Monday, July 21, 2014

July 16-20 Public Diplomacy Review

Abbreviated Edition



Perry, Obama Meet for Border Security Discussion - Ed Sterling, "In a July 11 speech broadcast from Austin, Obama said he was waiting on Congress to approve his June 30 request for $3.7 billion in emergency funding to address the population influx. The president asked that those funds be used for [inter alia] ... Addressing root causes of migration, paying for public diplomacy and international information programs."

Russia faces the power of embarrassment - Robert A. Pape, "If, as now seems likely, Russian-supported Ukrainian separatists used a surface-to-air missile to shoot down a civilian airliner killing nearly 300 innocent people, Washington now has a major opportunity to achieve what sanctions could not — namely, compelling Putin to distance Russia from the separatists in Ukraine. The strategy is 'the politics of embarrassment,' which is as simple as it is powerful. For months U.S. intelligence has been using all varieties of satellites and other means to monitor eastern Ukraine. Over the next week, the United States should release the detailed information it surely collected about the missile that shot down the airliner, the command structure of the missile system, and links to both the Ukrainian rebels and Russia itself. This would put Putin in the embarrassing position of choosing to support an ally who committed mass murder or distance himself and Russia from that atrocity. There is good reason to think that the politics of embarrassment would change Russia's behavior. Last summer, Syria used poison gas against its own people. Rather than bomb, the United States pursed a public diplomacy campaign based on the release of detailed information connecting the gas attack to the government of Assad and embarrassing Assad's main military ally, Russia. Indeed, Russia ultimately joined the United States and other Western countries in support of an international effort to eradicate chemical weapons in Syria, which did more to punish Assad than any contemplated bombing campaign. The politics of embarrassment should be the main response toward Russia following the airliner disaster."

Hillary Clinton’s Bizarre Critique of U.S. Foreign Policy: Is patriotic storytelling really the solution to America's international relations problem? - Peter Beinart, "Tuesday night on The Daily Show, Hillary Clinton showed why she gives a great interview. When Stewart mocked the pretense that she’s not yet decided to run for president, Hillary didn’t stiffen or get flustered.

She impishly played along with the gag, displaying a relaxed self-awareness rarely evident during her 2008 presidential run. On style, she was terrific. It was when the conversation turned substantive that the problems began. Near the end of the interview, Stewart asked a broad question that ended, 'What is our foreign policy anymore?' Here’s the key chunk of Hillary’s reply. [']What I found when I became secretary of state is that so many people in the world—especially young people—they had no memory of the United States liberating Europe and Asia, beating the Nazis, fighting the Cold War and winning, that was just ancient history. They didn’t know the sacrifices that we had made and the values that motivated us to do it. We have not been telling our story very well. We do have a great story. We are not perfect by any means, but we have a great story about human freedom, human rights, human opportunity, and let’s get back to telling it, to ourselves first and foremost, and believing it about ourselves and then taking that around the world.

That’s what we should be standing for. ['] As a vision for America’s relations with the world, this isn’t just unconvincing. It’s downright disturbing. It’s true that young people overseas don’t remember the Cold War. But even if they did, they still wouldn’t be inspired by America’s 'great story about [promoting] human freedom, human rights, human opportunity.' That’s because in the developing world—where most of humanity lives—barely anyone believes that American foreign policy during the Cold War actually promoted those things. What they mostly remember is that in anticommunism’s name, from Pakistan to Guatemala to Iran to Congo, America funded dictators and fueled civil wars. Barack Obama has acknowledged as much. He begins the foreign policy chapter of The Audacity of Hope by discussing his boyhood home of Indonesia, a country that for much of the Cold War was ruled by a 'harshly repressive' military regime under which 'arrests and torture of dissidents were common, a free press nonexistent, elections a mere formality.' All this, Obama notes, 'was done with the knowledge, if not outright approval, of the U.S. administrations.' Hillary Clinton, by contrast, in her interview with Stewart, painted the Cold War as a glorious freedom struggle through which America inspired the globe. For Hillary, America’s current problem is that once the Cold War ended, we 'withdrew from the information arena.' As a result, across the world, a new generation no longer remembers the great things we supposedly did in the past, and America has stopped telling them about the great things we are still doing today. Her answer: 'get back to telling' the story of America’s greatness, not only to the rest of the world but 'to ourselves first and foremost.' Is America’s biggest post-Cold War foreign policy problem really that we’ve failed to adequately remind others, and ourselves, how good we are? Really? Is America’s biggest post-Cold War foreign policy problem really that we’ve failed to adequately remind others, and ourselves, how good we are?" Top image from, with caption: Hillary Rodham Clinton gave Jon Stewart no hints about whether she will run for president during Tuesday's taping of "The Daily Show"; below uncaptioned image from entry

State Department Official Tweets #UnitedforGaza: Was it a typo, a Freudian slip, or a statement? - Paula Bolyard, "Richard Stegel [sic], under secretary for public diplomacy and public affairs at the U.S. Department of State, took to Twitter on Saturday night and appeared to take sides in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Stegel, appointed to his post at the State Department by President Obama last year and confirmed by a 90-8 vote along party lines in April, used his personal Twitter account to call for an investigation into Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. The former managing editor of Time prefaced the tweet with the State Department’s Twitter handle and ended it with the hashtag #UnitedForGaza, indicating his solidarity with the Palestinians. Not surprisingly, many Twitter uses were offended by the hashtag." Below images from entry

  1. .@StateDept. Critical for a full, credible and unimpeded intl investigation of crash. Urge Russia to honor it's [sic - JB] commitment.
@stengel @StateDept Please explain the hashtag? Is this an order from the President? Are you being paid by a foreign power? Qatar?
U.S. Department of State selects Zappold Advisors LLC and SnappyTV in Support of Cloud-Based Social Media and Web Video Publishing - Press Release, "Zappold Advisors LLC, a leading cloud-based and IT services consulting firm, announced it was awarded a contract to support the U.S. Department of State's web-video programming to share programs on social media platforms. In collaboration with industry leader and partner SnappyTV, Zappold Advisors LLC increase the awareness of news and current events that will serve and benefit both regional and functional bureaus within the State Department. 'The web-video workflow and low level integration of social media sharing can be improved by incorporating new technology that increases the value of both video and social media products.' ... 'We’re humbly honored to have the opportunity to support the U.S. Department of State in their continued efforts in communicating and creating public awareness of both their public affairs and public diplomacy news to an ever increasing global audience on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr to connect to,' said Jan Zappold, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Zappold Advisors LLC."

U.S. enforces strict surveillance on NGOs for national security - Daya Gamage - Asian Tribune: "It is interesting to note that while the United States has taken measures, in the interest of its national security to enact legislation to have a closer scrutiny and tab on NGO's based in the U.S. and foreign-connected INGOs and their officials, manner in which they expend and handle funds, whether the NGOs and INGOs operate contrary to U.S. foreign policy and national security interests, Sri Lanka has initiated steps to have a closer scrutiny of the locally-based NGO's receiving funds from foreign sources in its national security interests especially concerned about its sovereignty and territorial integrity at a time former professionals and activists of the now-defunct separatist/terrorist movement Tamil Tigers are operating within the Tamil Diaspora to bifurcate Sri Lanka the Tamil Tigers failed to achieve with an armed struggle for more than two decades. Further, while the Obama administration sponsored legislation to a have a firm grip on the NGO and INGO organizations now before the House of Representative which is expected to take effect in the new Fiscal Year commencing October 2014, the administration's public diplomacy agency, Department of State, has already issued a statement critical of the Sri Lanka move to scrutinize the NGOs and INGOs operating in that country."

Musical diplomacy building bridges between the U.S. and Pakistan - "(Vatican Radio) When you think about diplomacy and the U.S. State Department, you probably don’t think about jazz singers or pop idols. Yet cultural, and specifically musical diplomacy, is not a new phenomenon – way back in the 1950s Louis Armstrong was described as America’s most effective ambassador. What American diplomats could not do, the New York Times said, Armstrong and his jazz music managed to do. Fast forward 60 years and meet Phillip Assis, who’s just concluded a year as cultural affairs officer at the US Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan.

