PROBLEMS, PROBLEMS: “Most agree on this: The United States has an image problem,” says Sun-Times’s Lynn Sweet in today’s column over-ambitiously entitled, “What in the world awaits Condi?” as in Condoleezza Rice, our new sec. of state. Muslims and Canadians do not approve of our war in Iraq, for instance. Golly.

The goal is "to advance U.S. interests and security and to provide the moral basis for U.S. leadership in the world” by “public” diplomacy, says Sweet. An undersecretary’s position, currently empty, would normally handle this.

“There is a sense of urgency,” she says, felt by whom she does not say. She discusses this “public” diplomacy in spin-control terms: counter the lie right away, nip lies in buds.

But then she notes that the “regarded” Colin Powell, apparently meaning well-regarded, did not travel enough and so neglected “personal” diplomacy, staying home to protect his Rumsfeld-threatened turf. But Rice’s turf is not threatened. So:

“Rice should start traveling.

“A lot.”

(Paragraph structure in original.)

The unfilled-undersecretary-post problem is left behind.


Then (no transition) we are told about Congr. Henry Hyde, who “wrote . . . public diplomacy-related provisions in” (into?) a bill intended to reform our intelligence operation.

What's more, we have not enough translators. This problem is “massive,” in case you thought the lack of both public and private diplomacy was big.

Wait. “Back on [to?] public diplomacy.” Period.

(Sweet’s mother was scared by a telegraph operator, as boys in the 40s gibed about an untoward penchant: the penchant-holder’s mother had a nasty fright during pregnancy, leaving the holder with said penchant. If a kid repeated himself, his mother had been scared by a broken phonograph needle. Not brilliant but serviceable on the playground.)

Then Sweet speaks of a “Broadcasting Board of Governors” and its “startups” since Sept. 11, 2001.

“But public diplomacy is more than just good PR,” she writes, meaning radio programs – the “startups” just mentioned. Then she names more things to do, including “grants to developing nations to develop its [their?] own free press, putting content on the Internet and increasing money into [italics added] Arabic and Chinese language training. It's the whole message.”

I’ll say. But excuse me. I have to go increase some money into the parking meter. They are nasty about that stuff in Oak Park, demonstrating no diplomacy whatever.

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