Center for Strategic Communication

by Steven R. Corman

With the end of the year, it’s time for some shout-outs to five individuals who made significant achievements in strategic communication during 2008.  They are (in alphabetical order):

  • Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who had the good sense to put some serious money into social science research through the Minerva project.  Despite a somewhat disappointing five-year allocation that is less than the cost of two Joint Strike Fighters, the Secretary deserves credit for withstanding carping from some academic quarters and supporting academic research that could help boost the effectiveness of U.S. soft power.
  • Under Secretary of State Jim Glassman, who has shifted the focus of U.S. public diplomacy away from some of the questionable priorities of his predecessors.  Though it will be some time before we see concrete results of his leadership, he is to be credited for his strategy of better-coordinating efforts within the U.S. government, focusing on on un-branding extremist organizations rather than pushing Brand America, ad helping others with the same goals.  Too bad we’ve had him for the last six months rather than the last six years.
  • Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Sean McCormack, who has vigorously pushed the envelope on New Media efforts at Foggy Bottom.  Seriously, did anyone ever expect to see the State Department blogging, Twittering, and taking questions on YouTube?  Though some pundits are skeptical about the value of these efforts, only time will tell.  Meanwhile they demonstrate an interest in communication innovation and a concern with engaging new audiences that is all too unusual in government.
  • Colombian engineer Oscar Morales, who catalyzed a worldwide protest against the FARC.  After years of kidnapping and duplicity by the terrorist group, Morales launched a Facebook group in January of this year organizing other tech-savvy Colombians who collectively said “enough is enough.”  Within days the group had tens of thousands of members.  It mushroomed into an anti-FARC march that involved millions of people in Colombia and 44 other countries around the world.  Some believe it was the beginning of the end of the terrorist group.
  • And last but not least, al Qaeda number-two and all around Bad Guy Ayman al-Zawahiri, who took time out of his busy schedule of coordinating the murder of innocent civilians to loosen the bolts on  the AQ ideology machine.  Highlights of his numerous 2008 social media appearances include giving fuzzy justifications of his organization’s tactics and calling President Elect Barack Obama a “house negro.”  May he have a year of similar accomplishments in 2009.

Thanks to these individuals for all they have done.

UPDATE January 2

Someone has already taken the last item differently than intended, so just to be sure there is no misunderstanding…We give the award to al-Zawahiri for screwing up, as described in the post we linked to in that item.  The wish for a “year of similar accomplishments in 2009” expresses our hope that he has a bad year this year too.