Friday, July 29, 2005

Hooray for Window Dressing


In "Mubarak Starts Bid for 5th Term Like a Western Politician," Michael Slackman covers the kick-off of Hosni Mubarak's reelection campaign. It's noteworthy that the Egyptian ruler seems to be taking a page out of James Carville:

There he was, a man who ran for re-election three times without ever having to face an opponent, announcing from a stage in his old high school that he would seek a fifth term. Mr. Mubarak gave a speech that tracked as if it had been written by a political strategist: it sought to humanize the candidate with references to his youth, laid out the accomplishments of his tenure, spelled out the challenges ahead and tried to use adversity - in this case recent terror attacks - as reason to stay the course and not change leaders.

While Slackman and everyone else seem to predict a stacked deck and a Mubarak victory, even over the Ghad Party, I'm happy to see Mubarak playing Western-style defense, and make no mistake that that's what this is.

U.S. and Egyptian domestic pressure have forced Mubarak to at least start looking like a democrat even in the face of domestic unrest and recent terror attacks. More importantly, Mubarak has not been able to simply hand off power to his semi-competent son Jamal as he wanted. I'm already looking forward to the next election in Egypt, when Mubarak almost certainly won't run and where the competition for office is likely to be just that.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Beacon No. 54: The Very Model of a Modern Major Diplomat


On Friday the Moscow Times ran "Russia Will Always Be on His Radar Screen," a valedictory for U.S. ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow, whose term in Moscow is ending.

As Lynn Berry writes it, Vershbow, a career diplomat, has been the right guy in Spaso House at the right time. An aficionado of Russian language and culture, Vershbow first traveled to the USSR in 1969 for language education and 32 years later presented his ambassadorial credentials to the Russian government—that would be July of 2001.

Since then, Vershbow has been the articulate voice of American interests in Russia on issues ranging from anti-terrorism cooperation to mineral extraction to HIV awareness. The ambassador and his wife also entertain regularly and attend Russian cultural events—or create them: Vershbow is a drummer and sometime guitarist who has picked up with a Russian jazz band more than a dozen times.

The Vershbow interview highlights the need to have ambassadors with local expertise, sensitivity and enthusiasm in key positions, even to handle issues that seem relatively minor. For example, one extremely prominent story for Russians right now is the recent deaths of Russian babies adopted by American couples, which has little visibility in the U.S. but great resonance in a country already suspicious of U.S. intentions.

While Vershbow may soon be appointed ambassador to South Korea, his successor, William Burns, will have to deal with the increasing Mubarakization of Russian politics. Readers may recall that Egypt recently banned non-governmental organizations from receiving funding from outside the country, seriously damaging foreign NGOs' ability to help Egyptians with election monitoring, education, healthcare or other important tasks. It looks like Moscow is about to do something similar, by fiat if not by law:

Putin on Thursday warned Russian nongovernmental organizations that foreign money was not to be used for political activities in Russia.

The U.S. Congress is on track to allocate $85 million in assistance for Russian civil society next year, the same amount as in 2005. The money goes to a whole range of NGOS, including those that support the handicapped and orphans. Vershbow said some of this money supported Russian NGOs that do things like election monitoring and provided basic training for political parties, with the aim of helping create conditions for free and fair elections.

"We think that it's an investment in a stronger Russia that will become a more reliable partner and a more responsible international citizen," he said in the interview, which was before Putin spoke on the subject.

Vershbow said one reason the U.S. government considered it important to support NGOS in Russia was that they had few sources of domestic support. The arrest of Khodorkovsky sent a strong message to the private sector that funding NGOs and political parties would not be looked upon favorably.

(Thanks to John Brown's Public Diplomacy Review for pointing me toward the Moscow Times story.)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Beacon No. 53: I Need a Hero


Let's say you're the People's Republic of China.

You've been making your East Asian neighbors nervous by securing mineral assets and using spare cash to sop up properties around the region.

You're getting into the power-projection business, developing a blue-water navy complete with ICBM-capable submarine, which is as destabilizing a geopolitical move as you've made since the Korean War.

