Blind Ambition

Guest Post by Alex Belida

When the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) recently unveiled a new Strategic Plan, it set a brazenly ambitious goal: “To become the world’s leading international news agency by 2016.” But based on its latest budget proposal, global news organizations like Reuters and AP would appear to have little to fear. To achieve its goal, the BBG, a tiny federal agency overseeing U.S. non-military broadcasters, first plans to gut its existing news operations, starting with the nation’s flagship overseas broadcaster, the Voice of America.  Continue reading “Blind Ambition

Reforming U.S. International Broadcasting (Part Three): A New Structure

Guest Post By Alex Belida

Having drafted a new mission statement for the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) stressing the primacy of journalistic values and having proposed that a new non-partisan Board be composed mainly of media veterans, let us now focus on a more efficient structure for U.S. International Broadcasting (USIB) that will attract greater audiences. Continue reading “Reforming U.S. International Broadcasting (Part Three): A New Structure

The Future of International Broadcasting

Guest Post By David Jackson

The president’s 2013 budget proposal this week was big news in Washington, but for those who care about public diplomacy and international broadcasting, the most interesting parts involved the Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Radio & TV Marti, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks of Radio Sawa and Alhurra TV.  Continue reading “The Future of International Broadcasting

Reforming U.S. International Broadcasting (Part Two): What to do About the BBG?

Guest Post By Alex Belida

If, as suggested by Congress and proposed in my last posting, the mission of U.S. International Broadcasting (USIB) is to be good journalism in support of freedom of the press and the free flow of information, then those who oversee America’s non-military broadcasting entities need to be selected accordingly.  Continue reading “Reforming U.S. International Broadcasting (Part Two): What to do About the BBG?

Whisper of America?

Alan Heil

Guest Post By Alan Heil

Under the Obama administration’s proposed FY 13 budget, the potential damage to the nation’s flagship publicly funded overseas network, the Voice of America, would be unprecedented if Congress approves it.  Contrast the reductions:  VOA faces net cuts totaling $17 million, compared with a reduction of $731,000 for its sister network, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Continue reading “Whisper of America?

China: Rebranding 101

By Roseline Twagiramariya

Even if you’ve been living under a rock, chances are you have heard about China’s impressive economic growth and its continuing rise as an important global player. A few weeks ago, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee released an informative report on the disparities between Chinese and American public diplomacy activities today. Most importantly, the report, commissioned by Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), the Ranking Member of the Committee, gave a clear and concise look at China’s current rebranding strategies. Aware of its current spotlight and of its negative perceptions abroad, China has heavily invested in their soft power in hopes to ameliorate their image and be seen as less of a threat during their economic expansion. However, having read the report and other articles about China’s so-called “peaceful development”, it’s easy to see how China could very well be standing in their own way. In terms of country branding, their initiative lacks one key factor and that is truthfulness.

Continue reading “China: Rebranding 101

To Know Us is to Hate Us?

By Emina Vukic

After having spent two years studying in the United States in 1950, Sayyid Qutb, leading Islamic theologian of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood who shaped the ideas of Islamists and terrorist groups including Al Qaeda, wrote an article entitled "The America That I Have Seen". In it he criticized the individual freedoms he had seen exercised, he was appalled at having seen unmarried men and women dancing together, losing themselves in lust, while the band played a revolting song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” He returned to Egypt convinced that the America is evil that had to be stopped. This came to be known as “Sayyid Qutb Syndrome” that seems to be experiencing its revival 60 years later.

When we think of the American culture we primarily think of the culture of the United States or the ethnic melting pot that the US is. The term American has, first and foremost, a nationalist connotation not the geographic one, and refers to the people who live in the US. Dictionary defines culture, among other meanings, as “The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or a group“. Culture is a product of human work and thought-it is our traditions, our language, and our cuisine. It is what our grandma taught us, the way we live, sing and dance, it is the stuff the legends are made of, the stories we tell our children, the way we try to refine, enrich our attitudes and goals through education, travel and contacts with other cultures.

Continue reading “To Know Us is to Hate Us?

