Event: Striking a Balance: A New American Security

The Center for a New American Security’s Third Annual June Conference is next week. I wish I could attend but you should consider. The speakers include: Judith A. McHale (“Public Diplomacy: A National Security Imperative”), General David H. Petraeus, Thomas E. Ricks, George Packer, Ambassador Samir Sumaida’ie

Useful details:

Event website: here

June 11, 2009 – 8:00am – 7:00pm

Willard InterContinental Hotel
1401 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Grand Ballroom
Washington, DC 20004

Event Registration: Click Here
Or RSVP by phone: 202.457.9427

Recommended Reading: Cull on Lugar’s leadership in America’s leaderless Public Diplomacy

Read Nick Cull’s post on the strategic pause that is today’s American public diplomacy, Lugar To The Rescue: Senate Committee Backs ‘Science Envoy’ Plan:

Ralph Waldo Emerson famously lamented "How much of human life is lost in waiting" and observers of U.S. public diplomacy these last few months could be forgiven for saying the same thing. While other areas of government have something to show for the first one-hundred days of the Obama administration, formal public diplomacy initiatives have been hard to find. The president himself has led the way admirably with his interview on Al Arabiya, a Nowruz message to Iran and public rejection of landmark Bush excesses, but the Department of State has been slow to follow up. This stands in stark contrast to the crescendo of web 2.0 activity that marked the final months of James Glassman’s tenure as Under Secretary. Indeed, a range of initiatives planned, approved and funded during the Glassman period have been held in limbo pending the arrival of the new Under Secretary, Judith McHale. Bureaucrats are always timid during transitions. This being so, it is especially heartening to see the leadership coming from the Senate in the form of initiatives from the ranking minority member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Dick Lugar.

Continue reading “Recommended Reading: Cull on Lugar’s leadership in America’s leaderless Public Diplomacy

Guest Post: PSYOP for everyone

By Christopher Paul

An Army intelligence officer I met recently at a conference related an anecdote to me about the psychological operations (PSYOP) personnel his team was co-located with on a previous deployment. He shared that the PSYOPers would get upset when they perceived the actions of maneuver elements as impinging on (or ignoring) their domain: “They can’t do that without talking to us, that’s a PSYACT [Psychological Operations action]!”[1] The intel guys would overhear this and then tease them about their protective approach to influence.

Continue reading “Guest Post: PSYOP for everyone

New Rules of Engagement

Recommended reading at the Times of India: New Rules of Engagement by Ramesh Thakur.

Today’s global environment is more complex and demanding than in 1947. Consider the vocabulary and metaphors of the new age: Srebrenica, Rwanda, DRC, Sierra Leone, Kosovo, East Timor, Darfur; child soldiers, ethnic cleansing, blood diamonds, 9/11, regime change, Islamophobia, HIV/AIDS, climate change; Microsoft, Google, iPod, Blackberry, Facebook, Twitter; metrosexual, heteropolitan, localitarian the list is endless.

Continue reading “New Rules of Engagement

Guest Post: How to win the GWOT – or whatever it’s called today

By Mark Pfeifle, Jonathan Thompson

America has the finest military and diplomatic leaders in the world. They know how to win on the battlefield and at the negotiating table. Yet, despite those winning ways, there are times when they become victims of circumstances rather than drivers of events. At such times, some may falter with the media and public, and when that happens, they too often lay blame the results on bad press coverage.

Continue reading “Guest Post: How to win the GWOT – or whatever it’s called today

Will the nomination of P.J. Crowley to Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs help fix Public Diplomacy?

The US News & World Report blog Washington Whispers has an interesting assessment of the nomination of Philip “P.J.” Crowley as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs.

The experience of Crowley, as well as the Paul Bedard’s description of Crowley’s duties, indicate Crowley won’t be the official spokesman for the Secretary as Sean McCormack was. This is very good news as the podium time seriously impairs the Assistant Secretary from managing and moving his share of the enterprise forward.