You're taking pains to be friendly with neighbors and spend a lot of time reassuring them that your intentions are friendly—but you still notice them looking sideways at you, watching you nervously.

What's an expansionist country like you to do when you don't want to be seen as expansionist?

Split the difference, and dust off a reassuring, heroic figure from the last time you were big on the oceans—even if that was 600 years ago.

That's right: As Joseph Kahn wrote in yesterday's Times, the PRC is resurrecting Zheng He, the 15th-century mariner whose 30,000-strong navy sailed the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Zheng's Ming Dynasty expedition was a largely peaceful exercise that supposedly spurred regional trade, and in fact Zheng is still a popular historical figure in the region.

Zheng eventually fell into disfavor and his entire fleet was destroyed, kicking off a 600-year period of Chinese cultural retreat. That all seems to be ending now—but the PRC clearly hopes Zheng's renewed presence will assure East Asia that its intentions are good:

For Chinese officials today, the sudden end of China's maritime ambitions 600 years ago conveniently signals something else: that China is a gentle giant with enduring good will. Zheng He represents China's commitment to "good neighborliness, peaceful coexistence and scientific navigation," government-run China Central Television said during an hourlong documentary on the explorer last week.

Earlier this month, authorities opened a $50 million memorial to Zheng He. Tributes to him fill courtyard-style exhibition halls, painted in stately vermillion and imperial yellow. A hulking statue of Zheng He, his chest flung forward as in many Communist-era likenesses of Mao, decorates the main hall.

As the Zheng He anniversary approached, delegations of Chinese diplomats and scholars also traveled to Kenya to investigate the claims that islanders there could trace their roots to sailors on Zheng He's fleet.

On one remote island, called Siyu, the Chinese found a 19-year-old high school student, Mwamaka Sharifu, who claimed Chinese ancestry. Beijing's embassy in Nairobi arranged for her to visit China to attend Zheng He celebrations. Beijing has invited her back to study in China, tuition-free, this fall.

"My family members have round faces, small eyes and black hair, so we long believed we are Chinese," Ms. Sharifu said in a telephone interview. "Now we have a direct link to China itself."

The outreach effort has generated positive publicity for China in Kenya and some other African countries, as well as around Southeast Asia, where Zheng He is widely admired.

Of course, there are problems with Zheng, and some scholars say that he treated the people he met as barbarians or vassals. But check out the Times article for more on how the PRC is leavening its expansionist image with a good guy from its past.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Beacon Has a Nominee Too


It took until July, but Beacon is appalled to announce a nominee for this year's Boykin Award: Rep. Tom Tancredo, Republican of Colorado. The congressman, who represents some of Denver's suburbs, let an Orlando, Fla. radio host lead him into speculating on possible U.S. responses to nuclear terrorism:

Talk show host Pat Campbell asked the Littleton Republican how the country should respond if terrorists struck several U.S. cities with nuclear weapons.

"Well, what if you said something like -- if this happens in the United States, and we determine that it is the result of extremist, fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites," Tancredo answered.

"You're talking about bombing Mecca," Campbell said.

"Yeah," Tancredo responded.

The congressman later said he was "just throwing out some ideas" and that an "ultimate threat" might have to be met with an "ultimate response."

Rep. Tancredo has since argued that his remarks on WFLA-AM were taken out of context, but his refusal to apologize and further assertion that he was just "throwing out ideas" increases the damage he has done to the U.S. image in the Muslim world, where reaction has been predictably severe.

Irony Watch: You read correctly—Congressman Tancredo's 6th District does indeed encompass Littleton, site of an actual incident of mass murder.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

"American House," Local Ownership


In "American Public Diplomacy: Some Lessons from Germany," Hady Amr describes how lessons the U.S. learned in reconstructing Germany following World War II might be applied today:

... Jakob Kollhofer, the director of the German-American Institute in Heidelberg for the past several years, put it this way: It's about creating institutions that promote face-to-face dialogue. After the war, the Americans created several such German-American Institutes—then called American Houses—across the country. Coming up on their 60th anniversaries in 2006, these institutes were first funded and run by the U.S., but then turned over to Germans in the 1980s when they became local NGOs. That's 40 years under direct American management, and now, 20 successful years as independent entities.

