Friday, July 11, 2014

July 11 Public Diplomacy Review

"[T]he American who achieved the most fame in 19th-century Paris was not an author or an artist but Napoleon III's dentist, Thomas W. Evans, formerly of Philadelphia."

--Author Lauren Elkin; top image from, with text: "Like Benjamin Franklin before him, Thomas W. Evans was a Philadelphian who loved to traipse about France. But when he died, they brought him back to Philly. They stuck him in a tomb the likes of which no dentist

has ever rotted beneath, then or since. The tomb is to be found at Woodlands Cemetery at the back end of UPenn’s campus." Image from; see also John Brown, "Dentistry and Human Progress," Notes and Essays


Kerry plays classical guitar in China -

ISIS and Iraq: The T-Shirts, the Cats, the App, the Hasbara - Lambert Strether, "ISIS, apparently, sells merch. Not just T-shirts and baseball caps, but — gasp — toys for children! Here’s a CNN video

from June 24." Image from


John Kerry’s guitar diplomacy: A critical review - Sarah Larimer, Washington Post: "Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday showcased his guitar-playing talent, holding a lunchtime jam session during talks with officials in Beijing. 'Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong urged

him to do so following a lunch at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, that concluded 5th Annual U.S.-China People-to-People Exchange,' reads the YouTube description of clips from Kerry’s concert. 'It followed the conclusion of a Strategic and Economic Dialogue between the two nations on July 10, 2014.'” Twitter message from entry:

Guitar skills a little rusty, but couldn't turn down Vice Premier Liu Yandong's invitation to join in at Great Hall!

Guest Commentary: Don’t make Voice of America an arm of State Dept. – Letter to Obama from Paul Westpheling -BBG Watcher, BBG Watch: "BBG Watch occasionally publishes guest commentaries. This one is from Paul Westpheling, Former General Vice-President of AFGE Local 1812, former member of the Union Executive Board, a member in good standing of the union who retired from Voice of America (VOA) in 2013 after a 25+ year career as an English radio broadcaster. ... Dear President Obama, It has been gut-wrenching for those of us who have given most of our working life to VOA to watch the back and forth over the Royce-Engel legislation.

Your leadership is urgently required. I hope what I’ve heard from many different quarters isn’t true … that you just don’t care. HR 4490 would change VOA’s mission and charter by making it an overt tool of public diplomacy under the direction of the State Department instead of remaining an objective, unbiased and trusted source of news and information as it has been since the VOA Charter was passed by Congress and signed by President Ford in 1976. ... VOA needs more resources and support for its mission, and protection from those who would take the VOA brand and ruin it by making it an arm of the State Department. It also needs strong leadership and support from you. Also remember: countries with sinister ideological agendas are spending untold billions on their own propaganda games. Propaganda is certainly not substantive content." Uncaptioned image from entry

NATO commemorates Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war on terror - "NATO has commemorated Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war on terror resulting in the loss of over 50,000 lives and hoped that Operation Zarb-e- Azab in North Waziristan would be successful in uprooting the terrorist hideouts and training camps.

Six member delegation of the Senate standing committee on foreign Affairs visited Brussels and held meetings with NATO, EU Institutions and Think Tanks. The delegation visited NATO HQ and met with [among others]Ambassador, Kolanda Grabar ... and Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy, Richard Fro." Image from entry

Beware the hornets' nest - Dan Margalit, "The IDF embarked on Operation Protective Edge with vast intelligence. The scope of strikes has exceeded that of Operation Pillar of Defense, which noted good results at low costs. However, the military has had to deal with two issues, as noted Wednesday by former Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin: Hamas has burrowed underground, so to some extent it is harder for the IAF to neutralize rocket launchers; and for now the government is preventing certain kinds of military tactics, for political, humanitarian and public diplomacy reasons, which in turn slows down the destruction of buildings housing weapon mills."

What constitutes a victory? - "Jerusalem is in no hurry to be dragged into another confrontation, especially with Hamas dictating the timetable, as it is now. From the perspective of public diplomacy, as long as the battle is not waged on equal footing, between two sovereign states, Israel has the disadvantage.

