Democracy Arsenal

March 19, 2006

State Dept.

Memo to Karen Hughes: New Public Diplomacy Recruits
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

So here's an idea.  Karen Hughes and team are criss-crossing the globe trying to rebuild America's image with speeches, student outreach, and corporate programs.  Its a hard job made much tougher by near-daily revelations of mistreatment at Abu Ghraib, unauthorized wiretapping, the Dubai ports fracas and other policy debacles that undo the positive portrait Hughes is trying to paint.

While hers is nearly mission impossible right now one way to strengthen US public diplomacy efforts in future would be to mobilize former foreign ambassadors who have served in the US, turning the tables so that they represent the US as goodwill ambassadors to their home countries. 

Let's face it, no matter how hard she tries, Karen Hughes is a heavily accented Texan trying to forge instant, personal connections with skeptics in far-flung regions.   US diplomats face a similar problem:  they tend to be as apple-pie American as they come, and are discouraged from "going native" in ways that might help transcend cultural divides (will be interesting to see whether Khalilzad's example reshapes the ambassadorial model at all).

Former foreign ambassadors who have served in the US might help build what can often be a bridge too far for Americans working on their own.  Having worked with many ambassadors at the UN and some in Washington one thing stands out:  after a few years here, sometimes despite themselves and their governments, these people tend to get sucked into a long-term love affair with America. 

They start summering in the Hamptons, shopping at Whole Foods, scheduling around the Sopranos and - before they know it - they develop an abiding fondness for virtually all things American but for, in many cases, our policies.   The feelings are often strongest among those from poor countries where the quality of life contrasts are starkest.  I've never seen numbers collected, but a large number of these emissaries seem to send their kids to American colleges and graduate schools, often soldering permanent ties to grandchildren who are American. 

Both Washington and the UN in New York tend to be the very top posts available in foreign diplomatic services.  So unless an ambassador goes on to become foreign minister, the next step is often retirement from the diplomatic corps.   While some former envoys may squire lucrative private sector offers, most don't.  Accustomed to life as dignitaries, many have got to be bored with the adjunct teaching, lecturing and other opportunities open to them.  Why not put them on the U.S. government payroll instead?

Continue reading "Memo to Karen Hughes: New Public Diplomacy Recruits" »

February 07, 2006

State Dept.

Is the State Department Ready for the Job?
Posted by Gordon Adams

Given the Iraq experience and the recent strategy review (QDR), DOD has made it clear that it will want a lot more interagency cooperation the next time we decide to occupy, stabilize, and reconstruct another country. It is not clear who the candidate countries are, though Iran, Nigeria, Indonesia, Syria come to mind. (That just means it will probably be a country we have not thought of.)

The interagency partner, however, is clear: the Department of State (along with USAID and other financial assistance agencies). Iraq demonstrated that America’s diplomats and assistance agencies were totally unprepared for the challenge. The question is, what lessons has State learned and what investments is Foggy Bottom planning that would correct this deficiency and give DOD the partner it seeks?

Secretary Rice knows State is in the bulls’ eye on stabilization, governance and reconstruction. She gave two speeches last week advertising “transformed diplomacy” at State and “transformed economic assistance” affecting all the aid programs in the international affairs arena.

So, the obvious question is: Has the rubber hit the road in the new budget and will State and AID be ready for the job when the next call comes? We can get some clues from the new budget for International Affairs the administration has just sent up to the Hill this week. And the answer is: not yet, so the trumpet had better not sound soon.

Continue reading "Is the State Department Ready for the Job?" »

February 01, 2006

State Dept.

Dr. Rice and the Other State of the Union
Posted by Jeffrey Stacey

While all eyes were on the President casting his critics as isolationists in internationalist clothing, the U.S. foreign policy "state of the union" has been promoted over the last two weeks by Condoleezza Rice.  With all the zeal of full-fledged converts, Dr. Rice and her boss have come a long way from being quasi-isolationists in 2000 to adopting what they refer to as a "revolutionary" grand strategy.  In fact, the Administration has pulled off something of a double revolution even before our Secretary of State took up her new post.

Secretary Rice defines the strategy as the pursuit of democratic peace, premised on the notion that democracy is the global panacea to everything from terrorism to bad governance.  Indeed, though she is loathe to mention Woodrow Wilson she is unabashed about describing the strategy as "idealistic" and "optimistic" (and she is quoting Acheson and Truman left and right).  Her transformation from badmouthing nation building and bashing Democrats for not taking rivalries with an emerging China and resurgent Russia seriously is complete.

