Sunday, December 30, 2007

Underwriter Warfare

I've been reading The Barbary Wars: American Independence in the Atlantic World by Frank Lambert and came across this example of economic warfare by the British. Everything old is new again.

In late 1784 and early 1785, while deploying a naval squadron to patrol the Mediterranean and thereby protect His Majesty's shipping, the British circulated reports that the Algerines had captured an American ship and planned to seize others. Though the reports proved groundless, the damage to American shipping was real and immediate. One Henry Martin explained to Jefferson, "In consequence of these reports, the underwriters at Lloyd's will not insure an American Ship to Cadiz or Lisbon for less than 25 percent whereas the customary insurance for English vessels is no more that 1 1/4 or 1 1/2 percent and therefore no American Ship has any chance of getting freight either to Spain or Portugal." America and the Barbary States confronted each other in the shadows of the Union Jack.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

I've discovered this new thing I like to call "the internet"

NOTE: In Feb. 2008 I attended a talk by Jeffrey Gedmin that gave me more insight into his thinking beyond the quote in this article. This quote left me thinking that he was out of touch, but after listening to his talk I realized that that was not the case, he has a clear understanding of the media situation we are dealing with.

OpinionJournal has an excellent article by Matthew Kaminski on the US government's broadcasting (RFE/RL, Radio Farda, etc). The article is long and worth reading in its entirety, but I'm going to pick out one thing that really had me shaking my head:

Mr. Gedmin [president of RFE/RL] says the radio needs to push further into cell phone texting, podcasts and other new technology to deliver its programming. He hired a new editor for its dowdy Internet site.

With the crackdown on independent voices in Vladimir Putin's Russia, the Russian-language Radio Liberty will have to find new ways to broadcast radio, television and written news and analysis into the country through the Web.

"The Russians are kicking us off the air," Mr. Gedmin says. "Pretty soon we're going to have to go to an Internet strategy. If we get it right, it could be the refuge for liberal thought in Russia."

Got that? 2008 is right around the corner and "Pretty soon we're going to have to go to an Internet strategy." Are you effin kidding me? We should have had an internet strategy 10 years ago. This is a perfect example of why I started thinking in terms of the strategic citizen. We cannot rely on these government bureaucracies to adapt quickly enough to changes in technology. We cannot rely on them to think creatively about strategic communication. Therefore they cannot be relied upon to contribute significantly to the current war of ideas. Oh they'll continue plugging along doing the same kind of news shows they've been doing for the past 50 years. But they will not be innovators, rather like other industrial age media organizations they will stick to their outdated methods until change is forced upon them. Strategic citizens offer the only effective way to keep up with the pace of change.

Fortunately the article also includes a couple of paragraphs about a strategic citizen-type of organization, Layalina Productions:

Layalina is dedicated to bridging the growing divide between the Arab world and the United States by fostering cultural, educational, and professional dialogues through effective television programming.
Layalina Productions, Inc. was inaugurated in March 2002 as a §501(c)(3) non-profit, private sector corporation.

Layalina develops and produces informative and entertaining Arabic-language programming for licensing to satellite and cable television networks throughout the Arab Middle East and North Africa. 

Layalina's programming consists of debate, drama, entertainment and educational shows that forthrightly address the most controversial issues affecting U.S.-Arab relations.

Produced in the United States and throughout the Arab world, our shows largely air in primetime on pan-Arab free-to-air satellite television networks. Layalina's programming thus reaches a target audience of tens of millions of viewers. 

Hollywood's best develop our programming with input from our Program Production Advisory Board. We recruit top talent from the U.S. and the Arab world. Our Academy® and Emmy® award-winning writers, producers, and directors work alongside Arab and American television broadcasters and industry leaders to ensure that our shows are culturally appropriate. 

Layalina's efforts represent the first private sector initiative to establish new lines of communication and dialogue with citizens and key opinion leaders throughout the Arab world. We realize that no single television program or series will immediately alter increasingly hardening attitudes, but America cannot afford to forfeit the terrain in the battle of ideas.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Citizen Diplomacy

It's good to see the citizen self-mobilization meme continuing to spread:

When will we realize that reversing these dangerous trends is not a one-person job? In fact, unless exponentially more American citizens appreciate their own responsibilities for U.S. public diplomacy, no undersecretary — no matter how talented or well-connected — will make real progress.
Government packaging cannot do what ordinary citizens can do: build understanding and mutual respect, irrespective of the person in the undersecretary for public diplomacy's chair, or even in the Oval Office. Mrs. Hughes conveyed this when she stated: "We must empower our most important international asset: individual American citizens." Citizen diplomacy is the concept that, in a vibrant democracy, the individual citizen has the right — even the responsibility — to help shape U.S. foreign affairs. Citizen diplomats are people who recognize that by reaching out to people around the globe, we can make the world a better, safer, more compassionate place, one handshake at a time.
Citizen diplomacy consists of ordinary folks reaching out internationally — not in the service of a government campaign, but with private- and public-sector support for their own efforts.It involves engaging communities abroad honestly, respectfully acknowledging human differences and appreciating common human aspirations. It involves building trust and understanding one person at a time. Citizen diplomacy includes inviting foreign visitors into our homes, schools and offices. Itwelcomes learning about other cultures, countries and religions. Citizen diplomacy strengthens our communities, our nation and our international relations.

