The Soft Power Solution in Iran

In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, The Soft Power Solution in Iran, former Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Jim Glassman and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Support to Public Diplomacy Mike Doran promotes the active use of public diplomacy for the purpose public diplomacy was intended. Beginning with this unattributed quote from presidential candidate Eisenhower (likely inserted by Mike, who’s working on a book on the period), they wrote,

Everything that we do, everything that we say–and everything that we don’t do and don’t say–should be coordinated to meet this goal. Such a policy would have four separate tasks:

Provide moral and educational support for the Green Revolution. …

Tighten sanctions on the Iranian economy and publicize the connection between regime belligerence and economic malaise. …

Do all we can to increase communications within Iran, as well as between Iran and the outside world. …

Finally, we should refute, in campaign style, the four key propositions of Iranian propaganda. …

A serious strategic communications program for Iran could have dozens, even hundreds, of programs like these. It should extend across government agencies with clear leadership and include private-sector participation.

Too often in foreign policy our interests demand that we compromise our core values. With Iran, however, we have been blessed with remarkable luck: Our strategic and moral imperatives stand in perfect alignment. And Iranians like Americans.

The Iranian challenge appears more amenable than any other serious national threat to a soft-power solution. Let’s get going.

Indeed. We know Congress is eager for action – for example the $55 million authorized, but not appropriated, by the Armed Services Committees under the VOICE Act. This does include $30 million for BBG, but Increasing resources at VOA – along with increasingly creative access for Iranians within Iran – is not enough.

(Iran’s PressTV cites a New Yorks Times article about Senators asking State to spend $45 million that was “earmarked” for countering Iranian censorship, but I have not confirmed whether this is the same VOICE authorization or an earlier authorization or appropriation.)

Guest Post: Three (More) Steps to Better E-Diplomacy

Hillary Clinton’s willingness to embrace the use of technology and bring Alec Ross on as an advisor for innovation is a welcome and critical step for a 21st century State Department operation. Employing social networking tools to share information with foreign publics, collaborating to produce new software to improve services around the world, and working together across borders to improve all facets of State’s work. From a diplomatic perspective, however, installing the critical infrastructure for sharing information is only a first step. There are three crucial next steps that will likely be the difference between a disappointing legacy of good ideas and a lasting legacy of good diplomacy. They are:

  • Closing the global digital divide with open internet access,
  • Engaging, not lecturing, and
  • Expanding and restructuring the Foreign Service’s digital presence at home and abroad.

Continue reading “Guest Post: Three (More) Steps to Better E-Diplomacy


“Asked about ‘globalization, especially the increasing connections of our economy with others around the world,’ majorities in six of the seven [Muslim] nations polled say that it is ‘mostly good’ for their country. Approval is highest among Egyptians and Nigerian Muslims (79% and 78% saying mostly good, respectively). Sixty-three percent of Azerbaijanis, 61 percent of both Iranians and Indonesians, and 58 percent of Palestinians see globalization as mostly good. While support in Turkey does not reach a majority, a plurality still calls globalization mostly good (39% to 28%). On average across all seven publics, 63 percent say that globalization is good for their own countries. Only 25 percent think it is mostly bad.” – PIPA/ survey results.

“[Joseph] Nye, author of Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics, said that recreating USIA would cost a new U.S. president political capital. Nye said that capital would be better invested in a White House coordinator and strategist for public diplomacy.” From the post Ideas Abound for Improving U.S. Public Diplomacy Effort: U.S. national security tied to success in public diplomacy at Quoted in the post are me, Kathy Fitzpatrick, Joe Nye, and Nancy Snow.

“I also see technology attempting to solve a real and identified problem, but the new processes required are overly complex for the field. This complexity requires training to reach an acceptable level of operational effectiveness. Given the nature of the competing taskings and limited training time, this inevitably results in the reduction or elmination of other training.” Jedburgh in a discussion titled Techcentricity and today’s Armed Forces at the Small Wars Council. In the same thread, Sam Liles, who probably programs in Assembly, cracked the following (very bad and thus repeated here) joke: “There are 10 types of people in the world. Those who understand binary and those who don’t.” As we continue to explore technological advantages, we must not ignore the human in the loop and in front of the sensor.

“By comparison with both allies and adversaries, the U.S. Government investment in public diplomacy is low. In absolute terms, the United States is outspent by France and the Soviet Union and is nearly equaled by West Germany. … A comprehensive, periodic, published analysis of Soviet propaganda in the United States would tend to put Soviet purposes in clearer perspective. It would tend to make the American public and press less vulnerable to Soviet deception.” From a 1979 General Accounting Office (not Accountability) report titled “The Public Diplomacy of Other Countries: Implications for the United States.” So far, very little of the discussion on revising America’s public diplomacy outreach, informational or cultural and educational, has considered the long-considered goal, if imperfectly executed, of informing and inoculating the American public.

“Western leaders face two fronts in their stand-off with Russia over its use of force to re-draw borders in Europe: one is the Russian army on the ground. The other is a propaganda war.” From a BBC report titled Russia’s Propaganda War.

Not Afraid to Talk: our adversaries aren’t, why are we?

For an unabridged version of the below post, go here. Otherwise read on.

GWU professor Marc Lynch, perhaps more commonly known as Abu Aardvark, revealed the positions on public diplomacy of the current presidential candidates:

I came across something interesting while doing some research on public diplomacy for an unrelated project.  Since at least the 9/11 Commission Report, almost every foreign policy blueprint or platform has for better or for worse mentioned the need to fix American public diplomacy and to engage with the "war of ideas" in the Islamic world.   I expected all three remaining Presidential candidates to offer at least some boilerplate rhetoric on the theme.  What I found was different.

Marc highlighted the differences between the presidential candidates on what is arguably the most important and yet least understood element of our national security. At the end of his post, he challenged John Brown, Patricia Kushlis, and this blogger to offer our thoughts.  Patricia at Whirled View responded, as did John Brown and a few others. I suggest you read their responses.

Continue reading “Not Afraid to Talk: our adversaries aren’t, why are we?