Monday, August 06, 2007

At last: The Public Diplomacy Reader

Here's a new resource to help improve the nation's international message-making capabilities: a 500 page storehouse of knowledge and ideas called The Public Diplomacy Reader.

Just published by The Institute of World Politics Press, The Public Diplomacy Reader is a compendium of the most influential, undervalued, important, obscure, memorable and forgotten wisdom on what public diplomacy is all about. There isn't a more diverse collection of public diplomacy works in a single volume.

Designed by a scholar-practitioner in the field - the editor of this blog - The Public Diplomacy Reader is intended both for students and veteran professionals in the areas of public diplomacy, international broadcasting, public relations, public affairs and information operations.

It's already a textbook at the National Defense University in Washington. To order, click here.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The war of ideas: Let's fight it like a real war

It's been getting a lot of attention in the Pentagon, among our troops in Iraq, in the CIA and in other parts of the US government, and now it's available through Amazon: an immediate-term strategy to win the war of ideas.

My new book, Fighting the War of Ideas like a Real War, offers low-cost, off-the-shelf ways to attack and destroy the enemy through the use of words, images and information in a quick-and-dirty but legal and moral psychological warfare campaign.
There are worse things to do to an Islamist extremist than kill him. This book describes some of those ways.

Here's what Armed Forces Journal recently said about the book:

The playground chant of "sticks and stones" is turned on its head in J. Michael Waller's intriguing book "Fighting the War of Ideas Like a Real War," in which he argues that words, images and messages can, in fact, hurt a lot. And in the terrorism war, these are sorely underused strategic weapons that could be every bit as powerful as the conventional sticks and stones of war we prefer to hurl.

Waller's concise book, published by the Institute of World Politics, where he is a professor of international communications, is at heart a cry for someone, somewhere to step up and lead the fight in the war of ideas. Whether this is a State or Defense Department role, the author remains circumspect.

Waller makes the case that the Islamist terrorist is successfully and without compunction using ferociously anti-American propaganda. Why then are Americans so slow and uneasy to fight like with like? Our idea of the ideas war is that we'll win hearts and minds simply by communicating all the good things about us. Not enough, says Waller. American messages of democracy and friendship get tuned out in the urban street hellhole; we must also start dishing the dirt on our enemies.

The book is packed with action points that could be implemented rapidly and at little cost. We could, for instance, stop feeding the terrorist's self-esteem and confirming his status as a martyr by using the term he selected for himself: jihad. The term "hirabah" has been defined as "killing by stealth and targeting a defenseless victim in a way intended to cause terror in society." This is an Islamic definition of terrorism the West could exploit.

Another strategic weapon could be public ridicule, which is more feared than death; it's destruction without martyrdom. Waller's justification for why ridicule works feels right. "It sticks. The target can't refute it. It gets better with each re-telling." This stuff is so blindingly obvious and seemingly both clever and simple that it begs the question, "Why aren't we already doing this?"

Is it too late to make any difference? Perhaps. But if this guide offers ways that could discredit, divide and ultimately squelch the enemy into a blob of irrelevance, then the debate shouldn't be whether it's too late; the question is how soon can we start?

Get your copy today on Amazon.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Comparative apologies

It's been interesing to see the difference between Koreans' response to the massacre at Virginia Tech and Muslim and Arab response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Korean-Americans, Korean citizens in America, and the Korean government didn't whine about discrimination, racism and bigotry. They didn't demand special protections. They didn't make excuses.

They apologized. Profusely and profoundly.

And of course, they didn't need to. The psycho kid at Virginia Tech didn't murder in the name of Korea. He wasn't trained to kill by Korean causes. The South Korean government doesn't crank out extremist propaganda that incites young men to murder. No Korean-American activist groups tacitly supported him.

Monday, April 09, 2007

New postings at

I've narrowed my focus to my primary area of work, which is in the political and psychological warfare area, so please visit me at my PoliticalWarfare blog, at

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Well-put in Anchorage

". . . all because an editor at Insight magazine arbitrarily decided to put quotes around it in a 2003 article."

That's a good summary of the origin of the latest false Lincoln quote controversy, written by the "Alaska Ear" columnist for the Anchorage Daily News. The Ear was commenting on Alaska Congressman Don Young's use of the inaccurate quote on the House floor last week.

No deception there. No "fabricated"or "made up" or "fake" quote like some are saying in the blogosphere. Just an editing error and this author's failure to make a timely correction back in 2003. That's carelessness, not fraud. No excuse for it, to be sure. But there was no intent to mislead. For the unadulterated quote, see the post below.