Diplomacy in Public Services

By Aparajitha Vadlamannati

I remember coming back to the States a few years ago after a long summer spent with family and friends in India. I felt homesick, tired from the 16 hour flight, and did not want to start school in two weeks but then I was pulled out of my funk when a customs official smiled and said ‘welcome home.’ It was such a simple act but it changed my mood and made me feel as though maybe all those customs officials, even the ones with sour faces, are not so bad after all. Little did I know, I doubt the official recognized this either, that this act is public diplomacy.

Public diplomacy was believed to be a job solely for the state department but it takes more than Foreign Service Officers to do the job well. It is important for every citizen, resident, official, supporter, etc. of a nation to do their best to fairly represent the nation they associate with to a foreign (i.e. those from a nation different than their own) audience. Those working for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are certainly no exception. In fact, they play one of the most important roles in maintaining a positive image of the US because of the opinions and experiences immigrants relay to family and friends back home. These experiences become a part of the composite image/impression that foreigners have of Americans overall; similar to the reasons why an exchange program works to shape an image of America.

Continue reading “Diplomacy in Public Services

Jazz Diplomacy: a Cold War Relic?

jazzdiplomacy.jpg

By Candace Burnham

Pop quiz: name three jazz artists under the age of 50. Maybe you named popular favorites Wynton and Branford Marsalis, but can you name any of their albums? Does anyone else spring to mind? No? You’re not alone – if anemic record sales are any indication, a majority of Americans would draw a blank at that question. As a trumpet player who graduated from a jazz school, I’m acutely aware of the fact that jazz is simply not as ubiquitous today as it was sixty years ago. Yet, it’s still the crown jewel in US public diplomacy efforts. We export it as representative of American culture, but it’s barely relevant in our own country.

Cultural diplomacy, according to the late public arts funding advocate Dr. Milton Cummings Jr, is, the exchange of ideas, information, values, systems, traditions, beliefs, and other aspects of culture, with the intention of fostering mutual understanding. Governments utilize it in hopes of earning the support of foreign publics. Jazz, the status quo version embraced in government programs like Rhythm Road, doesn’t represent today’s America, but with the respect and press it garnered in the 1950s and 60s, the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs is hesitant to give it up.

Continue reading “Jazz Diplomacy: a Cold War Relic?

Find the Right Balance Between Civilian and Military: Don’t Just Strip the Department of Defense of Capabilities to Inform, Influence, and Persuade

By Christopher Paul, Ph.D.

As Matt has repeatedly noted in this space and elsewhere, “American public diplomacy wears combat boots.”1 That is, the Department of Defense (DoD) employs the majority of the resources (funding, manpower, tools, and programs) used for U.S. government efforts to inform, influence, and persuade foreign audiences and publics. Most of us agree that this is not the ideal state of affairs. The Department of State (DOS) or other civilian agency should have the preponderance of the United States’ capabilities in this area. Both the White House and DoD concur.2

Congress would also like to see DOS doing more in this area–and DoD doing less. To date, most of the congressional attention has focused on DoD. Section 1055 of the 2009 Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act called for reports to Congress from both the White House and DoD on “strategic communication and public diplomacy activities of the Federal Government.” DoD information operations (IO) were attacked by the defense subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, which slashed the proposed FY 2010 appropriation for IO by $500 million. (See the mountainrunner discussion “Preparing to Lose the Information War?“)

Continue reading “Find the Right Balance Between Civilian and Military: Don’t Just Strip the Department of Defense of Capabilities to Inform, Influence, and Persuade

Understanding Influence Operations: A Gastronomic Approach

By Robert Schoenhaus

Human influence is the linchpin that binds military activities together and relates those activities to the efforts of other governmental and non-governmental agencies. People, not infrastructure or equipment, present problems in any given country and people will inevitably solve them. Recognizing this truism, our challenge is to accept and understand the need for us to influence the lives of others, and to develop some level of expertise and collaboration in doing so.  Continue reading “Understanding Influence Operations: A Gastronomic Approach

Effective Influence & Strategic Communication: Some Conjectured First Principles

This is a guest post by Dr. Lee Rowland. Guest posts are the work of and reflect the opinion of the respective authors. The are shared here to further the discussion around strategic communication and public diplomacy.

