Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mountain Runner's Reading List

If you have any interest at all in public diplomacy, you need to be reading Matt Armstrong, known to the blogosphere as Mountain Runner. He's recently come out with a public diplomacy reading list, which I've ganked wholesale because I'm so excited about it. (Mountain Runner cautions that it's a very preliminary list, though it looks like an excellent one to me; however, check back with his site in the coming days and weeks for even better versions.)

Readings on Public Diplomacy

A very preliminary reading list on public diplomacy. At this time, this list is not in any particular order and it will be expanded to include more. Click here to jump to the government reports section.

Practicing Public Diplomacy: A Cold War Odyssey by Yale Richmond
image Total Cold War: Eisenhower's Secret Propaganda Battle at Home And Abroad by Kenneth Osgood
image Selling War: The British Propaganda Campaign Against American "Neutrality" in World War II by Nicholas Cull
image American Encounters with Arabs: The "Soft Power" of U.S. Public Diplomacy in the Middle East by William Rugh
image The First Resort of Kings: American Cultural Diplomacy in the Twentieth Century by Richard Arndt
image Losing Hearts and Minds?: Public Diplomacy and Strategic Influence in the Age of Terror by Carnes Lord
image Parting the Curtain: Propaganda, Culture, and the Cold War, 1945-1961 by Walter L. Hixson
image Information War: American Propaganda, Free Speech, and Opinion Control Since 9/11 by Nancy Sno

Click here to visit Mountain Runner's original post.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Dune: A Model of Political Warfare

If you're looking for some good fiction to read - and you should be, since varied reading greatly increases intellectual dexterity - might I recommend Frank Herbert's 1965 novel Dune? Though written more than 40 years ago, Dune is not only well written, winning the inaugural Nebula Award for best sci-fi novel, but also touches upon a number of perennial issues.

The story involves a far-flung galactic empire and the feuding dynastic houses within it. (Some have compared the work to Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.) A variety of the tools of statecraft are employed in this struggle: parliamentary politics, economics, intelligence, assassination, insurgency and open warfare. The interrelationship between geography, ecology, culture and political struggle is strongly emphasized. Likewise, the importance of religion and the limits of technology are seen. In the midst of all this political intrigue we see the statesman - the leader possessing wisdom, heroism and moral rectitude.

In a post-Cold War world of irregular warfare, nationalistic movements, transnational terrorists, environmental concerns and rising economic powers, Dune remains a prescient work for any student of political warfare.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Al-Qaeda on the Defensive

Today the Financial Times has an excellent article titled "Down but dangerous: How al-Qaeda has been pushed on to the defensive." The FT provides some encouraging evidence that the terrorist organization does not enjoy the level of international popularity it once held.

In the second half of the last year, Pakistani support for al-Qaeda has dropped by half. In Saudi Arabia, those who view al-Qaeda unfavorably now outnumber those who view it favorably by a margin of more than six to one. Moreover, over 60% of Saudis believe the Saudi military should pursue al-Qaeda fighters.

Such victories in the popularity polls do not necessarily translate into victories on the battlefield or in wilderness of mirrors that is the intelligence world. However, these numbers do indicate that al-Qaeda and its mufsidun allies are losing the battle for hearts and minds. And that is a good thing indeed.