Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Milton Friedman was not Warm and Fuzzy

A remembrance of Milton Friedman by one of his former students Thomas Sowell. (A short Cato podcast.)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Schoolhouse Rock

When I was a kid I used to love to watch the Schoolhouse Rock bits during the commercial breaks of Saturday morning cartoons. While browsing over at YouTube recently, I've watched several of them for the first time since the 1970s and I still like them: Three is the Magic Number and How a Bill Becomes a Law and Conjunction Junction and The Constitution and The Shot Heard Round the World and others...

No More Kings



The Great American Melting Pot

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Call of the Entrepreneur

Well, it looks like July has become video month here at AC. In keeping with the theme, here is the trailer for The Acton Institute's The Call of the Entrepreneur:



Via Arnold Kling.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Army Working On Info Ops Field Manual

Well, it's a little late in the game for this, but better late than never, I suppose:

The fight against Al-Qaeda and other Islamist groups is primarily an information war, leading counterinsurgency and counterterror officers believe -- one in which the U.S. is still lagging far, far behind.  But after years of ignoring the problem, the Army may be starting to take this battle of images seriously; the service is working on a new "information operations" field manual, Inside the Army reports.

Friday, July 20, 2007

5GW Fragments

I started this blog earlier this year to serve a few purposes, one of which was to be a repository for some things I had written as comments on other blogs. Over the past few years I have done a lot of commenting and over that time I found certain themes recurring again and again: entrepreneurship, the strategic citizen, updating classical liberalism for the 21st century, developing a 21st century vision for the American Experiment, centralized industrial age institutions vs. decentralized information age institutions, and the whole idea/information/meme/media/psychological-war thing. One of the most important sparks to my thinking was in response to the initial posts by Zenpundit and tdaxp on 5th Generation Warfare back in 2005. My contribution to the discussion was pretty meager (a few comments and one guest post, all reposted below) but the basic ideas I think are still valid. I'm not a big fan of the generational model and so decided to drop out of the 5GW discussion and explore these ideas in other terms (e.g. the strategic citizen waging a meme/idea war for cultural hegemony) without worrying whether this or that idea merits the title of "5GW".

http://zenpundit.blogspot.com/2005/07/unto-fifth-generation-of-war.html

Quick thought: Maybe 5GW is a kind of Manchurian Candidate type thing. An enemy actually tries to get its agents in a democratic country elected to office and then to use that position to undermine it.
Perhaps the Left is already 5GW. In 4GW the enemy attempts to influence the media and culture to undermine a country's war effort, but maybe in 5GW the enemy seeks to become the country's media, university and grade school teachers, writers, artists, etc. They become the purveyors of culture. A kind of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" strategy.

http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2005/07/18/go-deep-ooda-and-the-rainbow-of-generational-warfare.html

Wow! This is good stuff Dan. 

I just read the ZenPundit piece and was blown away and left a comment there and then came over here and was blown away again. 

"A 5th Generation War might be fought with one side not knowing who it is fighting. Or even, a brilliantly executed 5GW might involve one side completely ingorant that there ever was a war."

First thought: The Long March Through the Institutions. 
The success of the left in promoting their ideas where the people who adopt them actually and honestly deny that they are socialists. This is especially focused at the US which is the only real threat to the spread of socialism. The threat here is not Islamic fundamentalism, they have no chance of converting the American people. The threat is our old friend socialism, which has been working hard to undermine our entrepreneurial, individualist culture.

http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2005/07/26/5th-generation-thumbnail-sketches.html

Every 5th Generation War will be different, perhaps so different that they don’t seem to even belong in the same category. But if we accept some general features then we can explore some of the possibilities that follow from them. In an earlier post, Dan offers some significant thoughts:

If traditional war centered on an enemy's physical strength, and 4GW on his moral strength, the 5th Generation of War would focus on his intellectual strength. A 5th Generation War might be fought with one side not knowing who it is fighting. Or even, a brilliantly executed 5GW might involve one side being completely ignorant that there ever was a war. It's like the old question of what was the perfect robbery: we will never know, because in a perfect robbery the bank would not know that it was robbed.
 
