Dec 10, 2009

A somewhat belated reflection on Erdoğan's talk

Some thoughts on the "emerging" power's rhetoric...

The agenda of Erdoğan’s visit to Washington this week was clear way in advance. It was not going to be about the relations with Armenia, or Israel, for that matter, despite the wishful thinking of some. Rather, it was going to focus on the current agenda-toppers: Afghanistan and Iran. Of course, we can never know what exactly went on during the private two-hour-long discussion that Obama had with him; but from what the “unnamed officials” are telling the media, the disagreements are still there: Erdoğan refuses to commit more combat troops to Afghanistan, he is still willing to talk with Iran, and he still dislikes – very much – whatever happened in Gaza last winter. Despite all that, he made sure to demonstrate his devotion to the U.S. by talking at the Trans-Atlantic Leaders’ Forum at Johns Hopkins University, after the official part of the day, giving himself another pat in the back, calling for more understanding of his government, and praising the Americans for their support... (continue reading)

Dec 4, 2009

Going wrong in Afghanistan? Show, don't just tell...

The latest story to hit the top headlines around the world: “Obama to send in 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.” Well, it certainly has many implications, but I’ll focus more on the strategic communication aspect, especially in light of our recent class material.

(Photo courtesy of Defenselink)

Public diplomacy and strategic communication are increasingly criticized for not being responsive to the recent trends of globalization: they have grown increasingly ineffective, they are not engaging enough, and in many instances, they are even counter-productive, if not detrimental, only fuelling the extremist discourse. Many various solutions have been suggested to address the problem, and from all these, I think Daryl Copeland’s approach sounds as the most comprehensive one. He suggests having guerilla diplomats – agile, acute, and autonomous – as “network-builders” and “knowledge-workers” to be able to maneuver better in the increasingly “bazaar-like” horizontal power-dynamics and to manage the challenges of globalization more effectively. What I like most in his argument, however, is the emphasis on the fact that underdevelopment is the major cause for insecurity, and the need to have guerilla diplomats actively contributing to sustainable development so as to successfully address the problem in societies with chronic instability and lack of governance.
   Development as an instrument for stability has been among the key American strategies in Afghanistan and Iraq (CERP just one of them), with increasing resource commitments, which are sure to rise with the tentative date of withdrawal now set.  In a recent article in Foreign Policy, Wilder and Gordon say their research has shown, however, that “there was very little evidence of aid projects winning hearts and minds or promoting stability,” and that the Afghans themselves explained the increase in insurgency by increased disenfranchisement with their own government, seen as largely “corrupt and unjust.” The Afghans were also very critical of all the foreign development aid, which was perceived as fuelling massive corruption and undermining the “positive impacts it may otherwise had.” The more interesting fact is that the U.S. is itself actually paying millions of dollars to ensure security – or at least, not to create insecurity – to Afghan officials, tribal leaders, security forces… and insurgents, including the Taliban.
There goes credibility - the much-acclaimed element so vital to strategic communication - down the drain... Should we blame the money-driven mindset that somehow missed the target in a fundamentally different society?
In the same article, Wilder and Gordon say that the only development-related case that the Afghans perceived as successful was the National Solidarity Program, where the local communities played a greater role in planning, designing, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating the projects.  A tribal leader quoted in the end of the article states: “Money can't win hearts and minds. If you give an Afghan a great meal but insult him he will never come again. But if you treat him with respect but only give him a piece of bread he will be your friend forever.” 
Therefore, Copeland is only right. Development – but, real and sustainable development, that can ensure the existence of proper institutions and governance (unlike the small-scale short-term projects envisioned by CERP, for example) – coupled with increasing trust from the local people, can prove to be the key to achieving stability in Afghanistan. To build trust, NATO needs to listen and involve the Afghan people themselves - NOT only the Afghan officials – to gauge the effect of its programs, formulate more appropriate strategies, and SHOW (and not just TELL) that it really cares about the Afghan future. If anything, they would only benefit from the Pragmatic Complexity Model, and the recognition that sustainable long-term stability (or, especially, democracy) cannot be imposed, but rather, has to be cultivated and nurtured together with the Afghans themselves. After all, a stable Afghanistan will only contribute to a stable world and thus, national security.

Dec 3, 2009

E-E Campaigns

I'm all for Dutta's "subaltern critique" of entertainment-education campaigns. To the extent that he exposes the hegemony-reinforcing tactics of E-E campaigns and the need for subaltern voices in the policy-making phases of these campaigns, I support him. However, I take issue with his criticism of population control as the E-E campaign topic of choice to the exclusion of those fundamental needs articulated most by the subaltern voices. Dutta himself notes that this lack of resources and extreme poverty are due to structural issues within the country, rather than issues of individual agency. While I agree that sending kids to bed with a full stomach is a more urgent goal than preventing the birth of more kids, I disagree with Dutta's implication that access to food and water should take the place of population control in E-E campaigns if only for the simple question of how can E-E campaigns resolve structural resource issues? As Singhal and Rogers define them, E-E campaigns by definition, aimed at the masses, are designed to bring about behavioral and social change. For instance, Dutta notes that "As members of marginalized sectors of the world, participants discuss problems of joblessness, corruption, and exploitation that are intrinsically connected with being poor," presumably to argue that such topics should be the focus of E-E campaigns before population control. Yet which of these topics can be affected by the masses (educated through entertainment), non-elites with little to no power to influence the E-E campaigns directed at them, let alone structural or institutional changes, by changing their behavior on an individual level?

I am not so much arguing in defense of population control being the primary focus of E-E campaigns, as supporting the idea that this message and its designed outcomes fit the medium better than the ones Dutta puts forth. There is perhaps an argument to be made that less resources overall should be directed at E-E campaigns, and more to addressing structural inequities. But Dutta's article, while contributing to Melkote's notion of greater grassroots participation in policymaking, takes population control to task yet fails to provide a compelling argument for an alternative topic that is more pressing AND suits the medium of E-E campaigns.

Dec 2, 2009

The Greatest Hits and Misses of Obama's Afghanistan Address

I know this doesn't necessarily have much to do with the reading, but since this is an International Communication course and we just covered Afghanistan in our group presentation I thought it would be interesting to see what people thought of Obama's Afghanistan speech. If this address wasn't international communication put into real world practice I don't know what was.

Below is what I wrote on my Blog:


Speaking at The United States Military Academy at West Point, U.S. President Barack Hussein Obama finally addressed the American people to provide a clear explanation for the United States' efforts in Afghanistan. Obama also made it a point to remind the American people exactly why the United States is still in Afghanistan 8 years after the 9/11 attacks.

