THE STUPIDSTORM….On al-Jazeera the other day, State Department diplomat Alberto Fernandez introduced some broader remarks by saying, “undoubtedly, there was arrogance and there was stupidity from the United States in Iraq.” He has since apologized, but Arab media expert Marc Lynch says he did nothing wrong:
Fernandez has conducted literally hundreds of interviews in Arabic with various Arab media outlets at a time when few American officials could be bothered or could perform effectively when they tried. In the first weeks of the Lebanon-Israel war, he was the only American official to appear on al-Jazeera, at a time when America desperately needed someone at least trying to defend it. What made him effective was not just his fluent Arabic, but that he is willing to argue, to get angry, to make jokes ? in short, to offer a real human face and not just a grim diplomat reading from a script. He has established a strong reputation with Arab bookers and audiences not by “bashing America” but by being honest and candid, which has in turn made his defenses of American policy far more effective.
….The State Department, and especially Karen Hughes, must back Alberto Fernandez to the hilt in this StupidStorm. If he’s fired, or transfered to Mongolia, the United States unilaterally disarms in the ‘war of ideas’ as currently waged in the Arab media. While we do have ‘rapid reaction’ units coming online in Dubai and London, and CENTCOM has its own media outreach team, the fact is that Fernandez has been single-handedly carrying the American flag on the Arab broadcast media for years. America simply can not afford to lose him over a silly partisan media frenzy. And if Fernandez is punished, it’s safe to guess that nobody will be foolish enough to step up and take his place and do what he did. And that will be a major loss for America in a place where it can ill-afford any more losses at all.
Just thought I’d pass that along.