Here's Kollhofer's premise: "If they are talking, they are not shooting." Here are his secrets to success: Talk about the issues that the people want to discuss and don't shy away from the tough issues. In other words, the lesson is: If the Iraqis want to talk about democracy, talk about democracy. If the Arabs want to talk about Israel, talk about Israel.

Of course, following World War II the U.S. had big incentives to engage average Germans; two major wars had created a sense of urgency about keeping a finger on the German temperament.

But with the exception of 9/11 itself, it doesn't feel very much like the U.S. has "lost" anything major to Muslim or Arab terrorists, or is in danger of losing anything. In fact, the war on terror, which seems to focus almost exclusively on deterring Muslim fanatics, hardly seems to affect the average American's life outside of military towns. Regaining the post-9/11 sense of urgency in the absence of another big terror attack is the major challenge facing public diplomacy right now.

Amr's piece is worth a read for its take on how the U.S. might create escape valves for any pressure that might be building up in Muslim countries. In a nutshell: Invest heavily to create cultural-exchange enterprises and civil-society organizations in host countries—then turn them over to local management as a visible sign of the respect the U.S. claims to have for other countries' sovereignty and people.

(Thanks, per usual, to John Brown's Public Diplomacy Review for the initial item.)

Monday, July 18, 2005

Beacon No. 52: Two Minutes of Silence


In "Anger Burns on the Fringe of Britain's Muslims," Hassan Fattah, apparently just off Iraq duty, interviews some young-ish Muslims in Leeds, England about why their buddy Shehzad Tanweer switched careers to become a human subway bomb:

"He was sick of it all, all the injustice and the way the world is going about it," Mr. [Sanjay] Dutt, 22, said. "Why, for example, don't they ever take a moment of silence for all the Iraqi kids who die?"

Mr. Dutt has a point. In the U.S. there's rarely a moment of silence for anything, especially on allegedly somber occasions like Memorial Day or Veterans' Day when the big message on TV is to


It would make a big impression around the world if the entire U.S. ground to a halt for two minutes to remember not just our servicemen and -women, but the tens of thousands who've been casualties of combat in the past four years—Afghans and Iraqis of every stripe, Pakistanis, Brits, Japanese, Egypt's late ambassador to Iraq, and all those Turkish truckers who get kidnapped and killed in Iraq with hardly anyone noticing.

Stop trading on the exchanges, turn the intersections into four-way red lights where that's possible, toll the church bells, everybody stand at the desk or on the shoulder of the road, President Bush standing head bowed outside the White House. For two slender minutes.

The last time I remember anything similar was 9/11/02, when bells tolled and heads bowed just before 9:00 a.m. Eastern time to mark the first plane's impact a year earlier. It was so early in the day that most Americans were still in bed, and its message was, "This was the moment somebody hit us."

It may be time to remember everyone who's not us, and do it with the sun high overhead. Two or three o'clock Eastern should ensure that everyone in the U.S. is awake and paying attention.

Two minutes of silence for the dead should have wide appeal, regardless of someone's position on the Iraq war, the ongoing Afghan campaign or even the "war on terror." Even the lunatic fringes will like it: Nuke-the-towelheads types can stand rigidly for the troops while Noam Chomsky drawing-breath-makes-you-an-imperialists can clam up for all those victims of white aggression.

Readers may remember the powerful photos of candlelight vigils overseas that appeared after 9/11: in Germany, Britain, China, even Tehran, people spontaneously flooded the streets to remember U.S. losses. It may be time for the U.S. to return the favor, particularly as regards the Muslim world. So perhaps some brave legislator could help the U.S.'s image abroad by picking a non-9/11, non-holiday day to shut the country down.

