1. A “DEADLY WARGAME”: PD professionals – like the public generally – aren’t usually exposed to wargames, an often classified strategy game that the Pentagon loves to use to simulate a military exercise or crisis. CNAS – the independent, non-partisan think-tank focused on security and defense policies – deserves credit for increasing public awareness of the wargame as a useful, more general tool.
CNAS CEO Richard Fontaine explained that his organization “pushed the boundaries of think tank interactivity and interaction” when, on July 22, 2020, it hosted a virtual wargame as part of its 2020 National Security Conference: America Competes Summer Series. Some 400 people participated in a live, unscripted wargame on the topic A Deadly Game: East China Sea Crisis 2030. The public joined the CNAS defense team in an interactive wargame involving the United States assisting Japan against aggression by China.
The hypothetical, 2030 clash involved the disputed, uninhabited Senkaku Islands (Diaoyo Islands to the Chinese). The audience had one minute to vote live on each choice of strategy as the crisis to deter China escalated, and skilled CNAS wargamers briefed at each stage as the exercise advanced. The fast-paced, 90-minute exercise was not only fun but realistic and serious, and CNAS, understandably, felt it had to emphasize that the “events depicted are fictional.”
PD practitioners interested in new and more effective ways to strategically plan, train, research and evaluate may want to look closely at the relevance of wargames to PD choices and strategies. To view a replay of the CNAS event, go to cnas.org/events/cnas-2020-national-security-conference. For a good, general wargames discussion by Christopher Dougherty, CNAS senior fellow, go to his It’s Time to Rethink Our Wargames: Selling Better Stories Could Stop Future Crises in Their Tracks at https://inkstickmedia.com/its-time-to-rethink-our-wargames/.
2. U.S. VIEWS OF CHINA CONTINUE TO SOUR: A new Pew Research survey of how Americans view China makes clear that relations are, indeed, deteriorating, as unfavorable views of China reached a new historic high in the United States. Conducted June 16-July 14, 2020, the survey found:
“Today, 73% of U.S. adults say they have an unfavorable view of the country, up 26 percentage points since 2018. Since March alone, negative views of China have increased 7 points, and there is a widespread sense that China mishandled the initial outbreak and subsequent spread of COVID-19.”
“More generally,” the report said, “Americans see Sino-U.S. relations in bleak terms.
Around seven-in-ten (68%) say current economic ties between the superpowers are in bad shape – up 15 percentage points since May 2019, a time in the trade war when tariffs were ramping up. Around one-in-four (26%) also describe China as an enemy of the United States – almost double the share who said this when the question was last asked in 2012.” The researchers also found that “Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are significantly more likely than Democrats and Democratic leaners to have a very unfavorable view of China, criticize the Chinese government’s role in the global pandemic and want to take a tougher policy approach to the country.” For the complete report, go to https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2020/07/30/americans-fault-china-for-its-role-in-the-spread-of-covid-19/?utm_source=Pew+Research+Center&ut
3. THE CASE FOR A NEW PUBLIC DIPLOMACY AGENCY: The “great debate” over how the United States Government should be structured to communicate to the world and tackle such challenges as Russian and Chinese propaganda and disinformation activities and the need for better recruitment and training in the tradecraft of persuasive communications continues. The latest to enter the fray are affiliated with George Washington University’s Program on Extremism. Haroro J. Ingram, senior research fellow, and former FSO Alexander Guittard, a GWU fellow and also Director of U.S. national security programs at M&C Saatchi World Services, part of the giant global advertising and communications agency group, have co-authored a July 20, 2020 Foreign Policy Research Institute analysis.
In Revamping American ‘Soft Power’: The Case for Centralizing America’s Messages to the World, they argue that “the lack of a centralized mechanism for cohering U.S. public messaging has made a difficult task, already hamstrung by a range of problems, nearly impossible.” Their solution to meeting the challenges of the new era 21st-century statecraft is a bureaucratic and strategic revamp. Arguing that the interagency process involving State, DOD, and the Intelligence Community is not very competent at public messaging, the two writers point out the need for “a centralized function responsible for producing U.S.-branded (‘white’) messaging that acts as the communications ‘drumbeat’ for broader interagency efforts.”
For details of their proposal, go to: https://www.fpri.org/article/2020/07/revamping-american-soft-power-the-case-for-centralizing-americas-messages-to-the-world/
4. FOSTERING DIVERSITY WITHIN STATE: A timely Brookings Institution article draws attention to the pressing need for the State Department to decrease bias and improve inclusion in the diplomatic workplace. Annika Betancourt, a Visiting Fellow at Brookings, Vice President of the Hispanic Employee Council of Foreign Affairs Agencies, and a former Pickering Fellow, has analyzed why and how State needs to do a better job of helping attract and retain top diverse talent. In To Strengthen Global Leadership, America Must Foster and Retain Diversity in Its Diplomatic Ranks, she argues:
“The institution has taken some steps to increase transparency and diversity data collection and launched ‘open conversations’ on racial and other issues to increase inclusion.
“Further steps should include increasing funding and staffing dedicated to diversity and inclusion activities and bolstering its formal mentoring program, with a focus on women and people of color. Employee Affinity Groups can serve as important resources in this effort. Most importantly, the Department should create a system of concrete incentives, such as amending the promotion process to link an individual’s efforts to improve diversity to their career progression. Senior leadership should visibly advocate for and reward actions to make the institution more diverse, fair, and inclusive.”
Others, too, are working to focus attention on the need for diversity and inclusion. For example, on August 6, 2020, DACOR President Paul Denig organized a virtual program for his group’s members. The topic was Diplomacy and Diversity: Minority and Immigrant Perspectives on America, Its Values, and Its Foreign Service, and discussants were retired Ambassador and former Director-General of the Foreign Service Harry K. Thomas, Jr., retired Ambassador Tatiana C. Gfoeller-Volkoff, who is currently president of American Women for International Understanding (AWIU); and Pooja Chandra Pama, an AWIU vice president and a businesswoman who immigrated to the U.S. from India. They covered a range of issues, including mentoring, cultural sensitivity, and recruitment.
Also, on July 13, 2020, the American Academy of Diplomacy Chairman Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering and President Ambassador Ronald E. Neumann sent a formal letter to Secretary State Pompeo regarding “harassment of American diplomats at U.S. border entry points.” The two retired senior diplomats said they were writing to address an acute issue: “the deeply troubling pattern in the mistreatment of Black, Hispanic and other minority officers crossing U. S. border/entry points” and having to endure “regular and persistent discrimination and harassment by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers.”
For the text of the letter, which said the Academy “strongly supports a diverse, inclusive, well-resourced, and high-impact State Department,” go to https://www.academyofdiplomacy.org/wp
5. A U.S. AMBASSADOR’S “CONTROVERSIAL MUSTACHE” AND SOCIAL MEDIA: The importance of understanding the culture, traditions, and history of your audience and how it perceives an issue like race cannot be over-emphasized to ambassadors or public diplomacy officers. Also important is having a sense of humor and thick skin. These traits were recently on display during incidents involving the U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, retired Admiral Harry Harris, whose mother was Japanese and father American. Early during his tenure in Seoul and amidst several major policy differences between the United States and its long-time ally, the Ambassador’s mustache became a subject of considerable media fascination and controversy by some Koreans who felt his facial hair reminded them of Japanese imperial governors-general from the Japanese colonial era long ago. Ambassador Harris rightly made the point that, while he understood the historical animosity between Japan and Korea, he was not the Japanese-American ambassador in Korea but the American ambassador to Korea.
Very recently, in the middle of Seoul’s hot and humid monsoon season, the controversy popped up again when the embassy uploaded a new video to social media. The video showed Ambassador Harris, accompanied by Senior Advisor Shaun Kim, visiting a local Korean barbershop and having his mustache shaved off so he would be more comfortable as he followed COVID guidelines and wore a mask. The embassy-produced video seemed to work as a light, creative way to send several messages: The Ambassador had a good sense of humor, enjoyed engaging with average Koreans and was serious about following mask-wearing guidelines.
For details of the late July video, go to: https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/27/asia/harry-harris-mustache-south-korea-scli-intl/index.html
Dr. Michael H. Anderson is a public diplomacy and Asian affairs specialist with nearly 30 years of Foreign Service experience serving in the US Department of State and the US Information Agency (USIA) and working in South Asia and Southeast Asia. His Public Affairs Officer (PAO) postings included New Delhi, Jakarta, Karachi, Singapore, Manila and Port Moresby. He also has been a journalist, a teacher, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malaysia, an information officer with UNICEF, and an East-West Center grantee. He is a member of the PDC Board.