Over the next few weeks, we here at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies will be sharing 20 interesting facts and anecdotes that we've accumulated over the past two decades. We look forward to another 20 years serving our country through providing guidance in the world of science and technology policy and innovation. Please enjoy one of our 20 interesting facts today:

 

The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies CEO, Mike Swetnam, and ICTS Director, Yonah Alexander, traveled to Turkey in 2010 to speak to NATO’s Turkish Partnership for Peace Training Center

Taking part in a recent NATO-sponsored Strategic Communication Course in Ankara, Turkey was a “fabulous experience,” says Potomac Institute for Policy Studies CEO Michael Swetnam. In March of 2010, Swetnam and Prof. Yonah Alexander of the Institute’s International Center for Terrorism Studies were among six expert lecturers chosen to instruct a group of 49 military officers from 19 countries, under the auspices of NATO’s Turkish Partnership for Peace Training Center. Both gave keynote speeches at the weeklong program, which was part of a series of high-level training courses the Center has offered since it opened its doors in 1998. “It is a feather in our cap that we were selected,” say Prof. Alexander, adding that the Institute's participation in the prestigious program is a goal he has pursued for several years. He describes the Center’s mission as encouraging cooperation in fighting terrorism and advancing the cause of peace, and says there’s “no doubt” it’s having an impact.

In his keynote speech, Prof. Alexander emphasized terrorists’ mastery of strategic communication techniques in the modern era. Terrorists, he argued, have learned to exploit mass media opportunities that exist in free societies; as a result, he says their campaigns to instill fear are ultimately more effective within democracies. In such a climate, those who wish to combat terrorism cannot afford to fall behind, especially when it comes to strategic use of the internet.

“The biggest challenge is to understand and figure out how to use modern technology,” agrees Swetnam, whose keynote speech was entitled “Strategic Communication and Strategic Cyberwarfare.” He points to a longstanding use of strategic communication in warfare, giving the classic example of leaflets dropped onto enemy territory by aircraft – a practice that is still in use today. But in a world that’s increasingly dominated by the web and by social media including Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, he says some military communicators are “struggling” to keep up. This challenge has become even more critical as cyberwarfare has expanded beyond simple destructive attacks on data or systems into more subtle realms of opinion and message control.

“It was received very well,” Prof. Alexander says of the message delivered by Institute experts to course attendees. He added that the March 2010 event was just the beginning; the Potomac Institute arranged to provide instructors approximately twice a year to teach at Ankara’s Partnership for Peace Training Center. Swetnam also foresaw an opportunity to forge partnerships with other think tanks, non-profit and government entities in Turkey. In 2010 Swetnam said Turkey’s position as a strategically located gateway connecting Europe, Asia and the Middle East made it an ideal location for the Institute to establish a presence and to reach a diverse audience with a key role in promoting international stability and peace.

In November of 2015, the Institute hosted a conversation with Tugay Tunçer, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Turkey to discuss the wide range of political, economic, and strategic priorities that are required to further advance the decades-long Turkish-U.S. partnership in the coming years.

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The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies is an independent, 501(c)(3), not-for-profit public policy research institute. The Institute identifies and aggressively shepherds discussion on key science and technology issues facing our society. From these discussions and forums, we develop meaningful science and technology policy options and ensure their implementation at the intersection of business and government.

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