Tellurian

U.S. being ‘out-communicated,’ Clinton says. Information is key!

In foreign policy, Madame Secretary Hillary Clinton, Middle East, the Taliban and al Qaeda on May 23, 2009 at 5:13 pm

Hill in Blues

Secretary Clinton testified yesterday (as seen above) in front of a Senate subcommittee that the United States is “being out-communicated by the Taliban and al Qaeda” and that it needs a “new strategic communication strategy” in order to “do a better job of getting the story of the values, ideals, the results of democracy out to people who are now being fed a steady diet of the [worst] kind of disinformation.”

Al Qaeda’s propagandists produce high-quality videos and elaborate Web sites, which has led U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates to often say, “We’re being out-communicated by a guy in a cave.”

Clinton didn’t provide details about what any “new strategic communication strategy” would involve, but whatever it is, let’s hope it follows sound media ethics. In the past, the United States secretly paid Iraqi newspapers to run articles written by U.S. troops. In 2006, the Defense Department’s inspector general discovered that the Lincoln Group, a private contractor, had paid Iraqi media outlets to run articles without attribution that were favorable to the U.S. military.

It’s doubtful, though, that Clinton would support such tactics. According to a 2008 Washington Post article, when then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld learned about the Lincoln Group’s “anonymous pay-to-publish program,” he told reporters, “Gee, that’s not what we ought to be doing.”

Clinton, the e-diplomat, has hinted a bit at what her communications strategy would involve. Tuesday, she mentioned reaching out directly to displaced Pakistanis on their cellphones.

In all fairness, FP — the print edition — runs multipage ads from various countries, which are clearly marked as “Special Advertising Supplement.” The May/June issue has supplements from the Dominican Republic, Angola, and Cabinda (an Angolan province).

And speaking of Angola, Clinton has that country on her schedule today:

11:00 a.m. Bilateral with His Excellency Ansuncao Afonso dos Anjos, Minister of External Relations of the Republic of Angola.

11:45 a.m. Meeting with Joint Summit Working Group.

2:00 p.m. Bilateral with His Excellency Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania.

4:15 p.m. Attend The President’s bilateral with Excellency Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania.

Photo: TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

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