Whether we are students befriending an international scholar in a college classroom, business representatives who take the time to learn about the customs and protocol of another nation or athletes welcoming a foreign teammate, we can make a difference.
So while we lose another undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs in Washington, we gain a new citizen diplomat in Texas. We welcome Citizen Diplomat Karen Hughes.

We hope she will focus attention on and participate in various citizen diplomacy organizations hard at work in her home state known for its expansiveness and hospitality. We hope she will choose to host international visitors or foreign students at her home, foster global service, build international business ties, support contributions to global scholarship and science or counterterrorism through international exchange. As a private citizen, she can make a difference.

Via Small Wars Journal

A Post-Scientific Society?

Our civilization is going through a period significant change that will have a transformative effect on every aspect of our society, at this point however we can only glimpse the general outlines of how these changes will play out. Will these changes result in the US becoming a Post-Scientific Society?

A post-scientific society will continue to use the latest in scientific discoveries, theories, and data as the foundation for innovation and change. However, producing new science at home will give way to using new science that is developed elsewhere. The new science that underlies innovation in a post-scientific society will often appear in U.S. organizations not as data and theory but as knowledge embodied in devices, components, systems, and routines obtained from anywhere else in the world. A post-scientific society will need fewer researchers than a scientific society, and fewer young people will be drawn into scientific fields by the promise of exciting opportunities and excellent salaries. Firms in a post-scientific society will hire fewer scientific professionals than in the past, and their role will be more to serve as translators and exploiters of new science than as original contributors to the body of scientific knowledge. Firms will reduce their commitments to long-term basic research and will depend more on third-party providers of new knowledge.

In the post-scientific society, the creation of wealth and jobs based on innovation and new ideas will tend to draw less on the natural sciences and engineering and more on the organizational and social sciences, on the arts, on new business processes, and on meeting consumer needs based on niche production of specialized products and services in which interesting design and appeal to individual tastes matter more than low cost or radical new technologies.

Businesses will not succeed in the post-scientific society by adopting a fast-follower strategy, seeking to emulate the products first brought to market by firms in other countries. Rather, success will arise in part from the disciplined search for useful new knowledge that, regardless of its origins, can be integrated with intimate knowledge of cultures and consumer preferences. Networks of highly creative individuals and collaborating firms will devise and produce complex new systems that meet human needs in unexpectedly new and responsive ways.

In the post-scientific society, producing new science at home will give way to using new science that is developed elsewhere.

The emergence of a post-scientific society in the United States is, in a sense, simply the latest working out of the logic of comparative advantage among nations. The United States remains a world leader at doing basic scientific research. However, when the costs of doing research in the United States are compared with doing it elsewhere, much of its advantage is lost. Some of the comparative advantage of other countries in conducting science arises from currency misalignments and from government actions, but even accounting for these market interventions, it is often less expensive to do science-world-class science-in other countries.

As more and more nations have achieved a medium-to high stage of political and economic development, they have been able to establish the necessary conditions in which scientific research can thrive. These include stable infrastructures for energy, telecommunications, water, and sanitation; a high-quality educational system for at least some of its people; a commitment to challenging the status quo; a source of funds; and a reasonably stable political culture. Bright people are a natural resource everywhere, and if the conditions listed above exist, science can thrive. Throughout the post-World War II period, the United States and other nations, as well as the major international development organizations, have worked to strengthen scientific infrastructures in many countries. It is now becoming apparent that those efforts, as well as the substantial efforts made by developing countries on their own, have been successful in many places.
The positive side of the transition to a post-scientific society story is that the United States has increasingly turned its attention to matters that are more complex than fundamental science. It is moving up the scale of intellectual and societal complexity by specializing in activities that require the integration of all knowledge and capabilities to better serve the needs of individuals, families, companies, communities, and society as a whole. It still needs to be able to understand and use the fruits of scientific research, wherever it is done, and it will continue to need a significant number of active scientists and other researchers working at the frontiers of knowledge. In key areas where it maintains a solid lead, as in fields of biomedical science, its incredible investments and deep intellectual infrastructure may suffice to enable it to dominate the research activities of other countries. Yet, even in biomedicine, it is increasingly clear that improving the quality of life for the majority of people involves not just applying sophisticated science-based medicine but also the integration of multiple disciplines concerned with human health, from nutrition to exercise physiology to gerontology to social work.