Formerly on the staff of the US embassy to the Holy See here in Rome, Phillip Nelson – to use his stage name – made his mark on the cultural scene in Karachi after a guest appearance on the popular TV show Pakistan Idol, singing alongside the three semi-finalists. But that performance, as he told us while passing through Rome on American Independence Day, was just one of many opportunities he discovered to forge friendships and promote understanding between the people of Pakistan and his homeland." Image from entry, with caption: Phillip Assis' musical diplomacy

To Brazil, with love from Pakistan - Paul Rockower, Levantine: "Connecting Brazil with Pakistan via Della Mae. The online progressive Pakistani magazine Let Us Build Pakistan reported on Della Mae's performance of 'Lab Pe Aati Hai Dua' in Brazil and previous American Music Abroad tour through Pakistan and Central Asia. I'm on the board of the Pakistan Israel Peace Forum, which has connected Let Us Build Pakistan in an ongoing dialogue and article cross-posting with the online progressive magazine in Israel +972 Magazine."

Meet the State Department’s Next Executive Secretary: Ambassador Joe Macmanus – Domani Spero, Diplopundit: "Ambassador Macmanus entered the Foreign Service in 1986 as a Public Diplomacy Officer at the United States Information Agency (USIA).

From 1986 until 2003, he served in various Public Diplomacy positions in Mexico, El Salvador, Poland, Belgium, and at the U.S. Information Agency headquarters in Washington, D.C. Image from entry, with caption: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Vienna Office Joe Macmanus – who is the State Department’s incoming Executive Secretary – before addressing staffers from the three Department missions in Vienna, Austria, during a break in the Iran nuclear talks on July 14, 2014."

A propaganda-free Voice of America: Congress must prevent U.S. tax dollars from helping America’s enemies - Ted Lipien, "A bipartisan bill in Congress, the U.S. International Broadcasting Reform Act of 2014 (H.R. 4490), is designed to return VOA and the rest of U.S. government international broadcasting to its core foundation. The bipartisan reform legislation should be enacted by the Congress and signed by the president. ... I do not believe Congress wants U.S. propaganda. That would be completely counterproductive. ... As someone who had worked at VOA as a journalist when it was part of the old U.S. Information Agency, I do not see H.R. 4490 proposing a link between VOA and public diplomacy that would be anywhere as strong as it was then. Still, I would make minor changes in the bill’s text and include in full the VOA Charter, which guarantees news independence, but also gives VOA its Washington and America news beat that Congress wants. ... VOA and Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty have completely different missions and do not belong together. Merging them under centralized management will not save money. H.R. 4490 offers the best solution in making surrogate broadcasters independent from the dysfunctional International Broadcasting Bureau bureaucracy."

Voice of America accuses Ukraine of inflaming rhetoric over downing of Malaysian airliner - BBG Watcher, BBG Watch: "VOICE OF AMERICA NEWS: 'Ukrainian officials have further inflamed the rhetoric over the downing of the Malaysian airliner, claiming that a Russian crew was operating the anti-aircraft system that was allegedly used.' With editorial direction and oversight almost nonexistent these days at the mismanaged Voice of America, more and more often some VOA news reports sound like pro-Kremlin editorials.

The latest example of such inappropriate editorializing by Voice of America in its news reporting — which by the way almost always favors the Kremlin and its propaganda line — was noted by World Media Watch. U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America has accused Ukrainian government officials of inflaming the rhetoric over the downing of the Malaysian airliner. The VOA editorial comment would make a perfect headline for Russia’s RT or Voice of Russia. These Putin’s propaganda media outlets would be foolish not to report that even U.S. government-funded Voice of America believes that Ukraine officials in Kyiv are guilty of inflaming the rhetoric over the downing of the Malaysian airliner with presumably false accusations. Image from entry

CUSIB Director Meets with BBG Chairman Shell - BBG Watcher, "BBG Watch has learned that Ted Lipien, Director of the independent NGO Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB –, met in Washington this week with Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) Chairman Jeff Shell to discuss issues related to U.S. international broadcasting and other media outreach. The meeting was part of an ongoing dialogue between CUSIB and BBG board members. This was a fourth such meeting between CUSIB directors and Chairman Shell who welcomed public input into discussions about U.S. international media outreach." See also.

