U.S. Department of State and Social Media: Tell Us What You Think

July 17, 2008
The State Department and Social Media

About the Author: Heath Kern Gibson is the Editor-in-Chief of DipNote.

Secretary Rice has called the Internet "…possibly one of the greatest tools for democratization and individual freedom that we've ever seen." We are seeing this when people blog from Cuba and Iran and other societies in which restrictions are placed upon their personal freedoms.

Last year, along with the creation of the Department's own YouTube Channel, this blog signified the Department's foray into social media. Since then, the Department has created a Flickr photos profile, began microblogging using Twitter, distributed audio and video podcasts to iTunes and others using ten RSS feeds, and last week, launched the Department's first official Facebook page. We encourage you to explore these products and let us know how we can better utilize them.

There have been many books and articles written on the relationship between traditional media and foreign policy, with the question often asked as to what degree the news media influences foreign policymakers and vice versa. What has not been discussed as much is the impact of social media on policymaking and the foreign affairs community.

It may not be quite clear yet as to what impact social media will have exactly on foreign policymaking. What is evident, though, is that foreign policy does not operate in a vacuum, and it must incorporate or respond to changes in communications. We are interested in your thoughts on how social media -- how these changes in communication -- will affect foreign policymaking in the years ahead.

Comments

Comments

Kiesha
|
Pennsylvania, USA
July 17, 2008

Kiesha in Pennsylvania writes:

First of all I love the blog topic!!!!

Also, the creation of a facebook page for the State Department is a brilliant idea. It is an excellent way to bridge the gap between the State Department and young America as well as a young global audience. Using modern technology is a great way to inform those who are unaware of the work that is done by the United States Government as well as the Department of State.

And as my generation (I'm 25) becomes increasingly concerned and engulfed in global matters (Darfur, human trafficking, war) it is wonderful for us to have an outlet via the internet and on a social networking site such as facebook where we can be informed, educated and allowed to express our own opinions on certain issues.

Great job!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jim
|
Texas, USA
July 17, 2008

Jim in Texas writes:

In a world that no longer values the 'truth', all forms of the 'social media' will speed up the loss of this very important value. As more forms of internet marketing become available to the public, our youth will no longer know what 'truth' or 'honor' means.

There are no longer 'black and white' issues, only gray. And with social media applied, it will just become 'shades of gray'.

Meg
|
California, USA
July 18, 2008

Meg in California writes:

It is nice that State is branching out into various social media. It might help them connect, and share information with new audiences (though I doubt many people will be drawn to these state sponsored efforts). More importantly it will teach State how to better engage in this new environment.

Ultimately, State, and most USG offices will learn that to be most effective they can't toot their own horn but will have to find ways to engage trusted, established, credible sources in the world of social media.

And clearly, State is learning...For instance: yesterday Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy Glassman held a teleconference with bloggers...then MountainRunner, a popular blog on U.S. foreign policy, particularly public diplomacy wrote about it. I trust MountainRunner to report and comment reflectively so I read with interest what he had to report.

The very fact that the undersecretary thought it valuable to include that community in his message demonstrates a willingness to try new things and engage in new media. The more ways State can find to engage with trusted new media sources the more successful they will be.

It is fine to have your own YouTube channel but better if you can create programming that gets carried on a popular channel that people already know and trust, it makes your message more credible.

I am not saying it will be easy and I applaud these first steps, I just hope that the first steps won't be the last.

Syrian P.
|
Syria
July 18, 2008

SNP in Syria writes:

No doubt the efforts of The U.S. State Dept through these Public Media present a positive image of the United States to the world. One that in fact represents an accurate picture of Americans than what the world sees through traditional State Controlled media or as the case in U.S., grossly manipulated. Whoever came up with it all, managed to grind the ideas through the system for approval in the arcane conservatism of traditional institutions deserves some kind of recognition. However, to keep the record straight the Ayatollah Khemenei and Iran President Ahmadinejad beat you to it by couple of years.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 18, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

It occurs to me that many blogs sponsor various things.

Take Blackfive.com for example. A military blog by the author of "Blogs of War" -a collection of soldier's reflections regarding Iraq.

The blog sponsors "Soldier's Angels" and other support groups for those serving in the military.

Why not do that here for DoS?

Oh heck, let's do it right and link up a bunch of NGO's State and USAID work with daily, and really give the public an expanded forum. NGO bloggers...???

