Wednesday, June 29, 2005


How not to make friends and influence people:

The U.S.-Asia foreign policy establishment here is positively gaga over a teensy transmission error last week by consultant Chris Nelson , author of the highly authoritative Nelson Report, a must-read for those involved in foreign affairs, especially on Asia.

Nelson, who works for Samuels International, prepared an exceptionally frank "special report for the embassy of the Republic of South Korea" titled "Players on Korea Policy in Washington, D.C." Acknowledging his brutal assessments -- his survey left few untrashed -- he warned the embassy that "if ANY of this Report is seen by ANY one outside of the embassy, its humble author is going to have to receive political asylum."

Alas. Nelson, instead of sending the 22-page analysis to the Korean Embassy, hit his list for Nelson Report subscribers, administration officials, Hill folks, think tankers, media types and others -- more than 800 people, including many of whom he had skewered or identified as people who talk to him. So it's most unclear who would offer asylum.

Washington has many people like this – newsletter writers who track a specific topic and know more about it than anyone, even the players involved. They also tend to be highly opinionated to the point of being somewhat eccentric about it. How could you not be, hanging troll-like around the margins of Korea policy or trade debates for years? But they are indispensable as journalism and policy resources, so I’m sorry to see this happen and hope the damage isn't permanent.