The two elements that Dan highlights above are very important. 5GW isn’t just about using ideas to undermine the will of a people or government to fight, but about undermining a country’s ability to defend itself intellectually, one could say that it is an existential campaign that calls into question the very legitimacy of that country’s existence. A campaign that a country may not even be conscious of. So how would this be accomplished?
 
Mark at Zenpundit points out:
 
A strong possibility exists that given successive generations of warfare tend to drive "deeper" into enemy territory, that 5GW will mean systemic liquidation of enemy networks and their sympathizers, essentially a total war on a society or subsection of a society. There is no where " deeper" for 5GW to go but here.
 
How deep is deep? In 5GW the enemy might be a state or a foreign non-state actor or something homegrown. Whatever its source it would require that there be citizens willing to intentionally seek the defeat of their own country, or citizens who could be persuaded to adopt behaviors and ideas that would lead to defeat whether it was intentional or not. But the enemy in this case would realize that they can’t win a conventional war or even a 4th Generation War, so they devise deeper tactics. In 4GW the enemy attempts to use the target country’s media as a vehicle to sap the people’s and political leaders’ will to fight. In 5GW the enemy actually becomes the media and the political leadership. In 4GW a terrorist organization might attack a school or a courthouse in order to show that the government can’t defend itself; in 5GW the enemy would become the teachers and judges. It doesn’t get much deeper than that. And so a country might never know as Dan states above, that it is even at war or who the enemy is, or that they have lost the war.
 
So is there a role for the military, intelligence and law enforcement agencies? The 5GW operatives in democratic societies will remain “invisible” to the state unless they are inciting violence, plotting or engaging in illegal activity. And things become much more complicated if  they actually become the judges, intelligence officers, diplomats, policy makers etc. I don’t really think there is a major role for the state in this kind of intellectual war, but rather think that ideas have to be fought with ideas, and that the people who want to defend their country from this kind of attack need to develop their own 5th generation tactics independent of the state.
 
Now, we are just brainstorming here, trying to sketch out some of the details of a potential 5th Generation of War. Thinking about this is like trying to see something at night. You catch a glimpse of something in your peripheral vision, then look directly at it and it disappears. Then you look away and can again see it in your peripheral vision. This can make you wonder whether there is really something there to see.
 
 A lot of questions still need answers. Does a 5th generation campaign need to be violent in order to be war? If war is politics by other means, then is 5GW war by other means? How do we distinguish, in a free society, between the legitimate promotion of ideas and policies and a 5th Generation War on our “intellectual strength”?

This was a comment I left as part of the discussion on the previous post.

If 5GW takes aim at a country's "intellectual strength" then Gramsci's idea of "counter-hegemony" is certainly one way of doing that, though not necessarily the only way. Although Gramsci devised that strategy to further his own socialist beliefs, the strategy itself can be used by adherents of any ideology. 

If this strategy is 4G then isn't focusing on intellectual strength also 4G? After all 4G can involve attacks on culture, ideals and beliefs. The problem seems that while we are able to identify characteristics of 4G, we still haven't defined it's boundaries. If we don't know where it ends, then how do we know where 5G begins? 

How important is secrecy? After all if you can accomplish your goal without being secret, then why go through the trouble? You're right Dan that the American left was certainly not shy about their ambitions, and while people like Buckley were aware of those ambitions, in the end it really didn't matter, they were successful anyway. In a free society it is possible to "hide in plain sight." You could publish your intentions and give lectures and chances are most people will just ignore you or dismiss you as a kook, and you could just go about your business as if you were operating in secret. 

