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In the Loop


By Al Kamen
Wednesday, April 6, 2005; Page A17

A new Government Accountability Office report sharply criticizes the Bush administration's public diplomacy efforts for failing to develop a coordinated national communications strategy to improve America's image abroad.

"Despite U.S. efforts to better inform, engage and influence foreign audiences," the GAO report to Congress said, recent polling data show that anti-Americanism is spreading and deepening around the world."

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The key recommendation is that "the director of the Office of Global Communications fully implement the role mandated for the office in the President's executive order [of Jan. 21, 2003], including facilitating the development of a national communications strategy."

There's one small problem. There is no director of the Office of Global Communications. In fact, there is no such office. The OGC, which had been part of the White House communications operation, appears to have quietly drifted away sometime after releasing its last "Global Message of the Day" on March 18.

The director, M.C. Andrews, left a couple of weeks ago to be senior adviser to the president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The associate director, Greg Lagana, who had come out of retirement to take the job, also left around that time to be vice president for communications at DynCorp.

The White House said yesterday that the plan is to have the National Security Council take up the OGC's key functions. The feeling is that the NSC, focal point for foreign policy and its implementation, is the natural place to handle communications strategy as well.

The Office of Global Communications was the much-ballyhooed outgrowth of the Coalition Information Centers set up here and in London and Islamabad during the Afghanistan war in 2001. "These centers were created to provide a rapid response capability to counter inaccurate portrayals of U.S. actions and optimize reporting of news favorable to the United States," the GAO said. The idea was to produce a controlled and consistent government-wide message.

But the OGC had been ineffectual, the Defense Science Board concluded in a report last fall, and had "evolved into a second-tier organization devoted principally to tactical public affairs coordination."

The White House declined to comment on a draft of the GAO report, but Vice President Cheney told The Washington Post two weeks ago that, to win the long-term "war on terror, we have to get the public diplomacy piece of it right. Up until now, that has been a very weak part of our arsenal."

The arsenal looks to be picking up some considerable firepower once top Bush adviser Karen P. Hughes settles in as head of the State Department's public diplomacy operation.

One Huge Step in Marine Marathon

And now, the Ed McMahon Memorial Award. For those of you wondering why Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is the front-runner to succeed Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers as chairman, here is an exchange from a Pentagon briefing last week that might illuminate the issue.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld answered at length a question about Turkey's refusal before the Iraq war to allow a "northern front" for troops to attack via Turkey.

"That's right, sir," Pace said.

"Exactly right?" Rumsfeld asked.

"Exactly right," Pace intoned.

Fora and Fauna

Speaking of Rumsfeld, eyebrows were raised among foreign policy types by his observations in the 2005 National Defense Strategy: "Our strength as a nation state will continue to be challenged by those who employ a strategy of the weak, using international fora, judicial processes, and terrorism."

Hmm . . . . Presumably terrorism is a tad more troubling than the United Nations or the U.S. courts?

Colin Who?

The nomination of State Department Undersecretary John R. Bolton, a longtime and forceful critic of the United Nations, to be ambassador to that international organization has sparked a bitter war of endorsements, with dozens of prominent former ambassadors weighing in against Bolton and others supporting him.

The latest salvo has all but one of the living Republican former secretaries of state -- James A. Baker III, Lawrence S. Eagleburger, Alexander M. Haig Jr., Henry A. Kissinger and George P. Shultz -- writing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to urge Bolton's confirmation.

Not the most recent secretary, Colin L. Powell?

'And in Closing . . . Hey, Where Is Everybody?'

Hill folks more than anyone know how tricky scheduling problems can be. But we're hearing that two "must be there" events today are giving some lawmakers fits.

First there's the newly elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, in his job thanks in large part to international and U.S. pressure for a fair election, addressing a joint meeting of Congress at 10 a.m.

Then there's the memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral for the late George F. Kennan, former ambassador to Russia and father of the containment strategy used to thwart Soviet expansionism after World War II. That's at 11 a.m.

Given that it'll take the buses half an hour or so to get from Capitol Hill to the cathedral, Yushchenko might want to keep it short.

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