Obama's referencing of the post 9/11 international milieu was an important element in trying to remind the American people precisely why Afghanistan should matter to them. Quite simply, as Obama re-iterated, Afghanistan matters to the American people because of two words - "national security."

However, in his efforts to harken back to 9/11 Obama did not do enough to distance the Afghan people from Al Qaeda and the Taliban. After all, not a single one of those hijackers was Afghan. In fact, the people of Afghanistan had no idea the Taliban were harboring Osama Bin Laden nor did they know what the foreigners were plotting in their nation.

This is a very important to distinction for, the more the American people can identify with the people of Afghanistan, as people and not terrorists, the more likely they will be to accept a U.S. presence in Afghanistan. After all, the Taliban and Al Qaeda were largely foreign forces operating within Afghanistan without the consent, approval, or even knowledge of the Afghan people.

Al Qaeda's base of operations was in Afghanistan, where they were harbored by the Taliban  a ruthless, repressive and radical movement that seized control of that country after it was ravaged by years of Soviet occupation and civil war, and after the attention of America and our friends had turned elsewhere.

The vote in the Senate was 98 to 0. The vote in the House was 420 to 1. For the first time in its history, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization invoked Article 5  the commitment that says an attack on one member nation is an attack on all. And the United Nations Security Council endorsed the use of all necessary steps to respond to the 9/11 attacks. America, our allies and the world were acting as one to destroy al Qaeda's terrorist network, and to protect our common security.

Obama's reference to the deferment of attention from Afghanistan to Iraq was also a very important point. It is also a point that many Americans may not have understood or remembered. As Obama stated, the United States was making great strides in the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan until the start of the Iraq War. Also, with the statements about Iraq's impact on Afghanistan and the shifting of American attention after the Soviet Occupation, Obama was able to illustrate to the American people the impacts of abandoning Afghanistan in the past. For better or worse, Obama did not quite hammer that point in directly, but the allusions to such statements can be of great service in garnering support from the American people for an on-going American presence in Afghanistan.

It is enough to say that for the next six years, the Iraq War drew the dominant share of our troops, our resources, our diplomacy, and our national attention  and that the decision to go into Iraq caused substantial rifts between America and much of the world…while we have achieved hard-earned milestones in Iraq, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated.

Unfortunately, there were also elements of pandering in Obama's statements. Most notable was Obama's pandering to Pakistan and Pakistani interests. Obama referred to America's commitment to Pakistan, Taliban attacks on Pakistani soil, and Pakistan as a partner in the war on terror without putting any real pressure on Pakistan to thwart terrorism within their nation. This unfortunately is a terrible stance to take, because Pakistan's interests and Afghanistan's interests are not the same (at least not within the governments), Pakistan has yet to take a firm stance against terrorism, and because Pakistan is ultimately the real hotbed of terrorism in the world. For the United States to ally itself too closely with Pakistan is quite dangerous, and considering Pakistan's sordid past as the "godfather" of the Taliban not in the best interest of Afghanistan. If Obama is not careful in managing the relationship between the United States and their "ally" Pakistan, this partnership could be the equivalent of giving Saddam weapons to fight the Iranians with. This alliance between the United States and Pakistan becomes all the more dangerous when one takes into account the claims that the Pakistani government is making deals with anti-NATO/U.S. militants in Waziristan.

It is true that the United States must assure Pakistan of its own safety, but it seems as if Obama is placing far too much trust in a nation that has not only been accused of lacking initiative and diligence on the war on terror, but whose leadership has been highly critical of the United States despite receiving aid and arms from the U.S.

If anything, the United States should be placing as much pressure on Zardari as they are on Karzai.

Also, the diction of Obama's reassurance to Pakistan was quite problematic in that Obama referred to Taliban attacks in Pakistan but made no such distinction of Taliban attacks in Afghanistan.

Over the last several years, the Taliban has maintained common cause with al Qaeda, as they both seek an overthrow of the Afghan government. Gradually, the Taliban has begun to take control over swaths of Afghanistan, while engaging in increasingly brazen and devastating acts of terrorism against the Pakistani people.

As this address was to the American people, Obama had to reassure them that the United States would not be in Afghanistan for an extended period of time. However, his 18 month timeline is extremely problematic for a nation that has been ravaged by 30 years of war, occupation, warlordism, narcotics trade, terrorism, and insurgency. Unlike Iraq, the 30 years of war have left Afghanistan almost entirely devoid of even the most basic infrastructure and to say that the United States troops will put out in 18 months puts the United States and Afghanistan in a precarious situation.

Though the United States does not plan to engage in state building, leaving Afghanistan without restoring both order and basic services could prove highly dangerous for both nations. As Dr. Ashraf Ghani pointed out on CNN, stability in Afghanistan without a properly function nation that can provide basic goods and services is nearly impossible.

After all, if Afghanistan does not have the basic infrastructure and services that Iraq currently has within the 18 month window, whose to say the Taliban will not bide their time and then attack Afghanistan ideologically and violently once again? It would not be difficult for the Taliban to engage in a propaganda campaign accusing the United States of abandoning Afghanistan again without restoring order and civil society to the nation.

The Afghans who have reluctantly turned to the Taliban in the past 8 years have done so because of an on-going propaganda campaign by the Taliban alluding to the lack of development coupled with mounting civilian deaths in Afghanistan over the past years. Whose to say that in 18 months time if Afghanistan is not substantially more secure and developed, the Taliban could not engage in a similar propaganda campaign?

After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.

If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake in Afghanistan, I would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow.

So no  I do not make this decision lightly. I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of the violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak.

It is extremely important for Obama to put increasing pressure upon the Afghan government, but again, what of the Pakistani government? Obama himself admits in the speech that Pakistan is receiving aid and resources from the United States but never quite puts any real pressure upon the Zardari government to take a proactive effort in the war on terror. What are the consequences of Pakistani inaction in the war on terror? Again, Obama himself admits that Pakistan is a vital piece of the puzzle in thwarting global terror, but he never places any real consequences on the Pakistani government for inaction.

But it will be clear to the Afghan government  and, more importantly, to the Afghan people  that they will ultimately be responsible for their own country.

Second, we will work with our partners, the UN, and the Afghan people to pursue a more effective civilian strategy, so that the government can take advantage of improved security.

The statement to the Afghan people was well-worded and crucial, however, that brief statement cannot take the place of Obama addressing the Afghan people separately in their own media. The people of Afghanistan, who are reluctantly turning to the Taliban for security after 8 years of mounting civilian deaths and stagnation, must be assured of the United States' commitment to their nation. With this address, Obama has officially begun the campaign to re-win the hearts and minds of the American people but what of the Afghan people?