For Gramsci, developing intellectuals and dominating intellectual institutions was not the goal, but the means. The goal was "hegemony":

"By hegemony, Gramsci meant the permeation throughout society of an entire system of values, attitudes, beliefs and morality that has the effect of supporting the status quo in power relations. Hegemony in this sense might be defined as an 'organising principle' that is diffused by the process of socialisation into every area of daily life. To the extent that this prevailing consciousness is internalised by the population it becomes part of what is generally called 'common sense' so that the philosophy, culture and morality of the ruling elite comes to appear as the natural order of things."

http://www.infed.org/thinkers/et-gram.htm
I have more questions than answers on this topic and I offer these thoughts as part of the brainstorming process. I don't know where we're going to end up, but it sure is a fun ride.

http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2006/02/04/5gw-soundless-formless-polished-leading.html

"In 5GW the enemy's knowledge of your existence all but ends your plans."

Not necessarily. Let's say a 5GW campaign were under way and I had a "fingertip feeling" that led me to actually "see" it. It's entirely likely if I tried to tell other people what was going on that they would simply dismiss me as paranoid and a conspiracy nut, even accuse me of McCarthyism and witch-hunting. If the 5th generation warrior is doing something illegal he will eventually draw the attention of law enforcement. But if the 5GW tactics are legal, then law enforcement won't be a problem. Which means that citizens who become aware of the 5GW campaign will have to act on their own within the law but outside of government and operate a counter-5GW campaign. Nothing remains secret forever especially in a free society, but legal activities can be done out in the open without attracting attention because they appear to be run-of-the-mill and normal, certainly nothing to be concerned about. Free societies offer the 5th generation warrior the ability to "hide in plain sight" and still be able to pull off a victory without the loser being aware of what happened.

"The Time Has Come To Do Something Different"

Jason Apuzzo has an important post up at Libertas on the need for pro-America and pro-victory filmmaking as part of the ongoing Long War. The post is long and worth reading in its entirety. My only disagreement is a minor quible with the "documentaries don't count" parenthetical. If we had produced large numbers of pro-liberty, pro-America, pro-victory documentaries and they had no significant impact, then we could say that they don't count. But we haven't done that: we have been silent and passive. I'll offer the concluding graph right up front, because it is exactly what needs to be done:

The time has come to do something different, and to build an alternative, independent infrastructure for America-friendly film projects. And the time has come for conservatives to start looking at this as a front-burner issue, rather than back-burner.


So how did we get to this point? It’s actually not so hard to understand, although from my personal experience conservatives are extremely resistant to understanding the fix they’re in. Why? Because they would have to admit that talk radio, the blogosphere and Fox News simply aren’t enough to get the job done in terms of rallying public morale for a long-term war. These media have, in fact, proven themselves to be entirely inadequate, although you’ll rarely get anyone on talk radio, the blogosphere or Fox News to admit it.

The reason public morale for the war is so low, broadly speaking, is that popular culture - and movies are my chief concern here - was never effectively enlisted in the war effort. Actually, it was never enlisted at all. And unfortunately it’s probably too late for that to happen now, at least with respect to Iraq. From what I’ve seen behind the scenes in Hollywood and in high-level conservative circles, no movies are going to get done in time to rally public support for Iraq before the crucial decisions get made this fall. (And documentaries, no matter how well intended, don’t count. What we need are high-quality dramas, action films, narratives of any kind.)

In fact, no movies are being planned at all by conservatives to: a) support our troops risking their lives right now in Iraq and Afghanistan; or b) support America generally in the War on Terror. Nothing. We know many talented writers, directors, actors, etc. (many of them award-winning and with significant track records of success) who desperately want to make films to support the war, but the right-wing elites with the money and the power to help them refuse to do so out of a lethal mixture of arrogance, apathy, and stupidity. They literally don’t have the will to act, and don’t seem to care that the war is being lost on the home front right now. You in the public are being betrayed, and you don’t even know it. It isn’t the liberals at this point holding these films back, it’s conservatives who are too timid to do anything.
...
And so before our leadership launches another war, I have but one request: THIS TIME, PLEASE DEVISE A STRATEGY FOR KEEPING PUBLIC MORALE HIGH, A STRATEGY THAT SHOULD PROBABLY INVOLVE MOVIES AND POPULAR CULTURE. REMEMBER THE HOME FRONT. IF YOU DON’T, YOU’RE GOING TO FIND YOURSELVES IN THE SAME SITUATION AGAIN WITH A DEMORALIZED, DISPIRITED AND ILL-INFORMED PUBLIC.