We have PRT leaders blogging, I say the more the merrier.

A topic suggestion box would be another feature I'd add, as well as a way to track archived posts by author, by subject and by date.

From the user end of the blog, it would help track my own thoughts over time and subject, if I wish to refer to them in a current post. Or if anyone else does.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 18, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ SNP,

I would venture a guess that there is not a heck of a lot of dissenting opinions posted on Iranian State blogs.

Unlike Dipnote, which allows you to.

So I just don't know of what value it really serves the Iranian public.

It seems sometimes that the more a gvernment tries to be in control of media (state media), the less control they actually have over a repressed population.

Which is one reason why the p5+1 offer has a been broadcast into Iran directly for public consumption so that the population will have the offer as it was presented, not as the Iranian government tells them it was.

And hopefully that will help the population have a more informed basis on which to judge its merits for themselves.

You are here because you may post your thoughts freely, without reprisal. Though you have to expect appropriate feedback if you are being offensive.

Would you have this opportunity in Syria? Iran?

Would I?

I doubt it. Do you have any idea how many bloggers have been arrested for their on line viewpoints in Iran?

Are you aware of the Iranian state's mechanisms to block internet sites like this one?

Why is that?

Simple. Their government doesn't want the people thinking aloud in public. They crush protest in the streets, and crush the people's ability to become informed on line.

So what do you think about that?

Susan
|
Florida, USA
July 18, 2008

Susan in Florida writes:

We can not avoid social media -- it is here to stay. Is that a bad thing? I think not. When was "truth" ever told? Please don't misunderstand, I believe in telling the "truth" but the reality of all reporting is that it is filtered through human frailty. We are all biased, if we are honest with ourselves and with others. To have the right to have different opinions, to have free speech, to be able to disagree with or criticize our institutions, that is what our country is about. And it is with great interest that I read the comments of the other bloggers. Whether we agree or not is not as important as the fact that we are thinking about and responding to the topics that are posted. The comments made are thoughtful and encouraging. I, for one, am impressed.

Yael
|
West Virginia, USA
July 21, 2008

Yael in West Virginia writes:

What do I think of the State Department's "Social Media"? I am deeply concerned by the fact that the U.S. State Department is purveying 2009 calendars of "Mosques of America" in a "limited edition for Ramadan" (through the Bureau of Administration's Global Publishing Solutions) AND now that bloggers and others have discovered it, is trying to erase any evidence of its existence from the internet. I don't know which is worse, but the combination is incredibly alarming.

Michelle
|
Colorado, USA
July 21, 2008

Michelle in Colorado writes:

A Mosque calendar??? Are you kidding? This is so insulting. Islam is required to destroy the infidel ...that's the American non-Muslim. Why don't you people read the Koran before you prostrate yourselves in front of those that aim to destroy us. Disgusting.

Zharkov
|
United States
July 18, 2008

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

Communication with the public should be two-way communication, not merely a one-direction pronouncement and explanations of official policies. The primary feature of dictatorship is one-way communication from the government to the citizens. Dictatorships do not listen, they only speak; they do not receive orders, they only give orders.

The English website for SANA, the Syrian Arab News Agency of the Syrian government has no blog, no forum, and no e-mail address for contacting President Assad or any other part of the Syrian government. This self-imposed isolation is one reason why some governments make bad decisions.

Governments need two-way communication with the public they govern, but also with the public of other nations, to avoid making ridiculous foreign policy decisions. Too often, governments seek information by meeting with each other which provides a distorted view of foreign sentiment and supplies zero public input.

When American public officials want to read communications from the public rather than concern themselves solely with managing their image, they might find themselves making better decisions. After all, our American republic is supposed to be a representative government.

Governments such as Syria and the United States should open themselves to receive communication from whomever wishes to write them about any subject. It might provide a learning experience.

Syrian P.
|
Syria
July 21, 2008

SNP in Syria writes:

@ Eric in New Mexico -- Actually there are few nasty assault comments on President Ahmadinejad blog, and they were published, such as the one I read calling him insane and mentally ill, of course the poster was from the United States, nevertheless the posts were published online. Why are you comparing Islamic Iran freedom to the U.S.? Despite all newly enacted unconstitutional laws and regulations passed or not passed by Congress, the freedom Americans enjoy still premier in the world (next to Russia). But do compare Iran media and its relative freedom to other countries such s Saudi Arabia or Morocco, even secular Syria, you will notice the resemblance of freedom readily apparent as long as the exercise thereof is within prescribed Islamic Laws, after all it is a country ran by Islamic theocracy.