For just two minutes.

(I should note that, while researching London's two minutes of silence last week, I came across this item about the same sort of idea on—PK)

Friday, July 15, 2005

French Say Sawa a Success


In "The Week That Was in International Broadcasting," Alvin Snyder takes a light-hearted look at how various nations' broadcasting services are doing around the world. The big surprise: France Internationale's Radio Monte Carlo Middle East, an Arabic-language service, thinks that Radio Sawa is eating its lunch:

... The long-standing popularity of the French government's Radio Monte Carlo is being seriously challenged in its Arabic-language service by the American government's Radio Sawa. The Managing Director of Radio France Internationale, Antoine Schwartz, says that Radio Sawa has "absolutely…changed the lay of the land. It's a success, we have to admit that."

Schwartz comments on how pan-Arabic TV channels have increased the tempo of Middle Eastern broadcasting, then actually compliments Sawa:

... "The Americans have carried out an in-depth analysis of the market. They have defined a product that was apparently fairly well adapted to the market, albeit not perhaps well adapted to the wishes of the American government, but that's another issue. However, the results are there: they have taken listeners from other broadcasters, and from us in particular." ...

So hooray for Radio Sawa, which must demonstrate that its programs are having an impact on America's policy objectives in the Middle East, in addition to attracting a large number of young listeners. Perhaps Congressional oversight committees can articulate exactly what it expects of Radio Sawa now that it has its competition running scared. But Sawa deserves some time to catch its breath for now.

See Snyder's article also for how the BBC is using or not-using the word "terrorism."

(Thanks to the USC Center on Public Diplomacy's "What's New" newsletter for pointing me toward Snyder's column.)

Thursday, July 14, 2005

No One Can Say They Shun the Spotlight


The roughly 1.3-million member United Church of Christ wrapped up its biennial Synod last week and boy, were they busy. Unlike many U.S. Protestant denominations, the UCC will use influence with its members and in its communities to push for a) equal rights to gay marriage and b) the use of "economic leverage" in church investments to promote peace in the Middle East, mentioning in the same breath that Israel should tear down its separation wall in the West Bank.

Not everyone agreed. Howls of protest charging anti-Semitism erupted following the Synod's initial statements on Israel, and a Virginia UCC church was burned, probably by gay-haters. Could the United Church of Christ be moving Quakerward?

Read the UCC's own docs on the Synod at its Web site. If only Sunday services were this dynamic. ...

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Beacon No. 51: Closer to Columbine


I happened to be in the southern Tunisian desert and incommunicado when the 1999 Columbine High School shootings occurred in Littleton, Colorado. By the time I got back to Tunis, several days had passed and all I could tell from the International Herald Tribune was that something horrendous had happened at a school near Denver. In fact, at that great distance in time and space, the only stories I saw were about the shootings' psychological fallout; it took me a few more days to piece together that a couple of teenagers had shot a dozen classmates before killing themselves.

Almost no one called the Columbine shootings "terrorism," although terror and death were plainly on Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold's agenda.

And what if the shooters had been Arab or even just Muslim students? Police officials and news coverage of Columbine certainly wouldn't have shown the same restraint in referring to the high school as a "crime scene." CNN and Fox News would have taken half an hour to frame their coverage with special logos: possibilities from TERROR RAMPAGE to HEARTLAND HORROR to MIDWEST JIHAD would have been considered and one quickly adopted.

Restraint, though, is exactly what British officialdom is showing in dealing with last week's bombings, according to Timothy Garton Ash's commentary in last Sunday's Los Angeles Times:

... The right response does not lie, as commentators on Fox News would have us believe, in more military firepower to zap "the enemy" in Iraq or elsewhere. It lies in skilled policing and intelligent policy. Quietly refusing the melodramatic metaphor of war, officials of London's Metropolitan Police described the sites of the Tube and bus bombings as "crime scenes." That's right. Crimes.

