC’s Center on Public Diplomacy’s blog.

As we mark the fifth anniversary of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, it is worth revisiting that first year of the U.S. occupation.  The Green Zone of Chandrasekaran’s title has come to symbolize the entire Iraq venture, the enclave where America tried to graft its national narrative and institutions onto a Middle Eastern society, and then was surprised at the transplant’s rejection.  In the immediate aftermath of the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue, it is a time of striking images and—in some corners of the neoconservative world—heady dreams of remaking the Middle East in America’s mold.  It’s the world of the Coalition Provisional Authority or CPA, under “viceroy,” “proconsul,” “presidential envoy,” or simply, as his official title said, Administrator L. Paul “Jerry” Bremer.

Enter this world with Rajiv Chandrasekaran and prepare to… laugh.  You know you shouldn’t, but some of his vignettes on the heights of hubris on the Tigris are so outrageously funny that you might weep.  As you should, for the absurd tragicomedy of life in the Green Zone is rendered here as nowhere else.  Funny but never flippant, Chandrasekaran was The Washington Post Baghdad Bureau Chief before, during, and after the invasion.

Read the whole thing at either the USC CPD blog blog or at Gerry’s blog.  Also at Gerry’s blog are some additional comments posted almost exactly five years after Amb. L. Paul Bremer was selected for his position in Iraq.

Another Book Review of Yale Richmond’s Practicing Public Diplomacy

For another review of Yale Richmond’s new book, Practicing Public Diplomacy: A Cold War Odyssey, checkout at Pat Kushlis at WhirledView:  

…Richmond explains well how politics influenced cultural exchange and that the work of cultural officers in the Soviet Union – of which I was one – was often as much political as it was cultural. He also recognized that cultural exchange was a two way street because through “cultural exchange we learned much about each other.” And he stressed that “while the immediate objective may have been improved mutual understanding, the long-range objective was a more stable relationship between the two countries.”

Richmond concludes in his “Afterword” by asking whether public diplomacy practices learned during the Cold War could “serve as a model for defeating terrorism and anti-Americanism in the world we live in today.” His nuanced answer in which he emphasizes the need for patience – Rome was not built in a day and the Cold War lasted decades – as well as the necessity for policy makers to be “aware of the public opinion consequences of their decisions” is far more “yes” than “no.”

Yet Richmond also cautions that those who are “expected to practice public diplomacy should also have some input into the decisions” that govern its implementation and that increased funding and a larger public diplomacy staff will not alone win support for American policies. I agree.

Read her whole review here.

Book Review: Practicing Public Diplomacy

imageFriend and colleague, John Brown, reviewed Yale Richmond’s latest book, Practicing Public Diplomacy: A Cold War Odyssey, at AmericanDiplomacy.org.  From John’s review:

In his memoir, Practicing Public Diplomacy: A Cold War Odyssey, Yale Richmond tells us what public diplomacy is in a lively and personal way, by recounting his many experiences, in Asia and Eastern Europe (as well as Washington, DC), as a Foreign Service officer (FSO) handling press, educational, and cultural affairs during the second half of the past century. Thanks to his subtle, engaging, and witty narrative about his distinguished 30-year career, the reader learns a great deal about how public diplomacy is carried out in the field by a model FSO (for what overarching policy purposes, however, is not covered in detail by this slim volume).

Richmond’s elucidating anecdotes about the key persons he met throughout his career abroad underscore that public diplomacy — as Edward R. Murrow, the Director of the United States Information Agency (USIA) during the Kennedy administration, famously said — “is not so much moving information or guidance or policy five or 10,000 miles. … The real art is to move it the last three feet in face to face conversation.” Focusing on individuals (rather than governments), public diplomacy encompasses an infinite variety of activities, some of which can have important (but hard to quantify) long-term consequences: from building “national consciousness in a new country” (Richmond on what he did while posted in Laos in 1954-1956) to organizing educational exchanges, a “vital part of Public Diplomacy” (to cite Richmond again) which (in the case of the Soviet Union, where Richmond served 1967-1969) can be effective “in bringing about change in a country that had isolated itself from the West for so many years.”

Read the whole review at AmericanDiplomacy.org as well as an excerpt shows the style of most of the book.  It does not read like a text book, but as a series of first hand experiences told by a remarkable individual that, as Pat Kushlis remarked, is “one of our very best practitioners” of public diplomacy. 

What’s in your reading pile?

Among the dozen or so books in the "I really want to read these before I graduate" (I graduated last month…), there are two books that are personal priorities:

  • BuccaneersRealm Buccaneer’s Realm by Ben Little. I’m almost done with this one. Buccaneer’s Realm explores the culture of privateers, buccaneers / boucaniers, filibusters / flibustiers, and pirates in a fourteen year slice. This is a great follow up to his Sea Rover’s Practice that looked at how ‘pirates’ operated, functioned, and organized themselves. In Sea Rover’s Practice you’ll see how financial interests could and did overcome racial and other prejudices and that democracy works well when everyone has a stake.
  • Guernica Guernica and Total War by Ian Patterson. I have only opened it and skimmed a few pages, and it looks good. This was an appreciated gift from a fellow blogger.

