Strategic Communications and Iran: But is This Risking “Death to America” Again?


I had an interesting chat a few days ago with George W. Bush Institute Executive Director James Glassman, who served as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy during the latter part of the G.W. Bush administration. He was also Chair of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.
Glassman occasionally gets heat for a book he co-authored once on where the dow jones index would eventually go. Ultimately, he may be right — but in this business, ideas entrepreneurs who take risks should be appreciated, not ignored.
James Glassman has been a policy entrepreneur in risk-averse Washington, DC for a long time — and he and I have become good friends debating each other on quite a number of fronts. But I respect his creativity and integrity.
While at the State Department, Glassman conceived a better mission for his work than what I thought existed before — focused not on nudging others around the world to like us but rather to express their own views, no matter how critical of the US or passionate about other issues, in ways that were non-violent.
Glassman also helped generate buzz around what he calls “Diplomacy 2.0“.
Above is a short clip that I think presents some thoughts on Iran that deserve air time. I would be hesitant to go as far as Jim does in advocating a stronger US appropriations approach for the kind of communications he suggests as I don’t want whatever organic movement exists inside Iran to become (any more) tainted by countries outside.
Here is a longer audio version of the event (here is video) held at the New America Foundation.
Try and listen to Glassman’s views and if you feel moved, debate the merits or not one way or another in a civil manner. Screeds about Jim’s Dow book or conservative credentials are not helpful or interesting.
More later. In Tripoli now. Back to DC tomorrow via Dubai.
— Steve Clemons


15 comments on “Strategic Communications and Iran: But is This Risking “Death to America” Again?

  1. kotzabasis says:

    The title absconds from reality. ‘…But is this risking “Death to America” Again?’ When did it stop to start again?


  2. Don Bacon says:

    Good point. I don’t see Glassman (or Steve, for that matter) crying out for Noam Chomsky to appear on Fox. That would be informative, to say the least, but it probably doesn’t fit the parameters for “strategic communications” as you so ably pointed out. There’s a point beyond which the American people shouldn’t be informed, the thinking goes. Better to pick on . . .Iran, this year.


  3. JohnH says:

    While Glassman is at it, why shouldn’t he support the right of Americans other than neocons to express their views on national TV, no matter how critical of US policy?
    Yeah, right! Washington only supports the right of citizens of OTHER countries, targets for regime change, to express their views, now matter how critical. In the US, the media must stick to the narrow, group-thinking Washington policy parameters, particularly when the government is about to waste a few $Trillion, starting an adventure of choice, like Iraq.


  4. Don Bacon says:

    Upon further reflection, I support Glassman. A US-funded program to allow more Iranians “to express their own views” should help dispel the myth that the Iranian people would just love to give up their civilian nuclear power program if we just cut off their gasoline.
    Hearing from Iranians who “express their own views, no matter how critical of the US” should make it even clearer that on both sides of the Iran government/green divide, Iranians support their nuclear program and want the US to keep hands off Iran. A feeling that most Iranians share is a well-earned dislike of The Great Satan.
    June 8, 2009 (AP) — Just 29 percent of Iranians said they have favorable views of the United States in the latest poll, which was conducted last month. In a similar survey in February 2008 – nearly a year before Barack Obama became president – 34 percent had positive opinions about the U.S.
    Go Glassman. Let’s hear from Iranians via “Strategic Communications”. The Iranians would like it and it might change the comical US/Iran policy for the better.


  5. mlp says:

    I’m puzzled by this. Glassman thinks we aren’t doing anything, but he also thinks VOA Farsi is doing an excellent job? So what’s the problem?


  6. Pahlavan says:

    Obama is shackled. The only way he can break free and rescue America and his presidency is to dig his heels in and replace Hillary Clinton and her backup card.


  7. JohnH says:

    Gee, Glassman is proposing more and better propaganda! What a surprise!
    And Glassman dismisses diplomacy for having failed. Another surprise!
    However, any informed observer can see immediately through Glassman’s BS and knows that serious diplomacy has failed because it has never been tried. More and better propaganda is simply another way to avoid having to deal seriously with Iran.
    Glassman is still a hack with no credibility. Why Steve chooses to be associated with him is still a mystery to me.