However, not only is this grand strategy incomplete and a bit naive, but in case you missed it we have now witnessed three different grand strategies from the Bush-Rice tandem.  They began pursuing a strategy in 2000 of--if not quasi-isolationism then--selective engagement, based on balance of power politics and only using the U.S. military if core national interests were at stake.  Post 9-11 the tandem did not adopt a democratic peace strategy; in fact, what became known as the Bush Doctrine rested entirely on the notion that states no longer must wait to act in self-defense but can engage in unilateral pre-emptive attacks if threatened.

Continue reading "Dr. Rice and the Other State of the Union" »

January 19, 2006

State Dept.

Re-Stating Things
Posted by Michael Signer

News today in WaPo that Secretary Rice is re-tasking the professional diplomats at the Department of State to hot problem areas like China, Lebanon, and Pakistan, rather than the ticking time bomb being watched over by the FSO's assigned to Berlin (relax, this is meant to be dryly put).

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that she will shift hundreds of Foreign Service positions from Europe and Washington to difficult assignments in the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere as part of a broad restructuring of the diplomatic corps that she has dubbed "transformational diplomacy."

Continue reading "Re-Stating Things" »

November 17, 2005

State Dept.

Lip Service, Public Service and the General
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

Latest gossip in DC wonkdom is that Major General (USA ret.)  William Nash is going to be the next head of the State Department's Office of the Coordinator for Stabilization and Reconstruction (S-CRS) .  This is the vital-but budget-starved creation of Senate legislation proposed by Sens.  Lugar and Biden two years ago.  General Nash will supposedly replace Carlos Pascual, who is leaving government for the Brookings Institution after valiantly representing the new office during its start up phase.  He doubtless shares our collective disappointment over Congress' stunning unwillingness to fund the office, made even more gob-stopping by all the lip-service on Capitol Hill about the need to relieve our armed forces and/or develop an exit strategy for Iraq.

The mission of S-CRS  is to lead, coordinate, and institutionalize U.S. Government civilian capacity to prevent or prepare for post-conflict situations, and to help stabilize and reconstruct societies in transition from conflict or civil strife so they can reach a sustainable path toward peace, democracy and a market economy.     This office is small in government terms --but is symbolically huge.  It represents the nexus between Cold War security priorities (military dominance) and post 9/11 security imperatives (prevention and persuasion).  Indeed, its task is to make prevention operational.  This will require a compelling story and the intellectual jujitsu to be able to take the post-conflict experiences of Iraq and translate them into a far thinking strategy of prevention--our only real chance to win the terrorism fight in the long run.

Enter General Nash.

Continue reading "Lip Service, Public Service and the General" »

November 13, 2005

State Dept.

Iraq and the Crisis of American Diplomacy
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

During her confirmation hearings, Secretary of State Condi Rice said "the time for diplomacy is now."   The sad thing is, it isn't working.  A dizzying schedule of trips abroad and a new tone coming from Foggy Bottom have not pulled American diplomacy out of crisis. 

The strains in our relationships, our diminished influence and our inability to bear down and get things done is affecting issues small and big, immediate and long-term.  Its setting back the future of global trade, undercutting our ability to quarantine dangerous weapons and rogue nations, and further narrowing our our options in Iraq.  What began as ham-handedness on the part of the Bush Administration has morphed into a kind of poisonous touch, where everything they finger seems to leave others recoiling. 

The latest evidence is hard to ignore since - in each case - the Bush Administration likely did all it possibly could to pull off a success which might divert attention from Iraq or, at the very least, avert an outcome that the press and critics could call failure:

  • This past week's Inter-American Summit in Argentina was rancorous and fruitless.  Bush's efforts to advance an Americas free trade zone went nowhere and the Summit didn't even manage to produce a routine communique.  Perhaps distressed by mass street protests, Bush left early. 
  • Also this week, a US-led Summit on Mideast democracy and development essentially fell apart.  While two pre-arranged funding initiatives were announced, efforts to achieve a joint statement failed, and Egypt walked out over an impasse concerning the role of NGOs.
  • The Doha world trade round, launched in 2001 to dismantle trade barriers globally, is precariously close to collapse
  • A much heralded breakthrough on North Korea now looks just as iffy as it did weeks ago when cracks in the seams emerged just as soon as the deal was announced.
  • An October trip by Rice to Moscow failed to dent Russian opposition to referring Iran's nuclear program to the UN Security Council.
  • The Israel-Palestinian peace process has stalled, the window created by Israel's withdrawal from Gaza closing without any major US diplomatic push to implement the road map (maybe this is about to change, which would be great, but I doubt it).