Working in the most ethnically diverse city in the world, they have developed patient techniques of community relations and intelligence-gathering, as well as evidence-gathering after the event. That won't stop every attack. It didn't stop this one. But skilled policing at home, not soldiering abroad, is the way to reduce the threat from terrorists who operate and sometimes, as in the Madrid bombings last year, live for years in the immigrant communities of our great cities. If that is true of London and Madrid, it applies equally to Toronto, Paris, Sydney or Berlin.

At this moment the London bombers appear to have been well-educated, suburban Pakistani Britons aged 19 to 30. Although they appear to have died in the bomb blasts, they have paper trails and known associates; thus, whoever put them up to the bombings—assuming there is such a person—is vulnerable to the kind of patient police work the British have learned during the long-running conflict with the IRA.

I can't help but admire the British people's and government's self-possession, surely one of the U.K.'s most famous exports. The ability to deal with a crisis without howling "terrorism" is a major reason why Scotland Yard has enormous soft power, even among the Pakistani immigrant population, as today's Wall Street Journal reports:

An unusually extensive network between Scotland Yard and Muslim community groups is helping to keep London peaceful in the wake of last week's bombings. It also is providing a potential channel for clues on the terrorists.

Notice that it's the Journal that's using the word "terrorists."

...The police force is depending on alliances it has built up in recent years with Muslim groups across the U.K. such as the Muslim Council of Britain and the Muslim Safety Forum. Yesterday, the Muslim Safety Forum said it was in close communication with the police about the raids in Leeds but declined to elaborate. ...

See "Britain's Disparate Muslims" in today's WSJ for more. It takes courage to treat mass murderers as simple felons rather than monsters—but it's an entirely appropriate step in a case that's closer to Columbine than to 9/11.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

"My Milkshake Is Better Than Yours"


In "U.S. Diplomacy Takes Experimental Turn," the Lebanon Daily Star describes U.S. Embassy Beirut's successful effort to connect U.S. experimental musicians with their Lebanese counterparts. Chicagoan Gene Coleman visited Lebanon's Irtijal '05 festival* under State Department auspices, generating some extremely free-form work for the host-country audience on his bass clarinet, among other instruments:

If you went in expecting jazz—or at least the abortive nods to swing that can be heard in even the most "out there" works of John Coltrane or Albert Ayler—you might've come away from Coleman's performances a bit disappointed. But the (lamentably small) weekend audiences at Theater Monnot and the Espace SD art gallery gave no hint of being anything but thrilled by the opportunity to listen in on the proceedings. And as far as representatives from the U.S. Embassy were concerned, such rapt attention was bang enough for the average U.S. taxpayer's buck, even if the officials themselves had to cheerfully confess a degree of ignorance about the music they had funded.

"Did you understand that?" Juliet Wurr asked her colleagues after Coleman's Sunday solo performance, which added video projection and pre-recorded soundscapes to his bass clarinet stylings. Still, when discussion turned to the goals of the "CultureConnect" project, the public affairs officer for the U.S. Embassy was on much more certain ground.

"America is a lot more than Hollywood and television sitcoms," Wurr said. "In that respect, programs of improvisational jazz reflect the value we accord innovation, originality, even risk taking. We admire people with original voices, even if we don't necessarily 'enjoy' the sound."

Still, given Coleman's fortnight-long stay in the country—and the decidedly modest turnout at the festival—how much sincere connection is the mission counting on? U.S. Embassy Cultural Attache Ryan Gilha said the idea was to start with "baby steps."

"We're not going to change attitudes overnight. ... This is the first time [since the Civil War] that we've done anything like this in Lebanon," he said, noting that the "CultureConnect" program isn't a quick fix for the problem of cultural estrangement, but is instead a way to take advantage of opportunities wherever they appear—whether in business, sports, or the arts.

It's possible that, due to its experimental nature, Coleman's music is currently getting bigger audiences in Lebanon than at home. But the important thing for public diplomacy is that it's getting Lebanese audiences out to see U.S. innovators one-on-one.

"... The nice thing about this," Wurr added, "is that no one can say this [music] is pushing a particular foreign policy."

