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Bloggers' Conference

James K. Glassman, Under Secretary For Public Diplomacy And Public Affairs
Glen Roberts, Moderator
Via Teleconference
Washington, DC
September 17, 2008

(1:00 p.m. EDT)

MR. ROBERTS: Great. Well, it looks like we’ve got about 13 folks total, so welcome. Thank you. 

Due to the Yemen incident today, we’re going to have to probably cut this a little bit shorter than we wanted, so we’re probably looking at 40 minutes or so. Our apologies for that, but the Under Secretary’s presence is required elsewhere. But here he is. He has just walked in. And again, this is on the record. We’ll go in the order of which we got entered into the call, but first let’s start with a few brief remarks from the Under Secretary.
 
UNDER SECRETARY GLASSMAN: Hi, everyone. Thanks for doing this. Actually, there are two things that I wanted to talk abouttoday. One is in keeping with our overall strategy and approach, where we believe that in the modern era public diplomacy doesn't work very well if it’s simply preaching at people. And so we want to be a facilitator, a convener; we want to bring people together.

And sometimes that’s kind of risky for a government agency, but we think it’s the most effective way to get our job done. And I think a good example of this approach is something that we just announced at the United Nations two days ago, called the Democracy Video Project. And I’m not going to go into all the details, but essentially this is a project where we have set up a website with the help of Google, and we have a number of private sector partners in this effort, including NBC Universal, the Tisch School at NYU, the Motion Picture Association of America, and several others. And I can get you the full list. I don’t want to leave anybody out.

But the idea here is that people around the world, and we think this is especially appealing to young people, will make 3-minute videos on the topic “Democracy Is…?” So it’s really very open-ended. And it’s a contest where there will be, I believe, six regional winners and one anonymous winner. We’re also allowing people to apply anonymously, to enter the contest anonymously. So there will be seven winners. The six non-anonymous winners will have – among their prizes will be a trip to Hollywood to be exposed to some of the best movie makers in the world. Also, they’ll be coming to Washington to talk to policy makers here.

Anyway, the point is that we’re really not controlling this. We’re just kind of, you know, getting the ball rolling. We do have – there are some conditions, some entry conditions where – that bar, you know, obscenity and that kind of thing. But essentially, people will be doing this on their own. And the final judgment is going to be made by the public, by people online.

Anyway, we wouldn't give you all the details, but I think this is an example of the kind of programs that we are putting into motion here because we live in a new age and it’s an age where we can do this kind of press conference and it’s also an age in which we’re not trying to control our environment.

Okay. The second thing that I wanted to mention, which I think is a really amazing story, we have a – some – an institution that was launched – I think it was about two years ago. I’m not – we can get you that. But at any rate, the Digital Outreach Team, which many of you may know about, that started under Karen Hughes’s regime. 

And the Digital Outreach team – I believe there are eight – it’s either eight or nine people who are on it who blog. And I say “blog” advisedly. They don’t have their own blogs, but they enter into digital conversations online either on other people’s blogs or other websites. And they identify themselves as working for the United States Government and they are participating in the conversation. And you know, at times they will push back and say, you know, that’s not accurate, here’s the truth about U.S. policy and here’s a link, you can go to America.gov, you can go somewhere else. But they’re entering – they are participating in the conversation. They do this in Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, and by the way, we hope soon, in Russian. 

Now, one of our Digital Outreach Team members back in – back last month participated – well, what he did was he went on to Mr. Ali Akbar Javanfekr’s personal blog and he is President Ahmadinejad media advisor, Javanfekr. And so he has his own blog. Ahmadinejad has his own blog. And blogging is big, as I’m sure you all know, in Iran.

Anyway, he went on in response to some of the things that this gentleman had put on his website, and there ensued an exchange of, on our side, five postings. I guess it was ten postings in all back and forth. And first of all, we were very surprised that an Iranian official would engage in this kind of back and forth. We also think that our guy made some very telling points. We were surprised from that point of view that it was published. And we were also surprised that the entire transcript was printed in the Persian language newspaper Iran on Mr. Javanfekr’s instigation on August 27th of this year.

