Loose Londoners: the possible security implications of more failed and failing states

Here is a link to the piece by Griff Witte on the Washington Post’s Website. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/europeans-are-flocking-to-the-war-in-syria-what-happens-when-they-come-home/2014/01/29/772f56d0-88f6-11e3-833c-33098f9e5267_story.html

Witte discusses Europeans who have gone to fight in the war in Syria. In particular, the security concerns of the United Kingdom and France are highlighted. The concept that private citizens can go to certain places to receive training or indoctrination and then return home to cause security problems and acts of terrorism is not a new phenomenon.

The United States has had similar situations including a Syrian American raised in Alabama go to Somalia to join Al Shabaab and another American who became a cleric in Yemen.

The idea that conflict zones and weak states empower non-state actors is a well documented occurrence in International Affairs. Boaz Atzili has coined the term triadic deterrence to explain why strong states even dictators like Bashar al-Assad are preferable, to a country experiencing the threat of terrorism, compared to anarchy and political entities unable to project power and control their territory. This is because a state can put pressure on, threaten, punish, and negotiate with a fellow government much easier than it can with non state actors.

I am not advocating the support of the government in Syria. Rather I am questioning the support of some of the rebels who are more of a danger to NATO than Syria and its chemical weapons ever were.  This article in the Washington Post enables one to think  about other places people may go to join violent non state actors that are more directly the result of foreign policy decisions of NATO countries such  Libya and Iraq. The larger question this train of thought leads to is: does tearing down dictators with little legal justification and no post war strategy make the United States and its allies safer or does it cede more territory to the terror they have allegedly been at war with for over twelve years?

The Need for Synergy in Modern-Day Diplomacy

This week I found some of Kelley’s (2010) ideas slightly corresponding with my post from week 1 where I suggested that public diplomacy doesn’t really change the rules of the diplomatic ‘game’, but rather adds a publicly available dimension to it and creates an illusion of power in the hands of the people.

Kelley implies that public diplomacy has created a plethora of messages by non-state actors that forms various networks and alliances. There are big gaps between the positions of these different actors and between their positions and the official diplomatic messages. Despite the clear benefits of this more democratic form of conducting diplomacy, Kelley stresses the need for synergy in order to direct the power of separate actors to a concrete action. The best way to coordinate positions and create this synergy remains the official diplomatic channel that can unite the non-governmental actors and communicate the message to the relevant policy makers.

Moreover Kelley suggests that ‘big’ decisions such as signing of international treaties or legislation towards creation of new norms are still executed almost exclusively by official policy makers communicating through official diplomatic channels. Here as well, it implies from the article that the best way for the ‘new diplomats’ (p.293) to communicate their messages is still by joining forces with “their official counterparts” (p. 293).

So it looks like the essential power yet remains in the hands of the ‘old diplomats’ (ibid). The new types of diplomacy such as public and cultural diplomacy are important in filling in the gaps in governmental actions, however the new ways do not appear to replace the classic diplomatic communication between states. 

Survival Public Diplomacy: North Korea’s OGD and the Importance of Understanding Propaganda in Public Diplomacy

62355_10201965033064585_1378625608_n

Sin Son Ho, DPRK’s Special Delegate to the United Nations at the United Nations in New York held an unexpected press conference last week last week in which he called for practical measures to be taken to thaw tensions on the Korean peninsula in a direction to improve relations and reconcile national unity on the peninsula.

This very positive public rhetoric has left analysts guessing at it’s sincerity. Had this speech been given a year or two ago, analysts would be more optimistic than now. It is no secret that North Korea has the art of propaganda masterfully refined to a science, but what about their public diplomacy? With the sensationalism that occurs in mainstream media worldwide, coupled with North Korea’s untrustworthiness, the lines between fact and fiction are hard to decipher, but those who can do so are crucial to understanding this conflict.