(one recent exception I've acknowledged is US diplomacy at the UN on Hariri).

Now the Bush Administration is not to blame for all these outcomes.  These are tough issues involving stubborn interlocutors.   But when Rice spoke of the importance of diplomacy, this is what she set out to tackle, and her efforts just don't seem to be working.

The major culprit behind this unfortunate track record is not the Administration's arrogance, nor its disdain of traditional diplomatic tools like treaties and the UN.  With limited exceptions like Chavez’ role at the Inter-American Summit, anti-Americanism isn’t the problem either.  The real issue is Iraq.   The disastrous Iraq mission is making it impossible for Rice and others to rehabilitate US diplomacy, and the crisis is unlikely to be resolved before the war is.  How does Iraq undercut US diplomacy?

- Others are rightly convinced that the US is so preoccupied with Iraq that we can't or won't exert heavy leverage on other issues – this dynamic is at work when the Russians resist us on Iraq, when the Egyptians resist the US's push on democratization, and when the EU judges that push won’t come to shove on Doha;

- On the flip side, given its difficulties in Iraq, the Bush Administration is now perceived as more ready to compromise in other areas.  Examples include Iran's nuclear program, the shaky bargain on N. Korea, and even the deferral of possible Syrian sanctions over Hariri.  Some name this Bush's "half a loaf" diplomacy.

- Our single-minded focus on Iraq and the war on terror has meant perceived inattention to the priorities of others.  Our Latin American neighbors gave up long ago on hopes that Bush would address concerns on trade and migration.  His neglect during the first term ceded ground to Chavez, who has built stronger relationships with allies that we have alienated. 

The disturbing thing is, its hard to see how we regain our diplomatic leverage and efficacy as long as the war goes on.  Leaving Iraq may not help much either.  It will signal the demise of the Bush Administration’s foreign policy aspirations, and his successor will face the challenge of trying to restore trust and credibility the world over.

Why does this matter?  For one thing, it’s a tangible, hefty and remarkably far-reaching cost of the Iraq war effort, one that ought to be taken into account as the public evaluates where the President has led us.   The Iraq fiasco is systematically undercutting most other aspects of US foreign policy.

Second, while people like John Edwards, Mort and others are right to continue calling for the internationalization of Iraq, the chances of that happening are at this point nil.  I don’t think anyone in the Administration has the foggiest notion of how to even ask for help at this stage.  They wouldn’t know how to bring up the topic, much less close the deal.

Third is that the damage will be hard to undo.  These missed opportunities and failed Summits do not happen in a vacuum.  They both mark and precipitate shifting alignments, new initiatives, and changed priorities all of which are moving in the direction of less US influence and control globally.  It will take years to reverse the damage and, even once we do, the world we confront will be far different than the one that rallied around us right after September 11.

September 30, 2005

State Dept.

Karen Hughes, Stateswoman (Gulp)
Posted by Michael Signer

On Karen Hughes' recent ascension from Texas-based media hack to an actual stateswoman, I find myself holding onto the tabletop to try and keep this dizzy event in some perspective.

After all, it's long been apparent that the Bush Administration pursues political victories with such single-minded ruthlessness that spin has become not a means to an end, but the game itself.  The consequence of this is severe; it means that governance becomes about spinning and winning -- not about achieving objective goals.  Which is why Karl Rove is running the government.  (Recently reported:  "Republicans said Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff and Mr. Bush's chief political adviser, was in charge of the reconstruction effort." )

But, still.  Karen Hughes as an Undersecretary of State?

OK, I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.  Our own Heather, after all, has suggested that we take her role seriously, and give her advice -- which implies (I think reasonably) that Hughes' new job promoting a better American face to the world (particularly the Middle East) is too important to dismiss out of hand.

But then we find out what she's actually saying, now that she's in the job.  WaPo reports today a couple of wince-worthy moments from Hughes' recent visits overseas:

Explaining U.S. goals for Palestinians, Hughes said it was "to have the experience of having children and families."