What The Downed Flight MH17 Means For Russia - Tom Nichols, "The Soviet Union – Putin’s first love – ... never escaped the stain of the downing of a Korean passenger jet in 1983. Just as the Russian separatists are doing now, the Soviets tried to prevent access to the crash area, lied about their own actions, and then blamed others. Although the West imposed some nominal sanctions, the real price was paid in public diplomacy, because the Soviets never recovered an ability to push any further propaganda about their commitment to peace after an act of such savagery. Indeed, when the world erupted in anger, Soviet leader (and former KGB chief)

Yuri Andropov was genuinely shocked. Like Putin, he and his comrades lived in a bubble in Moscow, and the public outcry only cemented the Soviet leadership’s paranoid conviction that the world was out to get the USSR. Putin, a typical and mediocre product of Andropov’s KGB, will likely react the same way." Uncaptioned image from entry

Your voice -- We love Israel: Things we can all do to help - Shahar Edry, "All around the country, pro-Israeli organizations are taking action to stand for Israel; here are some of the things that you can do here in Phoenix: ... 3. Educate: Hasbarah (or public diplomacy) is accomplished by sharing the truth about Israel and trying to explain the real situation in Israel to your friends, co-workers and anyone that may have an interest or does not understand what is going on. Do not waste your time and energy trying to explain the facts to those who will use them against you or will just drag you into a pointless argument."

CNN's Cuomo Frets Over Image of 'Strong Israel Killing Civilians in Gaza' - Connor Williams, "Michael Oren CNN Mideast analyst [:] ... You can imagine if hundreds – literally hundreds of millions of Americans, more than 200 million Americans under would be under shell fire, the people of the United States would expect their government to do something about it and do something about it very forcefully, even if there weren't a large number of casualties. Israelis, you can ask the average Israeli on the street, they’re not gonna apologize for the fact they haven't had more of their citizens killed. Israel invests very, very heavily in civil defense and invested very, very heavily in the iron dome. On the Palestinian side, on the Hamas side, they've invested only in offensive capabilities. That's why there's been such a widespread – a much more higher level of casualties on the Palestinian side. So there's a disparity, it's going to cause a public diplomacy challenge for Israel. But better to have the public diplomacy challenge than to have hundreds of casualties, including fatalities." See also.

Masa Participants from Around the World Join Online Public Diplomacy Effort - "Masa Israel Journey and the National Information Directorate within the Prime Minister’s Office have launched a joint effort to raise awareness of the conflict between Israel and Hamas in both traditional and new media. The goal of the effort is to show that Israeli civilians are under attack from Hamas in Gaza and explain to the world that Israel embarked on a defensive operation under the banner, 'Israel Under Fire.' Volunteers from several Masa programs have contributed their time out of a desire to show the world what is really happening in Israel and out of a sense of attachment to the country.

The volunteers are helping translate materials into their native tongues, adapt the messaging to their specific national audiences, and contribute their own unique perspectives based on their experiences in Israel. They post on Facebook and Twitter, respond to falsehoods, expose Hamas lies, share explanatory YouTube videos, and attempt both raise awareness and challenge the discourse on social media." Image from entry

Is an Israeli Official Spreading Propaganda on Tinder? - Eli Clifton, “'Operation Protective Edge,' Israel’s self-named “defensive” operation in Gaza, is killing a lot of Palestinians in response to rocket fire from Gaza. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza puts the latest casualty toll at 174 killed Palestinians and over 1,100 wounded. The UNRWA commissioner general in Gaza told The New York Times, 'Women and children make up a sizable number of victims of the current strikes.' As of yet, no Israelis have been killed during the latest Gaza offensive. One hundred and seventy-four to zero is a tough ratio to explain. Especially for an operation that Israel claims is being taken in self-defense against terrorists in Gaza. But the Israeli Prime Minister’s office may have found an answer to this minor public-diplomacy challenge: Tinder, a popular online smartphone dating/hookup app. A friend who uses Tinder logged on yesterday and was swiping through profiles when he came upon 'Israel,' age '34' (?!).