You would think conservatives/Republicans would understand this. You would think they would’ve learned by now that what happens on the battlefield isn’t the whole story. You would think they would’ve learned a lesson from World Wars I & II (entertainment industry rallies public support for war = we win) or from Vietnam (entertainment industry undermines public support for war = we don’t win), but apparently not. Apparently the strategy for maintaining public support for the war was to roll out George W. Bush and have him explain things, or roll out media operatives like Sean Hannity or Michelle Malkin or Bill Kristol - provide them with enough face time on Fox News - and that’ll cover it.

Hoffman on 4GW

Frank Hoffman has posted the text of his talk on 4GW at the Boyd Conference over at the Small Wars Journal.

What some of the critics of 4GW have overlooked is the critical importance of the cognitive and virtual dimension of today’s conflicts. I expect several speakers to discuss this today. Now as we all know, T. E. Lawrence and the French expert Galula underscored this same issue in their seminal works. But the speed, frequency, and graphic imagery that is possible today with modern media is simply beyond their comprehension. It may still be beyond most of us. Recent scholarship by Dr. Audrey Cronin has persuasively compared the ongoing cyber-mobilization of Muslims around the world to the French Revolution and the levée en masse. This has profound implications for human conflict in this century as Dr. Cronin has perceptively warns “Western nations will persist in ignoring the fundamental changes in popular mobilization at their peril.”

Today’s 24/7 news cycles and graphic imagery produce even faster and higher response cycles from audiences around the globe and offer powerful new “weapons” to those who can master them.
Today, many small groups have mastered “armed theater” and promoted “propaganda of the deed” to arouse support and foment discord on a global scale. There is a plethora of outlets now in the Middle East and an exponentially growing number of websites and bloggers promoting a radical vision. These outlets constantly bombarded audiences with pictures, videos, DVDs, and sermons. Ironically, in Iraq and in the Long War we are facing a fundamentalist movement that is exploiting very modern and Western technologies to reestablish an anti-Western social and political system. The 4GW school, in its initial offering, identified the potential for this phenomena and the associated religious and cultural factors that might inspire it.
...
Call it what you may, 4GW or Complex Irregular or Hybrid Warfare, it presents a mode of conflict that severely challenges America’s conventional military thinking. It targets the strategic cultural weaknesses of the American Way of Battle quite effectively. It’s chief characteristic—blurring and convergence—occurs in several modes. In the blurring of combat and conflict, combatants and noncombatants, and the physical and the metaphysical. The convergence of various types of conflict will present us with a complex puzzle until the necessary adaptation occurs intellectually and institutionally. This form of conflict challenges cherished but false American conceptions about warfighting, and will continue to thwart the West’s core interests and world order over the next generation.

Because of their perceived success, call them what you may, but 4GW challengers will not be a passing fad nor will they remain low tech killers. Our opponents eagerly learn and adapt rapidly to more efficient modes of killing. We can no longer overlook our own vulnerabilities as societies or underestimate the imaginations of our antagonists. In a world of 4 GW or Hybrid Wars, the price for complacency and inept strategy only grows steeper.

The Strategic Citizen and Learning from our Adversaries

Yesterday, I meant to post this quote and link to an excellent Belmont Club post, but I ended up driving down to the DC suburbs from my perch here in central southern Pennsylvania and was gone all day. I have been arguing and will continue to argue that the solution to our information operation troubles will not come from government, but from private citizens and the organizations they create to wage the media war/information war. We continue to look at the jihadi's "decentralized, collaborative production model" as they run rings around us, and respond with "we need to get government to do better info ops." That's the wrong answer. Too many people in the West are trapped in an outdated, 20th century paradigm, while our adversaries recognize and successfully exploit the vast opportunities the 21st century offers. We will win this information war when westerners decide that they are going to take the initiative and run their own media campaigns independent of government.