No, even though we are posting on U.S. blogs still have to be cautious and restricted. We can not blog all what we really need and wants to say because it will run into censorship or risk reprisal not only in Syria but in the U.S. as well, blog editors fears for their security and jobs just as much as the Syrian bloggers, although the leech is longer by couple of feet in America.

Would SNP have the opportunity to blog in Syria, Noooop, never. The evil Jews discourage and set obstacles for Syrians to allow President Assad bring changes to Syria, they are just as happy keeping us backward so they can brag to the ignorant American Politicians and Public about being the only free and Democratic country in the Middle East, sucking American Tax payers cash on the age long charade that America must protect the only Democracy in the Middle East that have similar Western value to America, Jewish Israel. When in fact it is the most murderous State ever existed from the dawn of time to the present, violated every International Law passed and all norms of human decency. It is a cheap sales pitch but still working well on Americans. Imagine Syria is free and Democratic State at good terms with America, imagine Lebanon at peace and HizbuAli sent back in Moslem Vatican-Qom. Just as they did in the 50/70/80/ the stooges (Semites, Arabs and Jews) will invent new troubles just to insure that this never is the case. Because, otherwise the world will forget about two dusty countries, Israel and Jordan, States that were made up of carved out patches of the Syrian Desert. Syria and Lebanon will become the center of economic and cultural power of the Middle East and the destination for the world businessmen, global financial institutions and travelers. What you see today Eric, it is all by design and according to a sinister plan drawn up by Amen/Marduk 3600 years ago.

Lynn
|
Maryland, USA
July 21, 2008

Lynn in Maryland writes:

@ Zharkov:

Ironic that you write about the U.S. not being willing to hear input from citizens on a state sponsored blog designed for that very purpose.

Zharkov
|
United States
July 21, 2008

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

@ Lynn in Maryland -- Lynn in Maryland, have you ever received anything other than a computer-generated form letter back from a public official thanking you for your interest in an issue?

I have not with two exceptions, Ambassador Jean Kirkpatrick, and Senator S.I. Hayakawa. These exceptions do not prove your objection. The fact that the DoS even has a blog is a large exception to the general rule that most large governments prefer little or no input from their citizens.

The DoS does not speak for the entire federal government, nor do they listen for the rest of government.

Our federal government was not the main point, which is, most large governments share this communication disability more or less in common.

Your irony is rather limited by reality, don't you think?

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 22, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Lynn in Maryland -- Lynn,

(chuckle)....Indeed! It is interesting though when I've talked to a few folks about this blog, they sometimes ask me if I've seen "the men in black" yet. Like I'm going to be investigated or something stupid like getting my computer hacked by the CIA...LOL!

I don't know why that is, but it seems to some of my friends that I'm either off my nut for telling my gov. what I think on this site, or just asking for trouble.

"What? Me worry?" Is my answer to their doubts.

I'm actually a little suprised more people don't stand by their beliefs enough to engage directly with folks in government, after all they work for us..."we the people".

Shy I guess. But not repressed.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 22, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ SNP, are you trying to tell me this is some kind of 3600 year old conspiracy theory? Because if you are, that's irrelevent to me.

See, I'm Bhuddist, and I really have no personal attachments to the region's religious bigotries. Including your's. It excemplifies the premis of my previous thoughts on the dysfunctional matter.

That being the case, I find it hypocritical for a nation that sits in the UN, and was an original signatory to its founding charter and human rights documents, to evolve a theocratic mindset as exibited by the imminent stoning to death of 7 women, and one man under the Iranian government's interpretation of Sharia law.

I find your use of emotionally charged adjectives to be somewhat distracting in trying to understand your point of view regarding much of the rest of your Fri Jul 18, post.

Guess I touched a nerve.

You want to try that post again, perhaps if you reword it so it actually relates to reality, then I can give you an unbiased assesment about it.

Roger
|
California, USA
July 22, 2008

Roger in California writes:

Why is the state Department promoting the Churches of Islam Calendar? And if it was such a great idea at the time to use taxpayer funds for this enterprise why is the site that was previously promoting it no longer accessible?