A short list of other books on the ‘to read’ pile that I feel safe recommending, even without reading:

  • Mike Waller’s Public Diplomacy Reader (no, I asked him, that’s not his dog on the cover). I have flipped through this and cited it, but haven’t given it the read through it deserves and requires.
  • Robert L. Dilenschneider’s Power and Influence: The Rules have Changed. Don’t know who the author is? He is the former President and CEO of Hill & Knowlton. Don’t know Hill & Knowlton? Then you might enjoy Manheim’s case study. (And while we’re at it, if you’re picking up Manheim, you should have what I consider an equally, if not more important read from Entman.)
  • Sarah Percy’s Mercenaries. Based on an early draft of a chapter she sent a while back, she’s done some amazing research. Looking forward to reading her book.

While I’m at it, here’s an additional list of some of the books I recommend that I recently (last few months) read. No time to pen something substantial (or anything in some cases), but these deserve much more than the casual glance and should be read.

Readings on Public Diplomacy, #1 (Updated)

In just a couple of weeks and barring any last minute problems, a colleague (Yael Swerdlow) and I will be the first in the U.S. (the world?) to be earn a Masters in Public Diplomacy. So what does one do with such a unique, yet extremely timely, degree? Good question. That’s a very good question. Of course I’m actively looking now and I’m open for suggestions (or offers ;).

Partly because I’m being introspective and partly motivated by Abu Muqawama’s counterinsurgency book club, this is the first of an occasional series on books and resources (that may or may not have been used in my program) I found particularly useful. In the spirit of James Traub’s NYT Magazine article this weekend, this series kicks off with one of my recent favorites. 

totalcoldwarKenneth Osgood’s Total Cold War: Eisenhower’s Secret Propaganda Battle at Home And Abroad is a timely read on the original intents and purpose of what has been stripped and twisted into the public diplomacy we know today. Shaped by Charlotte Beers and Karen Hughes, public diplomacy as it is commonly understood today is a far cry from what it was. Osgood gets into the gritty details of why and how the whole of government approach toward the psychological struggle for minds and wills was developed. It was a Total War. 

While the National Security Act of 1947 was debated, revised, and subsequently passed, Public Law 402, otherwise known as the Smith-Mundt Act, was also being debated, modified, and then passed in the following year. A few years later, presidential candidate Dwight D. Eisenhower would attack President Truman for being soft in the ideological war. Experienced in PSYOP, Eisenhower knew the importance of the "psychological struggle over minds and wills" and included such in his speeches on foreign policy.

The former general was attacking President Harry S Truman for ignoring the grass roots, the battleground where the enemy was present. Truman, however, was set on engaging people through the international institutions he was busy promoting, such as the United Nations, NATO, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and even the Marshall Plan. We might call that soft power (although economics were explicitly excluded from Joseph Nye’s original definition of soft power). None of these "looked" like the public diplomacy we talk about today. In the struggle for minds and wills, these institutions effectively supported and enhanced the image and impact of the West, albeit in primarily in contested spaces that culturally similar.

In the 1950’s, to those paying attention, policy and propaganda were inextricably intertwined. Morganthau recognized the importance of national morale and the quality of diplomacy as the world struggle shifted from the arena of power to the arena of ideas and international persuasion. Osgood walks you through a time when Smith-Mundt was not about protecting the American public from the government, but about competing against a different threat than the traditional territorial threat. As Osgood puts it, the

primary threat was not that the Soviet Union would take territory through military force, but…capitalize on economic and social unrest, expanding its power through subversion and manipulation.

Understanding the history and evolution of public diplomacy is important when critiquing and suggesting changes to it today. Returning to history is important if we seek "causes, sources,and conditions of overt changes of patterns and structures in society" as well its systems.

Osgood’s book will give you a strong appreciation of what was public diplomacy before Edward Gullion coined the term (because, as Gullion put it, "propaganda was already taken"), as well as the creation of USIA and USAID. The neutered beauty contest we know today was both more vertical and horizontal, cutting across the whole of government and relied less on muscular approaches in contested spaces both abroad and in the home front. Back then, it wasn’t about "hearts" even if communism played on the hopes for a better life (sidenote: contrast with the hope of communism today with the fear peddled today by AQ). There was no love to be gained or earned, but respect and ideological attractiveness (probably the source of ‘love’). 

How we’ve traveled from that original path is for another post, however.

I strongly suggest most of this book for anyone interested in public diplomacy or strategic communications. My copy is full of flags and highlights.