So I think we – we either have made this transcript available or we will make it available. And anyway, I just thought this was a good story. And this is only one example of the kind of public diplomacy engagement that we are having with Iran. Now, it’s mostly at the level of the Iranian public. This is unusual that we would be communicating with an Iranian official. But we’ve had in the last – since 2006, 200 Iranians come to the United States on exchange programs. We have, for example, the International Visitor Leadership Program sponsored an exchange program on contemporary visual arts, including 14 Iranian artists. And an exhibit of their work as well as other Iranian artists appeared here in May of last year, and it has now gone to, of all places, Daytona Beach, Florida. I think it’s currently there or it’s about to be there. And as you may know, we also had the Iranian national basketball team here in Salt Lake City, Utah, training before they went to the Olympics. So we’re doing a lot to engage with the Iranians on a public diplomacy level. 

So those are the two things that I wanted to talk about. I’m also just back from a trip to Europe and another trip to the Middle East, so if anybody wants to talk to me about that, I’m happy to do that. But I think I will – I’ll stop at this point, and if you have questions, just go ahead. I’m going to actually turn this over to Glen. 

MR. ROBERTS: Perfect. First, I think we’ll go in the order that you came in, so Behruz, feel free to fire away with your first question, please.

QUESTION: Sure. Mr. Under Secretary, this is Behruz Nikzat, former Radio Farda in Washington and now PNN. And my question is your office recently launched Parsloop as a virtual community, a forum for Iranians around the world where they can exchange their opinion and their experiences that affects their lives and whatnot. How do you intend to promote this website among the Persian-speaking people and what are you – what are your expectations of it? How would you persuade --

OPERATOR: I’m sorry for the interruption. This is the operator. Were you wanting today’s conference to be recorded? 

MR. ROBERTS: Yes, please. 

OPERATOR: Okay. No one had signaled for the recordings yet, so I apologize. I can start them now. 

MR. ROBERTS: Please do.

OPERATOR: One moment.

MR. ROBERTS: Thank you. 

OPERATOR: I’d like to inform all parties that the call is now being recorded. If you have any objections, to please disconnect. Thank you. You may begin.

MR. ROBERTS: Thank you.

QUESTION: How would you, Mr. Under Secretary, persuade Iranians that the U.S. State Department does not exercise any control over its content? 

UNDER SECRETARY GLASSMAN: Actually, I’m glad you asked this question because this is another example of the kind of thing that we’re doing. Your question about how we’re promoting it, I actually don’t know the answer to that. This is – Parsloop is a project of International Information Programs Bureau and it was started before I got here.  I think it’s a superb project and I think it is exactly the kind of thing that we are – that we want to do more of. But the specifics of how we’re promoting it, I don’t know. Glen can get back to you on that.

But let me just say this. America.gov, which is our main website for disseminating information that tells America’s story – let’s put it that way – is – we have that – it’s now in seven languages, including Farsi. But we felt that there was more that was needed and so parsloop.com, which is a .com website, it’s not a .gov website, was launched. It is not, strictly speaking, our website. It’s not a United States Government website. But it’s a website that we support and encourage and participate in, and it is a social networking site. 

So we feel that when – that if we can be a facilitator of a large conversation such as the conversation that will take place and already is on parsloop.com, that our values and ultimately the kinds of policies that we believe in will benefit. And so that – so we are really focusing on a lot of other projects that have to do with social networking. And let me just say that the war of ideas aspect of this is that our opponents in the war of ideas can’t stand this kind of thing. They use the internet for a completely different purpose. They are broadcasting, exhorting, teaching people how to make bombs, banging them over the head with their ideology, and they don’t want feedback that may be negative. We, on the other hand, are encouraging this kind of conversation with the confidence that people will arrive at the kinds of answers that make the world a better place.

MR. ROBERTS:  Perfect. With that, I think we’d like to go to Patricia Kushlis from Whirldview. 

