Secretary of State Colin Powell's former speechwriter takes on the author of Dow 36,000 and America's new Top Propagandist to task on Harvard's MESHNet:
But his speech itself was hardly a model of effective public diplomacy, exhibiting not just one, but five cardinal sins of how not to make a serious policy speech.
First, it’s narcissistic: Glassman begins by talking not about ideas or missions or his office or the policy of the President, but about himself. This is a turn-off. Second, the speech breaks frame by calling attention to the fact that it’s a speech, not a from-the-heart statement of purpose. There’s a huge difference between saying, “I’m here today to tell you that X…” and “X…” It’s like the difference between a genuine ritual and a mere ceremony. Third, Glassman buries his lead: He doesn’t say anything interesting until he’s nearly half finished, spending too much precious fresh-attention time on kitchen-sink stuff and too little time later on explaining what’s significant about his new approach. Fourth, Glassman botches the tone: You don’t emphasize three times how serious a task public diplomacy is and then use silly Coke/Pepsi metaphors to illustrate it—metaphors that also happen to hark back to Charlotte Beers’ unapt commercial approach to the subject. There are better ways to describe a useful shift from caring about our own popularity to focusing on the U.S. role in quietly and carefully trying to influence intra-Muslim dynamics.
And fifth, Glassman makes some incautious statements. He says, for example, “Here is our desired end state: a world in which the use of violence to achieve political, religious, or social objectives is no longer considered acceptable.” You don’t need much imagination to see what Al Qaeda, Inc. can do with that one, as in (supply your own accent): “You Americans lecture Muslims about the use of violence, but you are the ones trying to jam your godless democracy, that denies the law of God himself, down the throats of Iraqis and Afghans on the points of bayonets! If you are so much against violence, then why are American tanks and bombs every day murdering Muslim women and children?” and so on and so forth. Again, there are better ways to make the point Glassman wants to make. Doing it the wrong way is known technically in the speechwriting trade as “stepping in it.”