Welcome to Dipnote

Posted by Sean McCormack
September 25, 2007
Sean McCormack During Morning Press Gaggle

Welcome to the State Department's first-ever blog, Dipnote. As a communicator for the Department, I have the opportunity to do my fair share of talking on a daily basis. With the launch of Dipnote, we are hoping to start a dialogue with the public. More than ever, world events affect our daily lives--what we see and hear, what we do, and how we work. I hope Dipnote will provide you with a window into the work of the people responsible for our foreign policy, and will give you a chance to be active participants in a community focused on some of the great issues of our world today.

With Dipnote we are going to take you behind the scenes at the State Department and bring you closer to the personalities of the Department. We are going to try and break through some of the jargon and talk about how we operate around the world.

We invite you to participate in this community, and I am looking forward to stepping away from my podium every now and then into the blogosphere. Let the conversation begin.

PS - We're new at this. It looks like we broke our own rule and used State jargon in our blog title. "Dipnote" refers to a diplomatic note. It is one of the many ways in which governments formally communicate with each other.

The dictionary definition of a diplomatic note is: "A formal communication between an ambassador and a minister (usually the foreign minister) of this host government or another ambassador."

Comments

Comments

Patrick/analyste P.
|
California, USA
October 3, 2007

Patrick in California writes:
Hello. I am an americain blogger who learned of your site, on Big Picture, a blog dedicated to studying American Culture coming out of the French Newspaper Le Monde. Most of Big Pics readers are having a look at you today. This French website is run by Corine Lesnes who is the French journalist from Le Monde stationed in Washington DC. I suggest you take a look at her topics if you have time. Le Monde has been running Corine Lesnes' website for five years. The French are getting a view of the U.S. through her eyes. You are a little late out of the starting gate. But glad to hear of the new development. I have been holding the fort all this time.

My son is in the 82nd Airborne.

TekBoss
|
California, USA
October 3, 2007

Tek in California writes:
This is great. Will you be using this blog to explain why you won't investigate Blackwater employees?

Keith
|
Oregon, USA
October 3, 2007

Keith in Oregon writes:
This is really quite amazing. Maybe someone will actually listen.

There is a bit of irony in the State Department starting a blog since it has apparently disengaged from diplomacy on so many other issues.

I understand we live in a different world since 9/11 but the principle of logic should still hold true. In this day and age of security at any cost, why is the United States the leading exporter of weapons to poor and developing nations?

It can make a person question the very basis of democracy. Putin made a snide comment along these lines using Iraq as an example. Who would want democracy if it means 1/3rd of its citizens are to be killed, maimed, or displaced?

It could have gone so much better if we left our arrogance at the border before invading. Our arrogance is still hurting us. Arrogance is just another name for vanity, which is a sin. Would it have killed us to reinforce the dignity of the people of Iraq?

You know and I know that we are not going to attack Iran. An attack would not lead to a revolt of its citizens, it would harden the citizens of Iran against the U.S. They would rally around the flag much as we did after 9/11. Iran can retaliate in so many different ways, some of which could lead to severe economic hardships for us, that I'm sure even the most supremely arrogant members of our administration would not consider an attack on them when we most likely can just talk to them instead.

There are other considerations too. What about Russia? They would have to seriously take a look at things and could only come to one conclusion: with us engaged in Iraq and Iran, they would never find a more opportune time to roll up Afghanistan and elsewhere for themselves. China would be a wild card.

There are so many dangerous possibilities that it would be reckless folly on our part to even consider it. It's the kind of thing that could lead to nuclear war and would make us the most evil nation ever to exist.

We must get back to the high road. It is State Department's job to insist on trying something that has never been tried before in place of war: instead of cluster bombs and cruise missiles, we should drop reclining leather chairs, digital cable TV, and bags of Doritos on their heads and turn them into a bunch of fat and lazy consumers just like ourselves.

Tom
|
Colorado, USA
October 3, 2007

Tom in Colorado writes:
Dipnote... how appropriate. Arcane, self-serving and smug. I guess those of us outside of the beltway should strive to find the inside humor here. And, until your absolutely stupid, third-rate presentation made it obvious, I was assuming the "Dip" meant the entire State Department! Maybe it's only your web designer.