QUESTION: Hi. Yeah, my name is Pat Kushlis and I was with Whirldview but I was with USIA for years, including Information Bureau. So my question to you is – I’m intrigued by this debate or this exchange that was – that’s been going on with Ali Akbar Javanfekr and your Digital Outreach Team. My question is – and then I was looking at the invite yesterday. And how do you think that this exchange – put it in whatever you want to put it, debate, whatever – with the Iranian Government’s media advisor relates to curbing extremist ideology in the Middle East? Because what I read in the – in Akbar’s comments really pertain primarily to nationalism and power and as they relate to historical grievances. 

UNDER SECRETARY GLASSMAN: Well, we see – well, good question. Let me answer this is two ways. First of all, you know, it is unusual for us to be engaged with an official. I mean, public diplomacy is, as you know better than anyone, is diplomacy with publics. It’s not diplomacy with officials. However, this – since this takes place on a public platform, we feel that it’s a way to reach a broad Iranian audience with the kinds of ideas which in many ways they’re sealed off from. It’s very hard to reach them with these ideas, so we’re very happy that they’re providing us with this platform.

As far as Iran and our objectives in the war of ideas or the objectives involving violent extremism is concerned, I mean, we are – you know, we see Iran as a supporter – first of all, a supporter of terrorist groups, especially Arab terrorist groups, which is very troubling to lots of Iranians. We know that. And part of our mandate really is to use public diplomacy also in the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction that may be dangerous to us. So I think that’s – I think that’s where our mandate is. 

MR. ROBERTS: Okay, we’ll move on to John Brown from Georgetown.

QUESTION: A pleasure to take part in this conversation. Mr. Under Secretary, I have one question regarding the democracy videos. What are the plans once they are produced and, I guess, chosen? Will they be shown here in the United States, and in what venues?

UNDER SECRETARY GLASSMAN: Yes, they will. And I think Glen’s going to – we’ll have to get back to you with the details. I’m sorry that I don’t remember. But they – I think they may even be broadcast. I’m not absolutely positive about that. The other thing is, of course, they and other – the other – the non-winning entries, or I think the finalists, maybe it’s more than that, will be available on the public website, so anybody can see those. I’m not sure whether it’s the finalists that people are voting on or whether it’s the winning entries. 

And we’re hoping actually to get even broader distribution. And one of the things that I have suggested, anyway, to our motion pictures friends is maybe they could actually be shown in motion picture studios, you know, along with the trailers. What we’re finding, and I’ve got to say this has been true of some of the other projects that we’ve been involved in, is that when we involved the private sector and essentially involve them where we’re asking for their expertise – I mean, these people are really the experts here, not us – they get very excited about it and they want to help us because they believe in the cause. I mean, you know, it’s not hard to get people excited about public diplomacy. And so we may end up with even more help from groups like the Motion Picture Association of America than we had expected originally. 

MR. ROBERTS: Okay. We’ll move to Steve Kaufman, America.gov. 

QUESTION: Actually, I’m just monitoring. Thanks. 

MR. ROBERTS: Great. Okay. Then we’ll move right on to Alex Belida. 

QUESTION: Thanks. Alex Belida from VOA. Mr. Glassman, how can public diplomacy or, as you recently wrote, diplomacy aimed at publics, succeed when, as in the case of Iran, there’s little or no engagement with officials and both governments have essentially sought to demonize one another in the eyes of the respective (inaudible).

UNDER SECRETARY GLASSMAN: Well, I think public diplomacy can do things that official diplomacy cannot. And examples of that are, you know, in some countries around the world, for reasons of our concerns about stability, we may not be as officially as aggressive in our support of, let’s say, pro-democracy elements in official diplomacy. But in public diplomacy, we can do that. 

So here is a really good example, I think, with what’s happening in Iran. For, in my opinion, good reason, we are – we have been limited in our engagement at the official level for – I think, for very good reason. But at the public diplomacy level, where we are engaging with the people of Iran, we can engage quite a bit and we do. And what’s interesting, I think, about this blogging concept is, you know, people talk about – remember it was the Chinese ping-pong diplomacy or table tennis diplomacy, you know. Well, this is this sort of blogging diplomacy, I guess you could say. 

We are – we’re actually – and I think that one of the earlier questions was related to this – we are actually engaging with an official. Now, we’re not doing it in an official way. I want to emphasize that. We are doing it because it provides a window into the public or a way to reach the Iranian public. But I don’t think that these two things are incompatible; that is to say, our policy regarding official diplomacy and our policy regarding public diplomacy. I mean, we are – you know, as you know, we’re now broadcasting seven hours a day into – with VOA Persia -- and I say we, Broadcasting Board of Governors. That’s separate from the State Department. But they are broadcasting seven hours a day into Iran right now.

MR. ROBERTS: Next up, Sharon Weinberger.

QUESTION: Yeah. I guess I’m just a little bit confused about the goals of public diplomacy being whether it’s to foster ideas in support for democracy or foster support for U.S. policy. So you know, let me give a concrete example. You know, what happens if after the video -- the democratic video, someone submits a video supporting, you know, an end of a Jewish state and you know, secular free rights, voting rights for all. I mean, you know, what happens when you get to the advocates of democracy or forms of democracy that fly in the face of U.S. policy, and how does that fit into public diplomacy? 

UNDER SECRETARY GLASSMAN: Well, public diplomacy has as its goals the same goals that the U.S. Government policy goals – the same policy goals the U.S. Government has, which – two of which, the two primary ones, according to the National Security Strategy, are: to diminish the threats to the United States and to the world from violent extremism and weapons of mass destruction, number one; and number two, the promotion of freedom. And those two things are linked. You know, free people tend not to make war on each other. Not always, but that tends to be – that’s the tendency. Okay. 

So we think that a program like the democracy video project promotes the ideals of freedom in many, many different ways. I mean, for example, the notion that many people from around the world are able to participate. Thousands of people, maybe even millions of people, will be able to choose who the winner is. And then, of course, the subject matter being democracy. 

But I agree with the implication of your question that in doing this, as I said earlier, we are doing something that is somewhat risky for a government agency because we’re not picking the winner. We absolutely are not involved in that process. And you know, you could end up with a winner who’s – that is promoting a specific policy that may be antithetical to what the United States Government is promoting, you know, let’s say, in Iraq or in – or as it relates to Palestinians and Israelis. I believe there is a – I think there’s a strict prohibition on terrorist – terrorist videos or violent extremist videos. But as far as policy, like in the example that you gave, yeah, that could certainly happen. But we – but you know, that’s a risk that we think is perfectly acceptable for us to take in light of the other aims that we will be achieving as a result of doing this.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. ROBERTS: We’ll move on to Matt Armstrong from Mountain Runner.

QUESTION: Thank you. Matt Armstrong from Mountain Runner. First, I’d be remiss if I didn’t make a comment on John Brown’s point. And this, to me, Mr. Under Secretary, sounds like the democracy videos would be a violation of Smith-Mundt. I just felt like I was obligated to make that reference if you domestically distribute those things, but that’s not my question. It seems to me that over the last --

UNDER SECRETARY GLASSMAN: And let me just – let me just say that we have not made a decision to domestically distribute them. And one of the questions, I think – and you guys know more about Smith-Mundt than I do – that if, for example, the Motion Picture Association of America decided to distribute them in U.S. movie theaters, you know, whether that would be a violation of Smith-Mundt. But we are – don’t get the idea that we’re not paying attention to Smith-Mundt. We are.

QUESTION: Well, yeah. I mean, it – the law needs to be changed. It’s – it was outdated. Anyway, I’m not going to get into that. That’s not my question. 

Over the last several years, there’s been a remarkable lack of leadership in public diplomacy and public engagement by the State Department. In the void that was left, terms like “strategic communication” came up, which is nearly as ill-defined or is more ill-defined than public diplomacy is. The Defense Department has come up with “strategic corporal.” They work on educating, empowering, encouraging and equipping each of their soldiers, each of the war-fighters, to become public diplomats. They’ve recognized that this personal engagement, the last three feet, it is critical.