Israel said it (he? she?) was five miles away, but seemed to have one thing on its mind: sharing images justifying Israel’s bombing campaign of Gaza. ... One of the images advises viewers to visit #IsraelUnderFire, a Facebook site full of Israeli Defense Forces meme-style images. Several of the images on the Tinder profile had been posted on #IsraelUnderFire. The administrator for the page is Yair Eddie Fraiman, 'Director of Interactive Media and Public Diplomacy at Office of the Prime Minister of Israel,' according to his LinkedIn profile. Fraiman hasn’t responded to a request for comment (I’ll update this post if he does)." Image from entry

Young Israelis Fight Hashtag Battle to Defend #IsraelUnderFire - Robert Mackey, New York Times: Confronted with an outpouring of sympathy on social networks for Palestinians killed or wounded in Gaza in an eight-day military confrontation, a group of young Israelis is pushing back, using the hashtag #IsraelUnderFire to rally support for what they say is an unavoidable, defensive war provoked by rocket fire from Islamist militants. As The Jerusalem Post reports, the effort to make Israel’s case is being spearheaded by 400 college students posting comments, memes, video clips, images and explanatory graphics on Facebook and Twitter from dozens of computers in a 'Hasbara war room' at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv. Hasbara, a Hebrew euphemism for propaganda, literally means 'explanation,' and the organizers of the campaign promise to equip like-minded volunteers who visit their website, Israel Under Fire, with 'everything you need in order to properly inform about and advocate for Israel,' in 19 languages."

Israel and Hamas clash on social media: As in the field, Israel deploys superior strength and resources as both sides attack each other on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube - Harriet Sherwood, The Guardian: In recent years Israel has recruited hundreds of students to assist in its hasbara, or public diplomacy campaign. These individuals – some of whom are paid – act openly and covertly, many engaging in below-the-line online discussion threads to promote Israel's interests.

Israel's media strategy: What lies beneath - Marwan Bishara,
"Do you wonder why official Israeli spokespersons sound so calm, smiley and kind when their popular base sounds so angry, so aggressive, and so racist? How they are likely to say something like, ‘thank you it's nice to be with you’, even after being grilled by a probing frustrated anchor. Why, when asked about the expansion of illegal settlements, Israeli spokespersons speak of the need for a peace settlement, and when asked about bombing civilians, they speak of a better future for all children, Israeli and Palestinian? Wonder no more. This is all part of a well-thought, well-orchestrated media strategy to mystify, mislead and even misrepresent the reality. And much of it can be found in The Israel Project's 2009 Global Language Dictionary.  … ... Chapter six of the 18-chapter, 117-page guide focuses on the lessons from the last Gaza war and proposes a more effective public diplomacy for the next time around, i.e. this round. One of the first recommendations goes as follows: 'Israel made painful sacrifices and took a risk to give peace a chance. They voluntarily removed over 9,000 settlers from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, abandoning homes, schools, businesses, and places of worship in the hopes of renewing the peace process.' And 'Despite making an overture for peace by withdrawing from Gaza, Israel continues to face terrorist attacks, including rocket attacks and drive-by shootings of innocent Israelis. Israel knows that for a lasting peace, they must be free from terrorism and live with defensible borders.'

Needless to say, much of the formulation is misleading. Most of the illegal settlers had already moved out because of mounting Palestinian resistance, pushing Israel to finally redeploy its military without any coordination with the Palestinian Authority. The decision was motivated by the need to disengage demographically from 1.5 million impoverished Palestinians and was based on cost-benefit analysis, not peace strategy. All of which partially explains why Israel has being laying siege to Gaza and reckons it has the right to intervene militarily at will ever since. At any rate, the guide suggests that defenders and promoters of Israel's war need to use the kind of language that 'may be hard for some of you to say, but every result of research confirms that an approach like this is the best way for an Israeli spokesperson to truly be heard and therefore make a difference'.  ... The guide advises the pro-Israel camps to 'use rhetorical questions to gain permission from the audience for Israel's actions'. For example: 'What should Israel do? Imagine, if thousands of rockets were fired into your community every day and every night? What would your country do? What would you want them to do? Don't we have a duty to protect our citizens?'" Uncaptioned image from entry