  8. Kathleen says:

    Professor Juan Cole nailing Netanyahu’s lies and aggression.
    Wednesday, March 24, 2010
    Netanyahu Humiliates Obama with another E. Jerusalem Housing Expansion;
    Israeli Troops allegedly used live Ammo;
    UK expels Mossad Chief
    all of the following over at Informed Comment (Prof Juan Cole)
    *Aljazeera English has the scoop, with live video of Israeli troops firing on the Palestinian youths, with what certainly sounds like live ammunition.
    *Tony Karon argues that Israel will not end its expansion of settlements in the West Bank until it has to pay a cost for maintaining the status quo.
    *Tuesday, March 23, 2010
    Empires Come and Gone in the Middle East
    * Top Ten Reasons East Jerusalem does not belong to Jewish-Israelis
    Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the American Israel Public Affairs Council on Monday that “Jerusalem is not a settlement.” He continued that the historical connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel cannot be denied. He added that neither could the historical connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem. He insisted, “The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 years ago and the Jewish people are building Jerusalem today.” He said, “Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is our capital.” He told his applauding audience of 7500 that he was simply following the policies of all Israeli governments since the 1967 conquest of Jerusalem in the Six Day War.
    Netanyahu mixed together Romantic-nationalist cliches with a series of historically false assertions. But even more important was everything he left out of the history, and his citation of his warped and inaccurate history instead of considering laws, rights or common human decency toward others not of his ethnic group.
    ** Professor Norman Finkelstein over at Democracy Now stating facts about E Jerusalem not being the capitol of Israel but ” occupied Palestinian lands”


  9. nadine says:

    Gee, who could distrust James Glassman’s judgment, just because he ran around in the fall of 1999 urging people to mortgage their houses to buy stocks? Just before the Nasdaq crashed from 5,000 to 2,000, about where it sits today?
    Can anybody here remember 10 years ago?


  10. Cato the Censor says:

    It must be a grand thing indeed to be a member in good standing of the Village. You have to hang out with war criminals and notorious public fools, but that’s the price you pay for moving among the elite movers and shakers.


  11. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Netanyahu Threatens to Delay Peace Talks as New Settlements Approved
    Israeli PM Courts Support from Congress While Thumbing Nose at Obama
    by Jason Ditz, March 23, 2010
    The pretense of an American “victory” in last week’s settlement row was short-lived, indeed, but everyone seemed pretty keen to sweep the whole messy incident under the rug, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visiting the US this week. It seems however that the right-far-right coalition in Israel isn’t finished thumbing its nose as President Obama’s attempts to kick-start negotiations.
    Earlier today, just hours before Netanyahu was scheduled to meet with Obama, the Jerusalem municipal government made a very public announcement about a comparatively minuscule settlement expansion. Only 20 apartments were approved, but after shaming Vice President Biden with an ill-timed announcement, Israel had supposedly agreed to a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that would keep such embarrassing announcements out of the public spotlight. The announcement came anyhow, and the timing seemed to be designed, again, to court controversy with the Obama Administration.
    Shortly later, Netanyahu was on the offensive again. Following up yesterday’s claims that Israel was ready at any time to restart peace talks with the Palestinians, the prime minister threatened to block all peace efforts for the next year unless the Palestinians abandoned their “illogical” demands to stop expanding settlements in occupied East Jerusalem.
    It seems at this point any pretense of working with the Obama Administration has been abandoned, and the Netanyahu government is now openly shoring up its support among US Congressmen for the inevitable showdown. With a large number of Congressmen eager to condemn President Obama for anything resembling criticism of the Netanyahu government, it seems the prime minister is looking to ensure that those Congressmen remain at the ready, and the Obama Administration has plenty of things to criticize.
    We are going to do whatever Israel tells us to do in regards to Iran. These fucking bought and paid for cowards and whores in Congress will make sure of that. They have more loyalty towards Israel than they do to their own President, our security, and our credibility. The “fuck you Obama” actions from Netanyahu are coming on a daily basis now, with these cowards in Congress joining the chorus. Netanyahu will not stop until our President is exposed as a weakling and a vassal, and our own “Representatives”, on both sides of the aisle, are assisting Netanyahu in this effort.
    The world is watching as Netanyahu snips Obama’s balls off, and eats them for lunch.
    Iran, here we come, with Israel pushing the wagon.


