Sunday, February 14, 2010

What We Need Now Is Leadership

Vice President Dick Cheney attacked John Kerry. He said that John Kerry "lacks deeply held convictions." Today Kerry shot back. He said, "That's not completely true."

Jay Leno, author of the above quote, is hardly the first comedian to rib Senator Kerry for straddling the fence or waffling. In this Al Jazeera interview, Kerry demonstrates his ongoing ability to see both sides of an issue, although accusations of waffling may be unjust. Regarding the Taliban, Kerry argues that schools, education, development and dialogue are central to improvement. He emphasizes the importance of talking with Taliban fighters and helping Afghanistan to create a more effective government, but dances around the issue of current military operations there. Ultimately, his is a message that promotes open dialogue and empowering the people. Despite over 1,200 views (at the time of this posting), the video's comments feature has been disabled, making it difficult to determine how Kerry's message has been received.

Kerry, as mentioned in this blog, has advocated for revamped public diplomacy in the country, arguing that negative attitudes about our country are caused by "honest disagreements with our policies and our actions" as well as "misrepresentations of our goals, values and motives targeted at those prepared to believe the worst about us."

Few would argue that U.S. goals, values and motives have been misrepresented in Afghanistan, and that U.S. efforts to reframe the story have been countered by opposing views. But how can the United States hope to set the record straight when our nation's representatives call for dialogue and shortly thereafter launch a major offensive? Kerry explains the seeming incongruity with the deftness of a seasoned politician. But the people influenced by the military's actions likely outnumber the people who have been exposed to U.S. information efforts, and it's easy to believe that the military's presence in Afghanistan will continue to generate conflicting, and frequently negative, responses in the region until our policy, action and communication align more simply.

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