Thursday, January 28th 2016
“. . . at the final National Security Council meeting about Africa, Eisenhower set the tone of Washington’s outreach to the newly independent states by saying, ‘We must win their hearts and minds,’” recalled former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Herman J. Cohen in an article, “Winning Hearts, Minds, and Independence: How the United States Approached Post-Colonial Africa,” posted to the Foreign Affairs website on January 4, 2016.
The Eisenhower administration, he noted, launched several decades of development assistance that largely failed due to poor policy choices by the first generation of African leaders. He also cites misjudgments by Vice President Nixon. “Washington’s optimistic idealists were naive to believe that the new African nations were ready to make the leap from colonial dependency to sustainable irreversible economic development overnight. All they needed, we assumed, were hundreds of smart men and women swarming into their countries transmitting knowledge and equipment. We quickly learned that cultural, geographic, climatic, and religious impediments were out there to slow things down,” he added.
Cohen’s blunt article focuses on development and makes no mention of U.S. Public Diplomacy programs, but it is suggestive nonetheless. Embassy PAO's no doubt organized the press for every USAID event and promoted U.S. development initiatives that failed to achieve their goals. Cohen also cited the importance of international education, the growth of free media, and the role of international broadcasters like the VOA and BBC. Here are a few key quotes:Read More
Saturday, January 23rd 2016
On January 20, 2016, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates gave the Paul C. Warnke Lecture on International Security at the Council on Foreign Relations. Journalist Tom Brokaw welcomed Secretary Gates and moderated the Q&A session. Gates saluted the work of USIA during the Cold War and offered some thoughts on the consequences of weakened strategic communications. Public diplomacy and broadcasting practitioners will be interested in these excerpts:Read More
Quotable: Sharon Behn reports “a short path to catastrophic defeat in the war against al Qaida and ISIS”
Wednesday, January 13th 2016
Voice of America correspondent Sharon Behn asked, “Why is Islamic State so hard to beat?” Her January 7, 2016, report cited its unconventional tactics and its ability to learn from mistakes. On the U.S. response and strategy, she said:
- [ISIS] uses remote radicalization through technology, enabling the threat to spread.
- The U.S. led coalition has said it is battling IS on all levels by pursuing its leadership, shrinking its safe havens, countering its financing, and puncturing its powerful idealistic narrative of a revival of a “true” caliphate.
Thursday, January 7th 2016
“The U.S. government’s international media operations grossly lack funding to counter effectively the rising global blitz of state-sponsored propaganda from Russia, China and other rivals . . .” This was the lead of an article by Guy Taylor, National Security Team Leader at The Washington Times, “Russian, Chinese propaganda muffling U.S. government’s message to world,” on January 3, 2016.
The article was a “newsmaker interview” with the Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, Jeff Shell. (Shell is also Chairman of NBCUniversal’s Universal Filmed Entertainment Group.) Taylor asked Shell about “mounting concern among U.S. lawmakers and some Western diplomats that Washington is losing a global messaging war to the modernized array of anti-U.S. content — specifically from RT, which has expanded its operations around the world in recent years.”Read More
Tuesday, January 5th 2016
“Russia has reorganized and intensified its international propaganda machine so effectively over the past decade that some Western lawmakers and diplomats say Washington now is badly losing a global messaging war to the increasingly modernized blitz of anti-U.S. content from Moscow-backed news operations.” This was the lead of a report by Guy Taylor, National Security Team Leader at The Washington Times. His December 27, 2015, article, “Russia propaganda machine gains on U.S.,” provided an overview of the debate over the effectiveness and organization of U.S. overseas broadcasting. The debate has been brought to the fore by a bill in the House of Representatives, H.R. 2323. Here are just a few key points from Taylor’s article.
- What is most mind-boggling, some U.S. lawmakers say, is how Moscow has brought about this propaganda revolution during a post-Cold War period in which America’s own government-financed news operations, such as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America have remained largely stagnant in terms of their reach around the world.