The article indicates the Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs will revert (finally) to a global communications role below the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, unlike the role of the Assistant Secretary in the Rice State Department. Under Rice, adding “and Public Affairs” to the Under Secretary’s title was nearly meaningless because the two sides had little to do with each other, so much so that the Public Diplomacy shop rarely thought of tapping into the resources of Public Affairs even though PA was (on paper) a sibling organization also under the command and control of their boss, the Under Secretary.

It may be that Crowley will be tasked with being an operational lead in coordinating activities between the State and Defense Departments. He has the background to do this. This could fill in a gap left by the demise of the Defense Department’s Office for Support to Public Diplomacy that acted like a “socket” for the State Department’s “plug”.

This appointment could portend good things and an overdue empowerment of the Under Secretary.

Next steps, let’s move the senior advisor on innovation under the Under Secretary (with a dotted line to the Secretary) and revise the title from Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs to Under Secretary for Global Engagement. (“R” by the way never had an attachment to the name of the office or to the guy who came up with “R”, whose has the initials, wait for it, “R.R.”)

See also:

Event: InfoWarCon April 23-24

Next week is InfoWarCon, a conference to discuss “theoretical and practical changes and uses of Information Operations/Information Warfare, Cyberwar, Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy.” Giving keynotes are LTG Thomas F. Metz, Director, JIEDDO, (title: “IO: The Great Enabler") and the Honorable James Glassman, former Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (title:"Can a ‘Conversation’ Win the War on Terror?").

The conference is two days, April 23-24, and in Washington, DC. Check their website for registration details. The panels promise to be interesting. Check them out below:

Continue reading “Event: InfoWarCon April 23-24

Guest Post: Must. Be. AWESOME!

By Christopher Dufour

Too often in government, we settle for the most expedient solution. The cheapest option. The quickest way. The path of least resistance.

We justify it by quoting acquisition regulations. By glomming onto existing authorities. By refusing to challenge the status quo.

It’s this attitude that prevents us from accomplishing big goals. Immense objectives. Tremendous challenges. Gi-normous grand strategy. Instead, we choose to do just enough to get our assignments completed to a preexisting or arbitrary standard. This is the culture of Washington.

We shouldn’t make this choice. We shouldn’t be shooting for "just good enough." Instead, we should be shooting for AWESOME.

Continue reading “Guest Post: Must. Be. AWESOME!

Is this public diplomacy? Close but not quite

Read: Obama scores again, but the game is just starting by Marc Lynch at Foreign Policy

The Good: President Obama is changing the narrative and directly engaging Muslim communities. The President said America’s relationship with the Muslim world is greater than and will extend beyond defeating Al Qaeda.

The Bad: Marc says there is “disarray in the public diplomacy bureaucracy” and continues to say “Obama has already succeeded at the initial public diplomacy phase of his effort to transform America’s relations with the Muslim world.” The President’s remarkable speech is at best a small sliver of "public diplomacy" not to be confused with the full spectrum of options of engagement through communication, exchange, development, capacity building, health programs, and even countering adversarial messages.

Continue reading “Is this public diplomacy? Close but not quite

What Does the New Tech Guru at the State Department Mean for Public Diplomacy?

The Washington Post reports Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has a new “senior adviser on innovation.” According to the Washington Post article Diplomatic Efforts Get Tech Support, the adviser, Alec Ross, is “armed with a new set of diplomatic tools including Facebook, text messaging and YouTube.” I’ll get back to the hyperbole below, but the paper’s description of his job is interesting:

Continue reading “What Does the New Tech Guru at the State Department Mean for Public Diplomacy?

The Kitchen Debate of 1959: more than just two guys talking

I recommend listening to NPR’s story this morning on the “Kitchen Debate” between Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and Vice President Richard Nixon at the 1959 American exhibition in Moscow. The reporter, Gregory Feifer, notes the “hostility and distrust toward America and Americans among ordinary Russians is much stronger than it was when Nixon debated Khrushchev 50 years ago.” Those that participated in the American exhibitions, Feifer continued, “believe they can be a useful model for President Obama as he seeks to improve ties with Moscow.”

Continue reading “The Kitchen Debate of 1959: more than just two guys talking

The Future of Public Diplomacy

The world increasingly operates on perceptions created by the “Now Media” environment. Governments must fully take into account these perceptions in the forming and conducting of foreign policy. From the perspective of the United States, the simple and essential fact is that everything we say and do both at home and abroad, as well as everything we fail to say and do, has an impact in other lands. This isn’t a new idea but an observation originally made by a certain general running for president in 1952.

Continue reading “The Future of Public Diplomacy

Whither Public Diplomacy? Sixty-six days (and counting) without an Under Secretary (Updated)

As we approach the 100-day mark for the Obama Administration and despite the accolades bestowed on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her “e-Diplomacy” initiatives, as of March 23, 2009, the office of the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs has been vacant for 63 days. Since the office of Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy was created, it has been vacant one-third of the time.

Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy Sworn In Resigned Days in Office Days Position Vacant Total Days Percent Vacant
Evelyn Lieberman 10/1/1999 1/20/2001 477      
  1/21/2001 10/2/2001   254    
Charlotte Beers 10/2/2001 3/28/2003 542      
  3/29/2003 12/16/2003   262    
Margaret Tutwiler 12/16/2003 6/30/2004 197      
  7/1/2004 7/29/2005   393    
Karen P. Hughes 7/29/2005 12/14/2007 868      
  12/15/2007 6/4/2008   172    
James K. Glassman 6/5/2008 1/16/2009 225      
  1/17/2009 1/20/2009   3    
  1/21/2009     63    
Since USIA-State Merger     2309 1084 3393 32%
Bush Administration     1832 1084 2916 37%
Obama Administration     0 63 63 100%
Today: 3/24/2009          

If Public Diplomacy were important, wouldn’t it make sense to fill this spot quickly, regardless of the direction it will head? To my knowledge, the #1 candidate two months ago remains the #1 candidate today. Is it that Clinton (and possibly Obama) does not know where to take public diplomacy and whether an empowered (and operationalized) National Security Council is the route to go? Or possibly that she is looking at an invigorated State Department (which would implicitly push the development of the Department of Non-State within) that supports the Secretary’s view of personal, global engagement? Or, and this is the most likely, the priority is low and they’ll get around to dealing with public diplomacy at some point.

This is not a balancing act between “public diplomacy” and “smart power” as “smart power” requires effective communication to support and defend intelligent foreign policies, which is, in fact, the reason public diplomacy was institutionalized over sixty years ago. This is a question of who will lead the government’s global engagement that spans the whole of government, including the Departments of State, Defense, Homeland Security, Treasury, and Health and Human Services, to the Agency for International Development (USAID), the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and so on.

If the State Department fails to acknowledge their leadership responsibility in engaging global populations, it will continue to cede power and authority to the Defense Department who will be the only vertically integrated element of the Government that can provide the services necessary in a world of state and non-state actors. Defense will, by default, become the hub of activity. We have already seen the Secretary of Defense (and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) making policy statements that arguably should be coming from the Secretary of State. We are looking at a possibility that America’s government broadcasts devote more airtime to the activities of the Secretary of Defense than the Secretary of State.

Sixty-six days and counting…

See also:

Kristin Lord: What not to do in public diplomacy

From “The Great Debate”, a blog at Reuters, First 100 Days: What not to do in public diplomacy by Kristin Lord:

As Senate confirmation hearings approach, America’s next public diplomacy leaders will get abundant advice about how to improve America’s standing in the world. The Obama administration’s nominees (an under secretary and at least two assistant secretaries in the State Department alone) would be wise to listen.

Yet, in truth, America’s new public diplomacy team can accomplish much by following that age old maxim: first, do no harm.  Seven key “don’ts” are worth bearing in mind.

1) Don’t let the pollsters get you down

2) Don’t forget the borders

3) Don’t forget the Pentagon

4) Don’t go it alone

5) Don’t forget old standards

6) Don’t trust your gut

7)   Don’t forget friends

Public diplomacy is a tough business. Success usually goes unnoticed, but failures can resound globally. Avoiding missteps is impossible but avoiding these seven mistakes will give America’s next public diplomacy leaders a useful head start.

It’s a short post. Go read the whole thing here.

Public diplomacy, strategic communication, global engagement, “smart power”… each term is a variation on all the others with different kinds of associated activities and focus, but each recognizes the importance that states are not autonomous and that the reactions by individuals and groups of different sizes must be included in the calculus of foreign policy. This is Kristin’s point.