While they’re working on education, the U.S. Advisory Council on Public Diplomacy comes out and says that still we don’t – our public diplomats don’t do public diplomacy; it’s not their mandate, it’s not their charge. So we have this void that State Department is not in the field doing public diplomacy. The Defense Department is, and we have the Secretary of Defense and the Joint – Chairman of the Joint Chiefs saying State needs to step up. 

To me, this seems like that there’s a senior – a leadership problem that you have inherited and you are making great strides to move ahead. You know, you’ve come out very aggressive, unlike your predecessors, to rein in the controls and rein in becoming the chief public diplomat.

Do you see the DOD leadership (inaudible) as a problem? If not, why not? And if so, what are you doing and what would you recommend to correct the situation?

UNDER SECRETARY GLASSMAN: Well, first, Matt, I would say that I do not want to associate myself with the premise of your question, which is – which was a criticism of my predecessors, okay? So I can’t let that go by.

You know, my relationship with DOD and with other parts of the government that are involved in public diplomacy writ very large is very, very good. It is absolutely true that DOD has a lot more resources in this area than we do. Now, DOD – you know, this is all nomenclature, but DOD would say, well, we don’t really practice public diplomacy. But we work with them very closely in – certainly, in ideological engagement, war of ideas efforts. And as you know, you know, that’s my – you know, I am the lead in that. So I don’t – you know, I don’t really – at this point, there are lots of ideas being thrown around for structural change and I’m not going to comment on those. I think it’s good that people are looking at it. I can say that.

But I think for the time that I have ahead of me, I can certainly work with the structure that we’ve got here, and both internally in the State Department and externally. And by the way, I don’t – I’m not sure what you meant by people not – people are not in the field doing public diplomacy. We have many, many people doing public diplomacy in the field – I talk to them every day – here at the State Department. I mean, I think they would disagree that they’re not doing public diplomacy.

MR. ROBERTS: Do you have a follow-up, Matt?

QUESTION: Just real brief, the Advisory Council Commission, sorry, that they’re not mandated, they’re not charged, it’s not part of their evaluation to do public diplomacy.

UNDER SECRETARY GLASSMAN: Oh, I see what you mean.

QUESTION: So --

UNDER SECRETARY GLASSMAN: Yeah, let me say this, and I don’t want to (inaudible) something that’s too tantalizing, but we will follow up on this later. But you know, the fact is there are some changes going on here, and the – going on here, meaning at the State Department. My concerns about the Under Secretary’s ability to, let’s say, shape the public diplomacy environment here at State have fallen on very receptive ears. 

And we will have, in the coming months, a good deal more input into the allocation of public diplomacy assets and even have some say into who (inaudible) of assignments. And that’s some pretty important progress, I would say. But I don’t want to get into more detail on – than that right now, but I think we’re making headway.

MR. ROBERTS: Okay. Move to Steve Corman.

QUESTION: Good morning, Mr. Under Secretary. Steve Corman from COMOPS Journal here. Thanks for talking to us this morning. My question has to do with the existing U.S. national strategy for public diplomacy and strategic communication –I’m kind of – that was put in place by your predecessor in 2007 – I’m kind of curious as to the extent to which that strategy is still fully enforced, because it seems like you have sort of deemphasized, say, the selling America part of it. So I was kind of wondering if that’s still enforced and, you know, if it’s partially enforced, kind of what your specific goals are between now and January for doing your job.

UNDER SECRETARY GLASSMAN: You know, putting together a document like that in the federal bureaucracy is very difficult and time-consuming. And that document is in force. I think it’s a very broad document. It certainly – you know, its three specific strategic goals include, as goal number two, what we’re doing right now in the war of ideas. So I think it certainly encompasses what we’re doing. It’s been my intention to -- and we’re already at work on it – to come up with another document. And not necessarily to supplant that one, but to kind of lay out, I think more clearly, exactly what our strategy is and what we hope the strategy going forward after this Administration is over will be. 