The people of Afghanistan have endured violence for decades. They have been confronted with occupation  by the Soviet Union, and then by foreign al Qaeda fighters who used Afghan land for their own purposes. So tonight, I want the Afghan people to understand  America seeks an end to this era of war and suffering. We have no interest in occupying your country. We will support efforts by the Afghan government to open the door to those Taliban who abandon violence and respect the human rights of their fellow citizens. And we will seek a partnership with Afghanistan grounded in mutual respect  to isolate those who destroy; to strengthen those who build; to hasten the day when our troops will leave; and to forge a lasting friendship in which America is your partner, and never your patron.

In the past, we too often defined our relationship with Pakistan narrowly. Those days are over. Moving forward, we are committed to a partnership with Pakistan that is built on a foundation of mutual interests, mutual respect, and mutual trust. We will strengthen Pakistan's capacity to target those groups that threaten our countries, and have made it clear that we cannot tolerate a safe-haven for terrorists whose location is known, and whose intentions are clear. America is also providing substantial resources to support Pakistan's democracy and development. We are the largest international supporter for those Pakistanis displaced by the fighting. And going forward, the Pakistani people must know: America will remain a strong supporter of Pakistan's security and prosperity long after the guns have fallen silent, so that the great potential of its people can be unleashed.

Disproving the Vietnam comparisons once and for all proves a clear blow to Obama's detractors and critics of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, especially given the basic, yet highly important fact that separates Afghanistan from Vietnam.

And most importantly, unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan, and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border. To abandon this area now  and to rely only on efforts against al Qaeda from a distance  would significantly hamper our ability to keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and create an unacceptable risk of additional attacks on our homeland and our allies.

In all Obama delivered a solid speech that laid out what he hoped to achieve in Afghanistan with a fairly clear plan (though some points could have used greater elaboration), a much needed step for winning back support among the people of the United States. As to how Obama's detractors and the critics of the U.S. Mission in Afghanistan were impacted by the speech we will have to wait and see, but this address is a solid step in the right direction nonetheless.

There was of course one crucial point that went glaringly uncovered in Obama's speech - airstrikes. Obama made no mention of the mounting civilian deaths in Afghanistan from the air strikes. Though he did mention Taliban attacks on Pakistani soil, Obama did not address the air strikes that have driven many distraught Afghans back into the arms of the Taliban out of despair and aggravation. Obama will have a hard time winning back the support of those Afghans, as well as the confidence of Afghans in general, until he can state how the 30,000 extra ground troops will reduce the civilian deaths from air strikes. In fact, Obama makes no mention of the civilian deaths throughout his entire speech.

Of course, this speech was meant to win the support of the American people so mentions of such egregious mistakes by the United States may not have helped regain American support for a U.S. presence in Afghanistan. However, air strikes are still an extremely important point - a point that many Americans may not be entirely clueless to.

In the end, though Obama's address lived up to his reputation for oratory and rhetoric, he must continue to work hard to regain the support of both the American and Afghan people. This was a good initial step, but it should not be the only statement on the issue of Afghanistan, especially to the people of Afghanistan.

Dec 1, 2009

The Idea of Control

There is an apparent continuum in our readings this 'week'. From Singhal to Corman & Tretheway to Fisher to Dutta, in which you return to where you began: the idea of population control.
Singhal takes the agenda for granted, focusing on how research on education-entertainment and its effects should be more diverse. He talks about various resistances as an issue to be addressed, a stumbling block.
Corman & Tretheway begin to shake up that dynamic, discussing how communication is simply not one-way. They go into a more complex model that takes into account how meaning is co-created, rather than fosted upon the receiver.
However, it is Fisher in his discussion about the Cathedral and Bazaar that pushes into the gray areas, the real world - that beyond meaning, the framing is not sending a message. The frame is a discussion, a dialogue, wherein both sides are the senders and receivers. This de-privileges the original sender and put them on equal ground with those they wish to communicate to.
Ah, but that brings us to Dutta, whose point is that you do not communicate to, but with others. He applies this practically to the issue of population control. The Western media is acting paternalistic, trying to change other societies for the better - but convinced of their viewpoint, they have set the agenda and only engage publics in order to co-opt them into supporting their projects. They have not stopped to listen to local populations, to stop and consider their concerns and resistances as legitimate, rather than 'backward tradition' that impedes development (invariably a positive concept.) Dutta is look to apply Fisher's negotiation concept to a projects of a national nature, that have been pre-determined as necessary and the essence of civilization by the Western world.
Honestly, when I first read Singhal's piece, I was a little taken-aback by the clear motives of education but it took Dutta to make me realize how deeply this population policy is controversial. There are so many implicit assumptions - it seems so common-sense, but it's not and we have failed to realize this.
This whole controversy, that the West has failed to realize even is a controversy for the most part, is symptomatic of the West's still-prevailing sometimes-invisible superiority complex.
"But we just want to make life better for them!"
Admirable motives, I still think, but if we fail to listen as well as talk, we will fail to realize 'better' is so very complex.

Nov 30, 2009

Subaltern Education Entertainment

One of our readings for this week was Mohan Jyoti Dutta’s “Theoretical Approaches to Entertainment Education Campaigns: a Subaltern Critique.” The reading used a subaltern studies perspective to analyze entertainment education campaigns, particularly in the realm of health care. Dutta begins by stating that E-E campaigns are the most used health care communication campaigns aimed at the Third World, and that E-E is a currently a hot topic in international communication scholarship, but lack a critical and interrogative approach.

Dutta argues that E-E campaigns are implemented under the guise of altruism, but really are created with the core countries’ values and ideologies in mind. Dutta extensively uses USAID as an example, citing the national security mission statement in several of USAID’s documents. I can see how this example supports Dutta’s claim that most E-E campaigns are implemented with the core countries’ best interests in mind. The USAID example surprised me since I guess I just always assumed that USAID was trying to do some good in other parts of the world. Then again, it’s not like the USAID documents that Dutta cited were hidden. USAID doesn’t seem like it is attempting to cover up any of its motives.

Dutta extensively discussed population control as a major area of a core country’s way of “fixing” a problem in a periphery area. While the examples Dutta discussed were, of course, extreme (like forcing black schoolgirls in South Africa to receive a contraceptive injection or performing a sterilization without the woman’s consent), I think Dutta made population control out to be more evil than I think it actually is. I think that everyone, whether in a core or periphery area, should have the right to use contraceptives and the availability of family planning education, as long as they give their consent.

