Public Diplomacy Undersecretary Karen Hughes discovers the Muslim World first hand

George W. Bush’s first appointee to the Undersecretary of Public Diplomacy, Karen Hughes, has taken her first trip abroad to try and understand better the plight of women in Arab and predominently Muslim Countries.

Public diplomacy must be taken seriously by any administration to regain and/or retain the trust and respect of countries worldwide. It is based on the concept of “soft power,” as coined by former Undersecretary of State to Bill Clinton, Joseph S. Nye, Jr. It is because of “soft power” that America is known worldwide for the 3 M’s – McDonalds, Microsoft, and Michael Jordan – three entities that did more for the American purpose and image than any “hard power” – or military force – could ever do.

A report released today by the State Department’s Advisory Committe on Public Diplomacy pointed to “the erosion of our trust and credibility within the international community must be reversed if we hope to use more than our military and economic might in the shaping of world opinion,” the report said. “Culture matters.”

“[Soft power] is the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments. It arises from the attractiveness of a country’s culture, political ideals, and policies. When our policies are seen as legitimate in the eyes of others, our soft power is enhanced.”, Nye writes in his book.

Karen Hughes is not being received very well in the Middle East. This should serve as a big lesson as to why public diplomacy must be brought to the forefront of U.S. foreign policy to express global understanding, and a respect for the well-being of all.

Americans and global citizens alike view Karen Hughes mission as “propaganda.” I personally don’t think the Bush Administration requires a diplomat for the purposes of spreading propaganda – it seems to be taken care of naturally. Hughes responds: ?Some skeptics say this visit is all about public relations and image. But I don?t see it like that. Government policies really affect people?s lives.?

Hughes met with women’s rights advocates in Istanbul today, and was greeted with harsh criticism. They condemned the arrests and shoving aside of Cindy Sheehan, and proclaimed that war is responsible for the onset of poverty and the denouncing of women’s rights. Hughes reacted that nobody likes war, but the women in Iraq are much better off now, to which one human rights activist grew responded disturbedly: “In every photograph that comes from Iraq, there is that look of fear in the eyes of women and children. . . . This needs to be resolved as soon as possible.” Another women’s rights advocate proclaimed “”This war is really, really bringing your positive efforts to the level of zero.”

In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, it was clear that it would be tough for Hughes to discern exactly what freedom means to women abroad. One woman remarked: “I don’t want to drive a car,” she said. “I worked hard for my medical degree. Why do I need a driver’s license?”

To be continued….

FEMA: may they have management and not money!

Brownie did a heck of a job lying under oath today at a Congressional hearing. Tomorrow, the front page of the Washington Post will feature a story that slipped to everyone’s unconsiousness and SHOULD have been mentioned at the hearing.

Gulf CoastBrown seemed to be the only person convinced that FEMA was completely prepared for this, and it was only because of the lack of communication on the state and local levels that the rescue mission didn’t go smoothly.

Remember the Carnival cruise ships? Yes, thats right, in a panic on September 1, with the over 10,000 needing a destination upon the mandatory evacuation of the Superdome, FEMA demanded 10,000 berths on a full service cruise line.

From what kind of appendix could this sort of emergency plan have emerged…. Brownie??? The ships are now on 6-month lease to FEMA, who should just be voted off the island for incompetence and insulting waste of public, not to mention EMERGENCY funds.

The cruise ships are less than half full, but according to Senator Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) aides, if they were at capacity for the entire six months, the price per evacuee would total $1,275 a week based on the frantic 11th hour $236 million deal made between FEMA and Carnival Cruise Lines.

In freeing up cash for Katrina, the government has also slipped in additional measures to allow them to freely spend government money on their own interests, in the name of national security (46 states continue operating in a FEMA-designated state of emergency; perhaps this is where Brown comes up with his “150 disasters overseen”).

Sens. Coburn and Barack Obama (D-IL) are calling for a chief financial officer to oversee the spending of the Katrina funds…. Does there plea sound necessary enough to be answered?:

“When the federal government would actually save millions of dollars by forgoing the status quo and actually sending evacuees on a luxurious six-month cruise it is time to rethink how we are conducting oversight….”

Oh yeah, and please have mercy in these times of great tragedy and disaster, and lets all turn our heads to the $475 million Carnival already owes in delinquent back taxes…(thanks Perry Goldstein for your letter to the So. Florida Sun-Sentinel…. there will be time for FEMA to conduct its own investigation later. I’m sure they’ll find that they did a darn good heck of a job.

God and STDs

London Times religion correspondent Ruth Gledhilll writes today that studies have shown that more secular countries are better off than those inclined to believe in Creationism.

?In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies.
?The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so.?

Which leads me to wonder exactly to whom Tony Blair was referring this morning when he justified keeping British troops in Iraq as necessary means to avoid turning the country over to “the mercy of religious fanatics.””