GOV 360N • US Cultural Diplomacy from Pearl Harbor to the War on Terror
This Maymester program takes place in Washington, DC Changing Minds, Winning Peace" is the title of a just-issued report about the necessity for improved "public diplomacy" from an expert panel commissioned by Congress. Its findings, prompted by the shock felt in the US in the aftermath of 9-11 and by what has transpired in the war in Iraq, show how far the country has to go to rebuild and strengthen the structure of public and cultural diplomacy that decayed almost steadily throughout the past decade. The course will draw upon documentary review and expert interviews with specialists in DC think tanks, Congressional staffers, and officials of the executive branch, as well as former diplomats now teaching courses in public and cultural diplomacy in the Washington area, to provide students with an up-close insight into the policy process and the contending forces that shape policy outcomes. The course will be offered with collaboration from the Center for Arts and Culture, the only think-tank in the country with a specialized focus on the policy area of which cultural diplomacy is a part.
History of an idea: The policy area occupied by cultural diplomacy lies at the intersection of public diplomacy, a rather wider concept, and domestic cultural policy, which also has become increasingly contested in the last decade or so. Although organized international cultural relations go back to the nineteenth century in US history, these came almost entirely from the private and not-for-profit sectors. Direct involvement of the federal government began on the eve of World War II when the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, then occupied by Nelson Rockefeller, sought ways to counteract the spreading political/ideological influence of Germany and Italy in Latin America. Hence, the inception of cultural (and public) diplomacy took place as part of a defensive posture of the federal government in connection with wider geopolitical aims. At the conclusion of WWII, the orientation of these efforts shifted as cultural and public diplomacy came to be associated primarily with fortifying democracy in the former Axis powers. With the creation of the Fulbright program to foster mutual international understanding, the aims widened further and became part of the same general spirit that inspired official policy in the establishment of the UN and other multilateral agencies. Shortly thereafter, the onset of the Cold War thrust cultural and public diplomacy back into a defensive mode while augmenting substantially the resources devoted to this area of international policy. When a national cultural policy was instituted in the 1960s, for fundamentally different reasons, recognition of this international rivalry was not altogether absent from the discussions that helped support creation of the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities. Essentially, this framework carried the burden of policy justification until the unexpected demise of the Soviet Union and disintegration of the Communist bloc, after which the logic of the program began to fray and the resources devoted to it diminished. Along the way, administrative reorganizations affected the program in both the Carter and Clinton administrations and undercut further the already diminishing momentum of cultural diplomacyuntil events originating in the Middle East seemed to call for a drastic rethinking of its role as well as that of public diplomacy. Periodic opinion polls made under the auspices of the USIA or the Department of State and other policy assessments will be examined to familiarize students with ways of evaluating policy effectiveness. Aims of the proposed course: To provide students with a better grasp of how international policy gets made in Washington and how it affects the area of cultural production and consumption as well as our relations with the rest of the world. How this particular policy framework, and its principal components, also affects reciprocal impacts of other countries and cultures on us should give students a much firmer understanding of how world affairs influence life here at home.
Background readings during the spring term and a series of discussions and lectures could be used to prepare students to derive the most benefit from their time in Washington, so that even though this is probably unfamiliar territory to most if not all students, they will arrive in the field ready to pose the most effective questions in expert interviews and ready to obtain most efficaciously relevant information from the documentary record. A series of field trips will be made to local institutions to add contextual richness to the course.