In Egypt, another clunker:

[I]n Ankara, the Turkish capital, she gushed: "I love all kids. And I understand that is something I have in common with the Turkish people -- that they love children."

I don't mind so much that our own President's bias for touchy-feely, inept diplomacy (remember how he swooned over our Russian proto-tyrant's soul?) has translated into Hughes' own sillinesses.  What does bother me is my concern that Hughes utterly lacks the depth of local knowledge, and the intellectual seriousness, that makes diplomats stateswomen. 

When she complained thusly about Palestinians:

Hughes told reporters traveling with her that she was surprised Bush didn't get more credit in the region for calling for a Palestinian state.

I worried that she just, really and truly, will have no idea what she's doing over there.

I mean, you think we'd get used to it -- but, really, you never do.

August 08, 2005

Proliferation, State Dept.

Not to Praise Arms Control, But to Bury It
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

It's August, so all the best news is quietly released on Fridays, while most of us are plotting our weekend escapes.  For last week, kudos to Sam Nunn and his band of hell-raisers over at the Nuclear Threat Initiative for highlighting the State Department's proposal to consolidate/abolish most of its arms control offices.

NTI's story notes some of the complexities involved.  Yes, the world has changed, as Dr. Rice said back in March.  NTI even gets John Isaacs of Council for a Livable World to say that

I don’t know that it makes that much difference. Whether the administration is good or bad on arms control or proliferation doesn’t depend on how they organize the State Department but how the top leaders are thinking and what they plan to do.

But much as I agree that some radical thinking is due on arms control, I'm with Darryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association when he says that "form does affect substance."

It's not that I think that the soon-to-be-eliminated Special Negotiator for Chemical and Biological Weapons was going to change President Bush's mind about the merits of inspections to search for bioweapons in the next three years, for example.

But, if there's no path for smart people to make careers thinking about arms control, where are new ideas going to come from?  And the next time we need regional arms control to end, diffuse or prevent a conflict, where's the reservoir of expertise going to be?

You don't need a huge arms control bureaucracy for this.  But you do need to see arms control as more than an anti-terror tactic, which is the mindset these changes convey to me.   

And how bizarre/cynical is it to to combine the office that promotes missile defense (here, buy/borrow/host our anti-missile missiles) with the office in charge of preventing the dissemination of missile technology?

Senator Lugar says that this reorganization will result in more funds for Nunn-Lugar cooperative threat reduction programs.  But c'mon, these programs keep 40,000 weapons scientists fed, working and less likely to sell their expertise to the highest bidder.  They verifiably dismantle weapons and safeguard vulnerable materials.  AND they get 1-for-1 matching funds from our G-8 partners.  And State has to hold an arms control fire sale to fund them? 

I'm with Rep. Allan Mollohan, who agreed that our arms control establishment had problems, but said of the proposed changes that "the prescription amounted to killing one of the patients."

Now back to our regularly-scheduled August daze.  But watch to see whether Nunn-Lugar funding really rises, or just flatlines.  And when the weather cools down, and we need arms control regimes on the Korean Peninsula post-agreement, or after a Kosovo-Serbia final status agreement, or maybe one day around Kashmir; or we decide that maybe the 104 countries that have accepted the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty are on to something; or decide that maybe inspecting for bioweapons is a good idea after all, don't go ask State for help.

That's so 20th-century.

May 24, 2005

State Dept.

Memo to Karen Hughes
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

I have been spending quite a bit of time looking at the state of US public diplomacy for various projects over the past couple of months.  And, in the helpful spirit of bipartisanship that we try to promote here at Democracy Arsenal, I have compiled a short memo of proposals for Ms. Hughes.  Most of them are easy enough that she should be able to get them going from Texas, or from the cell phone on the way to drop her son off at college.

5.  Start a youthquake.  I'm glad the State Department still has cultural ambassadors -- longterm, it's the idea of America, or the ideas of America, that are going to tilt hearts our way.  But given that the world median age is 26, according to the UN -- younger in the Islamic and developing worlds -- shouldn't we have some cultural ambassadors younger than Bernie Williams, b. 1968? (And no, I'm not picking on Bernie because I'm a BoSox fan; the next youngest appears to be Denyce Graves, who is coy about her age but graduated from Washington's Duke Ellington HS in 1981.)

4.  While you're at it, maybe some of those cultural ambassadors ought to be Muslim or of Middle Eastern and South Asian heritage?