Daniel S.
October 3, 2007

State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack writes:
As Fred [Dipnote Blogger Frederick Jones] posted earlier, expect to see a couple of changes that will make the blog easier to read. Heath [Dipnote Blogger Heath Kern] showed me today the changes she has in mind. Let us know what you think once we've made the changes.

I've noticed a few comments saying we need to address more of the pressing policy issues of the day. I agree, and we are working to offer more posts on topics you want to discuss. I'll post something about our Iran policy in the next day or so.

@ Tek in California -- I've posted a couple of times on Blackwater and expect that I will continue to do so as the various reviews and investigations about Blackwater continue. The State Department is involved in three separate reviews/investigations involving Blackwater in some way. There is an investigation into the September 16th incident, which is being led at this point by our Diplomatic Security service. The FBI is assisting in the investigation, but we are also open to their playing an even more significant role in the investigation. We have a joint U.S.-Iraqi review of personal security contractor operations in Iraq, which would include Blackwater's operations.

We also have a team on the ground taking a big picture look at the operations of security contractor operations in Iraq. Secretary Rice will be looking to the leaders of this review for their recommendations about every aspect of how we protect our diplomats in Iraq. She will get an initial interim report from Pat Kennedy on Friday, and I expect Pat will also have an initial recommendation for action by Friday.

Other parts of the government (read the Department of Justice) have responsibility to take over investigations if they believe a criminal act may have been committed.

One final thought. Let's not loose sight of a bedrock American idea that one is innocent until proven guilty. It applies in court and we might extend the idea when we talk about the September 16th investigation. I don't want anybody to escape punishment if they violated the rules or broke the law. I also don't want to see lives ruined and reputations tarnished just because we couldn't wait for an investigation to be completed. Both the victims and those being investigated deserve a careful examination of September 16th's event, so you won't hear me passing judgment until all the facts are in.

Emilie
|
China
October 4, 2007

Emilie in China writes:
I'm very interested in this blog and will follow its development.

Emilie
|
China
October 4, 2007

Emilie in China writes:
I'm very interested in this blog and will follow its development. Thank you.

MartinGugino
|
California, USA
October 4, 2007

Martin in California writes:
On April 8th, 2006, after Venezuelans on motorcycles threw bananas at Ambassador Brownfield's car in Caracas, you said that America would not be intimidated, and our response would be "asymmetric". Was that the fashionable word of the moment, or were you thinking of bombing somebody?

Bert
|
Oregon, USA
October 4, 2007

Bert in Oregon writes:
Diplomacy was once defined as 'the fine art of telling someone to go to hell in such a way that they actually look forward to the trip'. Any chance you guys will end up telling this administration and their runway fraudulent war 'budgeting' to go to hell? What's your position on throwing away billions if not trillions of promissory tax revenue on trying to 'solve' other countries' problems, instead of getting to the heart of the matter and pursuing energy independence as one example for our country, which would likely solve a lot of the frictions we keep reading about over and over in the news, where this or that country has people fighting and killing each other over an oil well? I'd 10 times rather see the USA become a world science leader and start pushing for REAL progress in this area, because China will pick up on what we're doing, and then the innovations can propagate that way. I think it'd be WAY better for us to promote whirled peas with real technological advancements that'll ultimately also liberate taxpayers from having to pay for the next Operation Dubious Boondoggle to the tune of 900 billion or whatever.

Greenspan himself finally copped to the fact that the Iraq war is primarily about oil. What's YOUR take on that?
Thank you.

Athena
|
California, USA
October 4, 2007

Athena in California writes:
Regardless of the definition of "dipnote" - it's a very stupid name for a government blog. Blog = good idea. Blog name = very bad idea.

Thomas
|
Pennsylvania, USA
October 4, 2007

Thomas in Pennsylvania writes:
This is an interesting effort in public diplomacy. Were I to be organizing the blogging efforts of the State Department (DoS) I would likely stand up three separate blogs, a world affairs blog, a State Department inside view blog, and a blog about DoS careers.