It is difficult to convince the world that Israel is under attack, mainly thanks to the success of the Iron Dome missile defense system, which has intercepted 90 percent of the projectiles fired into populated areas. Even Israelis living in Tel Aviv have trouble truly understanding what it is like to live under constant threat of rockets."
Image from

Grapevine: Food for the soul and the stomach - Greer Fay Cashman, "[A]t the National Day and farewell reception at the Dan Hotel Tel Aviv hosted by Lithuanian Ambassador Darius Degutis and his wife, Nida – who are returning to Lithuania after a five-year tour of duty in Israel ... [Degutis] said there will be friendship agreements signed between Lithuanian cities and the cities of Acre and Tiberias, and this September, conductor Zubin Mehta will take the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra to Vilnius to perform

at the National Opera and Ballet Theater . ... Steinitz [Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz] ... spoke of Lithuania’s contribution to Jewish wisdom and praised latter-day Lithuania for its condemnation of anti-Semitism and its support of Israel. He said that Degutis [Lithuanian Ambassador Darius Degutis] had proven to be an excellent ambassador, serving the interests of Israel as well as of Lithuania. Liberman [Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman], well-aware of Degutis’s genuine affection for Israel, told him: 'You may be the best hasbara [public diplomacy] we have in Europe – without a ministry and without a budget.'" Image from, with caption: Two butterflies with flags on wings as symbol of relations Israel and Lithuania

Lavrov: Russia Must Spend More Cash to Improve Image Abroad - Anna Dolgov, "Concerned that Russia is not very well-liked by its neighbors after annexing part of Ukraine, a Russian foreign-affairs agency has proposed a solution: Put more money into promotional campaigns to show Moscow's true warm and friendly nature. At a meeting with officials from the Foreign Ministry's agency in charge of improving Russia's image abroad, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that since the start of the Ukraine crisis, Moscow has run into some popularity problems and blamed its bad rap on opponents' unfair political campaigning and some outdated stereotypes. 'Events in Ukraine and around it have clearly demonstrated that we are facing competition – frequently of an unfair kind – in the issues of forming public opinion,' Lavrov said, according to an official transcript of his remarks published on the ministry's website. 'It is important that we increase our work on explaining Russia's line in international affairs, bringing truthful information to foreign public, strengthening contacts not only with those who seek constructive cooperation with us, but also with those players who are still laboring under the influence of prejudices of a past epoch,' he said. None of this means that Russia needs to change its ways, Lavrov indicated: 'As President Vladimir Putin has confirmed, we will continue in the future to defend the rights of Russians, our compatriots abroad, by using the full arsenal of legitimate means available to us.' But since the country has some image problems to tackle, Lavrov said that the Foreign Ministry's state-promotion agency Rossotrudnichestvo needs to get down to the task. The agency's head Konstantin Kosachev conceded that Russia may be lagging behind some other countries in humanitarian affairs, but said that more money would be helpful for highlighting the country's accomplishments, the Kommersant newspaper reported Thursday.

The agency's annual budget stands at relatively low 2.7 billion rubles ($80 million), with salaries ranking 83rd among Russia's 85 government services, he said in comments carried by Kommersant. 'Our geopolitical competitors have had a head start,' Kosachev said. 'They built relevant programs years and decades ago and are now utilizing their results. So when we are trying to prove to the government and the Federal Assembly [parliament] the need for broader financing of this work, one of our arguments is that this is not spending but an investment.' Kosechev said that his agency had prepared an 'integrated strategy for increasing Russia's humanitarian influence in the world,' a project that has already been approved by the Foreign Ministry and is awaiting review at other agencies. Rossotrudnichestvo is running Russian culture centers overseas, and Deputy Culture Minister Alla Manilova has recently suggested tasking the agency with promoting Russia as an attractive travel destination." Image from entry, with caption: Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov looks on during a news conference in Maribor, Slovenia.

Inside China: Anti-Japan propaganda campaign backfires - By Miles Yu, "The entire Chinese Communist Party leadership took part in several elaborate commemorative events that sought to cast today’s Japan in the same light as Tokyo’s militarist dictatorship of seven decades ago. The centerpiece was a speech by Supreme Leader Xi Jinping that criticized Japan’s leaders for allegedly trying to revive its fascist past and imperial glory. While China marinated in anti-Japan sentiment and propaganda, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in Australia for a two-day visit.

In a speech to Australia’s parliament, he addressed China’s propaganda and denied that Japan is worming its way toward imperialism. A BBC survey found that more than 76 percent of Germans, the highest rate among 24 countries polled, view China as exerting a mainly negative impact on the world. China also was viewed negatively by 73 percent of those polled in Japan, followed by France (68 percent), the U.S. (66 percent), Canada (64 percent), Spain (59 percent) and South Korea (56 percent)." Image from

Mysterious Shanghai private firms makes Fortune Global 500 - "Seven of the 23 new entrants on 2014's Fortune Global 500, a list of the top 500 corporations worldwide as measured by revenue, are Chinese. While the China Development Bank is the highest-ranking newcomer, coming in at No. 122, the entry that has caught everyone's attention is the mysterious CEFC China Energy, a private company from Shanghai that came in at No.349 with an operating income of US$33.6 billion. ... Domestically, the company is reportedly planning and constructing oil reserve bases with a total storage capacity of up to 50 million cubic meters at Yangpu Port in southern China's Hainan province, Rizhao Port in east China's Shandong province and Yangshan Port in Shanghai.