When I first started reading about E-E campaigns, the idea made me a little nervous. Since the message (or “education”) is embedded with the entertainment, consumers are not really aware that they are consuming a strategic message complete with the ideologies and values of the sender’s culture. But then again, every message is like that. And while I completely agree that E-E campaigns should be looked at more critically, I also feel that we should not stop promoting health care education in periphery areas; we should find ways to do it more responsibly.

Nov 27, 2009

An Open-Source Approach to Afghanistan

In "Music for the Jilted Generation: Open-Source Public Diplomacy," Ali Fisher speaks a great deal about new approaches to public diplomacy which are more inclusive of a collective group and take into account how much each culture can learn from one another.

As Fisher points out, the critics of the traditional idea of public diplomacy as a "cathedral" run by a very insular, hierarchical group of elites who formulate their own ideas of success, speak a great deal about interaction openness among different cultures. The critics of the Cathedral emphasize the importance of cultures listening to one another, what can be learned as a result of said listening, and the value of interaction with other groups in general.

To Fisher, public diplomacy goes far beyond the traditional notions of warfare and hearts and minds. In fact, Fisher's most important statement outright refutes all of those traditional notions. "Public diplomacy is not necessarily merely about persuading people to adopt your goals. It is about achieving your goals through helping others achieve theirs," says Fisher.

This statement reminded me a lot of what many, many Afghans have been saying about the U.S. Mission in Afghanistan. Whereas Secretary of State Clinton recently said that the United States' sole goal in Afghanistan is to disband and disempower Al Qaeda in the nation, former Afghan Presidential candidate, Dr. Ashraf Ghani went on CNN to state outright that, that goal cannot be achieved without creating a safe, stable Afghanistan.

“In the process that threat cannot be eliminated unless Afghanistan is made stable. And it cannot be made stable unless a process of state-building is made in earnest“

To Dr. Ghani, current Afghan Ambassador Jawad, and many others, the United States cannot reach its goal in Afghanistan without first giving the Afghans the safety, security, stability, jobs, education, and basic infrastructure they have been waiting 30 years for.

In fact, when I appeared on the AU Observer web show a couple of weeks ago, the other panelist (a PHD student in International Relations at AU) agreed with me that the primary goal of the Americans should be to ensure the Afghans a functioning nation that meets their basic needs:

If the United States were to act properly in Afghanistan in giving the Afghans the basic things they want, it would prove Fisher's statement that "it is action that has an impact on the international environment" true.

Fisher also talks about the importance of information in open-source diplomacy, " it is important to consider information alongside other pillars of power, but also to consider a shift in the development of public diplomacy initiatives," says Fisher of open-source diplomacy. Fisher later compares this idea to Linux challenging Microsoft and the Wikipedia challenging traditional encyclopedias like the Britannica.

Of course, this idea notion of an inclusive and collective public diplomacy only works where access to information is readily available. Though even the United States' foreign policy can be seen as a giant cathedral, the people of the United States (for the most part) enjoy great access to unlimited streams of information. But what of the people in Iran, China, and North Korea where there is both censorship and government spying of information flows? What of Afghanistan where there is true pluralism in terms of media (over a dozen public and private owned TV stations, hundreds of radio stations, and dozens of newspapers operating fairly autonomously with little government interference). but the literacy rate is only 28%?

Also, as many people have noted, including Senator John Kerry, the United States has not done an adequate job in communicating its mission to the both Afghans and Americans - despite the various media outlets in both nations.

Nov 17, 2009

Chuck Hagel on U.S. Foreign Policy

When I worked at the Center for American Progress I used to do even highlight reels, and Senator Hagel's statements were the best I heard:

Creating Credibility

"Plenty of information leads to scarcity of attention... Editors and cue-givers become more in demand, and this is a source of power for those who can tell us where to focus our attention." - Glassman

This is the paradoxical nature of personalizing news flow. People search on the Internet, flip through a plethora of TV channels, self-selecting where, when and how they receive news. Yet exactly because there are so many sources, there is an even greater need for trusted mediators to make sense of the chaos. (Which raises the interesting question of whether the journalism profession will change to fill this void as news and information becomes ever more easy to obtain.)

But how do people know what to trust? The wars of perception are based on opposing forces of credibility - if no one trusts a dissenting voice, it has little power. Therefore media politics, the idea of selling character rather than substance (or the fact these two are inextricably linked), creating and destroying credibility, becomes a key part of general political behavior.

Nye builds on this by pointing out that the forms of public diplomacy cannot produce soft power if the message behind it is not appealing. He also adds the fact cultural attractiveness must be matched by admirable, proveable political values as well as legitimate foreign policies.

But this really hints at a deeper issue. One of the objectives of public diplomacy is to convince others that all of our interests coincide. Or: "This soft power —getting others to want the outcomes that you want— co-opts people rather than coerces them."

The real problem is that these outcomes are varied and sometime can contradict. For instance, Al Jazeera promoted internal critical review of Middle Eastern regimes and cultural practices, a laudable Western value, but in turning this view on the West, it became a threat to the U.S.'s (in particular) foreign policy objectives. We want to encourage our values abroad, but we want to own the enaction of them.

Glassman acknowledges that governments are rigid in this way, but simply states that it is impossible to do so in today's day and age. To maintain such rigidity, runs the risk of being ignored and losing credibility as a relevant voice.

He instead envisages an engagement of foreign publics that would operate by conversation versus dictation, supporting consideration of our values and culture while facilitating interaction.

But then what about Al Jazeera? It has taken certain cultural values or forms from us and used them to their own ends. How engaged should/can we get involved with them without compromising our foreign policy objectives? Will we go as far as to allow foreign publics to shape our foreign policy?

Nye writes that the impact of soft power lies in co-opting people. But that is still a framework of using people, drawing them into your understanding. Glassman's pointing to a negotiated framework - where people are not so much co-opted as cooperating in construction of understanding.

But does this change the foundation of soft power?

Identity crisis and the shortcomings of “Ice Age” Diplomacy

No, I’m not referring to global climate change here. I’m talking about the cartoon, Ice Age 3, which, according to Amb. Glassman who spoke at SIS on Nov. 5, can do a far better job in getting the foreigners to like America than many other traditional PD techniques (the cartoon is said to have got into the top five record-breakers in terms of worldwide market revenues). I cannot really see how Sid or Scrat are promoting the American image and values abroad… especially to the more conservative of the audiences. And still, it’s better than Britney Spears. That’s for sure.

