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“Great Powers” with Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett, Part 2

Wednesday, February 11, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

In the second hour of today’s program I will air the second in a series of interviews with Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett about his new book Great Powers. Today’s conversation is about chapter 3, a fascinating and provocative survey of American history organized around the argument that the U.S. has globalism built into its collective DNA, and that other nations, especially China, that seek expansion of their economic reach and political influence are following a path first cleared by us. Whether or not you agree that Vladimir Putin parallels Andrew Jackson, or that Jackson’s clearing of the Seminoles from Florida was our “first Tibet,” you will be drawn into the narrative if only for its glowing assessment of the Nixon-Reagan grand strategy that led to the crippling of the U.S.S.R.

The transcript of the first interview with Dr. Barnett is here.

Order the book from Amazon.com here.

Great Powers: America and the World After Bush

Barnett’s assessment of our first interview is here.

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19 Dead v. 21 Dead

Wednesday, February 11, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

An attack by Taliban rebels in Kabul leaves 19 dead, and is featured prominently by the New York Times. The “attacks in the capital underlined the severity of the challenge facing American policy-makers.” No doubt about that. This sort of large scale assault conveys that the attacking force can menace the society for a long time to come.

There was another attack reported in the Times yesterday. The episode got a paragraph, even though it left 21 dead, and occurred 80 miles from El Paso, in Mexico. From the paragraph:

Soldiers in the state of Chihuahua chased and killed 14 armed men who had kidnapped nine people and killed six of them on Tuesday. One soldier was killed by the kidnappers, believed to be drug traffickers, bringing the death toll to 21. The gunmen took the hostages from the ranching town of Villa Ahumada and drove them to an isolated farm where six were killed, said Enrique Torres, a spokesman for the federal government’s antidrug operation in the state. A military convoy caught up with the kidnappers about 80 miles south of El Paso, killed seven of them and freed the remaining three hostages. Soldiers then pursued the other seven gunmen through heavy snow and killed them in a shootout.

Four other people were killed in Juarez as well, bringing the death toll near that part of the border to 25, according to the El Paso Times.

Frank Dowse of the the Agemus Group, an international security consulting firm based in San Diego, has been writing at American Sentry blog about Mexico’s hidden civil war, but most of MSM isn’t paying much attention to the rising instability on our doorstep.

Why Many People Think Netanyahu Will Be Israel’s Next PM

Tuesday, February 10, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

From the Jerusalem Post:

“We’ve turned into a significant party, the third largest in Israel,” Lieberman told cheering supporters. “It’s true that Tzipi Livni won a surprise victory. But what is more important is that the right-wing camp won a clear majority… We want a right-wing government. That’s our wish and we don’t hide it.”

Thoughts on the RNC’s Upcoming Tech Summit

Tuesday, February 10, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

On Friday, new RNC Chair Michael Steele has summoned some of the best new media/social media thinkers (but far from all of them) to the RNC for a day long sit-down and idea exchange. My favorite anonymous ad exec, Bear in the Woods, e-mailed his thoughts. You can e-mail him at bearinthewoods84@gmail.com:


I wish I could be in DC on Friday. The idea of a GOP Tech Summit is a good one. It’s a good idea, that is, if the right voices are there, if the right voices are heard, and — here’s the real key — if the GOP leadership who are listening even know when the right voices are speaking.

There is, without a doubt, a tech divide between Democrats and
Republicans. But it’s not the only divide. It’s not even the most
important one.[# More #]

The real divide is in an understanding of the culture. And yes, tech — in the form of social media and the web — is how the culture communicates now, and has played a defining role in a cultural shift that has emboldened the consumer (voter) to understand, without a doubt, that they are in charge of the conversation. But simply learning how to use Twitter won’t connect you to voters. Learning how to craft a message that resonates and spreads, however, will.

I want to build a beautiful house. One that will be attractive to
anyone who appreciates elegant architecture. What kind of hammer should I use?

That’s the question I fear the GOP will be asking at the summit. And there will be plenty of pure tech voices there to tell them exactly which hammer to choose, and how to swing it. The problem is, it’s the wrong question. Because the best hammer in the world can build an elegant house, or a rickety shack. And it’s not the skill with which you swing the hammer that determines the difference. It’s the architectural and artistic vision of how the final product will move people emotionally that goes into the plans — before a single nail comes out of the box.

The Democrats have understood, for a couple of generations now, how to use, reflect, and craft popular culture in order to deliver a
compelling message to voters. Their understanding of social media and the web is not so much a superiority of technical understanding as it is a superiority of cultural understanding, and superior skill with media arts. They can craft a message that resonates, and deliver it in all the media that are relevant now. Never mind that the policies behind that message are many times illogical, misguided, and sometimes outright dangerous. The sad truth is, most people don’t pay attention to those details. They embrace the emotional connection, regardless of medium.

The policies are there to inform the rallying cry, to be sure. And
the policies are, ultimately, what matter — once the election is
over. But during the campaign, the rallying cry matters more. We
have better policies. We have crummy rallying cries. And lest I be misunderstood here, I’m not saying it’s as simple as a slogan, or a tagline. Although we know how powerful a simple tagline can be (see: Change). It’s the craft that goes into the creative strategy that produces the tagline, the message, and everything that surrounds it, that can take a complex policy and boil it down into an emotional message people can both Tweet and embrace.

The Dems are great at making (figuratively) a beautiful banner, and getting people to follow it. In contrast, Conservatives tend to
respond with the communications equivalent of a white paper. While it may contain logical, rational, and superior arguments, it’s not much fun to follow. Even on Twitter.

Success in any medium begins with an ability to craft the message. Not the policy. The message — the way the policy is framed in outbound communications — whether it’s a site, a Tweet, a concert, a movie, or a bumper sticker. An understanding of current, relevant electronic media and their accompanying cultures is critical to crafting a successful message in today’s world. But simply understanding a paintbrush doesn’t make you an artist who paints things people want to buy.

Democrats excel at popular culture because they attract and engage those who create it. They step outside the beltway, and outside the political marketing vertical, to tap into people who are good at creating movements, rather than those who are good at managing rhetoric. In order to close the tech gap, Republicans will first have to close the cultural understanding gap. Learning the web and social media is one piece of that puzzle. But they won’t be able to close the cultural gap if they only listen to voices from the inner political circle. And yes, most anyone who’ll attend a Tech Summit at GOP headquarters in the heart of DC can hold some claim (however figurative) to the title, “Inner Circle.” The choir is usually not the best resource for great sermons.

I applaud the Party’s efforts in establishing a Tech Summit. It’s a
good first step. But I have one caution: Popular technology is not
the same as popular culture. Successful communications strategies in today’s world understand: The two are equally important, and inseparable.

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