Certain Aspects of the European Recovery Problem from the U.S. Standpoint

Here Helps the Marshall Plan, not ‘Courtesy Of’ (Source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-20671-0014 / CC-BY-SA)

On June 5, 1947, Secretary of State George C. Marshall delivered a “routine commencement speech” at Harvard University. The only pomp and circumstance was for the graduates and the lone reporter in the crowd was there only because of a friend. It was, however, a speech that changed history as the retired General of the Army proposed a program for Europe based on building local economic strength, governance, and self-confidence.  Continue reading “Certain Aspects of the European Recovery Problem from the U.S. Standpoint”

Wilson + (State + SecState) = CPI

Secretary of State Robert Lansing, 1915-1920 (Source: Library of Congress)

U.S. public diplomacy has a surprising history, as a series of conversations noted earlier. In conversations about the foreign activities of the Committee for Public Information, often left out was WHY the CPI was asked by the President to go abroad. Much ink (real and virtual) has been spilled on the causes for domestic action, such as the Four Minute Men. Much less so on the Foreign Section. The devil, as is the saying, is in the details. Here, the details include a deeply entrenched cultural resistance, a Secretary willfully working against his boss, highly filtered information flows and the managers of those filters. Continue reading “Wilson + (State + SecState) = CPI”

The basic right upon which freedom rests

Department of State organizational chart after the ‘basic reorganization’ of 1944. (Source: Department of State Bulletin, December 17, 1944 Supplement, p794-795.)

There is much talk today about Internet Freedom and the Freedom of Expression. While worthy and laudable, they are myopic, misleading, and inadvertently shift supporting conversations away from the core requirements. Internet Freedom encourages ignorance of actual information flows to, from, and within audiences. Freedom of Expression is more about one-way outbound communication than it is about inputs. Both divert attention from the fundamental rights to hear and to speak. At the beginning of the Cold War, we were not focused on sound bites but instead the basic concepts toward clear purposes. Continue reading “The basic right upon which freedom rests”

FDR on working with the State Department

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt:

Dealing with the State Department is like watching an elephant become pregnant. Everything’s done on a very high level, there’s a lot of commotion, and it takes twenty-two months for anything to happen.

Source: Cary Reich, The life of Nelson A. Rockefeller: worlds to conquer, 1908-1958, 1st ed. (New York: Doubleday). 182.

Public Diplomacy’s ‘Missing Years’

Cover page for USIS daily news bulletin from Sep 1945

There was a time before USIA when the U.S. Government practiced what we now call public diplomacy. This period is often forgotten or ignored.  For too many, the history of U.S. public diplomacy begins with the establishment of United States Information Agency, or USIA.  However, it did not and pretending it did start with USIA not only misrepresents the past and subsequent trajectories, it is also a disservice to those who worked hard to establish peacetime public diplomacy. Continue reading “Public Diplomacy’s ‘Missing Years’”

Ambassador George Venable Allen, Smith-Mundt, and the Voice of America

George Allen, Jan 1948

George Allen served as the State Department’s third Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, following William Benton and Archibald MacLeish.  MacLeish, the former Librarian of Congress, was the first office holder, when it was known as the Assistant Secretary of State in charge of Public and Cultural Relations.  Benton changed the title to simply “Public Affairs.”  Throughout, however, the role was fundamentally the modern equivalent to the combined responsibilities of the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy (and Public Affairs) and the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs.  The Assistant Secretary’s job would change several years later with the establishment of the United States Information Agency.  Allen’s comments on the purpose, and temporary nature, of the Voice of America are enlightening, especially in the modern context of the Smith-Mundt ActContinue reading “Ambassador George Venable Allen, Smith-Mundt, and the Voice of America”

Quotes from the past: the purpose of Smith-Mundt, the bill

Without comment, here are a few paragraphs from Rethinking Smith-Mundt that should resonate given some of the criticism of public diplomacy over the last several days, especially those who ignore the role of Congress in rebuilding our arsenal of persuasion. Especially when you know that R has, in fact, very little of our money. 

Continue reading “Quotes from the past: the purpose of Smith-Mundt, the bill”

Quoting History: Laswell on mobilizing minds (1927)

We are witnessing the growth of a world public, and this public has arisen in part because propaganda has at once agitated and organized it.. There is no doubt that democratic governments must assume the task, regardless of all complicating difficulties, of mobilizing minds as well as men and money in war.

— Harold Lasswell, Propaganda Technique in World War I (originally published in 1927) (also cited in Osgood’s Total Cold War: Eisenhower’s Secret Propaganda Battle at Home and Abroad).