We are making progress. Fresh back from the IO Institute’s Influence and Propaganda Conference, I am excited by the future of our discipline and the quality work that is being done. The event, hosted in Verona NY by the Association of Old Crows in partnership with the MountainRunner Institute, brought together military practitioners, commanders, academics, media, consultants and others, for a range of talks and discussions relating to propaganda, strategic communication, public diplomacy, information operations (IO) and influence. There was considerable agreement about where we are and should be headed. Most notably, the need to measure the effects of communication initiatives and their influence on behaviour was widely spoken about; as too the need for consistency across all words and deeds in line with an expansive, dialogic model of communication.  Continue reading “Effective Influence & Strategic Communication: Some Conjectured First Principles

The Catholic Church and Online Media

This is the first of an ongoing series of journal-style peer-reviewed articles that will begin appearing at www.MountainRunner.us (and soon at www.MountainRunnerInstitute.org) on subjects and issues related to public diplomacy and strategic communication, U.S. or otherwise.

The Catholic Church and Online Media
by Mariana González Insua

View the article or download the article (160kb PDF).

The recent explosion of Catholic sex abuse scandals around the world was the motor that propelled the Vatican to get a foothold on the last social media space that had, until a few weeks ago, remained unconquered by the Catholic Church: Twitter. Given the growing online competition for soul-share, the Church’s negative image in relation to the ongoing scandals and the loss of adherents to Catholicism in the US, the Holy See’s online platforms are valuable tools for broadcasting its message worldwide and, in particular, in the US.

The Vatican’s online presence is certainly not new. The Holy See has had its own website in place for fourteen years and a year ago it created Pope2You, a new site with interactive features such as a Facebook application that allows users to send e-postcards with the Pope’s picture and message to their friends, and the possibility of downloading the Pope’s speeches and messages to iPhones or iPods. The Vatican also has its own YouTube channel, available in a number of languages, which is updated daily with “holy” news.

Earlier this year, the Pope surprised the world when he decided to take a further step into the virtual realm by telling priests to blog. In his message for the Roman Catholic Church’s 44th World Communication Day, Pope Benedict XVI urged priests to make use of all digital tools at their disposal to spread the word: “Priests are […] challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources-images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites- which, alongside traditional means, can open up brand new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis.” The Papal message further encouraged priests to engage with peoples from other religions and cultures: “A pastoral presence in the world of digital communications, precisely because it brings us into contact with the followers of other religions, non-believers and people of every culture, requires sensitivity to those who do not believe, the disheartened and those who have a deep, unarticulated desire for enduring truth and the absolute […] Can we not see the web as also offering a space for those who have not yet come to know God?”

Mariana González Insua just finished her first year as a student in USC’s Masters of Public Diplomacy program. She is originally from Argentina and recently completed a Masters in Latin American Studies at Stanford University.

Guest Post: The Rosetta Stone for Strategic Communication? More like Speak ‘N Spell

By Matt Morgan

In the most recent issue of Joint Forces Quarterly, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, has put his name on a short commentary that states, "It is time for us to take a harder look at "strategic communication."

The apparent point of the piece is that the admiral believes the military has walked away from the original intent of Strategic Communication, allowing it to "become a thing instead of a process, an abstract thought instead of a way of thinking."

The article presents a number of reasonably good points, most notably the conclusive statement that we need to pay much more attention to what our actions communicate. Unfortunately, the overall effect of the essay makes the Chairman appear late to the game in the eyes of those most engaged in SC concept development. For the most part there is little here to disagree with. But the central argument offers very few substantive observations not already addressed in the USJFCOM Strategic Communication Joint Integrating Concept. Furthermore, it doesn’t so much as bother to acknowledge the DoD’s own SC principles [PDF 1.5Mb], which include — among others — Dialogue, Understanding, Credibility, and Unity of Effort; all key themes presented more or less effectively by the Chairman.

Continue reading “Guest Post: The Rosetta Stone for Strategic Communication? More like Speak ‘N Spell

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.)

Continue reading “Guest Post: Superfriends and the Strategic Communication Continuum

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.

Continue reading “Guest Book Review: Drugs and Contemporary Warfare

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.

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

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.

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