When you decided to to create this calendar, did anyone bother to ask if it was a breach of the Constitution for the U.S Government to show favoritism toward a religion. Will my government also be publishing a Calendar series of Mormon Temples, Catholic Churches, and Jewish Synagouges.

Leave the calendar publishing to the professsionals.

Lynn
|
Maryland, USA
July 22, 2008

Lynn in Maryland writes:

@ Zharkov,

While I agree with your larger point (bigger governments have a more difficult time hearing from their citizens), I think it's poorly made when you imply the accessibility that U.S. citizens have to their government is similar to access in an authoritative state like Syria. First of all, try protesting in an authoritative state and see how far that gets you. Also, I'm sure many of the people and agencies you contacted had "contact us" sections on their site, enabling you to get that form letter in return. Special interest groups encourage people to "write their Congressman" because they know these representatives have interns and staffers monitoring the pulse of public opinion, ready to inform their representative on which way the tide is turning on a particular issue. These are not the best or most effective ways to contact the government, but they are just a couple of several ways that citizens can contact the government (in a democratic state) without reprisal.

The U.S. may not have referenda every other day and suggestion boxes on every corner, but there are avenues to be heard. Just because they are not ideal does not mean they are non-existent.

And, for the record, yes I have.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 22, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Once upon a time I was in doubt as Zharkov is regarding if anything I had to say to my gov. would generate a human response.

That problem was solved with one phone call.

A little "old school" perhaps, but the internet can't replace person to person contact when you want results.

If you email the Whitehouse, you'll get the eqivilent of a read reciept, but they get so much mail it will be six weeks before anyone reads it...according to the switchboard opperator I talked to there late on a Friday before Cristmas 2005. As she put it, the Whitehouse was "shut down" for the holiday and there wasn't anyone around to take my call. So she swiched me over to DoS and I spoke with a desk officer there.

I'd called about an imminent execution by stoning that the Iranian Republic was about to impose on a few women, I asked him for his email address and sent him the Amnesty Int. article with the details, along with a letter I'd tried to get to the Whitehouse in time (they had 5 days until the sentence was carried out).

So, about a half hour later after I sent the article, I got this message in reply:

"This information has been sent through immediately to the Iran Security Desk for further action."

One might think that our government knows all and sees all, and that citizen imput is irrelevent to them.

Not the case. An informed public actually helps inform the gov. , and Layla M's (one of the women above) case was included in the annual country human rights report (2006).

International pressure halted the execution and this citizen got the results I was looking for from a responsive institution of government.

Safe to say that unless you try, you'll never know just how human a response you might get from public servants.

Zharkov
|
United States
July 22, 2008

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

@ Lynn, there are so many instances where our government does not listen to citizens that it is not news anymore.

The main reason why American citizens sue the government in courts is because government officials do not listen to the people. This is why we find so many of our elected officials listed as defendants in federal court.

The response illustrates another problem with government blogs, which is, that government employees feel duty-bound to defend utterly indefensible, ludicrous positions.

I suppose an incentive to remain on this blog is the hope that some common sense might eventually trickle down to the bureaucratic level. The idea that ordinary citizens might communicate with their leaders is perhaps too revolutionary a thought, but the volume of communication in America between citizens and government is rather low, while the volume of communication between news media and government is extraordinarily high. A single editorial from a major news outlet often can result in new legislation, a presidential veto, or even a criminal prosecution, while citizens may have to form groups of thousands of citizens expending tens of thousands of man-hours of labor to achieve the same result.

Susan
|
Florida, USA
July 23, 2008

Susan in Florida writes:

To SNP in Syria -- I am not one to attack individuals who have their own opinion but I feel I must respond to your 7-18-08 blog. Do you really live in Syria? If so then you are seriously misguided to think that President Assad wants to bring positive, humane changes to Syria. What dictator ever does? And it was not too long ago that Hitler was blaming the "evil jews" for all of Germany's problems. You think Americans are ignorant?!! Take a good look at home first.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 23, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Actually Zharkov, the U.S. government does listen to its citizens, because they are citizens as well. And everyone of them at one time was a private citizen.

Now, since you can only speak to your own experience in this, I think you are correct. It's certainly not news that no one in government listens to you. And the only reason for that is that you arn't making a whole lot of common sense. No insult intended, this is just pure observational analysis.