Leadership Changes at the Combatant Commands and more thoughts on Realigning the State Department

Jason Sigger has the new roster of the Defense Department’s Combatant Commanders.

Jason also notes that President Obama intends to keep the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Would it be great if we had the same visibility into the leadership State Department regional bureaus? More importantly, would it be great if the regional bureaus were not headed by assistant secretaries but by Under Secretaries, a rank equivalent to a Combatant Commanders? Is a regional perspective for the State Department so much less important than the Defense Department?

A suggestion: abolish the Under Secretary for Political Affairs and elevate the regional bureau heads to Under Secretary and give each new Under Secretary the same letter acknowledging their direct connection to the President that Ambassadors receive today. At the same time, align the regional bureaus to match the geographic assignments as the Combatant Commands. The Defense Department needs a partner to balance it and the State Department must be that partner. Empowering the State Department in this way, along with enhancing the Department by making it the Department of State and Non-State, will be a huge step toward truly whole of government approaches to dealing with national security issues that encompass more than terrorism and insurgency.

See also:

Quotes from the Senate hearing “Engaging with Muslim Communities”

As the position of the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs is left vacant, possibly for a couple more weeks, the direction and even the physical location of the bureau remains in limbo. In his opening statement (14kb PDF) at the February 26 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing titled Engaging with Muslim Communities Around the World, Senator Lugar stated his and the Committee’s support for the future Under Secretary:

Continue reading “Quotes from the Senate hearing “Engaging with Muslim Communities”

Summarizing Public Diplomacy Reports

image GAO, CRS, academics, and anyone else interested in Public Diplomacy and Strategic Communication must look at Steve Corman’s quick and dirty and most coherent summary ever of eighteen major public diplomacy reports from the most recent White Oak report back to a 2004 Brookings Report.

The raw numbers don’t tell the complete the story, but that half or more of the reports shared four recommendations is significant.

Somebody, perhaps one of Steve’s student’s, should take this a step further: look at the reports’ definition of public diplomacy and weigh the recommendations accordingly. Is Public Diplomacy an active component in the struggle of minds and wills using “fast” and “slow” communications or a passive informational tool primarily based on the “slow” communications of exchanges? 

Either way, Steve’s analysis is unique and the top values are certainly common and yet elusive? Why? Because we had, until last year, no real understanding of the value of people to people engagement after we came out of thirty years of state on state diplomacy followed by the End of History. Congress is eager to help change the system and the Defense Department is eager to help, but will the system, now “owned” by President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, be changed?

Ackerman: Future of Public Diplomacy Unsettled at State

There are at least three State Department Under Secretaries the Senate still up in the air without even an intent to nominate sent to the Senate. These include the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, the Under Secretary for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs, and the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. Each are essential to America’s national security, but it is the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs that is rightfully getting the attention.

How the Administration views and structures America’s global engagement is in the air and by many accounts has not received the proactive attention many other areas of the State Department seemingly got. This is no time to be leadership or to have people sitting with their palms down not knowing which way “R” (“the only good letter not taken”) will go.

Continue reading “Ackerman: Future of Public Diplomacy Unsettled at State

Event: InfoWarCon (Updated)

InfowarCon 2009 discusses Information Operations, Information Warfare, Cyberwar, Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy issues learned in Iraq, Afghanistan, China, Lebanon, Gaza and Georgia-Russia to predict the future of IO.

When: April 23rd and 24th

Where:  Gaylord National Harbor Resort and Convention Center

Contact: Joel Harding at info@crows.org or call (703) 549-1600

Hosted by the Information Operations Institute, a part of the Association of Old Crows.

I have a panel at InfoWarCon to discuss the direct and indirect impact of the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 in the modern global information environment. A revised title of the panel should appear shortly: Strategic Communication in a Global Information Environment. This is conceptually an extension of the 2009 Smith-Mundt Symposium.

I am working on two events of my own earlier that week. Details to be announced as they become finalized.

Highlights for InfoWarCon are after the fold.

Continue reading “Event: InfoWarCon (Updated)