CEFC is also responsible for establishing the China Energy Fund Committee thinktank, which has been granted Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. According to its website, the committee is dedicated to 'fostering international dialogue and understanding of cultural values, regional cooperation, energy security, and issues relating to China's emerging place in the world,' and aims to 'promote international cooperation and mutual respect through public diplomacy.'" Image from entry, with caption: Details on CEFC China Energy on the Fortune Global 500 website remain conspiciously bare. (Internet photo)

Job Vacancy For Research and Public Affairs Officer At Australian High Commission - "Job Summary ... Maintain a network of contacts to support the High Commission’s research work and public diplomacy agenda, including in government, research institutions and non-governmental organisations."


Pentagon decries new Bergdahl photo as propaganda - The photo of a smiling Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl posted to a Twitter account by a Taliban sympathizer is being dismissed by the Pentagon as "100% propaganda." Bergdahl was "held up in brutal conditions for a half a decade," said Col. Steve Warren, a military spokesman.

"We're glad that he is back." NBC News reported that a Taliban official said the photo was released by a Twitter account belonging to a Taliban sympathizer. Image from entry, with caption: This photo of a smiling Bowe Bergdahl has been circulating on Twitter.

Iraq Illusions - Jessica T. Mathews, New York Review of Books: In Iraq the struggle has been, and continues to be, within sectarian groups almost as much as between them. Among the Shia, for example, Muqtada al-Sadr has openly opposed Maliki. The US presence forced the struggle into nonviolent channels for a while, but it could neither remove nor resolve the multiple contests for political power that continued to be fought. It is a fantasy to argue that another year or two of the US presence would have fundamentally altered Iraq’s military response to the jihadists, for an army will not fight well for a government it does not respect. There will have to be an international effort to shore up a more workable Iraqi government with the US, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Syria, and others involved, perhaps under UN auspices (though one could wish for a more able and energetic secretary-general). Without moving toward division of the country, a more federal vision for Iraq is better suited to a country in which the momentum of violence will continue for years to come.

Our Friends the Germans: Merkel tosses out the CIA station chief on espionage charges - Review and Outlook, Wall Street Journal: On Thursday our German friends tossed out "the representative of the U.S. intelligence agencies," presumably the CIA station chief in Berlin. Much of this is faux outrage because the Germans surely know that even friendly nations spy on one another. Much of this is faux outrage because the Germans surely know that even friendly nations spy on one another. The ostensible reason for the expulsion is German anger over media reports about two cases of American spying. Germany enjoys closer commercial and political ties with both Russia and Iran than do most other Western countries. The U.S. needs to understand these relationships, and that requires intelligence. The U.S. would be irresponsible if it didn't eavesdrop on German officials. Below image from

The German-American breakup - Jacob Heilbrunn, Los Angeles Times: President Obama has been listening all too well to Germans — spying on them from more than 150 National Security Agency sites in Germany, according to secret NSA documents that former contractor Edward Snowden leaked to the weekly Der Spiegel Ever since the Bush administration launched the Iraq war in 2003 — which then-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder vehemently opposed — many Germans have come to view America as a militaristic rogue state, more dangerous even than Russia or Iran. Indeed, a recent poll indicates that a mere 27% of Germans regard the U.S. as trustworthy, and a majority view it as an aggressive power. In trampling on German civil liberties, the Obama administration is besmirching America's image and allowing Germans to feel morally superior to their former conqueror.

Bahrain’s Bad Decision - Editorial, New York Times: Bahrain would seem an unlikely country to expel a senior American diplomat on a trumped-up complaint, since the Persian Gulf state is home to the United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet and depends on America for its defense, especially against Iran. Yet the government did just that, forcing Tom Malinowski, the State Department’s assistant secretary for human rights, to cut short an official visit on Tuesday because he met with members of an opposition party. Then on Thursday, it compounded the error by charging the leader of Bahrain’s biggest opposition group with holding an illegal meeting with Mr. Malinowski. These outrageous moves call into question Bahrain’s commitment to its alliance with the United States.

How to Avert Afghanistan's Implosion - Frederick Kagan, Wall Street Journal: The Afghan electoral commission announced on Monday that preliminary results showed Ashraf Ghani a million votes ahead of Abdullah Abdullah. Both camps immediately claimed victory.