The world affairs blog would allow DoS to post information on international affairs and US Government initiatives related to those affairs. It would be the place where the DoS could present the government stance in simple, understandable language and get feedback from citizens from around the world. It would also be where much of the often fractious debate of the "should's" and "should not's" of those issues could occur. Having real dialogue between DoS officials and both opponents and proponents of US policy would be of benefit to all involved.

The DoS Insider would be a window on the day to day activities and efforts of the DoS to represent the interests of the US in the world. Helping us understand you is a great way for people to realize the human stories behind the headlines and more particularly the efforts that never make the news.

The final blog would concentrate on DoS careers, what they are really like, and how a person can work for the DoS. The Careers pages on the DoS website give a basic view, but from the numbers of unofficial groups that spring up around the Foreign Service Exam and similar matters, having an official place to go for discussion, with input from people within the DoS would be very useful. As one might guess I am interested in a Foreign Service career and am particularly interested in the uses of new media for public diplomacy efforts.

I look forward to seeing more of this blog.

PS: Alternate name suggestions -- State of the Department, Diplomacy Insider, State Talk, or DiplomacyOnline

Ryan
|
Wisconsin, USA
October 4, 2007

Ryan in Wisconsin writes:
So how is this going to be more than just a series of press releases or a vehicle to put a smooth gloss over poor policy choices?

How about this: allow State Department employees to blog about their lives anonymously and without being edited. For example, they could discuss life inside State, the lovely people they get to know on their travels, their disagreements with poor policy coming from the top, self-photos taken at weird angles, etc. that is, something authentic, not manufactured to soothe a public that is smarter than you guys think.

Carolyn
|
Indiana, USA
October 5, 2007

Carolyn in Indiana writes:
Thank you Mr. McCormack on your efforts. As an average U.S. mom of teenagers who are just becoming interested in our government's policies and procedures, this site reaches them on their terms. My question as a concerned parent is this: Do you monitor comments for appropriateness and accuracy prior to posting them? Especially if statements appear to be stated as fact rather than opinion? Also - ditto on the title "Dipnote" - I laughed when I first read it before I read your "Jargon" definition.

State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack writes:
@ Carolyn in Indiana -- Carolyn, we don't allow coments or posts containing profanity, and we encourage civil discourse. But we do not filter comments for criticism. I view the blog as a community where we can read criticism, encouragement and everything in between. As for fact vs. opinion, we do check statements in posts presented as fact. That said, I'm sure you will find comments disagreeing with a "fact", and I encourage any visitor to the space to read all content with a critical eye. I also want to see conversation, so share your thoughts, ideas, and opinions.

Paul
|
North Carolina, USA
October 5, 2007

Paul in North Carolina writes:
I would like to call attention to the plight of thousands of children in Guatemala. They are orphans, (for whatever reason), they have American families that are currently trying to bring them into their families, but they are under fire. These are children, just as my own, that have loving American families. Please try to intercede on their behalf. Without support from our Dept of State, the Guatemalan government may not allow these in-process cases to complete their adoptions.

Adoptions as a whole are very debatable. Some believe it is a blessing, while others think it is socially degrading. The debate over adoption is not what is at stake here. At this point, the lives of the children left behind are. Surely one can see the horrible future these children face without the opportunity of completing their adoptions. They will be forgotten by a country that is ill equipped to care for them at this point. The families that entered into these contracts did so in good faith with a system that at the time was current and very much open to adoptions. They should not be allowed to close the door on these cases. They have no plan on what to do from here. They have taken the step to close adoptions, but now what? What do they do with the thousands they have left in their wake? THIS IS AN ISSUE THAT NEEDS TO BE DEALT WITH TODAY! The time is crucial...laws are being made that will effect thousands and the ripple effect will be devastating. Please help!

Jon
|
Illinois, USA
October 5, 2007

Jon in Illinois writes:
Please do something about the communists in Laos. They are persecuting Christians, destroying resources, depriving their own people of basic human rights. They are far more brutal than the Burmese regime.