Image courtesy of All Movie Photo.
In a recent article, R. Reilly, former director of VOA, says the shortcomings of the American PD can primarily be attributed to “lack of clarity about what the West stands for” and the over-reliance on advertising . The first major issue Reilly identifies is the loss of American credibility due to its embrace of pop culture and promotion of “tolerance based upon moral relativism.” He also takes an issue with the fact that the current main objective of the US – the promotion of democracy – requires “the primacy of reason over passion,” while advertising, which is extensively employed to achieve that end, does not appeal to reason or rational calculation, but rather to desire and “emotional impulse.” The result? Lack of clarity and inevitable confusion.
This all in light of the new media environment, the rise of non-state actors, and the boom (at least in the developed world) of the so-called iDiplomacy. Last year, Glassman talked of Public Diplomacy 2.0, network building, and its potential for engaging foreign publics in a conversation: an innovative and effective way of conducting PD and achieving national security interests. But that’s according to the Ambassador. Not only do I agree with Hayden on that it is questionable whether an “open source PD” can ultimately translate into improved public opinion abroad, but I also think that it can further undermine the American message
Both, Nye and Hanson point out that the lack of attention and of credibility are major issues currently impairing the American PD effort. By flooding the foreign publics with PD 2.0 attempts and iDiplomats, the US runs the risk of not only losing the attention of its target audience, but also making further damage to its cause through the haphazard “free market” noise that will only undercut the message AND its credibility. Nye cautions against leaving the PD endeavor completely to the free market, stating that is can project an image of the US that is “too facile.” I could only add that coupled with “open source PD” it might completely confuse the foreign audiences about what the US really stands for and what are its true objectives.
But well, the US itself is unsure as to what its message is. There are national security interests, and there is certainly a need to persuade foreign publics. But when there is no proper argumentation and overt “relativism,” the US is seen as attempting to make others “believe without knowledge” – essentially the definition of “moralist” propaganda (see J. Brown’s discussion on the subject); and well, when recognized as such, propaganda undermines credibility by default.
Reilly says that in order for PD to function, “there must be a recovery of purpose and this purpose must be related to justice.” I think the message would also benefit from abandoning relativism and what can be seen as “double standards.” Certainly, all these cannot be incorporated into the purpose without a proper understanding of the audience and their view of matters. While when it comes to defining a purpose, there should be a core power that can clearly formulate the message and deliver it through multiple channels.  PD 2.0 and iDiplomacy MIGHT be able to do a good job in delivering the message and providing feedback about its perception. However, to have an effect the process should be well organized, otherwise the result is havoc.  To quote Reilly again, “in order to fight a war of ideas, one has to have an idea.”
American PD seems to have entangled itself in the ambiguity and the unmanageable plurality that it, itself, has created. There has to be the realization that no matter the channels and the ways of projection, the American image is still largely perceived by many (particularly in the Middle East, where there are many counter-messages that DO work) as fuzzy and devoid of real substance, at best, while immoral and nihilistic, at worst. This is especially so when there is a multitude of contradictory sources conveying multiple vague underlying promises of freedom, peace, and gradual prosperity that, for some reason, keep failing to materialize.

Image courtesy of Rising Powers.
Whose responsibility it is, then, if not the government’s (that is, just by the way, entrusted with leading the nation and promoting its interests) to make sure that the process of message formulation and delivery is properly administered? Certainly, there has to be input from all the levels of the society, especially from those who manage to think outside the box; however, at the end of the day, the government is still the one that has to deliver on the promises and live up to the cultivated expectations. For all these reasons, without an effective government oversight, there is the risk of further ambiguity and loss of American credibility.
I couldn’t agree more with Nye on that “developing a long-term relationship is not always profitable in the short term.” Leaving PD entirely to the “market” – be it the private sector or the self-branded citizen diplomats – will not only “lead to underinvestment” in what is currently considered a primary concern for American national security, but can also hamper all future attempts to regain what was lost.

Nov 16, 2009

Public Diplomacy 3.0?

Overall, I really enjoyed the Glassman speech. It was incredibly refreshing to have someone from government actually say, "Wait a sec... maybe we as government should take a step back. Maybe we should actually trust the people to do this public diplomacy stuff, and not just force it down their throats." (A tactic which, as Joseph Nye notes, often backfires).

It's interesting to see web 2.0 being touted as the future of public diplomacy, and the philosophy upon which America should build its public diplomacy efforts. Glassman makes a strong and cogent argument that the interactive nature of a public diplomacy 2.0 approach will ultimately edge out the top-down, rigidly controlled, hierarchical communications systems of Al Qaeda. He argues that by having the government work more as a facilitator for public diplomacy interactions, rather than setting its own agenda, people will respond more favorably because they themselves will be in the driver's seat. One can see at work the application of a communications philosophy largely mobilized by the private sector (while it's ostensibly the "users" who drive these web activities, it's the private interests, or start-ups hoping to eventually cash in on their ideas, that are putting it in action), onto government policy -- perhaps not the worst thing in the world.

That said, in the internet world, 2.0 is already passe. Even as Twitter and Facebook, the epitomic models of web 2.0, still struggle to find a reliable revenue model, internet movers and shakers are already at work on web 3.0, or the "semantic web". This internet model is about intelligent searching, personalization, how the vastness of the world wide web matters to you as a unique individual, rather than as one of the masses. For the government to be putting their eggs in the Public Diplomacy 2.0 basket would be to invest in something that will likely feel dated and irrelevant by the time it comes to full fruition.

This is not to say that Public Diplomacy 2.0, simply as drawing a link to a particular philosophy of the internet evolution, is not a worthy model. To say that government policy should simply mimic internet evolution would make the government just another enterprise trying to ride the coattails of innovative success. However, we should remember that the revolutionaries of closed societies rarely follow institutionalized patterns. That is, it is often on the fringes of the mainstream, in those places where people have no alternative but to think outside the box, that we find an opening cleft, a crack to exploit. Thus, if the government wants to stay in tune with these people, those that have the open mindedness to think beyond their own closed society and constructed images, they should probably focus on the cutting edge, rather than trying to play catch up to private industry.

Soft Power and the American Image

One of this weeks readings was “Public Diplomacy and Soft Power” by Joseph S. Nye, Jr. from the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Nye begins the reading by defining soft power as being attractive rather than coercive or bribing to influence others into getting your way. The article described the negative aspects of America’s cultural image as coming from unpopular war efforts and popular culture. Nye extensively used Hollywood films as examples, describing how Hollywood worked closely with the Office of War Information to produce and distribute films that were patriotic and presented America in a positive light.

I think that America’s negative image not only has to do with our government and our foreign policy (although when I went to Europe a few years ago, people kept asking me whether I voted for Bush, even though I was, at the time, way too young to vote), but also our more everyday “cultural” image. It’s hard to say whether or not there is such a definitive thing as American culture, but one of the stereotypes is the overweight gun-toting white guy you might see on

I did a google image search of “American stereotype” and most of what came up on the first page was guns, fat people, food, and bikinis. I think a lot of this has to do with international corporations like McDonalds and Walmart. A few years ago, I went with my parents on a trip across the United States. The tour was hosted by an international travel company, so there were a lot of visitors from abroad on the tour. One of the big “sites” we visited in addition to places like the Grand Canyon, the St. Louis Arch, and the Hollywood sign was a Walmart. The tour guide actually gave us free time inside the Walmart, and many of the tourists from abroad went crazy buying things and taking pictures. It’s really scary to think that Walmart is considering one of America’s important sites.

'Obama should speak to Al Jazeera'

On the very same matter that made up the core of our readings this week. Very fresh: published today...

Richard Grenell, director of communications and public diplomacy for the US permanent representative to the UN in the Bush administration, in an AJE interview.

"Like it or not, the most popular network in the Arab World is Al Jazeera and we have a golden opportunity to speak directly to 200 million Arab households through Al Jazeera.

I don't think that this conversation should be just one interview by the Obama administration or by President Obama; I think it needs to be the beginning of a constant flow of information both ways so that the 200 million Arab households who watch Al Jazeera on a regular basis can hear a variety of US policy goals."

Read the interview HERE.

The Listening Post (AJE) on the media situation in Eastern Europe

Yes, the Berlin Wall fell. Some of the countries that used to be on the other side are EU members now. And yet, freedom, and especially media freedom, is something much more difficult to achieve: certainly requires more time and CONSTANT re-invigoration (just as the cases of Italy and France show).
Another great piece from The Listening Post, and yet, far from being comprehensive...

Just last week two bloggers were given 2.5-year prison terms in Azerbaijan for criticizing the government. Read more on the case from Reporters Sans Frontières here.

Nov 15, 2009

Burn Down Their TVs, Turn Their TVs on to Teach 'em and Move!

"Our audience actually expects us t o show them blood, because they realize that war kills .. .If we were not to show it, we would be accused by our viewers . . .of perhaps hiding the truth or trying to sanitize the war."

These words of an Al Jazeera spokesman describes the real difference between Al Jazeera and the Western media. The audiences of Al Jazeera (and to an extent Al Jazeera English), have actually seen war, violent political battles, and terrorism first hand. Though, like Americans, the Arab audience can tune out by watching Star Academy, they also must live under regimes that inhibit democracy and free speech - hence all of these nations cutting off ties with the Qatari government. Watching coverage of a war is very different when your own nation or a neighboring nation are involved and for this reason, media sanitation is ineffective and disingenuous. The spokesman is correct to state that to his audience, trying to hide the realities of war would be tantamount to lying. In reality, all Al Jazeera is doing is serving its audience. As the article stated, Al Jazeera's offices in Kabul was what set the network apart from all other international stations in the outset of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan (its not an invasion and its not an occupation). It was also Al Jazeera's offices in Gaza that set the network apart during the Israeli airstrikes of the Gaza strip earlier this year.

The reading gives a litany of examples of Arab leaders' anger towards Al Jazeera, but again, in regimes like Mubarak's that inhibit democracy (as Obama said, elections alone do not a democracy make) that is to be expected. In fact, the West should be happy that a network is willing to challenge the official government statements by such corrupt regimes. As for the references to Al Jazeera's airings of past interviews with Bin Laden after 9/11 and reading of statements by Al Qaeda on the air the question is not why would they, but, as a news station, why wouldn't they? Al Jazeera is a media outlet and Al Qaeda is an international organization that was at the epicenter of the news cycle at the time. Why not give their statements air time? If nothing else, to try and get a sense of how an organization like that thinks and operates? Also, the 'specter' of Al Qaeda is a very real thing in the Arab world - so why wouldn't they show these things on the air?

If anything, that is a shortcoming of the Western media - its need to de-sensitize and unwillingness to give real air time to unfavorable and threatening figures. They can give air time to the ridiculous vitriol of birthers, tea partiers, Lou Dobbs, and Glenn Beck but never to those that actually prove a serious threat or are guilty of truly heinous and criminal activities. If 60 Minutes were to do an interview with members of Al Qaeda there would be an uproar among American audiences about a 'liberal bias' or 'un-American' activity by CBS. In reality, however, simply not addressing the statements of bad people does not make them go away. It is more challenging to de-mystify them and to hear their twisted logic, not to justify them, but to try and understand (not sympathize) what leads people to such actions.

It seems as if in discourse about the International media there is the BBC, CNN, VOA and then there's Al Jazeera. It is never truly mentioned in the same breath of those other media outlets, it is always seen as the other, or somehow more of some kind of special force than those other media outlets. With that sort of diction, Al Jazeera automatically becomes the other, the different, mysterious figure, creating pre-conceived notions for people who have never actually seen the network.

For the rest of the world, where war, poverty, famine, terrorism, and corruption are an everyday part of life simply not showing something does not make it disappear nor does it make it any easier. In fact, it is nothing more than disingenuous.

Nov 10, 2009

Spinning a National World

Siochru & Girard focus on how media is the cusp between industry and culture; Waisbord looks at how media normalizes nationalistic feelings, providing shared concepts and history uncompared to other forms of communal identity; Dewey points to a ritual perspective of media, which serves to renew nationalism continually.

Hafez furthers Siochru & Girard's examination at how 'internationalism' has not filtered down to content level. Instead regionalism abounds, with inordinate emphasis on a negative, violent world with spotlighted politics and elites. The most damaging part of this is the process of decontextualization: "there is communication about, but not with, the countries involved... They cement the interpretative sovereignty of the particular national media system. In the 'global' world, the cross-border flow of information, does indeed increase - but the mechanisms of local cognitive appropriation and domestication remain...The ethnocentric apparatus informing most people's conception of the world has survived even in the age of globalization."

This is outright dangerous - the whole point of news is essentially to inform. But now the task is to make the mass information intelligable. However, if media doesn't serve as a place for more open interpretation, cultural conflict will be merely reinforced and the link of public diplomacy, as Brown argues, is thwarted. Mutual understanding goes nowhere. Especially as Hafez goes on to pinpoint a failure to present structural problems in international relations. Overarching problems that involve media itself or require a more in-depth understanding of superstructures are not well represented or seemingly understood by specifically American media.