The terrorists narrative masters have already made the shift to the new media, at a time when the networks still pay millions for a news anchor to read headlines to an audience at specified times on TV.

The impressive array of products Sunni-Iraqi insurgents and their supporters create suggests the existence of a veritable multimedia empire. But this impression is misleading. The insurgent-media network has no identifiable brick-and-mortar presence, no headquarters, and no bureaucracy. It relies instead on a decentralized, collaborative production model that utilizes the skills of a community of likeminded individuals.

In its adoption of this production model, the insurgent-media enterprise resembles the global jihadist media endeavor that was already in existence when a U.S.-led military operation toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Global jihadist media provided a blueprint for the creation of insurgent media, and the foreign jihadists who flocked to Iraq to fight in the wake of the invasion spearheaded the drive to create a media presence for the insurgency. While a jihadist agenda is by no means common to all or even most Iraqi insurgent groups, insurgent media overlap with jihadist media at numerous junctures, and, as we shall see, reinforce their message.


And against this 21st century narrative engine the West has offered pitifully little resistance, unless one counts such desultory activities as "public diplomacy" and the odd press conference at which the "newsmen" ask questions related to their agenda and not about the subject of the briefing. In the information warfare battlefield the US is preposterously outgunned. Even the traditional media is drafted into the service of spreading the Jihadi narrative.
...
In general...the two least explored areas of counterterrorism are the art of counternarrative and counterorganizing. The US military in Iraq has belatedly discovered counterorganizing in the Anbar and Diyala Salvation councils, but there is still much to be done in the area of the counternarrative. My own guess is that the private new media sector in the West will wage the most effective counternarrative operations, either directly or by empowering the debate within Islam -- and even within the Jihad by providing grants to dissident Muslim intellectuals, and by supporting bloggers doing straight news gathering within Muslim countries.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Psyop Blues

How to lose the information war: rigid, micromanaging bureaucracy vs. decentralized, nimble adversary.

The squadron commander and S-3 thought I could drive through a neighborhood blaring a loudspeaker message and things would be hunky-dory. And, if they weren’t, it must mean that I wasn’t doing my job. Try as I might to explain otherwise, they wouldn’t listen. They simply saw non-lethal kinetics the same as an artillery fire mission. Fire, splash, result. It doesn’t work that way in PSYOP.

One of the major problems with the Army’s PSYOP program is the product approval process. Product (such as leaflets and pamphlets) are typically designed and generated at the Product Development Detachment (PDD). A designed product has to be approved at numerous levels and by various people. As goes with many things Army, EVERYONE wants their fingers in the pie, even when it’s not their pie to stick their finger in. For example, JAG has to sign off on a product concept to ensure that we’re not violating any laws with it. However, JAG officers will typically say, “oh, I think this color should be different” or “why are you using that picture” when it’s really not in their purview to judge something like that. Long story short, from the time I request product at the tactical level until the time I get the product back to actually disseminate it can be as long as two to three weeks. I have heard that some product that has been disseminated has gone all the way up to one of the SECDEF’s underlings. Clearly, micromanagement is a key hang-up in PSYOP.

Unfortunately, time is of the essence when you’re fighting an information war. And, to put it bluntly, the enemy does not have to deal with the same bureaucracy that we do. Quite simply, this is why we’re losing the information war in Iraq so badly. PSYOP has to compete with Imams who put out messages several times daily in support of their favorite cause (in my AO, it was Sadr). PSYOP teams are not permitted to openly compete with that (i.e. blaring responses at the same time on our loudspeakers) because it was not allowed by our higher command. Or, take for example these movie posters made into PSYOP product. It was likely done by some insurgent using a nice PC and some graphics program. Just posting this product on the internet (even if it never gets printed up) guarantees maximum dissemination to a plethora of target audiences. Sure, it may not affect a grunt getting ready to go to Iraq. But, what does it do to his family and friends who see it? And what does it do to a political staffer or even a politician himself that sees it? Another example is television. Products made for TV dissemination are often restricted because most Iraqis receive their TV through satellite. And, because we cannot guarantee that a PSYOP product won’t be broadcast outside the borders of Iraq, we are not permitted to broadcast through satellite TV. However, al-Jazeera and other organizations can broadcast what they want and how they want to their heart’s content.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Libertarian Center

Brink Lindsey has a very good essay up over at Cato Unbound on The Libertarian Center. We are definitely in need right now of new thinking about politics and society. The conceptual frameworks we have inherited are decades old and were designed for different times and different challenges. We need ideas that are relevant to our time and the transformations and challenges we face. Lindsey's ideas are an important contribution to an emerging discussion about how to update our ways of thinking.

...I maintain that the concept of a libertarian center offers useful insight into the current political situation. In particular, it highlights the fact that our ideological categories have not yet caught up with social realities. The movements of left and right continue to be organized around discontents with the new, more libertarian cultural synthesis that prevails today. Thus the reactionary claims of decline and fall we hear from both sides: the right wails about cultural and moral decline, while the left gnashes its teeth about economic decline. Think of the leading red-meat issues for conservatives today. Gay marriage is destroying the American family; an invasion of illegal immigrants from Mexico threatens to overwhelm American culture; stem cell research is leading us to a Brave New World of moral atrocities. Meanwhile, the left is fixated on mounting “economic insecurity” for the most materially blessed population in human history. Endlessly repeated statistics on stagnant median wages, rising income inequality and volatility, and a shrinking middle class fortify true believers in their denial of the obvious reality that we’ve never had it so good.

Our politics today is stuck in a reactionary rut. The right remains unreconciled to irreversible cultural changes from the ‘60s and ‘70s. The left remains unreconciled to irreversible economic changes from the ‘70s and ‘80s. The idea of the libertarian center suggests that the way to break out of this rut is with a new, post-culture-wars politics that embraces both economic change and cultural diversity. I am not saying that some particular package of libertarian reforms is now the key to assembling a winning political coalition. The idea of a libertarian center is about the core of American political culture, not the margins of political change. What I’m saying is that partisans on both sides need to recraft their messages and programs to better reflect the entrepreneurial, tolerant spirit of contemporary America.

The Sorry State of Public Diplomacy

The WSJ has a piece today by Bret Stephens on the sorry state of our public diplomacy.

Take the case of career diplomat Francis Riccardione, currently the U.S. ambassador to Egypt. In interviews with the Egyptian media, Mr. Riccardione has said that American officials have "no right to comment" on the case of Ayman Nour, the former opposition leader imprisoned on trumped-up charges; that faith in Egypt's judiciary is "well-placed," and that president Hosni Mubarak--now in his 26th year in office-- "is loved in the U.S." and "could win elections [in America] as a leader who is a giant on the world stage." Mr. Riccardione also admits he "enjoyed" a recent film by Egyptian artist Shaaban Abdel Rahim, best known for his hit song "I Hate Israel."

Or take the Voice of America's Persian Service. According to a Farsi-speaking source who tracks the broadcasts, during last year's war between Hezbollah and Israel, VOA reporter Nazi Beglari opined that "Hezbollah ended the Israeli occupation in the past and is doing it again." Camera shots lingered over toys scattered near bomb sites and a burnt page of the Quran--evidence, presumably, of Israel's intent to destroy Islam and murder Muslim children.

Then there is Ms. Hughes herself. During one of her first overseas ventures as public diplomacy czarina, Ms. Hughes visited Indonesia--the world's largest Muslim country--where she met its very own Bono, rock star Ahmad Dhani. Mr. Dhani had recently released his album "Laskar Cinta," or "Warriors of Love," a deliberate and political response to the terrorist atrocities perpetrated by Laskar Jihad. Ms. Hughes seemed enthralled by both the message and the messenger.

