President Dwight D. Eisenhower, July 31, 1958:
When there is a truly unified public opinion there is a tremendous power generated by our free people. Further, when that public opinion is based upon knowledge and real understanding of the issues involved, then this tremendous power can produce and sustain constructive action, almost without limit.
But the prerequisite for such strength, I repeat, is knowledge and understanding. An important element is such an understanding that purely military defenses, no matter how powerful, can never insure any nations security. Aggression that is political, psychological and economic can outflank military forces because of our failure to provide the necessary counter measures in those fields. …
Indeed, it is clear that there has not yet been created the determined, unified, aroused public opinion that would demand from the Congress the kind of support and action for these programs which must be carried out effectively, imaginatively and honestly if we are to preserve the peace and lead the world to a better life.
It is no coincidence that the active backers of the Smith-Mundt Act, passed just ten years prior to Eisenhower’s letter above, were peddlers of knowledge: Rep. Karl Mundt (R-SD) was a former school teacher and Assistant Secretary of State William Benton was the owner of the Encyclopædia Britannica (and proponent of The Great Books of the Western World).
It is also noteworthy that Eisenhower, like Secretary of Defense Gates today, knew victory stems from a broad engagement in the struggle for minds and wills. Total emphasis on violent extremism blinds us to the larger battles that are and will take place. Further, it limits our arsenal and even concept of persuasion.
Source: Mike Waller’s Public Diplomacy Reader.