Selection and commentary by PDC members and authoritative experts in the field
Wednesday, June 4th 2014
For the 50th anniversary of the Normandy Landings, in 1994, French Embassies around the world hosted an exhibition of photographs and organized memorial ceremonies. Here are the remarks of the American Ambassador to Bangladesh, David Merrill, on June 6, 1994. The speech, drafted by the Public Affairs Officer, provides an example of Public Diplomacy collaboration at an American Embassy. At the ceremony, it was Father Dan Kennerk of the Congregation of Holy Cross – a veteran of the campaigns in France and Germany – who received the warmest applause.
Tuesday, June 3rd 2014
Our First Monday Forum brought home the propaganda and disinformation campaign which Russia is waging in connection with its claims on Ukraine. Three experts framed this as an integral part of a Whole of Government effort. They pointed out two distinct advantages that have made Russia’s information war effective.
The government controls most Russian broadcasters and a host of extra-official commentators.
The government has no scruples about putting out distortions and outright lies. Western counter-claims cannot capture as much attention as the initial stories and statements.
Adam Powell, the organizer for our Council and the cosponsors at the University of Southern California, wrote a concise and informative account of the event. More opinionated comment came from Communications Strategist David Henderson and Council Member John Brown. And my colleague David Jackson has beaten me to the punch with a balanced and interpretive post on this subject.
Will Stevens of the State Department's Ukraine Communications Task Force, Myroslava Gongadze of VOA's Ukrainian Service, and Nenad Pejic of Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty issued a powerful indictment of Vladimir Putin’s regime. However, like any stimulating discussion, this one raised as many questions as it answered.
Tuesday, June 3rd 2014
There is so much going on in the news these days that stories about the crisis in Ukraine are often hard to find in the U.S. media. But for some people, Ukraine is the top story every day.
And according to them, the news is not good.
Nenad Pejic, Interim Manager of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Myroslava Gongadze, a reporter and television anchor for Voice of America’s (VOA) Ukrainian Service, and Will Stevens, director of the State Department’s Ukraine Communications Task Force, said this week that blatant propaganda has played a powerful role in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s campaign to boost his popularity at home, discredit Ukraine’s government, and justify Russia’s aggressions in the region.
Pejic, who appeared with the others in a Washington, D.C. panel discussion sponsored by the Public Diplomacy Council and the USC Center on Public Diplomacy, said Russia’s disinformation efforts have included not only a media campaign but also “a political campaign, a cultural campaign, an energy campaign (and) a military campaign….”
The result has been a flood of anti-Ukraine propaganda on television, radio, and especially in social media. Stevens said the Russians have become skilled at exploiting the computer code algorithms that online search engines use so that their propaganda can be easily seen, read, and spread.
Because of that, he warned, people who watch or read Russia’s English-language RT (formerly Russia Today) television, which can be found online worldwide as well as on cable networks in the U.S. and elsewhere, and Ruptly, an RT-related “video news agency” based in Berlin, should know that they are “100 per cent government-run (and) operated” and “totally integrated with” Russia’s propaganda operations.
And the propaganda operations are “massive,” he added.
Tuesday, June 3rd 2014
The columnists and talking heads have given out grades – ranging from “A” to “F” – for President Obama’s speech on foreign policy at West Point. Me? I’m just confused – indeed baffled.
Borrowing an old phrase from the 1960s, what “blows my mind” is that no one has noted the obvious area of consensus among supporters and critics of the President. All implicitly agree that the United States must have more diplomacy in the future – strong diplomacy.
Thursday, May 29th 2014
The President’s foreign policy speech at West Point described a world full of challenges. He affirmed that they require American leadership, and he provided his vision for how America – “the one indispensable nation” -- should address them. Already the columnists and the talking heads are in overdrive.
He emphasized the need for strong American military power, personified by the graduating cadets. He added, however, “To say that we have an interest in pursuing peace and freedom beyond our borders is not to say that every problem has a military solution.” I took the speech, then, as a call to increase the sway of the other elements of American power.
The vision part is easy. The hard task for the President and his administration is getting there from here. In the din of commentary, I offer one specific, focused, and presumably bipartisan initiative – to strengthen our weak and neglected Foreign Service.