U.S. being ‘out-communicated,’ Clinton says

Hillary Clinton, May 20, 2009   Secretary Clinton testified yesterday (as seen above) in front of a Senate subcommittee that the United States is “being out-communicated by the Taliban and al Qaeda” and that it needs a “new strategic communication strategy” in order to “do a better job of getting the story of the values, ideals, ...

585651_090521_Clinton0905202.jpg
585651_090521_Clinton0905202.jpg

 

Secretary Clinton testified yesterday (as seen above) in front of a Senate subcommittee that the United States is "being out-communicated by the Taliban and al Qaeda" and that it needs a "new strategic communication strategy" in order to "do a better job of getting the story of the values, ideals, the results of democracy out to people who are now being fed a steady diet of the [worst] kind of disinformation."

Al Qaeda's propagandists produce high-quality videos and elaborate Web sites, which has led U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates to often say, "We're being out-communicated by a guy in a cave."

Hillary Clinton, May 20, 2009

Hillary Clinton, May 20, 2009
 

Secretary Clinton testified yesterday (as seen above) in front of a Senate subcommittee that the United States is “being out-communicated by the Taliban and al Qaeda” and that it needs a “new strategic communication strategy” in order to “do a better job of getting the story of the values, ideals, the results of democracy out to people who are now being fed a steady diet of the [worst] kind of disinformation.”

Al Qaeda’s propagandists produce high-quality videos and elaborate Web sites, which has led U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates to often say, “We’re being out-communicated by a guy in a cave.”

Clinton didn’t provide details about what any “new strategic communication strategy” would involve, but whatever it is, let’s hope it follows sound media ethics. In the past, the United States secretly paid Iraqi newspapers to run articles written by U.S. troops. In 2006, the Defense Department’s inspector general discovered that the Lincoln Group, a private contractor, had paid Iraqi media outlets to run articles without attribution that were favorable to the U.S. military.

It’s doubtful, though, that Clinton would support such tactics. According to a 2008 Washington Post article, when then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld learned about the Lincoln Group’s “anonymous pay-to-publish program,” he told reporters, “Gee, that’s not what we ought to be doing.”

Clinton, the e-diplomat, has hinted a bit at what her communications strategy would involve. Tuesday, she mentioned reaching out directly to displaced Pakistanis on their cellphones.

In all fairness, FP — the print edition — runs multipage ads from various countries, which are clearly marked as “Special Advertising Supplement.” The May/June issue has supplements from the Dominican Republic, Angola, and Cabinda (an Angolan province).

And speaking of Angola, Clinton has that country on her schedule today:

11:00 a.m. Bilateral with His Excellency Ansuncao Afonso dos Anjos, Minister of External Relations of the Republic of Angola.

11:45 a.m. Meeting with Joint Summit Working Group.

2:00 p.m. Bilateral with His Excellency Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania.

4:15 p.m. Attend The President’s bilateral with Excellency Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania.

Photo: TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. Twitter: @pjaroonFP

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.