Mistakes Repeated

VOA building in Washington, D.C.
VOA building in Washington, D.C.
FreeMediaOnline.org Logo. FreeMediaOnline.org & Free Media Online Blog, February 2, 2009, San Francisco — This commentary is by The Federalist, one of our regular contributors.


Mistakes Repeated

by The Federalist


On January 20, 2009, as the United States inaugurated Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States, the Associated Press reported that Hamas was holding victory rallies in Gaza amid the ruins from its recent combat with the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).


The idea of Hamas victory rallies may seem ludicrous to some.  However, it is consistent with the ideology of annihilation.  Standing atop a pile of rubble, with destruction all around and over an estimated one thousand civilians killed is seen as a victory because one has survived the onslaught.


It should also be noted that Hamas is not leading the discussion about the cost of its latest intentional provocation of conflict with Israel.  Instead, it is the United States, United Nations and Saudi Arabia that are talking of the cost of reconstruction of Gaza neighborhoods and will no doubt provide the funds.


To all appearances, Hamas’ interests are to reconstitute its forces and prepare the next stage of its conflict with Israel.  It bears no sense of responsibility for the death and destruction inflicted upon Gaza and the Palestinians.  Destruction is a means to an end.  It reinforces anger and rage.  It helps to sustain Hamas’ recruitment needs as it pursues its endless cycle of violence against Israel.  Hamas is in the business of violence and conflict.  It has no plan to sustain nonviolent infrastructure.  Peace means no Hamas or certainly a Hamas of less political potency.


At the same time, polling in the state of Israel shows an alarming trend that the Israeli public feels that there will never be peace between their country and the Arab world.  This is a dangerous turn of events.  It speaks to a narrowing of options, a state of perpetual conflict and reliance upon an increasingly powerful military response to the jihadists in a densely populated region of the world, raising the potential for further noncombatant casualties.


Hillary Clinton is on the job as the new Secretary of State.  There is an acknowledgement that restoring American prestige and image is an important goal of the Obama presidency.  Carrying out this task falls to whoever Secretary Clinton has in the position of undersecretary of state for public diplomacy.


Early indications are that Mrs. Clinton may be leaning toward Judith McHale, a longtime Clinton supporter, Democratic campaign contributor and senior executive with Discovery Communications.


Regardless of who fills this post, it should be understood from the outset that public diplomacy should not be equated with a marketing or advertising campaign.  Democracy is not an easily packaged commodity. We have to demonstrate the framework for democracy, what it is founded upon, what is required to sustain it and how we make it work.  We are advocating a way of life and governance as an alternative to a paradigm that has a long history and a perpetual cycle of violence.


Also important is the realization that we are dealing with confronting an ideology of annihilation manifest in a worldwide, loosely confederated network of terrorists and jihadists.


It seems that US government has an almost Pavlov-like reaction to public diplomacy that sees the task in a marketing or advertising environment.  Taking this approach does not get to the substance of the core issue at hand and will leave us with less than sterling results.


The best piece of advice for the Obama administration’s public diplomacy initiative is to see the world as it is, rather than as we wish it to be.  Public diplomacy should be seen as a facilitator of positive outcomes rather than a shill in a marketing ploy.  We must have a new vision that breaks our own cycle of mistakes repeated.


The Federalist 2009