Friday, February 16, 2007

A hanging offense, Part 2

More controversy erupted this week about the non-quote that's not from President Abraham Lincoln.

It's based on a story I wrote for Insight magazine in December, 2003, in which I quoted from President Lincoln's July, 1863 letter that the Union League distributed as a pamphlet later that year. In the letter, President Lincoln referred to the treasonous acts of a US Congressman, askingwhy a boy who deserts from the army must be shot, while nothing should be done to a "wily agitator" (Rep. Clement L. Vallandigham) "who induces him to desert?"

The implication I drew from the letter was that, if it was legal to execute the boy-deserter, it would be just as legal to mete out the same punishment to the saboteur congressman. I quoted from the original Union League copy of the Lincoln letter:

"Must I shoot a simple-minded soldier-boy who deserts, while I must not touch a hair of a wily agitator who induces him to desert? This is none the less injurious when effected by getting a father, or brother, or friend, into a public meeting, and there working upon his feelings till he is persuaded to write the soldier-boy that he is fighting in a bad cause, for a wicked Administration of a contemptible Government, too weak to arrest and punish him if he shall desert.

"I think that in such a case to silence the agitator and save the boy is not only constitutional, but withal a great mercy."

"His [Vallandigham's] arrest was made because he was laboring, with some effect, to prevent the raising of troops; to encourage desertions from the Army; and to leave the rebellion without an adequate military force to suppress it.

"He was not arrested because he was damaging the political prospects of the Administration, or the personal interests of the commanding general, but because he was damaging the Army, upon the existence and vigor of which the life of the nation depends.

"He was warring upon the military, and this gave the military constitutional jurisdiction to lay hands on him."

In the lead of my story, I began, "Congressmen who willfully take action during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs, and should be arrested, exiled or hanged. That's what President Abraham Lincoln said during the War Between the States."

Kind of to-the-point, but it was my interpretation of the Lincoln quote that was to follow. Problem is, a well-meaning copy editor ran quotation marks around the first sentence, making it appear that I was quoting Lincoln directly saying that saboteur congressmen should be arrested, exiled or hanged.

That's not what I intended to portray. was the first to call me on it - in August, 2006, nearly three years after the fact. The researcher said that my quote had been used at least 18,000 times on various blogs and websites. It was the first I'd heard of it, and I immediately said that the quote was not real. On returning from vacation, I wrote a correction on

I thought that was the end of it until this week, when my friend Frank Gaffney used the quote in his weekly Washington Times column. His editor at the Times alerted him to readers who had pointed out the error, and I related the story to both of them for correction. Gaffney had corrections made immediately on the 20 or so websites that carry his column.

But the story got legs again when Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska) read from the column yesterday on the floor of the House. An Alaska newspaper found the item and tracked me down. Again, I related the story.

Now others are having fun with it. Today the Washington Post ran a piece about Young, tracing the origin to me (and kindly calling me a "conservative scholar" - as if it labels liberal scholars as thoroughly) but being good-natured about it all.

A spokeswoman for Congressman Young said the lawmaker stands corrected about the Lincoln "quote," but that "he continues to totally agree with the message of the statement." (Good for him!)

Editor & Publisher, which covers the newspaper industry, has written two stories so far: One on February 14 and one on the 15th, blaming the Washington Times for not issuing a correction quickly enough.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Why is the US Army sponsoring Rosie O'Donnell's show?

Why is the United States Army sponsoring Rosie O'Donnell's diatribes trashing the war against Iranian-backed insurgents and Islamist terrorists?

The Army is spending huge amounts of taxpayer dollars running recruitment ads on the anti-military leviathan's ABC television program, The View.

Why is the Army paying ABC to subsidize O'Donnell's hateful show in the first place?

Furthermore, what self-respecting soldier would want to recruit people who have so little to do in the middle of the day that they can sit around and choose to watch The Blob?
I bet most recruiters would agree. To comment directly to the Army recruiting office, send an email here:

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Baker plan for Iraq: Strategic vision or tactical political dodge?

Former Secretary of State James Baker is a tough and shrewd political fix-it man whose skills at bureaucratic warfare and media spinning are among the best in the country.

He has a well-earned reputation for grinding down his opponents and dispatching his enemies. He is a gentleman who wields a sharp political dagger. He's pulled many a protruberance from the wringer.

He knows how to fight and he knows how to win.

But counting hanging chads on Florida ballots isn't the same as winning in Iraq. And this is where Baker appears to be falling down. He didn't run the George W. Bush campaign and do what he did in Florida in order to "settle" something. He did it to win.