"Hughes met Dhani, praised him to the skies, and said 'people like you are exactly what we need,'" recalls C. Holland Taylor, an American who runs the LibForAll foundation with which Mr. Dhani is associated. "She then asked us whether he would be willing to work with the State Department, whether he'd be willing to travel and whether there was anything she could do for him. We answered all three questions affirmatively. Since then there's been a vast silence."

This is exactly why back in 2005 I started thinking that the best solution to this problem is not governmental, but rather private and entrepreneurial. After all why waste time, resources, and energy lobbying gov't to reform our public diplomacy, when we can invest the same time, resources, and energy in doing public diplomacy on our own? To me it's a no brainer. Fortunately there are at least a few others who have taken the initiative on this.

LibForAll is itself a model of what a competent public diplomacy effort in the Muslim world should look like. Mr. Taylor, a former telecom executive who moved to Jakarta in the 1990s and speaks fluent Indonesian, has engaged influential and genuinely reform-minded Muslims--as opposed to the faux "moderates" on whom Mr. Bush lavished praise at the Islamic Center--to articulate and defend a progressive and tolerant version of Islam.

In its brief life, LibForAll has helped turn back an attempted Islamist takeover of the country's second-largest Muslim social organization (with 30 million members), translated anti-Wahhabist books into Indonesian, sponsored a recent multidenominational conference to denounce Holocaust-denial, brought Mr. Dhani to Colorado to speak to U.S. military brass, and launched a well-researched "extremist exposé" in order, Mr. Taylor says, "to get Indonesian society to consciously acknowledge that there is an infiltration occurring of radical ideology, financed by Arab petrodollars, that is intent on destroying Indonesian Islam."

For his efforts, Mr. Taylor has been cold-shouldered by the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta--more proof that when it comes to public diplomacy the U.S. government functions with its usual genius and efficiency. But there's more at work here than a bumbling and insipid bureaucracy.

This is a story we are all familiar with; it is all too common in our time. A big, bloated outdated bureaucracy, that is stagnant and resistant to change comes up against the decentralized, nimble entrepreneurial newcomer. We see it in business, media, education etc. This is characteristic of our era as we transition from the industrial age to the information age.

But unlike the transition from the agricultural age to the industrial age, we have a more serious underlying problem that is a real threat to the survival of our country.

As the scholar Carnes Lord notes in his useful book on public diplomacy, "Losing Hearts and Minds," America's public diplomatists "are today no longer as convinced as they once were that America's story is after all fundamentally a good one, or believe an alternative, negative story is at least equally plausible." Hence someone like Mr. Riccardione can say, when asked about discrimination in Egypt (where a Coptic population amounting to about 10% of the population has one member in the 444-seat parliament) that it "happens everywhere, even in the U.S."

The part that I emphasized above is the most important internal challenge that we face as a society. These diplomats who are "no longer as convinced as they once were that America's story is after all fundamentally a good one," are the direct product of 40 years of the post-modern left's cultural relativism and hostility to America. We must step onto the field and compete against the left's vision of America. This effort will not be "conservative". The conservative movement is as outdated and inappropriate for our time as the left's ideology and the massive industrial age institutions that continue to lumber along. We need to be willing to break out of old cognitive habits and think new thoughts. The sorry state of our public diplomacy is just a symptom of the real, underlying problem. And we have to address that underlying problem in order to reform our public diplomacy.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Democracy in America

Pejman Yousefzedah has posted a very good essay on Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America at A Chequer-Board of Nights & Days.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Glass Blowing in Seattle

Well, I guess it's YouTube Day here at AC. Here's a short documentary on glass blowing in Seattle:

SpaceShipOne Video

Here's a video of Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne X-Prize flight:

On Entrepreneurial Capitalism

I've been browsing around over at YouTube this morning and found this video of Carl Schramm, author of The Entrepreneurial Imperative, talking about entrepreneurial capitalism: