Internal US Politics and Public Diplomacy, the Twain shall Meet?

Cover of "Animal Farm: Centennial Edition...
Cover of Animal Farm: Centennial Edition


Imagine, if you will, that you are interested in knowing how the US is perceived by foreigners.  Imagine that you want to know how the current US Presidential is perceived by foreigners.  There is and it sickens me.  Either the writer is trying to expose an innocently flawed program or there is purposeful ongoing malfeasance.


ForeignPolicy.com just published a piece by Josh Rogin titled “State Department international convention guests all support Obama“.  The title of the piece is obviously good news or bad news for the two political parties, but that is not what is disturbing to me.


First, the title is misleading.  In the first paragraph the title becomes moot.


Every single one of them interviewed by The Cable prefers President Barack Obama over GOP candidate Mitt Romney.


“Every single one of them interviewed” is not the same as all.


Later in the article the hypothesis is reinforced.


The Cable asked the State Department contractor in charge of the program, Karen Shatin, what she thought about the fact that all the guests seem to be Obama supporters. She said there were some right-leaning guests who were just not around at the moment.


…and also:


She said the trip has convinced her to support Obama over Romney and most of the other State Department guests feel the same way.


See that word most? It might be better said as most or many but hindsight is 20/20, eh?  Okay, I’ll chalk that up to an unfortunate choice of words.  Actually, scratch that.  The title is just plain bad journalism.


We saw how many lies the Republicans tell. We watch Politifact and we saw how they lie and if you tell lies you don’t deserve to become president,” he said, referring to the independent fact-checking website Politifact.com.


Politifact.com is being widely excoriated for what many consider a left-leaning bias.  Check out the links below.  This is probably just one shot in a series of artillery exchanges in the fact-checker wars of 2012. …and we want to expose foreign youth to this, the worst part of American politics?


The guests’ experiences were colored by the fact that the State Department couldn’t get them actual credentials to enter the arena in Tampa, so they had to watch the convention events on a television and get periodic briefings from GOP officials. They do have credentials here in Charlotte and are looking forward to attending Obama’s speech Thursday.


I’m sure whoever had the mission to obtain tickets gave equal efforts to both conventions, in fact I’m sure they gave more than equal treatment to both.  Hint, this is a subtle reference to the book Animal Farm.   My assumption is reinforced here in this statement attributed to Gobi Alam from Bangladesh. “He said he is also supporting Obama, partially because he thought the Republicans didn’t treat him and the rest of the group well in Tampa.”


One of the Republicans who did meet with the group was…


So, a State Department contractor parks these kids in a place outside the convention and then manages to get a Republican in to speak with the group?  The implication to the participants is clear, ‘the Republicans don’t like you’.   No wonder these kids don’t like Republicans.  Intentional?  I’m sure it wasn’t.  Hint, sarcasm.


Despite all the negatives associated with the journalistic aspects of this article, credit must be given to the International Visitor Leadership Program, which is part of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.  To bring young foreigners to the United States and expose them to our process where we choose our possible future President is an awesome experience.


Next time, however, make sure these young ambassadors and perhaps future foreign leaders receive equal treatment by both parties.  One could make the inference that the contractor, the program or possibly the leadership had a political agenda.  Can anyone spell political appointee?





3 thoughts on “Internal US Politics and Public Diplomacy, the Twain shall Meet?

  1. What a maneuver! It was IRI who was named in the media for being held ‘hostage’ in Egypt for promoting ‘subversive values’ aka basic human rights in Egypt during the Arab Spring, and not a word about NDI’s actions were ever uttered. Then as soon as State brings some kids here, they push the Democrat candidate on them, and make it look like the Republicans don’t care for foreign hearts and minds.
    Before I graduated, I found it interesting to talk to a Fullbright student I befriended from Tunisia who participated in the Arab Spring. When she came to the US, she hooked up with some leftists (who she met online and who stood in solidarity with the protestors during those troubling times) to take a tour of the Occupy movements on the East Coast. Her perception of the corruption in the US was a bit skewed from the reality of the facts surrounding her judgement. She also didn’t understand the circumstances in which this country was founded, why our Bill of Rights hold the values they do, and how that knowledge should be the guiding principals in which are to administrate governance in the country.
    Another example from a more previous time, a friend of mine in Australia who I met while he was living in the US moved out of country right before the Tea Party movement was established. He would keep up with US news through CNN, and every once in a while we would chat about current events. He held nearly the same perceptions as my Fullbright friend.
    It was amazing to see the parallels between the perceptions and ideologies held by both of these people, both highly favorable to the left wing. However, when I would guide them through their judgements they would quickly see that their fallacy in judgement was due to the left’s political warfare tactics and the inaction and mishandling of those actions of those on the right. Without teaching foundational knowledge of this country (the who we are aspect of PD) and then being subjected to our internal political warfare, it always appeared that the Republicans were nasty war mongering racists in the eyes of our foreign friends.
    (I have more examples, but I should really be looking for a job instead of talking about this ish at the moment.)
    To me and IMHO, this tells me that international perceptions are always more favorable to the left because its promoted by them, fueled by adversarial propaganda, and reinforced by the international press. (<- which provides an argument for the revision of Smith-Mundt) The promotion of inalienable rights can be used as a weapon to make perceptions more favorable for one agenda over another. By promoting only the application of inalienable rights, and not our history, the tactical promotions of rights and favorbility can be used to justify the same 'atrocities' that King George did to our Founding Fathers by an agenda setters that cleverly masked the negative consequences of their policy (the you only see what we shine the light on trick). Without teaching the circumstances and facts surrounding our country's birth and who we are, I ask, should State's actions really called public diplomacy?

    1. Excellent comment, thanks!

      I’m not sure if this comes out or not, but I try to remain absolutely neutral when it comes to the blog and politics. I don’t promote either party. Please do not take the article as pro-Republican or anti-Democrat, that is not the intent. If I came off that way, I apologize.

      In the military we swore an oath to the Constitution of the United States and followed the orders of the Commander in Chief, the President, regardless of party affiliation. My personal opinion did not really matter, my job was to keep my soldiers alive and accomplish whatever mission I was given.

      In my humble opinion, the same politics agnostic attitude should be the goal in every part of the government, below the policy level. The Department of State, in my opinion, should sell Democracy and the United States of America and not the Democratic party.

  2. Joel, I know that you are religiously independent and try to appear as neutral as possible. I also know your article is neither pro-Republican or anti-Democratic. Like the RAND article you posted on FB the other day concerning influence ops, surrounding/environmental conditions matter when those perceptions are formed. You can rest easy knowing my response was written from the standpoint of a neutral environment.

    What you posted was merely the truth. Your assumption on your readers’ perceptions is a valid concern, especially as an influence guy. As I am sure you already know, the simple truth does reflect its own pros and cons leaving the readers to build their perception on their own, and that same self-generated perception is merely the emotional response to the logical outcome the brain forms after reading such content. Really, it doesn’t look good for State or the Democrat party, in this case. When it comes to politics, truths like this can be sketchy because some people are less likely to think critically and more likely to heave the “bias bs” argument without thinking. Some people will run and do everything to refute a truth they are unwilling to confront. I am pretty sure there are empirical studies to back this claim too.

    Scenarios such as your original posting provides me with one more reason why I think influence exercises should move beyond Red Teaming to include the whites and blues/greens. Not only would such exercises provide researchers with the insight of the non-reds, it would also help weed out when political agenda begins to overtake political policy.

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