Governing the play store - Sibi Arasu, "MEA India [:] This nifty app by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is meant to be a 'single window source for all information related to the ministry’s citizen-centric services.' From passport, visa and consular services to addresses of Indian missions in various countries and information on pilgrimages like Kailash Yatra and Haj, the app covers considerable ground. It also has a ‘public diplomacy’ section that offers a primer on the MEA and India’s foreign affairs machinery. Launched in May, the MEA app has hit over 10,000 installations already."

Lords debate the conclusion of the negotiations on the future of Cyprus [subscription] - According to Google search, mention of public diplomacy

Armenia Trapped Politically - Edmond Y. Azadian, "Recently the representative of the NATO’s public diplomacy division, Despina Afentouli, visited Armenia and stated bluntly, 'NATO is now increasing its military presence in all countries having a shared border with Russia and declaring that Russia should reconsider its foreign policy.'”

Baseball diplomacy: Bravehearts to host Taiwan - Corey Keenan, "The Worcester Bravehearts, the city's Futures Collegiate Baseball League team, will host the Taiwan national team later this month, but it's more than just a game. It's also about building educational and economic relationships with the country formally known as Chinese Taipei. ... 'I've come to learn from

partnering with the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, as well as Worcester State University — who are both tremendous partners for this project — that Taiwan is a huge trade partner with the commonwealth of Massachusetts,' Bravehearts owner John Creedon Jr. said. 'So we're trying to make this into a baseball diplomacy summit, and try to hit on a couple different aspects.'" Image from entry


Kerry Accuses Senate Of Hobbling American Diplomacy - Secretary of State John Kerry argues the Senate confirmation process is broken, leaving the administration without ambassadors to about 50 countries. Most of them are career foreign service officers. Via IK on Facebook

Ban the Bundlers! - Charles Kolb, Huffington Post: What has happened to the quality and prominence of our diplomats? Why have both Democratic and Republican presidents tended to reward their top political fundraisers with key ambassadorial positions? An ambassador is neither a social secretary nor a socialite. We need men and women posted in all of our embassies throughout the world who understand what ambassadors do, why diplomacy matters, and the key role they play as links between the host country and its interests and the United States. It is, quite frankly, embarrassing that so many of our key diplomatic positions are now considered commodities for sale to the highest bidder or bundler.

As World Tensions Mount, State Dept.'s Psaki Tweets on Being 'Smart, Savvy and Fashionable' - Tom Blumer, Yesterday, on a day when Israel invaded Gaza, pro-Russian forces shot down a passenger airliner with almost 300 aboard, and diseases this country hasn't seen in decades continued to be carried over the U.S. Mexican border by "Unaccompanied Alien Children" (that DHS's term), State Department spokesman Jen Psaki tweeted on the dreadfully important topic of how you can be "informed" and fashionable (HT The Blaze):

Parting shot: "Smart, savvy" Psaki is now a shorthand verb in Russia for "when someone makes a dogmatic statement about something they don’t understand, mixes facts up, and then doesn’t apologize." Image from entry

U.S. needs a discussion on when, not whether, to use force - Robert Kagan, Washington Post: The willingness of the United States to use force and to threaten to use force to defend its interests and the liberal world order has been an essential and unavoidable part of sustaining that world order since the end of World War II. It is also an essential part of effective diplomacy.

An Exceptional Decline for the Exceptional Country? The Empire as Basket Case - Tom Engelhardt, Recent history is clear: that military has proven incapable of winning its wars against minor (and minority) insurgencies globally, just as Washington, for all its firepower, military and economic, has had a remarkably difficult time imposing its desires just about anywhere on the planet. Though it may still look like a superpower and though the power of its national security state may still be growing, Washington seems to have lost the ability to translate that power into anything resembling success. Today, the U.S. looks less like a functioning and effective empire than an imperial basket case, unable to bring its massive power to bear effectively from Germany to Syria, Iraq to Afghanistan, Libya to the South China Sea, the Crimea to Africa. Just what kind of decline this represents remains to be seen. What does seem clearer today is that the rise of the national security state and the triumphalism of the corporate sector (along with the much publicized growth of great wealth and striking inequality in the country) has been accompanied by a decided diminution in the power of the government to function domestically and of the imperial state to impose its will anywhere on Earth.