The U.S. and the international community should bring as much pressure to bear as possible on Mr. Abdullah—and on Mr. Ghani if it becomes necessary—to let the constitutional process play out. Otherwise there may be no future for Afghanistan. Image from

Obama caves to conventional wisdom on Syria - Fareed Zakaria, Washington Post: The Obama administration’s decision to seek $500 million to train and fund elements of the Syrian opposition has been greeted with bipartisan support in Washington. Can anyone now believe that a modest American intervention is going to find genuine democrats in the maelstrom, help them win against Assad and also the radicals, and stabilize Syria? Or is Washington’s new activism more likely to throw fuel onto a raging fire?

Obama's global challenge - David Ignatius, Obama has the right concept in creating a global network of Special Operations forces and intelligence services that can combat the frightening evolution of al-Qaeda into new and potentially more toxic offshoots.

But someone at the White House needs to drive this policy every day, and make sure it's happening on the ground, in Syria and Iraq and all the other potential ungoverned places on Obama's new map. Image from

Are the Authoritarians Winning? - Michael Ignatieff, New York Review of Books: The conflict between authoritarianism and democracy is not a new cold war, we are told, because the new authoritarians lack an expansionary ideology like communism. This is not true. Communism may be over as an economic system, but as a model of state domination it is very much alive in the People’s Republic of China and in Putin’s police state. Faced with these resurgent authoritarians, America sets a dismaying example to its allies and friends. It’s difficult to defend liberal democracy with much enthusiasm abroad if it works so poorly at home. The genius of the West lay in its invention of rights respecting limited government, grounded in the revocable trust of ordinary people. It was this set of robust and enduring institutions that made us what we once were and what, if we restore their constitutional vigor, we can be once again.

Once Again, Art in Russia Carries Moral and Political Overtones - Serge Schmemann, New York Times: The current exhibition at the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg about the art produced during World War I should be just another of the many events underway across Europe commemorating the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of that terrible conflict. But, as the introduction to the exhibition notes, the First World War was the “forgotten war” under Communist rule, dwarfed in the official Soviet narrative by the glorious Bolshevik Revolution. That war is now being actively studied by a new generation of Russian historians, but there is still no memorial in Russia to the two million Russians killed, and no trace of where they were buried.

So it comes as a surprise to many Russians visiting the exhibition that so many of the great Russian artists of that extraordinarily creative age — Vasily Kandinsky, Marc Chagall, Kazimir Malevich, Leonid Pasternak, Natalia Goncharova to name a few — participated in the outpouring of patriotic fervor with paintings, drawings, cartoons, sculptures, posters and popular folk etchings known as “lubki” in support of a war that, in Communist propaganda, was dismissed as the last hiccup of a predatory order about to be swept away. Image from

Christian and Canadian Support for Israel Defies Propaganda - Christine Williams,  Despite the sustained and typical propaganda campaign against Israel, Canada has condemned "the brazen and indiscriminate attacks that Hamas continues to wage on Israel." Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird repeated Canada's unwavering position that "Canada believes that Israel has every right to defend itself from such belligerent acts of terrorism.  According to writer Robert Nicholson who studies the relationship between Christians and Jews, "millions of evangelical Christians unabashedly continue their outspoken, wholehearted, stalwart defense of both the Jewish state and the Jewish people."

The Secret World of American Spies in the Middle East [review of America's Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East by Hugh Wilford] - Frederick Deknatel, New Republic: In September 1947, on the day the Central Intelligence Agency was formally established in Washington, D.C., two of Teddy Roosevelt’s grandsons, Archie and Kim, drove from Beirut across the Lebanese mountains into Damascus to meet a fellow spy named Miles Copeland. Archie, 29, was the CIA’s first station chief in Beirut; Copeland, 31, was its man in Damascus. Kim (or Kermit Jr., whose namesake and father had roared around the Middle East like T.E. Lawrence during World War I) would, by 1949 at age 33, head the CIA’s covert operations in the region. America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East is about the moment, from the late 1940s to the late 1950s, when the United States was the region’s upstart, rather than its hegemon.

Wilford’s book—a three-part biography of the two Roosevelts and Copeland—underscores the high hopes but ultimate flaws and fallacies in the Americans’ meddling. He focuses on Kim, Archie, and other spies’ patrician, East Coast roots, including their Groton and Harvard upbringings, to explain their sense of entitlement and responsibility. (Copeland described his Beirut counterpart as “a member in good standing of what passes for nobility in America.”) They spoke of a new era even as they fomented anti-democratic coups, coddled military strongmen, and sought to turn former British or French wards into anti-Soviet satellites though bribes, “crypto-diplomacy,” and secret meetings in the middle of the night (often behind the back of the local ambassador and the State Department). Image from


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