Monday, November 21st 2016
Public Diplomacy’s Oral History Interviews
Donald M. Bishop
It’s a commonplace that most historical studies of U.S. public diplomacy have focused on Washington policies, themes, leaders, and decisions.
They have thus slighted how policies were implemented “in the field” -- in other nations, regions, and societies. There’s not much written on how Public Diplomacy officers at U.S. embassies, consulates, and American centers presented the United States to the people of other societies or how they advanced U.S. policies.
Those who want to gain insight into Public Diplomacy as it is implemented overseas will find a valuable resource in the extensive oral history program of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training. ASDT’s offices are on the Arlington campus of the George Schultz National Foreign Affairs Training Center. (In the State Department, the NFATC is usually called the Foreign Service Institute, FSI.)Read More
Saturday, January 30th 2016
On May 17, 1963, the Director of the U.S. Information Agency, Edward R. Murrow, sent a memorandum to David E. Bell, Director of the Bureau of the Budget, asking for additional funds. They were needed because of “the crushing defeat of the Cuban landings” at the Bay of Pigs and the “deteriorating political and military situation in Southeast Asia.” James Warren analyzed the memorandum in an article, “The Struggle to Propagate the Truth,” which appeared on the website of U.S. News and World Report on December 30, 2015. Warren’s article included a link to Murrow’s six-page memorandum, originally marked “Confidential.” The memorandum included a peroration:Read More
Sunday, December 20th 2015
There’s an abundant historical literature on Public Diplomacy, and a July 24, 2015, report published by the Legatum Institute, “Counter Propaganda: Cases from US Public Diplomacy and Beyond,” provides a crisp historical review. The author is Professor Nicholas Cull of the University of Southern California, well known as the author of the magisterial The Cold War and the United States Information Agency 1945-1989 (Cambridge University Press, 2008). For Public Diplomacy, propaganda, and counter-propaganda, the report includes principles, case studies, historical lessons learned, and recommendations in only 12 pages of text.
Professor Cull’s review of propaganda through the 1930s is full of cautionary examples, well explains the word’s negative associations, and summarizes the post-World War I debate to define what is licit and illicit. The compact section on World War II and the longer portion on the Cold War are full of instructive examples – too many forgotten – that still echo in America’s approach to Public Diplomacy.Read More
Saturday, December 19th 2015
Public Diplomacy officers – in their roles as Information Officers at Foreign Service posts and public affairs officers in State Department bureaus – always have a professional interest in how government and the media interact. When roles are debated, the Vietnam War looms as a large case study. Recall that during the war, the U.S. Information Agency and the Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO, under USIA’s Barry Zorthian) was the primary venue for briefing the media in Saigon.
Professor John F. Guilmartin Jr., Professor of History at Ohio State University, challenged much of the conventional wisdom on the war in the 2014 General Andrew J. Goodpaster Lecture, “The Vietnam War: Realities, Myths and Misconceptions,” sponsored by the American Veterans’ Institute. Here are a few excerpts that relate to the media and how they portrayed the war to the American public. I also include the headers on Guilmartin’s list of “myths.” Click on the full text of the lecture for his supporting case studies and argumentation.Read More
Quotable: Matt Armstrong on the early U.S. international information and educational programs, VOA included
Thursday, December 10th 2015
Public Diplomacy Council member Matt Armstrong provided a useful overview of the State Department’s early postwar international information and educational programs – which then included the Voice of America – in an article on the mountainrunner.us website on December 1, 2015, “1949: why can't we hear VOA in the U.S.?” In 1949, George V. Allen was the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs.
- Allen . . . had a large international information service under his command. The United States Information Service included VOA, but despite the cost of running a network of domestic and foreign transmitters, the VOA was only one-fourth of the total budget.
- On the information side, other efforts included "documentary motion picture films, posters, pamphlets, photographs, and various other means to give foreigners correct information about the United States."
- . . . Allen's office . . . ran exchanges with "students, technicians, and other persons between the United States and foreign countries, we give a small but significant support to American schools in Latin America, and we maintain most of the American libraries established abroad during the war."