And let me also just say as far as the question of – as America’s image is concerned, you know, I think America’s image is important. One of the problems I think we’ve gotten into is that the image – it’s almost as though the image is a goal in itself. I think improving America’s image is a means by which we’re able to achieve national security goals, foreign policy goals. And we haven’t de-emphasized the image, brand-building in the United States. That’s – we absolutely have not. And in fact, we’ve got one initiative that I think is pretty dramatic and I hope I can talk about that in – pretty soon. 

I myself, just because of my own background and also, I think, because of the urgency of it, have decided that I’m going to be concentrating on ideological engagement, and what I call it is a shift in emphasis in concentration or intensity. But it doesn’t mean we’re not doing the other things. And you know, we still spend most of our money here at R on exchange programs. And I was just in London for the 60th anniversary of the UK-U.S. Fulbright Commission. I got to say, you know, I don’t think there’s anything that we do that’s more productive in public diplomacy than exchanges like Fulbright. The problem is they’re – they are very expensive and they’re long term. And so we need to find ways to amplify them, but they are tremendously important. 

MR. ROBERTS: Melinda Brouwer. 

QUESTION: Yes. Thank you very much, Mr. Under Secretary, for speaking with us today.

UNDER SECRETARY GLASSMAN: Yes.

QUESTION: Last week, a poll was released that was taken across 17 nations that shows that there is considerable doubt in who was behind the 9/11 attacks that occurred in the U.S. 46 percent said that al-Qaida was behind it, but the other 54 percent, either they don’t know or offered the U.S. Government or Israel as possible perpetrators. And so my question for you is, how do you think that public diplomacy tools can be used to address this problem? 

UNDER SECRETARY GLASSMAN:  Well, you know, I was asked this question last week in London when I was making a speech at Chatham House. And I think the answer is that that kind of result simply indicates what a tremendous challenge it is to do what we’re trying to do. I mean, the facts are pretty clear. I mean, the guys who did perpetrate it have bragged about perpetrating it. We have, you know, all the dead bodies or the human -- or the parts of bodies. You know, the idea that this was not committed by al-Qaida is a fantasy of the most, you know, disgusting sort. So, you know, there are some people who are resistant to the truth. 

The other point is, however, that there is this overall notion that 80 percent or 90 percent in some countries of some Muslim societies believe, which is that the United States and the West, in general, are out to destroy Islam and replace it with Christianity. And once you begin to look at world events through that prism, then, an event which, to a rational observer, would seem to negate that claim somehow has to have this – some sort of crazy conspiracy attached to it, so that it fits in with this world view. So we’re really up against a world view that’s very distorted. And you know, I just think – I think we have a huge task ahead of us, and it’s not something – it’s not a problem we’re going to solve in the next few days or even a few years. 

MR. ROBERTS: Steve Schippert from Threatswatch. Steve, are you still with us?

A PARTICIPANT: Steve had to drop out. He will be looking for the transcript, however. 

MR. ROBERTS: Perfect. Thank you very much. How about Noah Schachtman?

QUESTION: Yeah, I’m here. Hey, thanks for doing this. You talked a little bit about how -- sort of engaging in some risky behavior by, you know, not controlling the conversation. You also talked a little bit about how public diplomacy is different from political diplomacy. I guess I wanted to talk a little bit about or ask you about how political diplomacy inhibits public diplomacy and if you could maybe tease out a couple of examples and where you felt like what was being said at the top, you know, made your job harder and what you do to fight it.

UNDER SECRETARY GLASSMAN: Well, I’m not sure that those, you know, strands of the carpet can be sort of pulled apart. I think they’re all – I think they’re all part of the same thing. I mean, policy is very deeply interwoven into what we do. I mean, if you were to say -- you know, if our objective were to, you know, get the United States the highest favorability ratings we could get, you know, then maybe we’d be more like Finland. I mean, we just don’t – there are lots of ways to do that with your policies. But policies are supposed to achieve other aims besides popularity. So I think that, you know, it’s hard to say. 