In the past six months North Korea detained American Citizen Merrill Newman for “atrocities during the war”, purged the Uncle of their own leader, been infuriated by South Korean President Park’s world “hate tour” against them and the US Congress’ passing of a nine million dollar information warfare budget to be spent against them. Not to mention the fact that the international community has condemned their “basketball diplomacy” campaign, largely due to Dennis Rodman’s idiotic mentions of detained American Kenneth Bae who is sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor for “subversion to overthrow the State” with “Operation Jericho”.

To top it off, several slatternly journalists have created sensational stories such as the Unhasu Orchestra being machine-gunned to death, and Jang Sang Thaek’s execution being carried out by over a hundred starving dogs. This doesn’t help the credibility of western journalist anymore than it serves any positive purpose towards understanding why North Korea is the way it is and what it is really up to. To truly resolve the Korean conflict, the propagandists on all sides must learn how to report the facts and only the facts, communicate with transparency, and stop using information as warfare.

North Korea’s main objective is eternal survival and maintenance of their regime. Their propaganda often serves as the gatekeeper to their survival, as their isolation and information is their greatest weapon.In North Korea, it is not Kim Jung Un who is running the country, but a man named Cho Yun Jun, who’s job title is “First Vice Director with Chain-of-Command Over Organizational Structures” ,which is the number one position in the Organization and Guidance Department (OGD), which is the regimes institutional power that was set up by President Kim Il Sung during the founding of the regime to be the guardian of the regime, and to that effect, of “the throne”.

Jang Sang Thaeks purge was not a result of the flippant charges against him, which all North Korean’s are guilty of to some extent, but more of the result of the OGD using him as a pawn in their chess game to maintain state sovereignty after the failed 6.28 reform measures. They needed a scapegoat to push back the world against the thought that they were opening up.

Kim Jong Un may have wanted to reform the state, with Jang’s help, and many North Korean’s would like to see that happen, but as long as the OGD remains in power, no reform is possible. Kim Jong Un is nothing more than a symbolic figurehead. North Korea’s speech to the world about wanting peace is nothing more than a PR move to distract the world from their growing uneasiness at the external and internal behaviors of people who want reform badly. The speech should not be taken at face value, but as a sign that the regime is losing control. Hence the underlying reason for Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s Address which was focused on “Single Minded Unity”, which was a stark contrast from last years speech which was focused on “Idealogical Changes in Thinking Towards Progress and Education”.

This just goes to show the importance of understanding Public diplomacy and Propaganda in International Relations.

New P.D. and the Restructuring of “Traditional” Communication Models

As a communication masters student, I bet it comes as no surprise that studying and analyzing communication systems theory is a large interest of mine. Thus, this week’s reading of the conclusion in Pammet’s Introduction chapter inspired an internal debate on how developing technologies, and their effects of international diplomatic involvement, has entirely reshaped what we know of as traditional communication models.  In face-to-face communicaiton, the senders and encoders are synonymous, and that is also true of the decoders/receivers. In what Pammet describes as “old PD,” international actors had already begun to divide these traditional communication roles in that the encoding and decoding responsibilities more often than not take place within media outlets and other public forums that allowed political leaders to expand the reach of their message as well as their potential audience. Today, as social media and digital communication narrow the geographic and intellectual gaps between governments and citizens, the traditional roles of encoding and decoding take on entirely different, multinational structures which allow instantaneous feedback. The beauty and curse of these development is where culture, or perceptions of reality, are the last step in transmitting messages from one institution to another, regardless of size. Thus, with a new interactive and interconnected forms of communication systems, how is it possible to predict what encoding and decoding channels our public diplomacy and foreign policy initiatives will either aid or detract from the overall message and strategy? How powerful can the use of “soft power” be when as number of mediums through which the messages must pass in order to effectively influence the hearts and minds of those from entirely different cultures grows exponentially? is it possible to be that culturally pluralistic? Or must we need to accept what my mother has been trying to tell me since middle school that “you can’t make everyone happy”? I digress…I’ve attached the link to a really great article discussing the evolving role of soft power, specifically in regards to the developing transnational BRICs community. It carries similar sentiments and questions that I previously proposed about how we should approach obstacles in public diplomacy:  “a more constructive approach to this dilemma of expanding BRICS influence through soft power means should not lie in adopting new concepts to project their power but rather to focus on building intra-group trust between the BRICS.” The article emphasizes soft power as a necessary and increasingly important topic in supporting the growth of the BRICs, but so far their efforts and means of adjusting it’s diplomatic goals through communication and media systems has shown that internal restructuring or an introspective approach is equally elemental in successfully and effectively implementing international “new PD.”

http://allafrica.com/stories/201401170646.html?viewall=1

Ukraine: PD vs. Political Interference?

President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to abandon closer ties with the EU in favor of Russia sparked anti-government demonstrations in Ukraine, dubbed EuroMaidan.

Ukrainian students from different educational institutions shout slogans during their march in Kiev, Ukraine, 26 November 2013. More two thousands students gathered for support of Ukrainian Euro integration in downtown capital as they declared a strike. EPA/SERGEY DOLZHENKO

When a bill was passed by the Ukrainian parliament on January 16th limiting the right to demonstrate, the protests took a violent turn. During the past week of unrest, three protesters have died in Kiev with over 300 injured.

Several German government officials have publicly voiced their opinions on the matter. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier stated that he understood the views of the opposition, adding that “violence is not a solution, and we can say that to both sides.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed. Merkel spoke with President Yanukovych recently to persuade him to revoke the recent bill. She urged Yanukovych to lead a real dialogue with the opposition to discuss political reform. Other officials from the EU and the US have made similar statements in favor of the anti-government protesters.

On the other hand, Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized the EU for what could be interpreted as “political interference”. According to Putin, the trips made by EU and US officials have only furthered the crisis in Ukraine. At an EU-Russia summit in Brussels on Tuesday, he stated “I can imagine the reaction of our European partners if, in the midst of a crisis in Greece or any other country, our foreign minister would come to an anti-European rally and would urge people to do something.”

From a public diplomacy standpoint, the EU and US officials have played a large role for the Ukrainian protesters. The protests have not ceased and could be fueled by these Western officials publicly voicing their support for the opposition. But this raises some interesting questions in regards to PD.  Are the actions taken by the EU and the US considered “political interference”, or is it public diplomacy?  How thin is the line between interference and PD? What is the difference between the two?

Why is Qatar spending so much money in the United States?

I thought I’d shift from my usual habitat of East Asia and look into something closer to home that sparked my curiosity late last year:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/qatar-foundation-to-open-cultural-center-in-citycenterdc/2013/10/15/c5ff7192-359e-11e3-80c6-7e6dd8d22d8f_story.html

Image
Construction at the CityCenter Project in downtown D.C.

 

 In short: The tiny Arab monarchy of Qatar is investing big in the United States, building a massive residential business complex a couple of blocks north of Chinatown and launching the U.S. edition of Al-Jazeera from new studios in Manhattan. Part of the new development in D.C. will be an office for the Qatar Foundation International, which will teach about Arabic language and culture.

 The big question that I think many will ask is: why bother? Why would a nation of 250,000 people (two million if you count non-citizens) put so much money into public diplomacy?

 One crude but valid answer is that Qatar has money to burn. Thanks to its location above the world’s largest gas deposit, Qatar has the world’s highest GDP per capita, sitting just above the $100,000 mark.  With that kind of money, dropping $650 million on D.C. real estate is not much of a big deal (and perhaps a good investment).

 However, I think a second element needs to be considered here. We focus a lot on how public diplomacy can be used to help achieve foreign policy objectives, but is it possible that a country’s image abroad could be not just a means, but an end unto itself? In the Middle East, different nations pride themselves on different things. Saudi Arabia is the custodian of the two holy mosques, Iran pushes to become the second Middle Eastern nation to have nuclear weapons.

 Without the population, land or overall size of economy, Qatar can never compete in areas like military might. So what can be known for instead? I think investments like Al Jazeera’s U.S. launch and the development downtown hint at the kind of nation that Qatar’s leadership wants to present to the world.