Swimming the English Channel – the report

The track of our boat (courtesy: cspf.co.uk)

The crossing was amazing! All of the pent up adrenalin that had been building for weeks, the cold water training, and then, finally, after a delay of a day, we were told the evening of Wednesday July 29 that our team was slotted to start our swim at 830 the next morning. We were a group of swimmers that workout together at the local athletic club’s pool. One of our number thought it would be great to swim the Channel, though none of had thought about swimming in, let alone through – the Channel. We then found Aspire, a great charity that helps people paralysed by spinal injuries, would facilitate our crossing and we raised more than £10,000 for the cause.  Our international group had Frenchmen, Kiwis, one German, a Canadian, and me, the token American (and the only one with actual open water race experience). Continue reading “Swimming the English Channel – the report

In recognition of his dedicated promotion of understanding in strategic communication and influence disciplines worldwide…

The London-based Behavioural Dynamics Institute and the IO Institute has unexpectedly bestowed on your author an award (see picture). Along with the plaque was a gift that supports my efforts in the areas of strategic communication and public diplomacy, including the launch of the MountainRunner Institute, a non-profit for issues related to public diplomacy.

The plaque reads: “in recognition of his dedicated promotion of understanding in strategic communication and influence disciplines worldwide.”

Thank you Behavioural Dynamics Institute and the IO Institute for your support and appreciation of my work.

Thinking about Think Tanks

The Brookings Institute’s P.W. Singer published an interesting read on the “idea factories” of DC.

Factories to Call Our Own: How to understand Washington’s ideas industry

…“At its best, a think tank contributes to a better world,” says Richard Danzig, a former Secretary of the Navy who has served on the boards of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, the Rand Corporation, and Public Agenda and is now chairman of the Center for a New American Security. “It does this by sponsoring thought, research, and dialogue. Optimally, it provides support, time, and space to the privileged few who populate it so that they think more deeply, more broadly, and more soundly than the prevailing wisdom.”

Think tanks can approach a tough policy problem without the time pressures government officials face. As Shawn Brimley, a Pentagon strategist who works in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, says, think tanks “help the government overcome the tyranny of the in box by providing good analysis on long-term strategic problems.” …

The broader globalization question for think tanks here may be simpler—and more worrisome. Washington may have been the origin and center of think tanks for the last century, but no industry stays the same forever. Indeed, the 2009 Global Think-Tank Summit wasn’t held inside the Beltway—it was in Beijing. Could what happened to America’s manufacturing industry also one day befall Washington’s ideas industry?

Read Peter’s whole article at the Washingtonian or at Brookings.

See also:

Ideas in Action with Jim Glassman

From PR Newswire:

New Sunday Show Arrives in D.C. — Ideas in Action With Jim Glassman Debuts in Washington, D.C. September 5, 2010.

A new show joins Washington’s Sunday morning line-up when Ideas in Action with Jim Glassman, a weekly public policy series on ideas and their consequences, launches in the Washington D.C. television market on Sunday, September 5, 2010. The show will air on two public television stations. Howard University Television (WHUT Channel 32) will air the program at 9:30 a.m. and Maryland Public Television (MPT) will air the series at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings.

Good thing he’s no longer the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs otherwise this domestic communication may be illegal (see bottom of this post).

USA Lost and other depressing news

Team USA lost to Ghana in the World Cup in a contest that went into extra time. The referring was not quite the factor it was in previous games, but the referee yesterday should have warned and even penalized Ghana for delay of game and pretending to be fouled. He did neither but in the end, that did not change the fact Team USA could not put the ball in the net, despite several good opportunities to do so.

South Korea, another team I hoped would make it to the next round, was also defeated.

Also depressing is the nominees for the Broadcasting Board of Governors have yet to be confirmed by the Senate. Senator Lugar’s report and Huffington Post article on the BBG has apparently had no effect on the primary opposition, which is still apparently Senator Tom Coburn. Hopefully the nominees will be confirmed immediately when the Senate returns.

Finally, my vacation in Hawaii is sadly coming to an end. However, on the brighter side, within hours of my return to the mainland, I’ll be on a plane to the 9th Annual Information Operations Europe Conference in London where I will speak on Tuesday about the convergence of old and new media. My presentation will focus on Wikileaks as an online propagandist whose products and influence transcend mediums as well as the timely if unfortunate example of the General McChrystal / Rolling Stone story.

Lastly, the upcoming seminar Now Media: Engagement Based on Information not Platforms takes place July 6 in Washington, DC. There is still space so sign up now. I will extend the “Early Bird” pricing to Wednesday, June 30. On July 1, the price goes up $100.

Lastly, you may have heard that the US military has renamed Psychological Operations (PSYOP) to Military Information Support Operations (MISO). Soup (and other) jokes aside, here is the memo from the Department of the Army that describes the change with the “direction and consensus of our most senior military leadership.”

USA Wins! and other news

USA just won its group in the World Cup! Despite more bad referring! USA advances to the next round to play a team to be determined later this morning. Matt Ygelsias unbelievably jokes this is a result of the “failure of Obama public diplomacy” soon before Twitter’s fail whale appears.

