August 20th, 2004

flavored with age

Sure, whatever you say, Habib. Where's my $300?

BUSH ADMINISTRATION RECEIVES NONCOMBATANT STATUS IN WAR OF IDEAS

The Bush administration is facing growing criticism from both inside and outside its ranks that it has failed to move aggressively enough in the war of ideas against Osama bin-Laden's al-Q’aeda and other Islamic extremist groups over the three years since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

REPUBLICAN ADMINISTRATION STRANGELY RELUCTANT TO PROMOTE DEMOCRACY

On its boldest policy ideas, such as the Greater Middle East Democracy Initiative, the administration has limited its follow-through or deferred to the very governments that have most resisted democratic reforms, specialists and some U.S. officials say.

SURE, THE WHITE HOUSE APPOINTED HIM, BUT WHAT KIND OF NAME IS “TELHAMI”, ANYWAY?

"It's worse than failing. Failing means you tried and didn't get better. But at this point, three years after September 11, you can say there wasn't even much of an attempt, and today Arab and Muslim attitudes toward the U.S. and the degree of distrust in the U.S. are far worse than they were three years ago. Bin Laden is winning by default," said Shibley Telhami, a member of a White House-appointed advisory group on public diplomacy and Brookings Institution scholar.

IT ALL WENT TO UPPER-CLASS TAX CUTS

"This is all feel-good mumbo jumbo," said a State Department official familiar with public diplomacy efforts who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "Particularly in light of Guantanamo Bay, it's unclear how this will make us safe. If this is so important, where's the money?"

WE’RE LOOKING INTO THIS ‘DIPLOMACY’ THING, WHATEVER IT IS

Condoleezza Rice, in a speech yesterday at the U.S. Institute of Peace, conceded that public diplomacy is an area the administration wants to "look harder at" and said, "We are not obviously not very well organized for the side of public diplomacy."

SURE, WE’D LOVE TO SPEND MORE ON EDUCATION AND CULTURE, BUT THESE ORANGE ALERTS COST MONEY

The budget for the State Department's public diplomacy programs worldwide for 2004 is $685 million -- the majority of which does not go to the Muslim world, despite the major shift in emphasis after the 2001 terrorist attacks, U.S. officials say. Only $79 million goes to education and cultural exchanges -- the heart of public diplomacy and the largest single expenditure in its budget -- with Middle East and South Asian countries. And the increases since 2001 have been small, with an initial decrease in the first budget after Sept. 11. The budget for the Department of Homeland Security is more than $30 billion.

WELL, AT LEAST PEOPLE IN MOLDOVA DON’T HATE US ANYMORE

The numbers of people reached directly by key U.S. programs are extremely small, U.S. officials concede. A new U.S.-sponsored exchange program for Arab and Muslim high school students brought 170 students last year and 480 this year and will bring 1,000 next year. In contrast, about 5,000 exchanges were organized from former Soviet republics in the first year after the Cold War ended, a State Department official said.

DID WE MENTION THOSE UPPER-CLASS TAX CUTS?

Congress has not been much of an ally, in some cases cutting even relatively small proposed increases for cultural and educational exchanges, U.S. officials say.

HEY, FUKUYAMA! I THOUGHT YOU SAID WE WERE DONE WITH ALL THIS STUFF

Much of the U.S. focus over the past three years has been on rebuilding programs cut back or dismantled after the Cold War, when, in the words of one senior U.S. official, the United States "declared victory and the end of history and went home." Now Washington is struggling to get back to the level of foreign cultural programs and exchanges that existed in the 1980s, the official added.

ARABS INEXPLICABLY PREFER ARAB PROGRAMMING TO AMERICAN PROPAGANDA

The administration has launched a major new broadcasting effort with Radio Sawa in Arabic and Radio Farda in Farsi, as well as al-Hurra, an Arabic-language television station, to counter the growing influence of regional broadcasting outlets. But the three get mixed reviews. "Sawa seems to be having some impact, but the reaction to al-Hurra has been very negative," said Edward S. Walker Jr., president of the Middle East Institute and former ambassador to Egypt and Israel. "People watch it once or twice and then turn to al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya."

BOTTOM LINE? NOW YOU’RE TALKING! HOW ABOUT SOME MORE UPPER-CLASS TAX CUTS?

"There is a total collapse of trust in American intentions and it's only gotten far worse over the past year," Telhami said. "When people hate or resent the United States far more than they dislike bin Laden, how can you succeed? That's the bottom line."