Noteworthy

A small sampling of posts and articles worthy of your attention.

SEO and Online Radicalisation by Tim Stevens (April 12, 2009)

[T]he UK Home Office’s Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT) is getting involved in a Europe-wide scheme to somehow tweak Google page rank. It quoted my ICSR report on this issue but there seems to have been some misunderstanding both of what the report says and what the issues really are. ….

Here’s a little insight into what the OSCT really wants, perhaps. The Radical Middle Way project is UK.gov’s flagship Muslim communities website and, despite their protestations to the contrary, the ICSR think they’re doing a pretty good job (note: more on that if later deemed necessary). However, we used them as an example in the report of how the significant investment in RMW is perhaps not as effective as it could be. A quick and crude experiment I’ve just performed:

Punching ‘jihad’ into Google.com returns RMW at #445; they perform much better on Google.co.uk, coming in at #59.

Searching for ‘islam’ on Google.com returns RMW at #205; again, better on Google.co.uk, at #160.

Pentagon preps for economic warfare by Eamon Javers (April 9, 2009)

[Paul Bracken, a professor and expert in private equity at the Yale School of Management] says he left the event with two important insights – first, that the United States needs an integrated approach to managing financial and what the Pentagon calls “kinetic” – or shooting – wars. For example he says, the U.S. Navy is involved in blockading Iran, and the U.S. is also conducting economic war against Iran in the form of sanctions. But he argues there isn’t enough coordination between the two efforts.

And second, Bracken says, the event left him questioning one prevailing assumption about economic warfare, that the Chinese would never dump dollars on the global market to attack the US economy because it would harm their own holdings at the same time. Bracken said the Chinese have a middle option between dumping and holding US dollars – they could sell dollars in increments, ratcheting up economic uncertainty in the United States without wiping out their own savings. “There’s a graduated spectrum of options here,” Bracken said.

See also Unrestricted Warfare

How will Obama turn his gestures to the Islamic world into action? by Emile Hokayem (April 8, 2009)

…just as the notion of a “war on terror” should be discarded and replaced by a concept that acknowledges the struggle as more than a war and the enemy as violent extremism, the White House would do well to reconsider the use of “Muslim world” and opt for a looser designation that recognises its diversity and fragmentation along the lines of “Muslim societies worldwide”.

This change in wording is more than just smart branding. The US has allowed its enemies to score needless victories thanks to the disgrace of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Should the US fight the war that al Qa’eda wants it to fight (the US versus some imaginary Caliphate), or should it aim, in concert with its Muslim allies, for a broader conversation? …

The sources of tension between the US and the Muslim world did not vanish with one visit, and the litany of mutual complaints is long, well known and sometimes deserved. In the Muslim world, it is tempting to blame all the tension of the recent years on US policies perceived as fundamentally unjust and on George W Bush. And in Washington, it is equally appealing to think that the challenge is primarily one of public diplomacy: how to better explain and sell US policies, no matter how misguided they are. …

Obama understands a simple truth: an America that recognises its failings and demonstrates respect runs counter to the narrative of a country inherently arrogant and imperialistic propagated by al Qa’eda and like-minded organisations. But the goodwill that Obama is acquiring may not survive policy paralysis, and that is the real urgency.

See also The False Hope of the President's Public Diplomacy

Opening Night by James K. Glassman (March 24, 2009)

[W]hile the Obama administration talks about the importance of soft power, it has shown no indication that it understands the effort to be more than messaging — or perhaps, more than showing up and not being the Bush Administration. … Public diplomacy requires strategic goals.

Seen in the Twitterverse:

  • @JobDanmark: Intern for the Public Diplomacy and Communication program at the embassy of Dhaka, Bangladesh (Den Kongelige danske ambassade i Dhaka) Danmark... http://tinyurl.com/cntr2y 
    The link takes the reader from Twitter to a Facebook application…
  • “Looking for examples of study abroad student blogs. Email urls to info.northamerica@aei.gov.auby @StudyInAust, “the official Australian Government source of information for international students considering study with an Australian education institution.”

On the web: