Engaging Communities on Foreign Affairs

Posted by Cheryl Benton
March 8, 2010
Harry S Truman Building

About the Author: Cheryl Benton serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs.

I recently met with the Public Leadership Education Network, a group of very talented and engaged college-aged professional women from across the country. Today marks International Women's Day, and I can't emphasize enough the importance of women globally as a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy. This month we have really focused on making sure that we are informing and engaging every sector of civil society on global women's issues. But this is not limited to a day, or even a month, we work to engage the public every day of the year.

As Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Outreach in the Department's Bureau of Public Affairs, I work with a team of people who are dedicated to making sure that the Department of State is transparent and includes you in its work and decision making.

In the Bureau of Public Affairs, we are committed to ensuring that the American people have a seat at the foreign policy table. We want to hear from you, we want to meet with you to hear your interests and to make sure that you understand what we are doing, and why. That's why, so far this year we have arranged over 200 face-to-face meetings with women, men, students, experts, Diaspora groups, journalists and members of all sectors of civil society from the United States. Contact us at PublicOutreach@state.gov to find out how you can participate in the dialogue. We look forward to connecting with you.



California, USA
March 8, 2010

Masood in California writes:

Ms. Benton, it is very good idea! Digital revolution has created higher awareness in general public and would appreciate a seat on foreign policy table!

Donald M.
Virginia, USA
March 9, 2010

Donald M. in Virginia writes:

3 9 10

I hope the State Department will put a spotlight on the country of Venezuela, Mr. Chavez. The people of Venezuela do not have the same freedoms as we do in the USA. When Mr. Chavez decided to shutdown the television and radio stations, he is suppressing his people from having a voice. Mr. Sean Penn apparently doesn't understand what 1st Ammendment rights are... especially when he agrees with Mr. Chavez. He made some ridiculous quote that reporters who claim Mr. Chavez is a Dictactor they should be put in prison? Well using the 1st Amendment rights in the USA but since he falls short on understanding what it means for the people of Venezuela, they won't be showing any of his movies on the television there, since Mr. Chavez removed that freedom for it's people. Maybe Sean Penn should try going on that show, "Smarter than a 5th Grader" and learn about what 1st Amendments rights are for people. The USA security folks also should keep any eye on the situation between Mr. Sean Penn and Mr. Chavez since we know that the country of Venezuela is building up its arms buying from Russia. My question would be for Mr. Sean Penn, how much money is Mr. Chavez paying him for all the press visiting that country? What perks does Mr. Sean Penn receive while in the country of Venezuela? Gas sells for 12 cents a gallon in Venezuela and they still sell fuel in the USA at Citgo Stations at the going rate of over 2 dollars plus a gallon. Seems to me that if Mr. Chavez can sell his gas at 12 cents a gallon to his people, why doesn't he sell it the USA at 12 cents a gallon?

Freedom of Speech, the Freedom to speak out, we can do it in the United States because our brave soldiers and sailors put their lives on the line to protect the constitution of the United States of America. Men and women who wear the Uniform should be proud protecting our Freedoms. A salute to all US Military, families and Veterans across this world.

New Mexico, USA
March 9, 2010

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Under-Secretary Cheryl Benton,

Ever since Sec. Colin Powell got rid of State's old Wang computers, the Dept. has been trying to "keep up with the jones'" (that's us in the private sector).

For those of us who were born into an analoge age and watched it go digital in front of our eyes, it has been as much of a transition as it must have been for folks entering the atomic era in 1945. The world as we knew it doesn't exist today in the same context we took it for granted prior.

Nor does public diplomacy in a post-9/11 world. The public has become an extention of your eyes and ears at ground level in real-time. Policy may never change but it evolves just the same.

I agree that the offer made to the public to be a part of an interactive government is a good idea, after all you work for us in a sybiotic sense. Thus it would be only wise of us to help you do a better job, and make sure we get our money's worth (chuckle).

No offense meant to all those public servants giving "maximum effort" in the war against small mindedness and terrorist ideology, this citizen simply knows this government needs all the help it can get, and so do you.

You can give people a voice, you can listen and engage, but in the end this must change the nature of the conversation if we are to change the parameters in nations who consider women as worth half that of a man in their courts, sponsor terrorism, disrupt nation's progress of healing and rebuilding, interfere with their reconciliation of people by and for good governance, and sow sectarian violence in an effort to keep the 21st century looking more like the 14th.

I know the Dept won't comment on intelligence matters but I have a strait forward request if you wish to make progress on resolving Iran's criminality in the UN format.

There are other ways, other "formats", but if you wish to make this pressure track work then evolve its architecture.

