Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A Smarter, More Secure America

Many conspiracy theorists believe the Council on Foreign Relations secretly controls the government. But for the Obama administration, it appears that the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) had much more influence. In particular, the Obama administration seems to have adopted their strategy of “smart power.”

On November 6, 2007, CSIS published a report on smart power. The report cautioned against overreacting to terrorist attacks.

“Terrorists pose no existential threat to the United States,” said CSIS. “Their only hope-and indeed, their intended plan-is to use a sort of ‘jujitsu effect’ in which they entice a large, powerful nation such as the United States to overreact and make choices that hurt itself.”

Given that statement, it is pretty ironic that President Obama decided to increase the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from 38,000 to almost 100,000.

Whoops. Okay, so maybe Obama didn’t listen to all the recommendations in the report. But he did listen to some of the recommendations.

After eight years of invasions, war, and torture, the report recognized the importance of improving the image of America in the world. To do that, CSIS recommended that America focus on public diplomacy.

“Effective public diplomacy is central to any discussions about American image and influence in the world today,” said CSIS.

Normal diplomacy involves a group of diplomats talking to each other behind close doors. Public diplomacy, as the name suggests, involves the public, for instance, people like me.

“The advent of the global information age and a growing and highly fractured political consciousness have increased the difficulty of favorably shaping public opinion in foreign lands,” said CSIS. “Attacks on America’s message from non-state actors can only be countered with an agility and authenticity that most governments lack.”

This is where I come in. During the 2008 presidential election, the government got me to create a website that supported Barack Obama.

The reported noted that “the center of gravity in world affairs” was moving towards Asia. That being the case, America needed people who could influence people in that region. What better way to alter public opinion in Asia than to use me, a Japanese-American. When interacting with a country, America often uses people of the same race as the people living inside that country. I guess America thinks those people might get a better reception than people of a different race.

Actually, in my case, what my government had in mind for me went a little bit beyond what you would call public diplomacy.

“The intent of public diplomacy is to communicate with the people, not the governments, of foreign countries,” said CSIS.

In my case, it appears the government wanted me to communicate with foreign governments, in particular the government of Japan. Whether or not that falls under the category of public diplomacy, I don’t know. But it did seem to fall under the category of things CSIS wanted to do.

“Diplomacy today requires new methods compared to traditional diplomacy,” said CSIS. There was once a time when diplomacy involved American officials meeting quietly to discuss problems with foreign government and private sector elites. Although there is still a central role for these formal channels of dialogue, diplomacy today is far more diverse and challenging. Elites of any one nation today often have more in common with counterparts in other countries than with most citizens in their own country. American diplomats need the capacity to reach beyond these traditional sources of information and channels of influence to better understand and shape views abroad.”

Now that we have the Internet, anyone can communicate with a foreign country…even me.

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