Right, and England advances from Group C as well.

In other news:

  • General McChrystal and his staff ironically fail to grasp true and full nature of the information war they are in as they roll their stones into new careers (excluding the oft-repeated highlights, the Rolling Stone article isn’t bad).
  • Psychological Operations gets a necessary name change to Military Information (or possibly Military Information Support… but not Military Information Support Operations as I tweeted on Monday). Perhaps now we can have the necessary shift in Public Affairs to take on some of the proactive and preactive tactics, techniques, and procedures of Military Information Support (MIS) / PSYOP that are required in today’s environment.  
  • And Ann Stock is confirmed as Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs while the nominees for the Broadcasting Board of Governors are not.

Posting will remain sporadic as I am still in Hawaii. Next week I’ll be at the European IO Conference presenting on Now Media with attention on Wikileaks. The following week I’ll be in DC to conduct a seminar on Now Media with presentations from Duncan MacInnes, acting Coordinator of the Bureau of International Information Programs (just announced: 2010 Democracy Video Challenge winners), Adam Pearson, and others.

The Officer’s Wife – a movie about the Katyn Massacre

The Officer’s Wife is a powerful movie about the Katyn Massacre by the Soviets during World War II. It is scheduled to be debuted at the Library of Congress next month.

THE OFFICER’S WIFE follows a son who makes a startling discovery. After the death of his father, a forgotten safe deposit box reveals his grandmothers autobiography, old photos of an army officer and a mysterious postcard that all link to a concealed crime: the Katyn Forest massacre. Weaving dramatic interviews with bold animation, THE OFFICERS WIFE probes the collision of truth, justice and memory in a shrouded family tragedy.

The movie includes interviews with many who were with the Polish president in the April 10 plane crash. The Polish president and the rest of the passengers on the doomed flight, as you probably know from the news reports, were en route to a commemoration of the Katyn Massacre.

The filmmaker is a friend of mine.

[Off topic] NBC Olympic broadcast: an epic failure

I’d really like to see some statistics on NBC’s coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics from Vancouver, Canada. Some quick gripes:

  • I’m in the same time zone as the Olympics, why must I watch events 3 hours after the east coast?
  • Why on Sunday, February 14, was there no Olympic coverage until 1p? Were the talk shows (8-10), paid programming (10-12!!), and Monk (12-1) really more important and revenue generating than the Olympics? Seriously, 2 hours of infomercials?
  • Is it really more important to broadcasting multiples of Keith Olbermann (5p, 7p, 10p), Rachel Maddow (7p, 8p, 11p),  and Hardball with Chris Matthews (9p) than to expand Olympic coverage on MSNBC? These three shows were squeezed between two Olympic hockey games. NBC couldn’t find its why to show more?
  • Why is it an anomaly for NBC to show two events back to back? They clearly prefer to show a single event then go to commercial rather than back to back events.
  • Please someone do a comparison between the time NBC spends on broadcasting actual competition with time spent talking about events and – as a separate comparison – time spent on commercials.

Why does NBC make it so difficult to watch the Olympics?

Rest in Peace, Jeff Jones

A belated announcement:

Colonel Jeffrey B Jones, US Army Retired, passed away on Sunday, January 24, 2010 at his home in Alexandria, Virginia, after a heroic battle with brain cancer. A 1971 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, Jeff served his country In Important assignments throughout his 30 year Army career and In civilian roles thereafter. His contributions most Impacted national defense In the areas of psychological operations and strategic communications, and he served as Commander of the 8th PSYOP Battalion during Desert Shield and Desert Storm followed by roles in the National security Council and the Council on Combating Terrorism. In addition, Jeff led 50 officers from 16 nations In Lebanon in the UN Truce Supervision Organization, and he was the Joint Staff Representative on the U.S. Nuclear and Space Negotiations Team In Geneva that conducted arms control negotiations with the former Soviet Union. His final military assignment was as the U.S. Defense Attaché in Paris, France, where he was credited with helping to improve U.S.-Franco relations. Even after leaving the government in 2005, Jeff continued to be involved in developing concepts and approaches for strategic communications as a Senior Associate at the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. He is survived by his wife of 31 years, the former Pamela Kettle of Alexandria, VA; along with his mother, Sarah Smith Jones, and his brother, James F. Jones, Jr., both of Hartford, CT. Friends may gather at the Athenaeum In Old Town Alexandria, 201 Prince Street on Saturday, February 13 from 4 to 6 p.m. interment with Full Military Honors will take place at Arlington National Cemetery, Wednesday, May 12, beginning with services at 1 p.m. at the Old Post Chapel at Fort Meyer. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made In Jeff’s name to The Johns Hopkins University Brain Cancer Program, Dr. Blakeley Neuro-Oncology Research and Education Fund, c/o office of Development; Department of Neurology, 100 N. Charles Street, Suite 401, Baltimore, MD 21201.