And I suppose your incentive is as you described it, but remember what I said about you wasting time with Pravda's forum being your onus for coming here, and what I told you about wasting your time trying to convince anyone of your jaundiced vision of America on this forum.

P.S. I don't work for the U.S. gov. , but I've had many interesting interactions with those who do.

If you are unhappy with this blog, then you must be dissatisfied with your interactions with folks here, but this is only because you project a lot of assumptions about them.

I see this as more of your personal problems dealing with those who do not think as you do, rather than any fault of the blog itself.

The only one trying to defend "utterly indefensible, ludicrous positions" is you.

But then I'm used to folks making accusations they themselves are more than a little guilty of.

Got a problem with this, you can always sue me, or sue the U.S. government if you want, I could use a good laugh. Hey, while you're at it, sue the Russian government too, because you seemed to have wasted a lot of your time getting Pravda to impart your message to them.

Remember, half the battle of getting someone to listen to you is how you present yourself to others. If you aren't being credible, "forgetaboutit", it's not going to happen.

Sean M.
July 23, 2008

Department Spokesman Sean McCormack writes:

Heath has started a good conversation about the blog and where we take it from here. I have the feeling that we can do a lot more with it to make it a two-way communication. At the moment, we actually talk to one another, but those episodes come in fits and starts. So we will look for ways to make using this blog a more interactive experience. I have a few ideas that involve the blog, YouTube, and new technological capabilities in the State Department briefing room, which might push us at least one step closer to having the conversation I talked about in the first post on DipNote.

Many of you raise an important question about the ability to influence large organizations, in this the case the State Department, through social media. Of course, there are a variety of ways this happens every day on sites not related to the government. We are different because of the relatively closed nature of the policy-making process (this applies across different administrations) so we acknowledge our limits up front. What that does not mean, however, is that you or we should accept those limits as immutable. One way in which I hope this blog evolves to involve you more is in bringing to our attention events (breaking or slowly unfolding). When we receive such information, it is my hope that we can internalize, analyze, and, when possible, act on the information. We are a ways from that model now, but over time culture changes. When I refer to culture in this case, I mean the State Department. It is an inherently conservative (and by that I mean slow to accept and implement change) culture. In less than a year, though, I see change with more posters coming forward to us with material they want to share with you.

I will work with you on the flip side of the equation, in which your feedback or suggestions make their way in to our decision-making processes. I'm reading a great book now, Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies. While the book is directed at use of social technologies in business, I can see some parallels on which we can draw, especially in modifying internal processes.

Finally, I would also love for you to share your worlds, whether it is daily life or reporting on the unusual, tragic, or inspiring. Maybe those things are one in the same. Whatever the case, I look forward to talking with you via DipNote.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 24, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Sean, Conceptualize this --

Dipnote as a facet of the civilian response corps.

I don't mean in any formal sense, just that ideas are part of any response to issues involving the public.

I find a lot of relevance in what you are saying, and the following:

Secretary's Remarks: Remarks After Six-Party Informal Ministerial
Tue, 23 Jul 2008 23:00:00 -0500

(excerpt)

SECRETARY RICE: About -- of everybody meeting their obligations, but I don't want to go, you know, into detail about what everybody said, just to say there weren't any surprises. But it wasn't -- you know, it wasn't a standoff with people just stating their positions. I think we had probably three or four rounds of comments. So, you know, the initial -- very often, these things, the initial thing is people read a statement. But a couple of people didn't and then there were several -- it was interactive. It wasn't just people making statements, which is good.

--end--

And getting beyond statements is essential to any solution.

Institutionally, the desire for stable and effective mechanisms creates the slowness of an institution to keep up with change, or adapt to it to a certain extent. Folks get used to doing things a certain way...and get comfortable to the extent that changes are resisted on occasion.

Change is just a process of keeping what works and discarding that which no longer meets the need. Like getting rid of all those Wang computers a few years ago.

State's in a process both of rebuilding its own infrastructure and it's manpower capacity which lends a unique opportunity to really get creative in adapting to the 21st century. Including new models for the mechanisms that are in need of an upgrade.

Which is why there's a hundred folks manning the Iran Desk, instead of two.

As one of the public observing this, I think State is embracing change and adapting to it pretty well on a lot of levels.