3.  Put the Public back in Public Diplomacy.  Earlier this spring, the GAO put out a report calling on the Whit House to "fully implement the role mandated" for its Office of Global Communications.  Trouble was, the White House had quietly closed the office down shortly before.

2.  Keep the Free in Free Press.  Ex-Voice of America Director Sanford Ungar alleges in the new Foreign Affairs that the Administration is leaning heavily on VOA journalists to report the news the way they want it.  He can't resist, and neither can I, the comparison to Lyndon Johnson, who tried to get what he called "my own radio" to broadcast the news the way he wanted it.  We all know how that ended.

1.  Of course, all of these projects are deck chairs on the Titanic if we aren't sending out the right signals about what we stand for -- as opposed to what we say we stand for.  and to that end, the "Give that fan a contract" prize goes to Keith Reinhard, President of Business for Diplomatic Action, who said:

"As you know, the image of our country is a montage of our foreign policy, the brands we market, and the entertainment we export.  It could be referred to as a cocktail of "Rummy" and Coke with Madonna on the side."


May 19, 2005

State Dept.

Good for Bush
Posted by Derek Chollet

It isn’t often that we at DA heap praise on the President, but today he deserves some.  Last night at an event hosted by the International Republican Institute, he gave a pretty good speech on the importance of democracy and freedom.  But most interesting, he spoke at length about the importance of an issue that his administration once derided, nation-building, and how we have to build our civilian capacity to help war-torn states get back on their feet.  He described a new office the State Department created last summer to be the locus of forward planning and preparation for post-conflict situations (remember, the State Department was cut-out or largely ignored in the planning for Iraq), and described in detail an important new initiative: to create a new corps of civilian post-conflict “first responders,” called an Active Response Corps.

It is worth quoting in full:

“We must also improve the responsiveness of our government to help nations emerging from tyranny and war. Democratic change can arrive suddenly -- and that means our government must be able to move quickly to provide needed assistance. So last summer, my administration established a new Office of Reconstruction and Stabilization in the State Department, led by Ambassador Carlos Pascual. This new office is charged with coordinating our government's civilian efforts to meet an essential mission: helping the world's newest democracies make the transition to peace and freedom and a market economy.

You know, one of the lessons we learned from our experience in Iraq is that, while military personnel can be rapidly deployed anywhere in the world, the same is not true of U.S. government civilians. Many fine civilian workers from almost every department of our government volunteered to serve in Iraq. When they got there they did an amazing job under extremely difficult and dangerous circumstances -- and America appreciates their service and sacrifice. But the process of recruiting and staffing the Coalition Provisional Authority was lengthy and it was difficult. That's why one of the first projects of the new Office of Reconstruction and Stabilization is to create a new Active Response Corps, made up of foreign and civil service officers who can deploy quickly to crisis situations as civilian "first responders." This new Corps will be on call -- ready to get programs running on the ground in days and weeks, instead of months and years. The 2006 budget requests $24 million for this office, and $100 million for a new Conflict Response Fund. If a crisis emerges, and assistance is needed, the United States of America will be ready. (Applause.)

This office will also work to expand our use of civilian volunteers from outside our government, who have the right skills and are willing to serve in these missions. After the liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans from all walks of life stepped forward to help these newly liberated nations recover. Last summer a Lancaster, Ohio police officer named Brian Fisher volunteered to spend a year in Baghdad training Iraqi police. Brian says, "The Iraqi people have been under a dictatorship and now they are moving toward democracy, and I want to do something to help." What a fantastic spirit that Brian showed. But he's not alone. Last May, a Notre Dame Law School professor named Jimmy Gurul helped train 39 Iraqi judges, some of whom will conduct the trials of Saddam Hussein and other senior members of his regime. Because of efforts of people like him and Brian, these trials will be fair and transparent.

These are ordinary Americans who are making unbelievable contributions to freedom's cause. And the spirit of the citizenship of this country is remarkable, and we're going to put that spirit to work to advance the cause of liberty and to build a safer world. (Applause.)”

For years, many in the think-tank world as well as Democratic and Republican members of Congress have been talking about such ideas, and we can justifiably criticize the Administration for being slow on the uptake.  And remembering this Administration’s penchant for making bold promises and then letting them go unfulfilled (think global HIV/AIDS assistance), we need to ensure that actions match rhetoric.  But last night’s statement is an important start.

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