Beyond the question of support for and conduct of science, however, the post-scientific society involves something much more. This is becoming a society in which cutting-edge success depends not on specialization, but on integration- on synthesis, design, creativity, and imagination.
It would be overreaching to argue that the United States has completed the transition to a post-scientific society. Instead, as with all such transitions in the past, the characterization of cultural eras is a statement about the leading edge of social and economic development. Just to highlight the point, although we ordinarily think of the Stone Age as the time before our prehistoric ancestors discovered metals, we continue to build in stone to this day and are proud of it. Likewise, if we have left behind the agricultural age, the machine age, and the age of steam, we still grow food, use machines, and depend on steam for our well-being. We will continue to need and nurture science, but it will, like the dominant cultural developments that preceded it, recede into the background as a necessary but no longer defining characteristic of our age.
Higher education is beginning to respond to the demands for new kinds of programs to meet the needs of students and employers interested in multidimensional, multidisciplinary educational experiences. For example, an increasing number of universities are offering degrees and concentrations in fields such as information technology, multimedia production, entrepreneurship, service science, innovation studies, creativity, and other cross-disciplinary fields. Whereas just a couple of decades ago universities tended to treat interdisciplinary work as an intrusion into the "real" work of the institution's disciplinary departments, today the ability to inspire and lead such work has become a standard expectation of university administrators. Companies are stepping up the hiring of social and behavioral scientists, artists, designers, and poets.

Via EconLog

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Radio Warriors

I just started reading War of the Black Heavens: The Battles of Western Broadcasting in the Cold War which I discovered via Mountainrunner's public diplomacy/info ops book list at Amazon.

For most of the cold war Western propaganda was subtle. The Americans soon learned that the brash frontal attack was less effective than the low-key approach of the British. The message was to convey not just a social system or politics or economics but a total culture. Russian Communists saw the dangers for them in the Radios' techniques of inspiring confidence by admission of the faults of the West and the development of a tolerant and neutral reaction toward gentle criticism of socialism. pop music and talk about consumer goods conveyed the message that life abroad was better and, thus, spread discontent and insecurity.
Communism wanted to make everything and everyone the same. But the Radios always emphasized individuality, variety, difference. They developed the critical faculties of their listeners. The Radios did not only convey information. They helped convey the concept of a civil society and of basic human values; they preserved a sense of national identity and made the connection with the broader cultural movement of Europe.

Newsweek on Al Qaeda's Media Strategy

Newsweek has an article on "Al Qaeda's Latest Media Strategy":

Behold the latest phase in Al Qaeda's media strategy. The shadowy terror network is offering up Ayman al-Zawahiri, to any journalists with questions for its No. 2 man. The invitation, issued by the group's media arm, As-Sahaab (The Cloud), came at the end of a 90-minute video message from Zawahiri, posted on one of the group's various militant Web pages.

In the statement, released Dec. 16, Zawahiri invites "individuals, agencies and all media" to submit written questions via one of As-Sahaab's Web forums. He calls upon the "brothers" who supervise the site "to collect the questions and transmit them without alteration, whether it is coming from someone who agrees or disagrees."
Recent messages from both Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri have specifically called on Americans to embrace Islam and turn against the governments they deem to be enemies of Islam.  Counterterrorism analysts say the offer of an online exchange with Zawahiri is part of its broader emphasis on connecting with new audiences. "While Al Qaeda has its own media institutions, it well understands that Western audiences don't necessarily tune into those sources of information," says Sawyer.   "Because of that, this allows them to reach Western audiences and it gives them some degree of legitimacy in terms of who the interviews are conducted with."

From Hizbullah to Al Qaeda, Islamic terrorist groups have commonly embraced the newest forms of communications technology to boost their access to potential recruits and spread their message to the largest possible constituency. In October 2005, Al Qaeda even used one of its Web sites to post a help-wanted ad for a job as a communications specialist. The job vacancy called for someone with exceptional English and Arabic skills able to collect and disseminate news on Iraq, including audio and video clips.

The strategy guiding jihadist Internet use was demonstrated when Al Qaeda's Saudi Arabian network, Muaskar al-Battar (Camp of the Sword), launched its Web site in January 2004. Its introductory message read: "In order to join the greatest training camps, you don't have to travel to other lands. Alone, in your home or with a group of your brothers, you too can begin to execute the training program. You can all join the Al-Battar Training Camps."  Jarret Brachman, a former CIA analyst now in the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point describes this as playing to the YouTube generation. "It completely fits Al Qaeda's communications strategy over the past two years, which is how to get people more invested in the movement."

Via Long War Journal

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Hey folks, just wanted to provide a status report since there hasn't been much blogging here recently. A few weeks ago I moved to the DC area and began a course in video/audio production and so I've been swamped with school, commuting and moving, which is why I haven't had a chance to blog. But there will be more blogging coming up, hopefully this weekend. And Cannoneer, I apologize for not responding to the request you left in the comments. I do have some general thoughts on the topic and will try to get them up when I get a chance. So the conversation will continue...