Bill
|
Michigan, USA
October 5, 2007

Bill in Michigan writes:
Change the name... Already the blogosphere is giggling with "DipNote... What? Dip****s writing notes?"

The dictionary definition doesn't matter, it's too obscure, the 'insider' jargon rationale is not going to cover it, "Dipnote" is just... poor.

It sounds like a playground pejorative

"What a pack of DipNotes."

Charles
|
Denmark
October 8, 2007

Charles in Denmark writes:
Was just wondering if folks on the Saudi desk have seen "Kingdom" and, if so, what they thought of it personally...

Kurt F.
|
Thailand
October 8, 2007

Kurt in Thailand writes:
Sean --

As others have already said, this is an idea with great potential. You've already realized, it's obvious, that "Dipnote" isn't exactly an inspired name choice for this, one subject to obscene abuse. I run a website, and while I use a black background, I don't use white text (bright yellow has worked best for me), and I use a text style and size that shows up large enough that most people don't have to enlarge the image to be able to read (which I did have to do here).

But those are details. On a more fundamental level, I do suggest that should this site be a place for official releases of any type, then any such posting should be clearly identified as such. Closely tied to that is it needs not to become a mouthpiece for anyone at State with an agenda that may, or may not, be in accord with Department of State policies. I'm thinking political appointees, of course, though I suppose senior professional career folks sometimes have their own private agendas.

But as an ordinary American citizen who has had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with a few American diplomats during my years in China and Thailand, I find this a refreshing place to get the benefit of insights from folks on the ground reporting what they're seeing and experiencing, such as in Burma now. I fully recognize that Ambassadors are expected to toe the official line (career or political appointee), but people on down the pay scale can more open and individual in passing along their experiences and interpretations of them (and need to be allowed to do so, free of meddling by any superior, so long as secret or other confidential information isn't blogged to the universe).

Heck, I'd like to see all major departments of every branch of government set up blogs such as this one.

You've got support from this reader.

Barborka
|
Poland
October 8, 2007

Barborka writes:
If I may give my 2-cents:

Why don't you link this blog to some of the good publications that the State Department, and its current and former employees -or their dependents-, generate? Some of these publications are really a window into the somewhat remote life of State Dept. bureaucracy and diplomacy. Here's a list that comes to mind:

American Diplomacy (http://www.americandiplomacy.org/)
Foreign Service Journal (http://www.afsa.org/fsj/)
Inside a US Embassy (http://www.afsa.org/inside/)
State Magazine (http://www.state.gov/m/dghr/statemag/)
Tales from a Small Planet (http://www.talesmag.com/)

Good luck with your endeavors!

Pete
|
Florida, USA
October 8, 2007

Pete in Florida writes:
Enjoyed the reading so far. Looking forward to future posts!

Elizabeth
|
Virginia, USA
October 8, 2007

Elizabeth in Virginia writes:
Thanks from a citizen who feels if you can make this a real forum in which multiple concerns can be addressed you have done all of us a favor. Much easier said than done.

I would like to see a greater show of unity in this country across the board with more support for our president whom we may certainly disagree but should not denigrate. We give those who should be our allies a false picture. It will be interesting to see if this remains a place of learning or if it becomes one more place to air propaganda.

But thanks for the attempt.

Redoubt
|
Alabama, USA
October 8, 2007

R in Alabama writes:
You will (no doubt) now be flooded with visitors and comments after the article (about DipNote) at MSNBC. The variety of the message should increase proportionately.

The United States is home to an incredibly diverse people that have very little in common except their love for liberty and hatred of tyranny. In fact, you could well note that our diversity is something of a microcosm of the world that surrounds us. Take away the names and locations of your domestic commenter and you might easily fit them with the views of people from anywhere on the globe.

We are a living fossil of an ancient ideal. Our mere existence proves that a dynamic and vastly diverse culture can live side by side under a single banner. It's a shame that this important experiment and the ongoing results are so often neglected in practice elsewhere but that's where you come in. You are the ones who, by virtue of our will, are on the front lines. You speak for the many of us, the all of us and in doing so, convey both our good will and our great hopes for humanity.

