Required Reading on Global Engagement

Briefly, here are some items that should be on your Friday reading list.

Three Reasons We Can’t Go Slow on a Public Diplomacy Chief by Steve Corman (link)

There is risk in taking too casual a pace and allowing the disruption caused by the election of Obama to fade.  There is a lot of urgent managerial-organizational work to be done, regardless of campaigns that might or might not be launched.   And there are also important internal audiences that have been expecting change.  Not only are they not seeing change, they’re not seeing anything. … [W]e can’t afford to go slow in getting a good Under Secretary in place.  On the contrary, it should be a high priority at this time.

An end to embassies: Diplomats are ill-equipped to deal with 21st-century problems (link)

While a diplomat in the 1990s and early this century, I found the methods of conventional diplomacy seemed almost deliberately constructed to separate the diplomat from reality - and also from the people diplomats claim to represent. By and large, diplomats speak to other diplomats. Thanks to ballooning bureaucracy, e-mail and security constraints, they are increasingly confined to their embassies, dealing with the real world by computer and telephone rather than directly. … So-called (and ill-named) "public diplomacy" has always been the poorer cousin of the self-regarding hard-core "real" diplomats who do the important stuff like negotiate treaties and start wars. For some reason, diplomats and governments have believed that somehow the message about the role of governments can be separated in the public's mind from what they actually do. … As more and more people live away from the countries of their birth, and more still assume multicultural identities, I find it less and less convincing that national governments, and thus national diplomats, can legitimately claim to speak for and act on behalf of such heterogeneity. … Acceptance [that diplomats are declining in importance] is - paradoxically - the only path to relevance for modern diplomats: to be primary no longer but only one among many is an exciting challenge as much as a burden. Success will go to those who use mass networks effectively, build coalitions of states and concerned nonstate actors like corporations and NGOs and can credibly lead opinion.

Mapping Change in the Iranian Blogosphere By John Kelly and Bruce Etling (link)

A number of recent international anecdotes indicate increased online activism by governments. A perfect example of this ’state-engagement’ in cyberspace is found in Hamid Tehrani’s recent post about the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ plan to recruit 10,000 Basij bloggers. This may help explain some changes we’ve seen in the Iranian blogosphere, and is a good opportunity to share an updated Iranian blogosphere map created by John Kelly at Morningside Analytics, Berkman’s partner on our foreign language blog studies…. Most strikingly however, the ‘twelver’ cluster, which we are tentatively relabeling ‘CyberShia,’ has grown dramatically. It is possible that the organized Basij blog effort may account for some of this change, since these blogs are rooted in that part of the network. But there is another intriguing possible explanation. The expanding CyberShia cluster may also reflect a growing online debate around Islamic law in Iran.

See also:

Also, expand your mind and your library: see Books you must read, check out Ideas as Weapons: Influence and Perception in Modern Warfare (I haven’t read this, but it just arrived and looks really good), and purchase The Just Prince: A Manual of Leadership and get insight into why Machiavellian concepts of power don’t work when dealing with non-Western European allies, adversaries, and “swing voters”.