How to win hearts and minds

From Marc Ambinder’s terrific story: “How The White House Approached Egyptian Turmoil” (Thanks, zizi):

A few months after Barack Obama took office, CIA analysts monitoring the Middle East received an unusual request from the National Security Council. The president had appreciated the in-depth country profiles the intelligence community had prepared for him to read. But there was something missing. The white papers all assessed what various groups within each country didn’t like about the United States – but there was very little about what they admired. So that’s what Obama wanted to know: What do Yemenis, Qataris and Egyptians like about the U.S.?

The answer, in the case of Egypt, was the American education system. The competition for visas to study inside the U.S., particularly among those with a bent toward the hard sciences, was fierce. And it was considered a point of pride for a family member to brag about his brother studying overseas. The National Security Council and the State Department turned this nugget of insight into policy: Obama would expand the number of educational visas available to qualified Egyptian students. The State Department would increase its direct outreach to Egyptians; it would hold entrepreneurship and science summits, and would convene gatherings of Egyptians to meet with visiting American scientists. 

As the White House’s focus turned to Egypt late last week, the aspirations of young Egyptians were very much on the president’s mind.

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Wednesday morning mishmash

Hi guys,

1. Today’s schedule:

9:30 AM

PBO and VPB receive the presidential daily briefing.

10:00 AM

PBO and VPB receive the economic daily briefing.

11:00 AM

PBO meets with senior advisers.

11:35 AM

PBO signs the New START Treaty.

12:00 PM  
1:00 PM

Gibbs briefs the press.

2:00 PM  
2:05 PM

PBO  meets with Sen. McCain.

3:00 PM  
3:45 PM

PBO and VPB meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

4:00 PM  
4:45 PM

PBO meets with Sen. Bingaman.

5:00 PM  
6:00 PM  
6:30 PM

Joe and Jill Biden host a dinner for new senators.

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2. More change we can believe in. Special Sudan West-Wing-Wing:

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3. And even more.

President Obama to sign the new START treaty.

WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Barack Obama will formally sign ratification papers for a new Russia-US disarmament treaty on Wednesday, which slashes existing warhead ceilings by 30 percent over the next 10 years.

Officials said Obama will make the ceremonial gesture in the Oval Office, before the milestone pact comes into force on February 5 at a ceremony in Munich attended by the two nations’ top diplomats.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the new START agreement’s ratification on Friday after the Russian parliament passed the pact, which was endorsed by the US Senate last month.

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4. Couple of good Egypt reads:

Mary Dejevsky, The Independent:

The US President’s words have gone with the grain of Middle East societies in a way that the sermons of Bush and Blair did not.

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…Is President Obama succeeding where Bush and Blair so expensively failed? ….he took a very different approach … As presidential candidate, he campaigned against the Iraq war and expressly rejected the imposition of democracy….democracy, he argued, was still eminently good but had to come from within. Under his leadership, he said, the US would not dictate to other nations how they should organise their lives.

…Mr Obama did not just yank US foreign policy back in the realist direction taken by his Democrat predecessor, Bill Clinton. He combined that shift with an unusual degree of cultural awareness, most conspicuously in the early overtures he made towards the Muslim countries …. One of his first foreign-policy moves was … a wide-ranging speech addressed to Muslims everywhere. He delivered it in Cairo.

….More than a year and half later the choice of Cairo University looks prescient … revisiting the speech, it is immediately clear not only how far he has shifted the US agenda, but how far his commitment to home-grown democracy remains the same … Obama’s language shines out as consistent with everything that protesters across the Arab world are demanding now.

…Maybe Obama’s early overtures planted a seed that is starting to bear fruit across the Muslim world. Maybe it is simply that modern communications, plus the similar politics, economics and demographics across the region, are combining to galvanise discontent. What is evident, though, is that Obama’s words have gone with the grain of these societies in a way that the sermons of Bush and Blair did not.

Any social ferment of this order brings huge uncertainty. And it is embarrassing to watch Western leaders struggling to divest themselves of allies from a bygone age. But if you ask which American leader contributed more to the cause of change in the Muslim world, you might not agree – yet – that it was Barack Obama, but you could surely accept that George Bush set it back.

/// More and must read

Michael Scherer, Time:

Cable networks kept replaying a single shot from Tuesday’s protests in Egypt, a rooftop view of a massive crowd, where a banner was held aloft. “Yes We Can Too,” it read in English. It seemed to be a message directed at Barack Obama, who had used a similar slogan, and to the American people who had voted Obama into office. It was also a message that Obama would be likely to embrace. As the president said Tuesday night, in a statement in the White House Grand Foyer, directly below his family’s residence, “The United States will continue to stand up for democracy and the universal rights that all human beings deserve, in Egypt and around the world.”

In Obama’s thinking, there are two principles, each tugging in a different direction, that are guiding the U.S. approach, say White House officials. The president laid them out in his 2009 speech to Cairo. First, the U.S. would continue to promote democratic values as universal rights. Second, the U.S. will not seek to impose any form of government, or specific set of rulers, on any foreign country. “No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other,” Obama said in Cairo.

The third force tugging on Obama is the bundle of pragmatic interests of the United States–to have a stable partner in the Middle East, to prevent Egypt from becoming a haven for extremism, to maintain the shaky peace between Israel and its neighbors, and to keep the Suez canal open and safe, among others. The story of the last week has been the story of a White House coming to grips with, and juggling, these three priorities.

// more

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5. Recovery!

Factory activity grows, hiring outlook brightens

WASHINGTON – The best month for U.S. factories in nearly seven years is brightening the outlook for job growth.

Companies are exporting more construction and mining equipment, and Americans are buying more cars, appliances and computers.

The Institute for Supply Management, a private trade group, said Tuesday that its index of manufacturing activity rose last month to 60.8. It was the highest reading since May 2004 and the 18th straight month the sector has grown. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

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6. Recovery!

U.S. private-sector payrolls up 187,000

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — Private-sector employment rose in January, and “strength was evident” in all major industries and sizes of business, according to Automatic Data Processing’s employment report released Wednesday.

The ADP report showed that private-sector employment rose 187,000, with the service-producing sector gaining 166,000 and the goods-producing sector increasing 21,000. Employment rose 97,000 at small businesses, 79,000 at medium businesses and 11,000 at large businesses.