You know, I’m constantly confronted with the question about, gee, you know, don’t you understand that your policy, let’s say, in Iraq, has hurt you as far as your favorability ratings in – you know, in Europe and the Middle East, especially. And yes, I’m -- we’re well aware of that. And we absolutely want to have – in public diplomacy, want to have some input into the policies in the sense that we say, you know, if you do this, here’s what the likely public reaction is. But that’s not a reason not to carry out such a policy, absolutely not. So it’s just hard for me to separate these two things. We are – I can’t say the policies are a given, because we participate, and I’m very happy to say that we do participate in the formulation of the policy. But ultimately, the United States is going to do what’s in its best interests, even though that may mean that people don’t find us particularly popular and then that just sort of makes – that makes our job a lot harder. 

Anyway, I think you bring up a very thorny issue that’s not easily – it’s not easy to pull it apart. The one thing I would say, though, is that in the war of ideas, what we’ve done is we’ve tried to concentrate on strategies and tactics where we have common cause with people and with governments that do not necessarily agree with us on our other policies like Iraq or like the Palestinians and the Israelis. And there, we get a lot of – not just cooperation, but we’re – basically, we’re all on the same page. You know, I talk about – I talk about pushing back against the ideology and I talk about diverting young people from a path that leads to violent extremism. 

You know, my conversations over the last few weeks in the Middle East and in Europe indicate to me that wherever people were a year or two ago, they’re – we’re all on the same page now. And it’s not an easy task, but at least we all know what the task is. And it’s not – it may be colored a little bit by our policies and it may be made a little bit difficult, but in general, it doesn’t have very much to do with the policies. It’s – everyone is moving in the same direction. 

QUESTION: So sorry, just a follow-up. 

UNDER SECRETARY GLASSMAN: Sure, sure. 

QUESTION: Then are you saying that the focus on ideology and countering ideology is a kind of a way to sort of escape that public versus political diplomacy trap? And if so, could you give some examples? 

UNDER SECRETARY GLASSMAN: Actually, could you just elaborate a little bit? I’m not sure --

QUESTION: Yeah. In other words, if everybody agrees that, you know, countering extremist ideologies is good to do and that, you know, everybody or, you know, most countries around the world can agree that countering extremist ideology is a good thing to do, that focusing on that is a way to get away from some of the thornier issues about --

UNDER SECRETARY GLASSMAN: Oh, I see.

QUESTION: -- invading Iraq or what have you? 

UNDER SECRETARY GLASSMAN: Right. Let me put it a little bit differently. I mean, we – part of our job is explaining those policies, that is, to say explaining what our policy is in Iraq, what’s actually happening on the ground in Iraq, which is getting better and better, it’s – as you probably know. But okay, that’s part of our job. It’s not like we – we don’t ignore that. That’s an important part of our job. 

On the other hand, the part of our job that involves – specifically involves the war of ideas, as we define it, which is where our mission is, creating an environment that’s hostile to violent extremism, has to do with pushing back against an ideology and has to do with diverting young people. And in both of those cases, really, those two projects really don’t have that much to do – they have a little bit to do, I’m not going to deny that. But they don’t have that much to do with these other policies that I just mentioned.

So it’s not that we’re trying to escape it. That’s really – that’s the most important thing, certainly, that we’re doing in the war of ideas is – has to do with trying to thwart an ideology and trying to deny recruits to an enemy that wants to kill Americans, as we know, and wants to kill lots of other people around the world.

So I think – I don’t know if that’s – if that’s a clear answer, but that’s about the best I can do.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks.

MR. ROBERTS: Okay. Was there anyone that I missed that wanted a question?

QUESTION: I think we’re going to have to –

MR. ROBERTS: Okay, great. Well, it looks like we do have to move him on to a 2 o’clock meeting soon.

A PARTICIPANT: Tell them about the transcript.

MR. ROBERTS: And of course, I’ll be sure to forward transcripts to you. If you have any follow-up questions, then by all means, please, you have my e-mail. Feel free to drop me an e-mail. The transcript should be to you by this time tomorrow. I will send you all a link to it. And I greatly appreciate your participation. So again, probably looking to do this again in about three weeks and I’ll be sure to keep you all on the listserv. So please keep in touch, and thank you very much.

QUESTION: Thank you.

# # #


Released on September 18, 2008

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