What the SecDef Didn’t Say at Kansas But Should Have (Updated)

Checkout my post on what Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates didn’t say in his Kansas State University speech.

Today, American public diplomacy wears combat boots. In the global media and the blogosphere, the military and its uniformed leaders shape the image of the United States. But that is not how it has always been. On the contrary, American public diplomacy was born out of the need to directly engage the global psyche and avoid direct martial engagement.

On November 26, 2007, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, speaking at Kansas State University, recalled how the United States marshaled its national power at the beginning of the Cold War. Mr. Gates reminded his audience that sixty years ago the United States dramatically restructured itself in the face of a global threat and passed the National Security Act of 1947, created the United States Information Agency and the United States Agency for International Development, among other agencies and institutions. Key to the success of all of these was the timely creation and transmission of quality information, or truthful propaganda.

In his clarion call to revamp the current structures of government to meet modern threats, Mr. Gates sidestepped an obstacle that has been misinterpreted and misapplied over the last three decades: Public Law 402: United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948, commonly known as the Smith-Mundt Act. Despite popular belief, the restrictions the Act is known for today were not designed or intended to be a prophylactic for sensitive American eyes and ears.

Read the whole thing at the Small Wars Journal.

One thought on “What the SecDef Didn’t Say at Kansas But Should Have (Updated)

  1. Matt,Thx for the vector — will do.
    First glance, though, I will challenge your imperative of “truthful” propaganda. In fact, I submit that it would be foolish for the State (or any power broker, for that matter) to constrain their strategic communications campaign.
    All due respect to the principles of Smith-Mundt, but I think we need to be even more liberal in our conduct of global information campaigns than you suggest in your paper.
    Note the dialog at Dreaming 5GW on a recent post of mine regarding Clausewitz’s trinity — and commentary on a Foucauldian model of power, conveyed through dialog, that does not necessarily need to be true.

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