Kerry's Finest Hour An Afghan election deal averts a conflict but needs U.S. follow up - Review and Outlook, Wall Street Journal: John Kerry has little to show for his diplomatic exertions across the Middle East, the Russia-Ukraine border or in East Asia. But the election compromise brokered by the Secretary of State represents a potential breakthrough for Afghanistan and an example of what effective American diplomacy in a disorderly world might look like. The election deal is all the more important because U.S. influence will wane as Mr. Obama pursues his goals of withdrawing all combat troops after this year and a complete withdrawal by the end of 2016. The danger is a repeat of the chaos in Iraq since Mr. Obama's 2011 withdrawal. It's not too late to undo Mr. Obama's mistake and commit America's support and troops to Afghanistan as we have in Europe and South Korea.

Germany's Choice: Will It Be America or Russia? - Markus Feldenkirchen, Christiane Hoffmann and René Pfister - German Chancellor Angela Merkel has already abandoned hope that the United States will come to its senses and rein in its intelligence agencies. During Merkel's last visit to Washington, US President Barack Obama wasn't even willing to commit to a no-spy agreement guaranteeing Germany a modicum of security. On the one hand, Germans are disappointed by the Americans and their unceasing surveillance activities. At the same time, they have demonstrated a surprising level of sympathy for the Russians and their president, Vladimir Putin, in the Ukraine crisis. This raises the fundamental question of Germany's national identity. In the long run, Germans will have to decide which side they prefer. Image from

Why Germany feels dissed - Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times: The United States hasn't offered what Germany really wants: a "no spy" agreement that would exempt Germany from being a target. The sensible thing for Washington to do would be to impose voluntary limits on its intelligence activities against its most valuable ally in Europe, especially when they have proved so counterproductive once exposed. But the U.S. also needs to learn a larger lesson: Alliances, even long-standing ones, need careful tending. They can't be taken for granted.

U.S. Spying on Germany: Breaking the Rules for What? - Peter Van Buren, We Meant Well: In the world of spying in general, and especially when you’re spying on allied nations, Rule No. 1 is “Don’t Get Caught.” Rule No. 2 is “Make Sure the Juice is Worth the Squeeze.” The U.S. broke both rules, several times, in Germany.

The Real Putin: Samantha Power says what Obama won't about the Russian threat - Review and Outlook, Wall Street Journal: Russia is arming the separatists and fomenting war, Obama said, but Ukraine must still join a ceasefire. He should have announced that the U.S. will provide arms to Ukraine until Mr. Putin stops arming the separatists. Obama's own U.N. Ambassador, Samantha Power, said that "this war can be ended. Russia can end this war. Russia must end this war." Her boss should tell the truth so plainly.  Image from

Putin's Latest Escalation: Russia's support for Ukrainian separatists may lead to a bigger war - Review and Outlook, Wall Street Journal: The Obama Administration failed to hit Russia with wide financial sanctions that would hurt the Russian economy, as opposed to individual firms. The White House also continues to spurn Ukraine's requests for lethal military aid. The West's wavering may yet invite Mr. Putin to overreach in a way that leads to a hotter war between Ukraine and Russia.

The Meaning of Russia's Military Campaign Against Ukraine: Moscow has broken the trust that many worked long to build. Now NATO must adapt to this new security threat - Phil Breedlove, Wall Street Journal: Russia's actions in the Ukraine crisis represent a series of wrong steps in the wrong direction and move Europe further away from its original post-Cold War vision of being whole and free. They have also clearly moved NATO further away from realizing the vision of a strategic partnership with Russia in resolving European and global security challenges. Gen. Breedlove, a four-star general in the U.S. Air Force, is NATO's supreme allied commander for Europe and commander of U.S. European Command. The Obama administration should reject any attempt by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to obtain concessions, such as increased oil sales, in exchange for an extension. And it should begin seriously preparing for the moment when time runs out — and when, as seems likely now, Iran refuses to yield.