  12. John Waring says:

    Read Bernard Finel’s entry today, “The Fatal Flaw”.
    Mr. Finel’s concluding remark:
    “But it is easier to lie about what might happen if the bill is passed than it is to lie about what is happening now that it has passed. That was the fatal flaw in the GOP “strategy.” It was a reckless gamble because if they lost, their whole argument would rapidly be exposed as lunatic fear-mongering.”


  13. Anthony says:

    VOA Farsi and now BBC persian are godsend to Iranians inside Iran. I know because I keep contact with friends. The only major concern is the sat jamming of the regime. If the US could provide work arounds to the Iranians it would make millions very happy indeed.


  14. downtown says:

    Peacemongers Should Be Apologizing Not Marching
    by James K. Glassman (April 14, 2003)
    “Before the war, they told us that 500,000 Iraqis would be killed in Dresden-like bombing, that we would precipitate an eco-catastrophe by pushing Saddam to set fire to his oil wells, that millions of people would flee the country, that thousands of our own troops would be killed, that the Arab “street” would rise up, that terrorist attacks would resume ferociously on our homeland, that Iraqis would tenaciously resist our colonization of their land, that we would become bogged down in urban warfare, and on and on.
    In fact, none of that has happened. It has been a war unmatched in history, with relatively few civilian and allied casualties and the prime objectives – control of the capital and the destruction of Saddam’s regime – achieved in only a few weeks.”
    Mr.Glassman’s credibility at this point is nonexistent. Why individuals like him are still taken seriously and given pulpits to advocate their agendas is incomprehensible to me. People like Mr. Glassman do NOT deserve more air time.
    As an earlier poster noted, this would be comical if…………


  15. Don Bacon says:

    This would be comical if the implications were less dangerous.
    The United States has meddled in Iran’s affairs for a long time, starting with the overthrow of a democratic Iranian president in 1953, followed by the oppressive US-installed Shah, then with his overthrow thirty years of economic sanctions and financial aggression. During the last Bush administration the Vice-president’s daughter Liz was in charge of a State Department effort to overthrow the Iranian government, which was properly denounced by Iran’s leaders as meddling in their internal affairs. Iran was proclaimed to be a member of the Axis of Evil, and its president was roundly denounced and subjected to personal insults during a visit to Columbia University.
    While Iran has a civilian nuclear program that is supported by the whole world except the US and a few European allies, UN sanctions have been engineered to accommodate wild Israeli accusations.There also have been constant bombing threats with “all options on the table.”
    More recently the US SecState proclaimed that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have supplanted the Iranian government, and expressed her hope that the “religious and political leaders of Iran act to take back the authority they should be exercising on behalf of the people.” Hillary Clinton with a shoutout for the return to power of Khameni and Ahmadinejad! Comical.
    Clinton has also said that the US is “encouraging Iran to reconsider its dangerous policy decisions.” Iran’s leaders have continually said that they have no desire for nuclear weapons, so what is she talking about? It appears that her objectives have been met.
    And then, to top off the US comedy routine, President Obama has for some time stated that he supported a policy of accommodation with Iran and he declared recently that “The United States does not meddle in Iran’s internal affairs.” Meanwhile, the US (to accommodate Israel) is seeking increased “crippling” sanctions on Iran the US president says “we will sustain our commitment to a more hopeful future for the Iranian people.” Under US pressure Shell Oil has ceased gasoline shipments to Iran, and I suppose Iranians are thankful for that. No more of those damn talking pumps.
    Now along comes James Glassman who has written and said that “Iran [is] a supporter of terrorism now developing the capacity to fire nuclear-tipped missiles, that may pose the greatest threat to global stability and American security” and “everything we do and everything we say should be coordinated to meet the goal of changing the character of the Iranian leadership.” I guess he too wants the return of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad?
    Iran doesn’t threaten anyone, anywhere, so there’s no need for “strategic communications.” Try the truth, would be my suggestion.


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