By Peggie Duggan
Exactly who is responsible for explaining the United States to the rest of the world? Perhaps, more importantly, who is responsible for explaining the United States to her own people? The answers are the U.S. Department of State and nobody, respectively. As Dr. Phil would say, “How is that working for you?”
On a forgotten day, buried in the Congressional Record, one senator stood up and said,
Our country, I think we can all admit, has experienced a tremendous decline in international respect since 1943. At the end of World War II, due both to our leadership toward victory and to an accumulation of international prestige built over the decade, this country occupied an enviable stance.
It was liked, admired, and trusted to a degree even by conquered nations, and we had the one great Military Establishment intact in the whole world.
Now what has happened? Why has the world deteriorated? You can’t point your finger of blame at any individual or any individual policy. But when that kind of historic demonstration is before us, it seems to me that alert Americans ought to ask themselves why and what can we do about it?
This country today is being popularly blamed by much of the politically conscious population of the world for a great share of the misfortunes of the world…
Something is wrong with American policy. There is nothing wrong with American attitudes, nothing wrong with the American ideal, nothing wrong with the basic concept that we provide a lot of foreign aid and leadership and help the free world get stronger…Nobody really believes we are imperialistic. Nobody really believes we are trying to superimpose any religious creed or a political philosophy on anybody.
We do this out of an abundance of good will and out of some impulse of self-preservation, and we get attacked.
In the aftermath of World War II (1945), the United States and the United Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) quickly became engaged in an ideological contest for minds and wills now known as the Cold War – a fight between democracy and freedom for the individual on the one hand and Communism and rule for the group on the other.
Students today may think the threat of Communism, personified by the U.S.S.R. and China, is ancient history. It is not and neither is dealing with an enemy who practices counterinsurgency. Much of the cold war was fought by the U.S.S.R. through non-military means with great emphasis on perception, crafted through agitation and propaganda, a style that became known as agitprop. Sino-Soviet Communism placed great emphasis on training cadres in all areas, not just military. They had special schools for Agit Prop training designed to strike on two levels, mental and emotional, but which encompassed study of economics, politics, psychology, social networking, in-country cultural mores and taboos, as well as subversion and other unconventional forms of conflict. The communists targeted the young elite of developing countries, noted for their ambition, discontent with the status quo, and desire for rapid change. Thousands of students comprised of professionals, such as teachers, attorneys, and businessmen, as well as laborers, union workers, young men and women were trained, many for years, and then sent back home to promote revolution and overthrow of their governments. Outside our military and perhaps the Central Intelligence Agency, we had no equivalent.
The Freedom Academy
In 1959, the first of many bills proposing the creation of The Freedom Commission and the Freedom Academy was introduced. It was the brainchild of private citizens based in Florida, Alan G. Grant and a group of men, who became known as the Orlando Committee. The Freedom Academy was designed to address the gaps in our abilities to combat Communism in non-lethal warfare, by non-military means, i.e., to battle for hearts and minds of peoples around the world.
The Freedom Academy was an ambitious undertaking – along the lines of a West Point for political warfare. It would be both an educational and research institution and act as an independent agency under a seven-man bi-partisan Commission whose chairman and members would be appointed by the President, subject to confirmation by the Senate. It would operate under the general supervision of the Congress in the sense it would have to report to it regularly and would be dependent upon it for its appropriations. Its purpose was to gather in one place, accessible to everyone, government and civilian, an information center devoted to Communism – what it was, how it operated both overtly and covertly, to inform and engage American and foreign students drawn from government, private industry and the average citizen to educate them to counteract the activities of communism through non-military means. “It would accomplish this in two ways: First, by instructing its students on the subject of communism generally, its strategy and tactics, and the weapons and devices it is using in all parts of the world to subvert free nations and replace them with Communist dictatorships; secondly, by conducting research to develop new techniques which the United States and other non-Communist nations can utilize in resisting and defeating all types of Communist “cold” warfare.” It would produce thousands of trained specialists in support of democracy and able to counter communist tactics, producing a pool from which government agencies and businesses could draw upon. It had to be independent so that the beliefs and customs of one agency or department would not unduly influence the curriculum and mindset of its graduates.