The Malaysia Airlines crash is the end of Russia’s fairy tale - Anne Applebaum, Washington Post: It is insufficient to state, as President Obama now has, that there must be a “cease-fire” in Ukraine.

What is needed is a withdrawal of Russian mercenaries, weapons and support. The West — and the world — must push for Ukrainian state sovereignty to be re-established in eastern Ukraine, not for the perpetuation of another frozen conflict. Image from entry, with caption: A woman walks at the site of a crashed Malaysia Airlines passenger plane near the village of Rozsypne, eastern Ukraine Friday, July 18, 2014. Rescue workers, policemen and even off-duty coal miners were combing a sprawling area in eastern Ukraine near the Russian border where the Malaysian plane ended up in burning pieces Thursday, killing all 298 aboard.

An Air Disaster a Long Time in the Making: At every crucial moment in recent months, Putin saw the West losing its nerve - Matthew Kaminsky, Wall Street Journal: The only solution acceptable to Kiev is defeat for Mr. Putin's rebels and their departure from Ukraine. Their military gained momentum on the ground in recent days and shouldn't stop firing. As for Russia getting a negotiated exit, Mr. Obama can take another look at his own policy choices the past six weeks alone and one hopes draw the appropriate lessons.

BRICS host sports events to boost prestige, just don’t call it ‘soft power’- Michiel Foulon, Today the BRICS are aspiring great powers at the start of the 21st century, and are outsiders to the established, Western dominated social order.

The observation that they are hosting two thirds of all the World Cups and Olympic Games from 2008-2018 is not an example soft power, but rather a manifestation of the use of international diplomacy to enhance prestige. For this trend to be described as soft power, the other dimensions of attractive domestic political values and foreign politics would need to be fulfilled. Uncaptioned image from entry

Don't worry about the deadline and keep talking with Iran - Editorial, Los Angeles Times: A nuclear-armed Iran would be dangerous and destabilizing, and the U.S. was right to impose sanctions to bring it to the negotiating table. But now that talks are taking place and making progress, Congress should stand back. If it's necessary to extend the negotiations past Sunday, President Obama must be prepared to defend the process and the prerogative of the president to conduct diplomacy with other countries — with his veto pen, if necessary.

Nuclear talks with Iran should be given more time - Editorial, Washington Post: The public outlining by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of his government’s negotiating position in the ongoing talks on its nuclear program was a tip-off that Tehran isn’t aiming to conclude a deal by the July 20 deadline. The Obama administration should reject any attempt by Mr. Zarif to obtain concessions, such as increased oil sales, in exchange for an extension. And it should begin seriously preparing for the moment when time runs out — and when, as seems likely now, Iran refuses to yield.


"About 4,000 unidentified corpses turn up in the U.S. every year, of which about half have been murdered."

--From the headline of a review by Edward J. Epstein of "The Skeleton Crew By Deborah Halber" in The Wall Street Journal

Florida city: Pull up your pants or face up to six months in prison - Via JJ on Facebook

Which American Accent Do You Actually Have? - Benny Blanco, Do you say y'all or you guys? Have you ever heard of a "Roly poly"? Ever been to a "beer barn"? Do you drink cola, pop, or soda?

Find out what American accent you have! Via GG on Facebook


From, with caption: Highway to hell: Soldiers gingerly make their way across a path made of wooden duckboards in Chateau Wood near Ypres, Flanders, during the battle of Passchendaele in 1917. Shelling has reduced the wood's trees to gaunt skeletons


The Speaker said...

Do you think embarrassing Russia is a good idea?

I understand they have it coming, thanks to their government, but we can't have a world without peace, so we have to work to bring Russia back into cooperation, don't we?

Making them more ashamed, more defensive against us, seems counterproductive. Shouldn't we be targeting their government and showing them what their government is inflicting on them and risking in the world?


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