Syrian P.
|
Syria
July 25, 2008

SNP in Syria writes:

Quote -- Which is why there's a hundred folks manning the Iran Desk, instead of two. -- end quote

I take it you then have no one manning the Syria desk at State anymore, you left that to Ehud Barak, sort of running the U.S. Syria interest section out of a hole in the wall in Kiryat Ben-Gurion

Zharkov
|
United States
July 25, 2008

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

@ Eric, if anyone listened to you, you would not be posting here.

As Lew Rockwell has written, many people deny that the U.S. government presides over a global empire. If you speak of U.S. imperialism, they will fancy that you must be a decrepit Marxist-Leninist who has recently awakened after spending decades in a coma. Yet the facts cannot be denied, however much Eric's ideology may predispose hims to distort or obfuscate those facts.

How can a government that maintains more than 800 military facilities in more than 140 different foreign countries be anything other than an imperial power?

The hundreds of thousands of troops who operate those bases and conduct operations from them, not to mention the approximately 125,000 sailors and Marines aboard the U.S. warships that cruise the oceans, are not going door to door selling Girl Scout cookies. United States of America is the name; intimidation is the game.

Of course, the kingpins who control this massive machinery of coercion never describe it in such terms. In their lexis, American motives and actions are invariably noble.

Listening to these bigwigs describe what the U.S. forces abroad are doing, you would never suspect that they seek anything but "regional stability,""security,""deterrence of potential regional aggressors," and "economic development and cooperation among nations." Inasmuch as hardly anybody favors instability, insecurity, international aggression, economic retrogression, and mutual strife among nations, the U.S. objectives, and hence the actions taken in their furtherance, would appear to be indisputably laudable.

Yet, from time to time, a U.S. leader lets slip an expression so revealing that it warrants a thousand times greater weight than the vague, mealy-mouthed banalities they routinely dispense. I came across such a statement recently. In seeking funds in 2007 for construction of a $62 million ammunition storage facility at Bagram Air Base, Admiral William J. Fallon, then the commander of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), referred to Bagram as "the centerpiece for the CENTCOM Master Plan for future access to and operations in Central Asia."

Pause to savor this phrase for a moment; let it roll around in your mind: CENTCOM Master Plan for future access to and operations in Central Asia. What an intriguing expression! What dramatic images of future U.S. military actions it evokes! But can those actions be anything other than the very sort that empires undertake? Ask yourself: why does the U.S. military anticipate conducting operations in Central Asia, a region that lies thousands of miles from the United States and comprises countries that lack either the capacity or the intention to seriously harm Americans who mind their own business in their own national territory? Indeed, what is the U.S. military doing in Central Asia in the first place? Have you ever heard of "the Great Game"?

Our imperial leaders are not embarrassed by the U.S. empire; on the contrary, they are immensely proud of it. They simply do not describe their activities as the maintenance and exploitation of an empire. If you care to read an extended example, I invite you to peruse Admiral Fallon's testimony of May 3, 2007, before the Senate Armed Services Committee, regarding CENTCOM'S "posture." This carefully prepared statement, written in impeccable military bureaucratese, illustrates well how imperial commanders wish to represent their forces' actions and, equally important, how members of Congress wish to have those actions represented to them. Of course, it's all a solemn farce, a polished and meaningless charade staged purely for public-relations purposes -- a ceremonial hors d'oeuvres served in public before the diners consume the entr饬 which consists of a massive amount of the taxpayers' money ladled out to the armed forces and their civilian contractors.

"Our top priority," Fallon declares, "is achieving stability and security in Iraq." Everyone knows, of course, that Iraq was more stable and secure before the U.S. invasion, which suggests that perhaps the quickest way to reestablish those conditions is for the U.S. forces to leave the country.

Because we don't speak or understand Arabic, Pashto, Persian, or any other local language in this part of the world, we haven't a clue as to what's going on in the politics and social life of these countries, and therefore we are constantly at the mercy of English-speaking collaborators who will take the risk of feeding us lies and fabricated "intelligence" long enough to get rich and then flee the country before their infuriated countrymen kill them.

This is why governments need two-way communication, including our own, and why we need more communication, not less with our highest officials, so they stop making such horrible mistakes.

John
|
Greece
July 25, 2008

John in Greece writes:

@ Zharkov

America has the right to be able to defend America. To put up a defense?

You "ask" -- once again -- "How can a government that maintains more than 800 military facilities in more than 140 different foreign countries be anything other than an imperial power?".

I think that we have answered this before: Others -- like Russians, Chinese and various sheikhs -- have comparatively more facilities and a fixed, invariable axon against U.S.A.

P.S.: I listen to him (I mean Eric)! and I love his posts. I suppose many other visitors too. Now, with your permission, can he keep on posting here Z? or he should write to Pravda... like you?

Zharkov
|
United States
July 26, 2008

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

@ John in Greece, our government loves you - your posts will never be rejected by the DoS, unlike some of mine which apparently DoS found them perhaps too "American" to publish.

But let's face the truth, John - our political class feels insecure without military bases in each country around the world.

For reasons known only to them, our government cannot leave other people alone.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 26, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Imperialism -- noun 1. the policy of extending the rule or authority of an empire or nation over foreign countries, or of acquiring and holding colonies and dependencies.

Zharkov asks:

"How can a government that maintains more than 800 military facilities in more than 140 different foreign countries be anything other than an imperial power?"

Because 140 soverign nations have agreed to host those facilities and personel as guests. Invited guests.

I've lost track of how many people have told you this on many topic threads on this blog, and part of getting yourself listened to is being able to listen to others and have a discussion based on reality. Not just putting out position papers.

Which reminds me...thanks! You have just provided example for how relevent Ms. Rice's quote actually is.

When an Ambassador tells me "You've got everyone thinking about this." on a topic thread he started on Dipnote some time ago, then I think it's gone a wee bit beyond "listening".

Common sense that cannot be rationally ingnored....at your service.

Kirk
|
Kentucky, USA
July 26, 2008

Kirk in Kentucky writes:

@ Zharkov in USA

I always enjoy reading your posts. You have a keen grasp of the issues at hand, a crisp, succinct writing style, and an almost encyclopedic knowledge of events, but most of your post seem to have the sense of incredulousness at the government's continued pursuit of power. In that sense, we are in the same boat. As an idealist who prefers non-aggression and compromise, I'm often at odds with the actions of our government, but, as a realist who sees life as competition, I ask you this: Has it ever been any other way? Since the beginning of our time tribes were in competition with others in the next valley over, to today, where vast empires maneuver for advantage on the global stage, does the active efforts of nations to compete and dominate still surprise you? Even babies in the womb compete with their mother for resources.

Power in the physical sense, the capacity to get things done.

In the national sense, it is the ability to make others bend to your will.

How can we do that unless we are right on their door step, sometimes sitting in their kitchens? Thus the need for bases all over the world.

The US will never stop trying to acquire more power and advantage, indeed, it cannot. As a nation is the embodiment of the people, human nature dictates a never ending drive to compete, to actualize potential, and to monopolize resources, as so espoused by Nietzsche's Will to Power and others. The methods of how we proceed is up for debate, that we should do so: never.

As a bit of a romantic, I've tried to enshrine in my heart the virtues of nobility, honor, gentleman-ship, and compassion. So I don't like aggressive power grabs and am content to live in peace without desire to interfere in others lives. I've always hoped that others were trying to do the same, but in reality, that is not the case. To opt out of the game is only folly. As Machiavelli wrote:

"Many men have imagined republics and principalities that never really existed at all. Yet the way men live is so far removed from the way they ought to live that anyone who abandons what is for what should be pursues his downfall rather than his preservation; for a man who strives after goodness in all his acts is sure to come to ruin, since there are so many men who are not good."

Some people balk at calling it a game, as it suggestion frivolity, but I will not hesitate to do so for I can think of no other analogy that so completely describes the various arrangements of players against one another. It just happens to be a very serious game where the stakes are dire, paid in blood and livelihoods.

As I've come to study the actions of our government, as you do so well, I've realized that there is never a moment where the US is not trying to ply its leverage, gain more of it, and discharge its power. All the diplo-speak is just another form of maneuvering, the casting of a smoke screen, to assuage the concerns of nations who share our values, and a clever misdirection against those who don't.

I think it's best, to avoid the continual resentment that corrodes the soul when faced with the difference between what we think should be and what will remain as is, to accept this facet of our government. To wish otherwise, for a non-interventionist path, is fine ideal, but you might as well wish for the stars to move from their positions in the sky, or for men to not do what they've been doing for thousands of years.

I do find some consolation when forced to face this fact, and I hope that you may find it in these sentiments, as well. As a nation is an embodiment of the people, a collected expression of will, we have the opportunity to make Respect and Compassion national values, and to marshal this nations auxiliary power to bring through a peaceful hand, happiness and prosperity for not only ourselves, but to all.

Kirk
|
Kentucky, USA
July 26, 2008

Kirk in Kentucky writes:

@ Zharkov in USA

On reflection, another thought. Your protests involve the question of appropriateness and how they affect our long term interests.

To draw a parallel: the government is an animal. The people are cells, over the years they live and die but the beast remains.

Like all animals, the gov. has a list of interests, ours are National Interests, ranked in priority. Close to the very top is its survivability. Somewhere close to the top is its purpose for being, enacting the will of the people. To assume that protection of domestic sectors is the highest priority is a mistake. The highest priorities is the maneuvering of the country into an advantageous position and the accumulation of power. The interests of the gov. transcends the interest of the people it governs. Like how an animal will chew its leg off to escape a trap, the gov. will injure, purposefully or through neglect, interests at home if it is advantageous to a greater interest abroad. If you've ever spent your rent money on something else you needed, with the hopes of making it up a little later, you know the actions of the government. So maybe they feel that winning the war in Iraq is more important that focusing on our infrastructure. Maybe the disruptions to our economy and the incursion of debt is worth placing America in a more advantageous position. Maybe they're right, maybe not.

The constitution is a fine document. The ideas it proclaims are an excellent model to live by. Based on Greek and Roman systems, incubated in the Magna Carta, and refined in the Enlightenment, this version is one of the most advanced accomplishments of human endeavor, it encapsulates what is good and right in mankind and attempts to check the most villainous. I like it so much, I would even put myself in harm's way to protect it. That said, it's also just a piece of paper. And paper hand-cuffs will never stay a hand intent on doing what animals do. If the interest of the Nation rises in priority over the need to adhere to the constitutionality of our law, if following the constitution hinders the pursuit of the National Interests, it will disregard those laws in the most expedient way possible. Often there prevailing norms that feel that following those laws are more important than other interests, and people try and often succeed reigning in more ambitious elements. Why do you think there are so many watch-dog agencies? They know the proclivities of a powerful government. But they do not always prevail. Faced with a high National Interest, an administration will enter into nefarious pacts with other nations, cook the books, lie to the people, commit crimes, violate human rights, and aggressively push propaganda. I can't expect the Dipnote bloggers to agree with that, and if I proclaimed my theory insistently or loudly enough, I would expect them to refute it, but, as history shows us, and as you yourself have amassed an array of evidence, these things do happen. This is the nature of the beast, and of all governments. This isn't news. That doesn't mean we should just let it be, if we find injustice in our system it is incumbent on us to do our duty to our country by insisting, by force if necessary, that our leaders adhere to our laws. But to affect a tone of indigent outrageousness is to lend to a person a certain naivete. We should face the situation with a certain calm and cool demeanor. We must work quietly and swiftly to implement our aims, but avoid proclaiming in a shrill tones the injustices wrought upon us by a zealous government, they will find a way to ignore us. This isn't direct to you, as your arguments are put forward methodically, but a statement in general.

Here is something that may lighten your day: the priority of National Interests shift in relation to the current administration. Soon a new set of priorities will be put into focus. If we want the government to honor the law of the constitution, we need to champion for representatives and presidents who values this more desirable than strategic global advantage. Though it loathes me to mention it, perhaps sometimes assuring our survivability through international wrangling is more important. Another thing that eases some of my concerns, some of the same that you have, is that the government is not a single entity but comprised of many different people with many different opinions, some who agree with you and are working to bring these issues to bear.

In closing, I will say this, I understand you're deeply concerned. I support your efforts to bring attention to these issues (whether the State Dept. blog is the most effective venue for that, I don't know). I think also, though, that a little patience, for now, will probably gain you satisfaction in the very near future when things begin to change.

"The greatest and most violent conflicts are not caused by Good VS Evil but by parties who all think they are doing good and have different ways of doing it."

Pages

.

Latest Stories

July 26, 2014

The Situation in Gaza

Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Cairo, Egypt, July 21-22, 2014 to meet with Egyptian and other senior officials… more

Pages