Persuasive politics: Revisit the Smith-Mundt Act

In the The Washington Times:

Persuasive politics: Revisit the Smith-Mundt Act

Matt Armstrong
Friday, December 19, 2008

"Repairing America’s image" is a popular mantra these days, but discussions on revamping America’s public diplomacy are futile if the legislative foundation of what we are attempting to fix is ignored. A sixty year old law affects virtually all U.S. engagement with foreign audiences by putting constraints on what we say and how we say it. Perhaps more importantly, it limits the oversight by the American public, Congress, and the whole of government into what is said and done in America’s name abroad. The impact of this law, the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, must not be ignored if policymakers hope to improve how the United States communicates overseas.

Read the whole op-ed here.

Counterinsurgency: A Guide for Policy-Makers

It’s not surprising that books about the wars we are in are so popular, but who would have thought some of the most popular readings would be U.S. Army doctrine? The purpose of doctrine is to provide guidance on how – and often why – to conduct operations. They used to be dry reads but now they are written to be accessible by those both inside and outside the military.

The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, also known as FM 3-24, did remarkably well. The Army’s recently revised Operations Manual, or FM 3-0, is also popular. However, while FM 3-24 still does reasonably well on Amazon (over a year old and it’s in the top 5,000), the latest addition to the public library is the Stability Operations Manual, or FM 3-07. This is doing very well with apparently more then 250,000 downloads in the last three weeks. The growing popularity of official U.S. military instruction manuals is fascinating. It is likely a factor of both the militarization of our foreign policy and the transition of our Armed Forces to a learning organization that has the wherewithal and desire to understand and adapt to changing conditions.

The resources available to permit the time and manpower to develop these manuals and to reinforce the iterative learning processes is one the rest of Government lacks – save perhaps for the USIP. As a result, there has been a paucity of equivalent material aimed at policy-makers.

However, there is a new book that’s due to hit the market next month that addresses this void: Counterinsurgency: A Guide for Policy-Makers. At The Washington Independent, Spencer Ackerman writes about the book:

There are lessons in the handbook that the U.S. government has clearly been reluctant to adopt. It explicitly instructs policy-makers to “co-opt” insurgents whenever possible — something that the Bush administration’s rhetoric about the “evils” of Iraqi and Afghan insurgents makes problematic.”The purpose of COIN,” the handbook says, “is to build popular support for a government while suppressing or co-opting an insurgent movement.”

Kilcullen added that negotiations are a two-way street in counterinsurgency. “A government that offers [insurgents] no concessions [will] usually lose,” he said, but “an insurgency that offers no concessions will usually lose.” Another piece of advice — one that resonates in the wake of the administration’s torture scandals — simply reads, “Respect People.”

Similarly, the handbook attempts to integrate civilian and military agencies into a concerted strategy — something the Bush administration has been unable to substantively accomplish in Iraq and Afghanistan. “COIN planning should integrate civilian and military capabilities across each of the four COIN strategy functions of security, politics, economics and information,” it reads.

More to come here at MountainRunner.

Local is Global: how the TVA board impacts America’s Public Diplomacy and Strategic Communication

Bartholomew Sullivan, a reporter with the 150-year old Memphis paper Commercial Appeal, wrote a couple of interesting articles on the fight between Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) on the Republican to Democrat ratio of the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority.  What seems to be a minor squabble, at least to those outside of Tennessee, is having a global impact and yet goes under-reported. 

Continue reading “Local is Global: how the TVA board impacts America’s Public Diplomacy and Strategic Communication”

Congressional Staffers messing w/ Wiki?

News brief from Slashdot – Wikipedia vs Congressional Staffers [Update]:

There has been quite a bit of recent reporting on the recent troubles between Wikipedia and certain Congressional staffers. In response, abdulzis mentions that "an RFC, Wikipedia’s mediation method to deal with ‘disharmonious users’, has been opened to take action against US Congressional staffers who repeatedly blank content and engage in revert wars and slanderous or libelous behavior which violates Wikiepdia code. The IP ranges of US Congress have been currently blocked, but only for a week until the issue can be addressed more directly."

What is commonly used as the reference of first resort by many, Wikipedia, is being tweaked and modified by Congressional staffers?

According to the Lowell Sun, U.S. Rep Marty Meehan’s staff has been heavily editing his Wikipedia bio, among other things removing criticisms. In total, more than one thousand Wikipedia edits in various articles have been traced back to congressional staffers at the U.S. House of Representatives in the past six months.

If you’re curious what Wikipedia will do… check out their Request for Comment here.