In domestic politics, James Baker lives and breathes for victory. But as his record as secretary of state shows, he doesn't seem to know the word when fighting battles beyond America's borders. And that has had terrible consequences for the world, which is why his Iraq recommendations are unlikely to be fruitful.

Let's look at the record.

1. Nicaragua - aren't we all sick of it by now? - was a domestic political headache for Baker, both when he was in the Reagan White House and when he was Bush 41's secretary of state. He understandably wanted to wash his hands of Nicaragua when he took over the State Department, and rid President George H. W. Bush of the stink.

So what did he do? He disposed of the problem as if he was taking out the kitchen garbage. He forced the pro-US Nicaraguan Resistance army to disarm unilaterally, but didn't try to make the Sandinista communists do the same. He pledged that the US would support the pro-American fighters as they transitioned into a democratic political process.

What he really did was toss them to the wolves. He did nothing as the Sandinistas picked off more than 120 former contra commanders, assassinating them one by one. He broke America's promise to that small country. Nicaragua remains a basket case, and Hugo Chavez just funded the return of Daniel Ortega to office.

2. Soviet Union. When President Reagan's loyal aides were developing and executing the strategy to undermine the Soviet empire - a policy that became known as the Reagan Doctrine - Baker was fighting his own battles in the White House. Through press leaks and bureaucratic maneuvering, he tried repeatedly to prevent Reagan loyalists from fulfilling the president's agenda, and often succeeded in neutralizing them by damaging their reputations or getting them fired. This is a story that remains to be told in detail.

When he became Secretary of State in 1989, the Soviet Union was collapsing. By the summer of 1991, when it was all over for the Kremlin, Baker tried to keep things together. He didn't encourage the democratic and national independence movements. He didn't even encourage Russian President Boris Yeltsin who was trying to get Russia to secede from the USSR.

He gave the appearance of siding with the leaders of the Soviet Communist Party who were desperately trying to avert a collapse. He was particularly concerned that Ukraine would secede. Witness his involvement in the elder Bush's notorious "Chicken Kiev" speech.

3. Afghanistan. This is arguably the worst of all. As with Nicaragua, Baker wanted to cut off America's Afghan allies as soon as the Soviets pulled out. He got his way when he became secretary of state in January, 1989.

The last Soviet forces pulled out of Afghanistan that February. Ahmad Shah Massoud, leader of the non-Islamist and arguably pro-American Afghan resistance army, warned us repeatedly not to abandon Afghanistan after the Soviet pullout.

To do so, Massoud warned, would leave Afghanistan to the clutches of Pakistan's ISI intelligence service, which was dominated by Islamist extremists who sought to turn Afghanistan into a Wahhabi theocracy. The ISI had diverted significant covert American aid to the fanatical Islamist Afghan guerrilla factions, often at the expense of Massoud's forces. Massoud needed the US to stay involved - and in a big way.

But Baker cut and ran. He closed his eyes as his friends in Saudi Arabia and Qatar bankrolled the Wahhabi warlords and guerrillas, undermining the new government of President Burhanuddin Rabbani, whom Massoud served as defense minister, and setting the stage for the Taliban and, ultimately, nobodies like Osama bin Laden.

Even when the Saudi monarchy's very existence was at stake after Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, Baker failed to leverage American military support on Saudi behavior abroad. (Let's forget for the moment that his own ambassador to Baghdad, April Glaspie, told Saddam to his face something that led him to believe that the US would not defend Kuwait were he to invade.)

After Saddam rightly or wrongly took the cue, Secretary Baker brilliantly organized an after-the-fact international coalition to join the US in repulsing Iraq from Kuwait, but that was all. The administration encouraged Iraq's beleagured Shi'ites to rise up against Saddam, but Baker never had any intention to help them. And, of course, he never had the "vision thing" that would allow a plan to knock off Saddam when the dictator was down.

But he did support the stationing of American troops in Saudi Arabia to defend the House of Saud - the very policy that Osama bin Laden would use to justify his twisted jihad.

This is not 20/20 hindsight. Although almost nobody had ever heard of bin Laden at the time - and one cannot fairly accuse Baker of not having predicted the rise of bin Laden as an individual - others clearly and openly predicted the rise of Islamist extremism, knew about Saudi funding of Wahhabi extremism including among Afghan guerrilla factions, and warned against inflaming devout Muslims by keeping troops in Saudi Arabia, among other things.

James Baker is a gifted politician. But he is a tactician, not a strategist. On international affairs he has shown tactical brilliance but a horrid lack of strategic vision. His timeframe seems to be up to the next domestic presidential election. But his record shows he is content to leave crises to fester for future generations. And that's where he falls down as a statesman.