The major opponents to the establishment of The Freedom Academy were the executive agencies, Justice, Defense and the State Department, and Senator William Fulbright for wholly different reasons. The executive agencies, led by the State Department, cited their objections that the “existing facilities could better address the concerns raised…”; it would merely be duplicative, and the Foreign Service Institute was more than adequate for ongoing international relations. This, despite four independent studies that concluded that the State Department’s training was woefully short and in need of immediate and severe overhaul and expansion. Senator Fulbright said he objected on the basis that it should be under the State Department (vs. an independent agency). In addition, “The Freedom Academy would diminish freedom, not serve it, he argued, by adopting `the very techniques of Communism’ and creating a civilian force of `government-trained vigilantes,’ who, in trying to eradicate communism, would only engage in a `will-of-the-wisp hunt to pin the Communist label on respected citizens.'”
In contrast, Senator Karl Mundt pointed out, “If there is one facet of the Cold War struggle, in which the communists have been spectacularly successful, it has been in the recruitment of the young elite in the developing nations. These young people are extraordinarily ambitious. They have a great sense of urgency about the need for modernization and reform. We must offset this capture of the young elite. We must provide them with training directly related to the problems which confront them. We must train them in the dynamics of democratic leadership and prepare them with the skills and understanding needed to counter the communist political and psychological subversion of their governments and their private institutions. This aspect of the training program should be given co-equal attention with the training of our own people.”
Despite support on the part of Congress (12 bills introduced from 1959 – 1966) and the American public’s immense support (Gallop poll: 69% bipartisan favor – Republicans 68%, Democrats 70% and Independents 71%), the Freedom Academy never passed.
The 9/11 Commission Report found that the failure to connect the dots on the part of our Intelligence Community was due, in great part, to stove-piping, in keeping information within one agency rather than sharing it throughout the Community, and they called upon the U.S. government and the Intelligence Community to change, to adapt, resulting in the largest restructuring of government since World War II, creating the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence to manage the Intelligence Community of which there are 17 departments and agencies. It is well-documented that terrorist organizations draw their management and leadership from middle to wealthy young elite, not their foot soldier fodder.
Eight years later, Congress and the State Department complain that Iraq and Afghanistan governments have no knowledge of proper governance (certainly by Western standards), suffer widespread corruption, and task our fighting men and women to teach entire communities how to govern, how to create running water and electricity.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, giving a speech for the Landon Lecture series, November 26, 2007, said,
…we are miserable at communicating to the rest of the world what we are about as a society and a culture, about freedom and democracy, about our policies and our goals. It is just plain embarrassing that al-Qaeda is better at communicating its message on the internet than America. As one foreign diplomat asked a couple of years ago, “How has one man in a cave managed to out-communicate the world’s greatest communication society?”
Just imagine if the Freedom Academy had passed back in the 60s. We’d have 40 years of people trained in c
ountering ideology, counterinsurgency and governance. Why do they hate us? Because we have failed to explain who and what we are to ourselves and to the world.
Peggie Duggan has a Master’s degree in Strategic Intelligence with a core emphasis on Intelligence Operations. She lives in Seattle, WA.
Guests posts are the opinions of the respective authors and published here to further the discourse on America’s global engagement and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of MountainRunner.
 Senator Karl E. Mundt, Statement during Hearings before the Committee on Un-American Activities, HR, April 1, 1965.
 HR Hearings before the Committee on Un-American Activities, 89th Cong. 1st Sess., Foreword.
 Cone, Stacy. 2004. “Of Intellectual Leadership and Legacies: How J.W. Fulbright Sustained America’s Antipropaganda Movement in Congress, 1945-1980.”
 William J. Fulbright Oral History, Part 2.
 Cone, Stacy. supra (fn.3).
 Gallop, George. 1962. “Public Backs `Freedom Academy’ to Train Cold War Strategists.” May 4.
 Gates, Robert M. 2007, Landon Lecture