I was fortunate enough to meet Jeff several times. He was a good man that will be sorely missed.

Random: getting to know Lichtenstein

imageSubscribing to State’s Background Notes is fun. Notes on countries are emailed as they are updated. Usually I just give a quick look over to learn at least one thing about the country, but something about Lichtenstein just jumped out – maybe it was the castle picture or the Austro-Swiss diplomatic support. Whatever it was, it appears here on the blog as a random diversion…

Continue reading “Random: getting to know Lichtenstein

Invitation to a play: True Friendship by a VOA journalist

Unrelated to my article on the Voice of America is this invitation to a play written and directed by David Vandy, a journalist with VOA’s English to Africa service (BTW- I received the invite before I wrote the article):

Voice of America invites you to a production of the play True Friendship

Written & Directed by David Vandy, Journalist, VOA English to Africa Service

Original story by Koleh Durah Suma

Performed by Sierra Theatre Productions

Friday, August 14
2:00–3:30 p.m.

Voice of America
Wilbur J. Cohen Building Auditorium
330 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20237
(Please use Independence Avenue Entrance)
One block from Federal Center Southwest Metro (Blue & Orange lines)
Three blocks from L’Enfant Plaza Metro/Exit 7th St. and Maryland Ave. SW
(Yellow, Green, Blue, Orange lines)

Photo ID required

Please R.S.V.P. to VOA Public Relations at
(202) 203-4959 or askvoa@voanews.com

Unfortunately I won’t be in town to attend. However, I did confirm that you’re welcome to RSVP and attend.

This play raises an interesting issue, even though directed at a domestic audience, the play is put on with the appearance of VOA-sponsorship (original invite had VOA logo, it’s at VOA, writer/director is VOA), does this mean they are relying on me (and other subversives) to propagate word of the event because it’s illegal for them to disseminate the invitation? Things that make you go hmmm…

CNAS grows

CNAS, aka Center for a New American Security, grew a little bit this week. Certainly they have some empty to fill after so many left to join the White House and the Departments of State and Defense, but that doesn’t diminish the importance of their latest.

While Spencer waxes on about my friend Marc Lynch, nobody’s given Bob Killebrew the love he deserves. Check out CNAS’s press release for his short bio. It will be interesting if Marc Lynch, Tom Ricks, or Andrew Exum get Bob to post (he has one post at SWJ), but he’ll probably work quietly in the background and offer up his deep knowledge and incisive analysis of current and future stabilization requirements.

As CNAS grows, it has redefined the think tank as it (cautiously or a bit clumsily) inserts itself into the public discourse of national security. From conferences broadcast on the web to Twitter to blogging, they have gone the route that sharing information is power. Their knowledge, publically displayed, gains mindshare and marketshare. That is not to say other models are obsolete but the when the field has changed due to the strategy and tactics of an ideological competitor (and think tanks are ideological competitors) you may want to take notice.

Bouncing Around London

British Council signEnjoyed walking around London today. Stopped to watch the march that closed Piccadilly for a minute and then got bored. Had only a couple of meetings this afternoon. A couple more on Sunday and then non-stop Monday and Tuesday(here and here).

Came across the office of the British Council and realized the last time I walked around London I went right passed the same office without a second look. However, that was before I knew about public diplomacy (not that I know anything about it now).

Done for the day with dinner at 10:30p. Seems late, but as I’m still on DC time, not so bad.

Off topic: updates on some of my friends…

Blogging will resume shortly. After several days in Ankara, Turkey, presenting at the NATO Center of Excellence Department Against Terrorism – subject: Treating Terrorism as the Propaganda Act It Is – I came home to be a dad (taking care of / enjoying the kids on Friday) and a husband (painting, sanding and priming metal stairs, grouting, plumbing, etc).

As author Dave Berry said, not writing is easy and it gets easier the more you don’t write. So, I’ll start of this first post in a while with something completely different: updates from friends that have nothing to do with public diplomacy or strategic communication.

Continue reading “Off topic: updates on some of my friends…

CSC Seeks Postdoctoral Fellows for Grant Project

My friends at the Consortium for Strategic Communication are searching for three postdoctoral fellows to support an Office of Naval Research grant studying extremist narratives in contested populations. The positions are funded for two years, and the primary qualification is language & culture expertise in SE Asia, Southern Europe/Northern Africa, or the Middle East. Desirable qualifications and other details of the position are listed in the job advertisement at http://comops.org/asu-csc-postdoc.pdf.
The deadline is short, with applications due April 7 and a planned start on May 15.

For further information and application instructions, read http://comops.org/asu-csc-postdoc.pdf.

Abu Muqawama gets promoted

Andrew Exum will now be a paid blogger

Because the fact that I am joining CNAS on Monday morning will affect this blog and the way we do business, I felt the need to explain a little bit about the move and my future. So I sat down with myself over breakfast and did a little Q&A. This is a bit meta, so bear with me here.

Read the whole interview at the AM blog. Congrats Ex. Next beer’s on you. The second should be on John…