Clinton: "We Are In an Information War"

Secretary of State Clinton sat before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday to talk budget issues, and made quite a splash with her remarks on what she referred to as the "global information war" that the United States is presently losing. As she characterized it, American propaganda efforts to win hearts and change minds around the world have waned since the fall of the Berlin Wall, while competitors-- in China, Russia, even Al Jazeera-- have succeeded in their own resurgent efforts to propagandize.

In perhaps the most colorful moment of her remarks, responding to a question from Senator Lugar about the role of the internet and new media in the Middle East, Secretary Clinton laid it out this way: 

We are in an information war, and we are losing that war. I'll be very blunt in my assessment. Al Jazeera is winning. The Chinese have opened a global English language and multi-language television network. The Russians have opened up an English-language network...

She applauded the efforts of the Broadcast Board of Governors to rebuild under the leadership of Walter Isaacson and mentioned some of State's own work with new media, including their brand new Arabic and Farsi Twitter feeds. But she reminded the Committee that most of the world still gets their news from TV and radio. To that effect, Secretary Clinton had a lot of good to say about Al Jazeera:

Viewership of Al Jazeera is going up in the United States because it's real news... You may not agree with it, but you feel like you're getting real news around the clock instead of a million commercials and, you know, arguments between talking heads and the kind of stuff that we do on our news which, you know, is not particularly informative to us, let alone foreigners.

Meanwhile, Clinton was very agressive in describing the nature of our information war with China:

"We are a competition for influence with China. Let's put aside the humanitarian, do-good side of what we believe in. Let's just talk straight realpolitik. We are in competition with China."

There's a lot in her testimony-- the full two hours 40 minutes of which you can listen to here-- and the idea of an information war is an interesting one.  Hopefully it will reinvigorate the Broadcasting Board of Governors and help remind Congress of the importance of State's efforts at public diplomacy.  The juiciest few minutes from her talk (quoted above) is here: