Rumsfeld calls for a new version of USIA (updated again).

Posted: 01 Feb 2008   Print   Send a link
"A 21st-century version of the USIA is needed to harness new communications techniques — from blogs to online social-networking sites to talk radio — to counter a constant torrent of propaganda from radical organizations, particularly in the Middle East, [former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld] said." Defense News, 23 January 2008.
     "I think this agency, a new agency has to be something that would take advantage of the wonderful opportunities that exist today. There are multiple channels for information . . . The Internet is there, blogs are there, talk radio is there, e-mails are there. There are all kinds of opportunities. We do not with any systematic organized way attempt to engage the battle of ideas and talk about the idea of beheading, and what it's about and what it means." Rumsfeld, quoted by Sharon Weinberger, Wired Danger Room blog, 23 January 2008.
     "What is called 'strategic communication' is hopelessly confused. On the one hand, there is the 'strategic' objective of countering ideological support for terrorism. On the other, there is the public relations effort on the part of the military to 'tell' its story, either in an effort to counter the bad news that they think fills the American news media or to win budget battles in Washington." William M. Arkin blog, Washington Post, 24 January 2008.
     "Keith M. Urbahn, an aide to Mr. Rumsfeld, e-mailed The Lede to make clear that the proposed agency would not be part of the Pentagon. Here’s his statement: 'The "21st-century agency for global communications" proposed by Mr. Rumsfeld would not be part of the Department of Defense, as is implied by some of the blog coverage of Wednesday’s remarks. It is Mr. Rumsfeld’s view that the Defense Department should not have the lead in such an agency, were it to be created. Ideally, the agency would be fully aligned with U.S. policies and principles, but independent of existing executive departments and agencies.'" Mike Nizza, The Lede blog, New York Times. 24 January 2008.
     "In the second Gulf war, the airplanes went home too early, leaving the airwaves wide open to their enemies. Iran moved up mobile transmitters to the border with Iraq and used TV to fill the gap left by the demise of the old Radio TV Baghdad. So, yes, the US seriously needs to review its overseas public diplomacy efforts. But the Rumsfeld approach is not the way of the 21st century and 2008 is not the year to be doing it." Jonathan Marks, Critical Distance Weblog, 27 January 2008.
     Update: "If one reads between the lines of Rumsfeld and Gates's declarations on the importance of soft power, what they are in fact suggesting is that the US military has done all it can dutifully do supporting a legitimate American foreign policy but that US civilian propaganda (not the job of soldiers) has failed to do so." John Brown, The Guardian's comment is free, 30 January 2008.
     "Is Propaganda Public Diplomacy a Core Military Competency? Get Thee Back To Thy Foxhole." Gerald Loftus, Avuncular American, 1 February 2008.
     The new USIA would advocate U.S. policies and must be in lockstep with those policies. Its overseas personnel would work at, or at least in concert with, U.S. embassies. All their movements and significant activities would require ambassadorial approval. So why the need for an "independent" agency? A big reason would be its boondoggle value. The new USIA would have a director, deputy director, and several associate directors, along with senior advisers and special assistants to the aforementioned.
     One thing that the old "independent" USIA did do was to keep its subsidiary VOA from being independent enough to achieve the credibility that would have allowed it to compete more successfully in international broadcasting. When the new USIA is created (the idea is so bad that you can bet on it happening), the Voice of America and perhaps other elements of U.S. international broadcasting would likely be brought under it. This would allow for "coordination," as in coordinating the content that will probably still be referred to as "news."