Make public the forensic molecular analysis of the explosives used in the "golden mosque" bombing in Samarra pointing to its origin, and prove the Iran/al quaida connection which the governor at the time was convinced of saying, "Iran has blood on its hands".

Take all the evidence gathered in what Sec. Robert Gates called a "double game" Iran is playing in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as Yemen, Somalia, and other nations in coordination with al-quaida and others to sow sectarian violence, providing material and lethal support for terrorism and engaging in crimes against humanity.

Lay that all before the UN General Assembly, never mind the security council nuclear conundrum for the moment and force a vote to revoke Iran's UN membership.

In the meantime, give China and Brazil 30 days to convince themselves the talking is done.
Then go to the council and get your sanctions, without compromising to get them.

If nations veto resolution to protect their poor choice of an investment partner, let them be warned that the stability they seek doesn't exist. That the architecture of conflict resolution in the UN leads to war if not unanimous.

Never will there be stability in the region with a regime that considers one that throws stones in defiance of the state as "warring against God".

Simply because the Grand Ayatollah considers himself above all other men and nations.

I'm stating this now for the record. The ball is not " in Iran's court "!

Every action or inaction has consequence, "words must mean something" President Obama says. He's right, it's time to prove that by example.

Then for all the "Neda's" past, future and present there needs to be an accounting of the crimes against humanity we've witnessed.

But in all of this I hope you'll remember that standing on principal cannot be done on one foot.

That's why folks need public support, so make the facts public and let's get on with the show. The clock is ticking.

f Iran is not in process of dismantling its nuclear and missile programs under IAEA inspection within that 30-60 days from today, then present the intelligence you've gathered to the world and put Iran's membership to a vote in the UNGA and determine appropriate concequences in the security council.

If this format isn't going to work, we'll find out won't we?, and don't be afraid to use other options and formats for resolution if need be. Including the last one left on the table that will ultimately bring long term stability to the region.

We may just put new definition on soveriegn rights and responsibilities, as an evolving conceptual framework for the 21st century.

But you're going to have to be hard-nosed and pragmatic to realize success.

History is not a sympathetic judge...as most tyrants don't survive in the light of truth, nor do their appeasers no matter how well intended in seeking "peace in our time."

Thanks for your consideration in these grave matters of war and peace,


New Mexico, USA
March 9, 2010

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Deputy Assistant Secretary Cheryl Benton,

Pardon me, I'm not sure whether I just gave you a raise in pay grade in my last post by mistakenly addressing you as "under secretary" or not, but all these titles are a bit of a mouthfull, not to mention confusing. I hope you'll pardon my dislexia if I've somehow "demoted" you...(chuckle).

As I said recently to a friend, "Better to laugh at myself when going into self-correction mode."

Best regards,

New Mexico, USA
March 9, 2010

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Quote of the Day

Even though there's only [a] 1 percent chance such measures would succeed, we should make [a] 100 percent effort.

--Chinese special envoy to the Middle East Wu Sike, on resolving the nuclear standoff with Iran through diplomacy.

In response to Special Envoy Sike:

Dear Special Envoy Sike,

With a 99% probability that the Iranian government is stalling for time to complete a working nuclear weapon (more than one actually), it's quite risky to give folks a month to convince themselves the talking is done, but I do believe in "maximum effort" so do be quick about it, and good luck to you Mr. Sike.

Remember sir, it only took the US and my grandad 27 months to build the first one from scratch with only theories to go on, building a city from scratch and an industry from scratch in total secrecy in the middle of the largest and most costly war in human history.

There's a stark possibility folks need to consider in all of this, and that's that Iran already has a nuclear deterrant in all probability, despite any assertions made otherwise.

If that's the case, then the possibilities for a peaceful outcome are slim indeed, and likely nonexistant.

I think this is what has folks a little unsettled in their diplomatic approach because unity of purpose hasn't been working on religious fanatics. That we have in this context only one option left. Deciding how to render the Iranian government incapable of making war, and that can't be done by sanctions or isolation, or containment, but only through regime relacement therapy.

Meanwhile the Iranian people are stuck between a rock and a hard place trying to save themselves from their unelected government and a fanatical mindset that accuses them of "warring against God".

Well here we have only theories to go on as to best options to save lives in an imminent worst-case scenario. Wherein the Iranian government believes causing war and instability is in its best interest.

I believe that's exactly the mindset we are all faced with at this point, with diplomacy consistantly drawing lines in the sand they step over until we step aside and let them step over oblivion's cliff. That is unless folks decide to cut them off at the knees first before Iran drags their people over it with them along with the entire region.

Having read Sun Tzu, and understanding one of his basic military precepts was that one never allows the enemy to dictate the place or timing of battle;

We don't want to give Iran's government the war they want or expect on their terms.
We give them the war they are neither prepared for nor able to fight, on our terms.

In closing sir, I just want to say that folks can thank their lucky I-Ching that the car the Chinese government seeks to co-pilot with us is an American built "cash for clunker" candidate, and not a recalled Toyota. (chuckle).

As long as it fires on all cylinders, we'll get where we want to go in one peace.

That's the hope.



( Delivery through appropriate diplomatic channels requested )

Tanveer B.
Oregon, USA
March 10, 2010

Tanveer B. in Oregon writes:

I'll be happy to help provide input to the evolving [foreign] policy in South Asia - Thanks

patty w.
West Virginia, USA
March 11, 2010

Patty W. in West Virginia writes:

I would love to arrange a meeting to learn about opportunities to get involved! I'm on spring break and free any time.

Montana, USA
March 15, 2010

Inigo in Montana writes:

@ Eric in New Mexico: I refer you to the Tom Lehrer song "Who's Next?" Please give it a listen and take a gander at it's performance date. Connect what dots you will.

New Mexico, USA
March 16, 2010

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Inigo: Thanks Inigo, I needed that..."blast from the past"...

The Khan network pretty well took that vaudville vinette and made a real nightmare about "who's next?".

Strategic ambiguity suits a few nations, that's for sure.

If one can reasonably assume Israel has nukes, at least you can say they've never threatened another nation with them, is spite of a long history of hostility from various quarters, and some heated engagements.

What ended WW2 became the social nemissis of the cold war, and we have today some pretty disfunctional mindsets that haven't gotten a grip on the fact that you can't use them and remain civilized.

Yet how many science fiction films have been based on saving the world with nuclear weapons? Bad movies born from trying to cope for the most part.

"Just nuke it!, that'll fix ya!"

Problem solved in feature length?

A 65 year old sitcom re-run isn't what this President had in mind I guess, and that's a good thing...

In a perfect world where duck-tape would be king of civil preparedness, let's tape all the pissed-off preachers incommunicado to all those nifty nuclear missiles and have a light show on the moon for next New Year's.

Lil' Kim could then be "president for life" of his very own Lunar nuclear-waste dump.

Some how this false assumtion was sold to folks that nukes actually makes you safer.

War has come a long way since "total war" was made by example 70 yeas ago, and was only ended by the utter destruction of cities, to render the enemy incapable of making war by destroying the infrastructure that produced weapons of war.

"Today there is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence. I feel that we've got to look at this total thing anew and recognize that we must live together. That the whole world now it is one--not only geographically but it has to become one in terms of brotherly concern. Whether we live in America or Asia or Africa we are all tied in a single garment of destiny and whatever effects one directly, effects one in-directly.

"I'm concerned about living with my conscience and searching for that which is right and that which is true, and I cannot live with the idea of being just a conformist following a path that everybody else follows. And this has happened to us. As I've said in one of my books, so often we live by the philosophy 'Everybody's doing it, it must be alright.' We tend to determine what is right and wrong by taking a sort of Gallup poll of the majority opinion, and I don't think this is the way to get at what is right.

"Arnold Toynbee talks about the creative minority and I think more and more we must have in our world that creative minority that will take a stand for that which conscience tells them is right, even though it brings about criticism and misunderstanding and even abuse."

Excerpted from a 1967 interview of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Arnold Michaelis.
I find it hard to conceive that the US, being the only country to use nukes to end a war, would ever willingly use one again.

But if I think if we had no other choice, we'd use one to end a war before it ever started.

I won't speculate on what circumstance would be involved for anyone to even think about it, but Pres. Obama has a rational decision to make regarding the nuclear posture review, and the parameters of their use in war.

"First use" has been ambiguous up till now, I guess for the good reason being no one knows what the future might bring, or what ill winds tyrants might shout about.

I bet 'ol bin ladin figured he could get us to nuke his training camps after 9/11 by getting us angry.

There's a perfect justification for "holy war", if he could play the "victim" long enough.

We didn't give him the war he wanted nor expected.

Nipped that "holy war" in the bud, by not being suckered into "instant gratification".

We could have done things a lot differently if we had no morals at all, which is what bin ladin was counting on in vain.

This rambling is going somewhere but I'll figure that out tommrrow,
( to be continued...)

Be well,

Jacqueline S.
Texas, USA
April 28, 2010

Jacqueline S. in Texas writes:

Although I believe the plight of women all over the world is heart breaking, looking at the women around me participating in behaviors detrimental to their future and the futures of their children pushed me to try and make a change where I am. I pray that all our efforts will empower women everywhere to love themselves and minister to their first congregation, their children.

Evangelist Jacqueline S.


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