* "Irtijal" is Arabic for "improvisation."

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Bear Had a Press Card


In an article summarizing his career in the Joplin, Missouri Globe, former Voice of America newsman Bob Chancellor laments the decline of U.S. international broadcasting—a contagious complaint among former U.S. international broadcasters:

The VOA has floundered a bit since the end of the Cold War, Chancellor said. Without an adversary such as the Soviet Union’s propaganda machine, some thought the VOA lost its role, Chancellor said. The agency was reorganized and restructured during the Clinton administration, and lately Chancellor said he thought the VOA was becoming politicized.

Watching the agency’s decline has been painful, he said, because “a lot of us fought for a long time to make it something that was special.”

Well there's good news for anyone who thinks that all VOA needs is a good swift kick in the rear: The ol' Russian bear is dusting off his worldwide propaganda machine!

As VOA News itself reports, the Russian state news agency, RIA-NOVOSTI, has tired of "Anglo-Saxon domination" of the airwaves and will pump around $30 million into a new, 24-hour news network to tell its story in North America, Asia, Europe and some former Soviet republics. (Read Lisa McAdams' VOA piece for the rest.)

Since the Russian domestic TV biz—which consists of exactly two government-sponsored channels—already has what VOA delicately terms "credibility problems," one can practically hear pencils being sharpened and chops being licked as VOA gets set for the competition.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Beacon No. 50: Sun-Tzu on the Nile


I. On Quoting Sun

It's problematic for writers interested in business, diplomacy and military affairs to start by quoting Sun-Tzu, the apocryphal author of The Art of Warfare. It can seem lazy, the equivalent of a newspaper writer beginning a piece with a Webster's dictionary definition either for window dressing or to frame the rest of the piece.

At the risk of sounding like a restaurant reviewer, then, I'm still going to quote Sun on alliances:

The art of warfare is this: ... The best military policy is to attack strategies; the next to attack alliances; the next to attack soldiers; and the worst to assault walled cities.

I can't determine the outline of Al-Qa'ida's strategy, beyond its pipe dream that the world's billion Muslims suddenly rise up, throw off their shackles and smite the unbelievers.

They're doing pretty well on the rest of Sun's checklist, though, with this morning's London bombings (walled cities) and the ongoing call to jihad against U.S. forces in Iraq (soldiers).

II. Al Qa'ida and U.S. Alliances

Al-Qa'ida is also attacking the U.S. and the West through its alliances.

Arab governments have been reluctant to open diplomatic missions in Iraq, and those that have are basically doing the U.S. a favor. They have nothing to gain by opening missions in Baghdad and much to lose in domestic public opinion, which runs heavily against endorsing the U.S.-backed government in Iraq.

In this context, the kidnapping of Egypt's ambassador and coordinated attacks on the Pakistani and Bahraini ambassadors in Iraq are a big blow to fragile U.S. alliances with Arab governments.

The Pakistani ambassador, nobody's fool about his own safety, will reportedly withdraw to Islamabad. Bahrain's envoy Hassan al-Ansari was wounded in the hands and is in stable condition; he too will withdraw until the Iraq security situation is more stable.

This morning, there is news that Egyptian ambassador Ihab al-Sharif was murdered by his captors. This stunningly cruel move by al-Qa'ida will further stress the already rocky U.S.-Egyptian relationship.

III. Egypt Pressured on Elections

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has spent a lot of 2005 talking about Egyptian democracy, particularly in the face of September's presidential elections. The Secretary has been particularly vocal about the case of Ayman Noor, the al-Ghad [Tomorrow] Party leader.

Noor was just a prominent legislator with presidential aspirations when President Mubarak's government decided to go after him. In a single morning, an Egyptian al-Ghad official told myself and others this spring, Noor was stripped of his parliamentary immunity, arrested as he left the Parliament building in Cairo, handcuffed, beaten in public, then taken somewhere else in Cairo, chained to a fence, publicly beaten again, and hauled off to jail.

The government said Noor had ordered up fake signatures on a petition required for him to register as a presidential candidate. Noor denied the charges, but the government had a trump card: Noor's buddy Ayman Ismael Refai, who turned state's witness and said Noor ordered the forgeries.

Things looked grim for Noor's candidacy and for a first-ever competitive presidential election along the Nile. But suddenly last week, Refai recanted his previous statements, saying government thugs had threatened to harm his nieces if he didn't cooperate.

Its case torpedoed, the government has postponed Noor's trial until after the presidential elections, which is simultaneously good and bad for Egyptian democracy: Noor and his allies are freer to campaign but President Mubarak's party will likely use the cloud of indictment hanging over Noor's head against him.

IV. How Much Can Cairo Take?

The U.S. alliance with Egypt, which stretches back to the Camp David accords, is crucial. The U.S. is playing a delicate game with this leading Arab nation, demanding much (democratic elections pronto) and getting much (an Egyptian embassy in Baghdad, plus important help with the Palestinians on Israel's withdrawal from Gaza).

If al-Qa'ida is really concerned about striking at Western alliances with Egypt, it will apply further pressure, perhaps by attacking Egyptian diplomats in another country. It remains to be seen just how much pressure Cairo can take before it starts to pull back from its ambitions and obligations, beset as it is the U.S., al-Qa'ida, the domestic Muslim Brotherhood and its own citizens' demands for a greater say in politics.

Forum on the Future of Public Diplomacy at GWU

George Washington University's Public Diplomacy Institute will host "America's Dialogue with the World," a forum on the future of public diplomacy, on October 14, 2005. See for details as they become available.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

No, You May Not Rock


Al-Jazeera and others are reporting that gunmen from the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade disrupted a concert by Ammar Hassan, winner of last year's Super Star 2 talent competition:

About 1500 fans showed up for the concert, eager to see the singer who is known throughout the Arab world and was born in the nearby town of Salfit.

When armed men of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades - an armed wing linked to the ruling Fatah party - began shooting in the air, Hassan's arrival from a nearby hotel was postponed.

"This is the not time to have parties like this in Nablus," said one of the masked armed men, who would not give his name.

"We lost a lot of martyrs and lost a lot of friends, and this is not appropriate for Nablus," he added.

About 20 people who said they were members of the resistance group Hamas held signs reading: "Don't dance on our blood."

After Hassan was taken from the stage by bodyguards, the concert dissolved into chaos. Palestinian police tried to talk the gunmen out of further disruptions rather than arresting anyone, and pro- and anti-concert attendees started throwing chairs at one another.

Even as the Gaza pullout looms, the West Bank seems to be sinking into chaos. I wonder what will happen if Gaza is handed over to the Palestinian Authority but the West Bank keeps edging towards civil war? I worry the West Bank will go the way of Lebanon in the 1970s and '80s if Abu Mazen doesn't step onto the stage and take the microphone away from armed groups like al-Aqsa and Hamas.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Advice for New Ambassadors, per Patricia Kushlis

Patricia Kushlis at WhirledView has issued "A Primer for First-time Political Appointee Ambassadors," a guide for the 30 percent of U.S. ambassadors who are appointed because ... well ... they bought their way in.

Kushlis' tongue-in-cheek look at the do's and don'ts of repping the U.S. is a mini-guide for Americans abroad: Soak up everything you can about your posting. Don't speak up until you know what's what and who's who. Don't boss people around. Above all, let your staff handle business:

1. Eschew substance. You probably don’t know the issues and won’t be able to explain them properly to experienced career diplomats at the foreign ministry or in the President or Prime Minister’s office. Its embarrassing to botch it up; so don’t try. That’s why you have career staff – including a deputy chief of mission and political and economic officers who have spent their lives learning the intricacies of this arcana and can read and understand State Department bureaucratize. Let them take care of it. Besides, do you really want to spend your time writing reporting cables back to Washington on a topic you don’t understand? Like the U.S.-Finnish coated-paper dispute, for instance? I doubt it.

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