Brown, delves deeper into content, to give the precise phrasing by President Bush, pressed for comments right on 9/11, led to an entire discourse and framing of 'war' instead of 'crime.' The media scrambled and "it is not so much that governments actively influence the people. Rather, through their belligerent behaviour, they set the scene for the triggering of defensive instincts among members of the public, who come to see themselves as a defensive community. The informational raw material of the news may come from outside, it may contain correct (and incorrect) facts and reports from countries such as Iraq, but the 'story' of the war is a domestic production." The media stoked the flames of war instead of acting a mediating force between different understanding, due to the fact media is still a national enterprise and cultural maintenance mechanism.

As Brown wrote, "the way in which the mass media represent the conflict is part of the conflict." As long as the media is predominated by national interests, more broad interpretations will continue to be stifled.

And the rest of the world will continue to be spun by each nation's media.

The failure of the “diplomatic” argument

“And I call upon the Iraqi people to reject violence, band together to insist that the country move toward a peaceful tomorrow. Iraq is changing for the better. I mean, look at the soccer team.”

– G. W. Bush, Interview with Al Zaman, May 20, 2004

Ethos. Pathos. Logos: the three Aristotelian pillars of successful argument still very much relevant today, but, for some reason, also very much neglected by several major states in their international affairs.

Modern-day conduct of foreign affairs heavily depends on communication, especially when it comes to public diplomacy and non-traditional warfare. After all, it’s about perception management and “manufacturing consent,” be it domestic, or within a foreign public: control over info. That’s the key.

A government cannot purge all unfavorable discourse from the public, excommunicate all “unorthodox” thinkers, or, for that matter, hunt down and burn all their writings: fortunately we have been out of the Middle Ages for a while, now. Yet, governments still get entangled in their attempts to literally control information, spin it to work in their interest, or improve their “international ranking” in terms of appeal. This is especially true when the government is also desperately trying to win a war of ideas, which essentially constitutes multiple communication battles.

To continue with the over-abused example of the American “War on Terror”… It indeed has a major ideological component. Yet, again, the US ended up in a situation where it had to learn the hard way. You cannot bomb ideas. You have to bend them, or you might even have to disprove them altogether. To do that, you need persuasion. Persuasion requires argument; cohesive argument. The US has been trying to persuade the Middle Eastern public for most of the last decade, and yet, its persuasion tactics have been far from even resembling a true Aristotelian argument (rather, they involved military invasions, consequent humanitarian crises, attempts to clamp down on the local media, and disaster cases such as the corruption in the “Oil for food” program or the Abu Ghraib controversy). So what is wrong, exactly?

Ethos: the ethical appeal, i.e. credibility. - The Western arrogance towards the region, and the invasion already established a “bad name” back in 2001. The outburst against Al Jazeera  (and other “uncensored” media, which freely covered the TRUE nature of the war) and the support of corrupt local regimes provided further proof that the US was unable to practice what it preached. Not to mention the constant negative framing of the Muslims and their culture by Western media – at least as perceived by the Muslims themselves. There goes credibility, down the drain. 

Pathos: the emotional appeal, i.e. sympathy and compassion. - I don’t think it is fair to expect many people in the Islamic world to feel enough compassion towards any of the coalition forces in light of the Afghanistan or Iraq invasions, and the events that followed. The local media – successfully providing counter-frames that worked – undermined all American effort to make a “sweeping victory” over the hearts and minds of the population. 

Logos: the reasoning of the argument, including cohesiveness and supporting evidence. - In this case, the initial rhetoric was that of hostility, and although it changed later on, it was far from being cohesive. As in the case of ethos, the US and its coalition partners showed, time and again, that they were unable (or were simply unprepared) to follow the very principles they were supposedly promoting, giving rise to many alternative explanations, that (at least seemingly) made more sense, especially to the local public.

This all in light of an incompetent speaker as president and a new media environment, where there is an abundance of alternative sources of information, as well as multiple channels of access to it. The US had apparently forgotten to take good note of that, and assumed that just like in the good-ol’ Cold War times the people would unquestioningly internalize whatever they were told, as long as it was coming from America. The flowers and cheers for the “liberators” were not there for the American troops. Did the US fall victim to its own rhetoric and information campaign?

Whatever the root causes and the real reasons behind the “War on Terror,” it is certainly not perceived as a war of “liberation” by the ordinary Iraqis or Afghans, or by most of the people in the region. The US attempts to promote the “democratization” rhetoric have fallen short of actual evidence to support it, while political and economic dealings get increasingly more dirty in both, Iraq and Afghanistan (and the US is conspicuously involved in most of these cases). And certainly, the most prominent example of the US not keeping to its own values is its very attempt to overtly control the flow of information: bashing of “unorthodox” (in American view) media, embedding reporters in the military (thus successfully hampering their chances of some true reporting), and sometimes even preventing journalists from reporting altogether (references can be found in all of this week's readings).

Basically, the Americans have failed to deliver; and even where they have, the means to these achievements were largely disastrous. Given the situation as well as the context, the US might not have many options left. The most promising one, however, remains true understanding of and sensitivity to the local cultures (and figuring out what is that they really value at the time, unlike "soccer," for example), as well as a better demonstration of the true American values through more effective communication and palpable evidence. Yes, openness and true freedom of choice for the people of the region might mean that in the short run the “coalition” might not see friendly governments there (but that’s just the way a true democracy works, right?). And yet, the picture might be different in the longer run, if these governments are engaged and better integrated in an international cooperation system. In the end of the day, despite the importance of communication, it’s not only about words, but deeds as well.

Nov 9, 2009

How much spin can one take?

The Hanson chapter and its discussion about the various US public diplomacy efforts got me thinking: how much "spin" can you actually put into convincing a person (or persons) to accept something they just don't agree with? I mean, at some point, regardless of how many ways you try to frame the war on terror or American ideology, however many different media outlets and formats you use, if someone is just fundamentally opposed to the core beliefs or ideology that drive these efforts, they're just not going to accept it, right? And what then?

I suppose the real targets of public diplomacy are not the extremists in the same way that political candidates aren't so much campaigning for their core party voters as the moderates and swing votes. But given what seemed to be some pretty extensive efforts on the US government's part to "get in front of the story" and frame the war on terror and its actions in a pro-American light, the failure of these public diplomacy efforts seems to be indicative of something deeper than simply not having reached out in the right way, or to the right people, or with the right message.

This is not to say that I think the US government has done all it can in the realm of public diplomacy. Indeed, Hanson's chapter suggests that a return to Cold War-era focused public diplomacy, both in terms of range of efforts as well as government spending on such programs, might be more effective. Thursday's conference on cultural diplomacy also highlighted weaknesses and shortcomings in our current public diplomacy strategies that could be improved upon (though it did appear that most participants were former USIA staffers and/or Cold War diplomats who might be nostalgic for the olden days...).

But maybe what we really need is a more structural approach to winning over hearts and minds. Perhaps we should be targeting our public diplomacy efforts less on getting people to like or love America, and more on getting them to tap into the ideas and beliefs already present in their culture that underscore social and institutional structures that are in line with American ideologies. For instance, more conservative cultures often criticize American media as being too violent, too racy, too commercialized. But what really drives these representations is our belief in freedom of expression. Thus a new conception of public diplomacy efforts would focus on mobilizing people's valorisation of personal and cultural expression. Our government already incorporates "democracy building" into our foreign policy, with the belief that democratic countries will by nature be sympathetic to American interests. Maybe it's time for us to expand those efforts into the realm of soft power and latent rather than salient influences. America as an icon comes with so much baggage as it is, we should focus on the promotion of values that support American interests, but detach them from the messy behemoth of America itself. Hanson notes that media framing needs to find culturally resonant messages in order to be effective. What better way to resonate with a culture than to draw from that culture itself?

At the heart of this is the (potentially Pollyana) belief that we are not so different in the end. While our cultures express our ideals in different ways, we're essentially all working towards the same goals, aren't we? Peace, love, and happiness? Sovereignty, a meaningful voice, independence? The basic resources for survival? Understanding the specific cultural context that frames these universal values might be the difficult part, but the rewards would be more lasting than just getting a "most popular" vote in the yearbook of nation-states.

Nov 8, 2009

Inter(national) Reporting

In the article, “International Reporting-‘No Further than Columbus,’” author Kai Hefez defines international reporting as the journalistic coverage of realities outside the home state. Hefez makes the point very early on in the article that international reporting tends to reflect the interests and cultural values of the country doing the reporting instead of the country being reported on. International reporting also tends to “Otherize” the area and people being reported on.

The article takes its title from Meg Greenfield’s comment in the Washington Post about the American media’s lack of understanding of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in the late 1970’s. She wrote that American media are ‘no further than Columbus’ who presumed early Native Americans were Indians, in breaking through cultural stereotypes and assumptions.

I feel that Hefez’s example of the Olympics really illustrated how world event coverage really becomes a nationalized event. It is especially obvious with the Olympics, because it is a competition between nations. In terms of television broadcast news, I think a lot of it has to do with the limited amount of prime time in which to air the coverage. It is impossible to give every nation equal time on every single event. Most Americans are rooting for the United States to win, the US games are aired during the times most Americans watch television. At the same time, I think a lot about culture could be learned by watching Swedish curling and Syrian handball (as boring as they may be).

I’m going a little off topic here, but I think that a nation’s popular sports say a lot about the culture. For example, American football, a comparatively violent sport, is huge in the US because we like to watch violence and spectacle. Football is rather expensive- the padding and equipment cost money. Professional football players in the NFL make huge amounts of money. We give full scholarships for students to play football and other sports. On the other hand, football (soccer) is the most widely played and watched popular sport in Central and South America. Soccer requires only a ball and two goals. Poorer nations gravitate towards soccer because it costs less and it is less involved with money.

Nov 5, 2009

International Media and the Framing of Tehran and Kabul

Robin Brown begins the 'Spinning the War' piece with a quote from Karl Von Clausewitz that perfectly embodies both the Brown and Hafez pieces on global media "War is nothing more than the continuation of politics".

As both readings prove, much of the way the people of the world see the 'War on Terror' is based on the media. According to Robin Brown, "as Politics and society change so does the nature of war," thus, since we live in a multimedia world with a 24 hour news cycle the portrayals and framing of the 'enemies' and 'enemy nations' have a lot to do with how the 'War on Terror' and issues framed around it are perceived.

For instance, in class I made the statement that though Twitter played a huge role in Iran's Green Revolution, to present it as a revolution made possible by American companies (let's not leave out the roles that Facebook, Youtube, Google Maps, and Flickr all played as well) makes it more of a novelty, a one time phenomenon. In reality though, the power of the Green Revolution was that it gathered together masses of people in Iran. This was an important development as many critics have cited Iranian apathy with Ahmadinejad's original rise to power. Iranians of all ages, sexes, and classes were marching in the streets. Whether it was mullahs marching in the streets, Ayatollahs dissing Ahmadinejad, declaring fatwas or calling the election illegitimate, the Green Revolution brought people from all spectrums of Iranian society to the streets both in favor of and against the government. It was more than the Event-Centered definition of news that Hafez points to.

There was little talk of the significance of a movement in Iran that engages all people, not just students (as in 1999) and that harkens back to the original revolution of '79 (calls of Allah hu Akbar). It also went against the traditional geographic tropes that the media uses to break down the world. As Hafez says, spatial representations like the 'The West' and 'The Islamic World' rarely define the central themes of very real places. Mousavi was not calling for the overthrow of Iran's theocracy, in fact, it must be asked if many people in the West truly knew Mousavi and his possible Administration would have stood for. The Green Revolution was not the traditional idea of conflict represented in the international media - Democracy vs. Islam. These people felt robbed of their vote for a man who by all Western standards was probably not too dissimilar to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in many ways, but more important the candidates, the people of Iran demanded that their voices be heard. This was not Al Gore vs. George Bush in Tehran, this was a vocal outcry for their votes. For the Iranians to prove that they do have a voice.

To further complicate these spatial definitions, when Ahmadinejad and Khameini both reverted to the red herrings of Zionism, Israel, and Imperialism, the people of took to the streets shouting “No to Gaza, No to Lebanon, I‘m giving my life to Iran.“

Brown goes on to talk about how the media shapes perceptions of supporters, neutral groups, and opponents influences whether someone will become involved in a war and how they will participate. This notion of shaping a conflict plays very well into the U.S. representation of Afghanistan. Much has been said about Afghanistan being a land of cultural turmoil, constant war, and oppression but very little is ever said about the time between the 60s and early 80s that many people refer to as Afghanistan's 'golden age.' The Western media only presents the post-Taliban Afghanistan of death and destruction but rarely reference the period in which there was development, stability, Afghan professionals, education, safety, and professional educated women. Yes, this may have only existed in the larger cities and the nation still faced many problems, but it is important for the people of the United States in particular to know that we are more than just bombs and burqas and yet that is never presented in the mainstream Western media. Why?

Does it make it easier for the U.S. to fight the war and imply that they must bring advancement, development, education, and success to Afghanistan? If anything, the United States is doing themselves a disservice because now many anti-war activists are using a 'cultural difference' as reasons why the United States should pull out of Afghanistan. In reality though, these things existed in Afghanistan before the U.S. and before the Soviets - a fact that both Afghans in Afghanistan and the American people must be reminded of.