Remember that "We the people" has never had beside it an asterisk. Every word you hammer out on a keyboard or speak in a foreign tongue also speaks for 300 million Americans who will observe them without mercy if you neglect our commons in favor of the partisan political expediency.

steve
|
Pennsylvania, USA
October 8, 2007

Steve in Pennsylvania writes:
This is a great concept and one I will visit regularly!

Linda
October 8, 2007

Linda in Ohio and Egypt writes:
Hi! I think this is a great idea! I just read the article about this new endeavor at Foxnews.com. I personally like the name DipNote. Kudos to everyone involved! Communication is a good thing!

Ron
|
North Carolina, USA
October 8, 2007

Ron in North Carolina writes:
@ State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack --Thank you for a very good way to look inside the world of international diplomacy.

As a Canadian that moved to the North Carolina just 5 years ago, I feel it is very important for everyone to get an understanding that the world is a very diverse place. Opinions that differ from our own are not wrong, they are just different.

I hope this site can be a way to show the humanity of the people of other nations not just the inhumanity of some of their leaders.

An open forum like this can be a tremendous tool to show the compassion of our diplomats however the fastest way to loose readers will be to allow partisan opinions to be posted. There is an official website for this and people need to understand that the majority of us hold no strong political alliance and want to hear people speak from their hearts note from official policy. Some of the blogs already look far too official.

Thanks for a very good idea.

Ron

Jim
|
Texas, USA
October 8, 2007

Jim in Texas writes:
Good idea. Speaking of which, I have an idea you might want to bounce around. What about constitutionalizing parts of the United States foreign policy? This would probably go a long way in telling other governments what the United States stand for and against as well as giving continuity in at least some policies administration to administration. I'm not suggesting doing the whole Enchilada, but there must be some areas that could be covered in the spirit of the original constitution.

Martin
|
California, USA
October 8, 2007

Martin in California writes:
After some people in Venezuela threw fruits and vegetables at ambassador Brownfield's car in Caracas, you said the U.S. response would be "asymmetric." Does this mean that he decided not to throw fruits and vegetables back at them? This is wise, because they were on motorcycles, and that could be dangerous. All the same, I am surprised that we would take any option off the table, especially vegetables or fruits.

Joanne H.
October 8, 2007

Joanne in Littleton writes:
First of all, thank you for this forum. I would like to write to bring attention to the adoption issues currently facing potential parents attempting to adopt from Guatemala. Please, do whatever you can to influence the Guatemalan government to allow the legal adoptions currently in process to go through. My sister and her husband have been going through this process for eight months now. They have spent much time with the little girl and boy siblings they are trying to adopt. There is a deep bond developing. I know that there are many such couples would be absolutely heart broken if the process was not allowed to play it's course. Please, please help my sister realize her dreams of becoming the mom these kids so desperately need! Don't let these and other children in Guatemala suffer - there are mom's and dad's trying desperately to provide loving and stable homes, and a better future for these beautiful and needy children. Thank you.

Kolupana
|
Hawaii, USA
October 8, 2007

Kolupana in Hawaii writes:
Yes, what a wonderful idea ... I'll be sharing information about the Hawaiian Kingdom and what really happened here in the wake of the 1893 rebellion,known as the 'Hawaiian Overthrow,' by a group of American seditionist headed by the Dole family,(as in Dole pineapple.)

If you have a love of history and the truth, I'll run various colorful facts through your spectrophotometers in hopes of raising the American level of awareness,(concerning the Hawaiian Apology Resolution), and then going backwards in time, I'll let you know what the Dole family and later the United States Government did to this archipelago in terms of human suffering, species extinction, mis-management, and eventually the complete annexation of a sovereign foreign government. It's a most interesting read and I dare say, no educated American should be bereft of this information ... especially at State.

Aloha

Brian
|
Indiana, USA
October 8, 2007

Brian in Indiana writes:
First time here, but a couple of recommendations. First the name, enough said.

Second, possible break the blog out into world reagions or individual nations and also include a "hot Spot" or hot topic list.

Other than this, I am looking forward to reading the posts.

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