Skip to content

Issue #102

Intended for teachers of public diplomacy and related courses, here is an update on resources that may be of general interest.  Suggestions for future updates are welcome. 

Bruce Gregory can be reached at BGregory@gwu.edu

Anne Applebaum, Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism,  (Doubleday, 2020).  Applebaum, respected journalist, historian, and public intellectual, looks at challenges to liberal democracy, the appeal of nationalism, and ways political allies, civil servants, and media voices enable populist autocratic leaders.  She draws on insights of Julian Bender (La Trahison Des Clerks) to examine the role of today’s intellectuals in the rise of authoritarians.  She enlists Cicero, Hamilton, Jefferson, and the highly relevant Hannah Arendt, in illuminating the susceptibility of many citizens to “the new reality.”  Authoritarians succeed in large measure, she argues, because “pamphleteers, bloggers, spin doctors, producers of television programs, and creators of memes” are crucial to their public image.  Her book stands out in the growing library on democracy’s travails.  See also, Applebaum’s essay, “The Voice of America Will Sound Like Trump,”  The Atlantic, June 22, 2020.  News reports and opinion columns on VOA and its parent organization, the US Agency on Global Media (USAGM), have mushroomed this summer.  A selected list is included below.  Based on numerous interviews, most on background, she discusses the statements and actions of Michael Pack, the USAGM’s controversial new CEO, and speculates as to his motives and agenda.

Dan Balz, “America’s Global Standing Is At A Low Point. The Pandemic Made It Worse,”  July 26, 2020, The Washington Post.  The Post’s senior political reporter looks at how Trump’s shattering of a “70-year consensus among U.S. presidents of both political parties” has created perceptions abroad of the US “as withdrawn and inward looking, a reluctant and unreliable partner at a dangerous moment for the world.”  His lengthy assessment is filled with polling data and assessments from a broad range of perspectives.

Jorge G. Castañeda, America Through Foreign Eyes, (Oxford University Press, 2020).  Mexico’s former foreign minister sets his meditation on America in the context of a long line of visitors (de Tocqueville, Dickens, Bryce, Naipaul) with the intent of writing a sympathetic foreign critique for American readers.  His book provides deeply informed perspectives on American exceptionalism, American culture, the nation’s shortcomings, a dysfunctional democracy that renders its “uniqueness” no longer self-evident, “Apple and Wall Street,” American pragmatism and hypocrisy, race and religion, and a menu of problems: increased inequality, drugs, immigration, mass incarceration, the death penalty, guns, and other challenges.  Castañeda brings a half century of friendships and government relations with Americans to his “foreigner’s assessment of what is going wrong and how it might be fixed.”  He is optimistic that America’s soft power resources (technology, food, entertainment media, universities, and research labs) will remain strong.  But for a world growing weary of Trump and his enablers, America’s best hope is to confront its misplaced obsession with exceptionalism, its race and wealth inequality, and its “breach of contract with liberalism and tolerance.”

“Ethics in Diplomacy,”  Public Diplomacy Magazine, USC Center on Public Diplomacy, Issue 23, Summer 2020.  This edition of PD Magazine offers a variety of brief articles on conceptual, historical, topical, state-based, and practice-based inquiries into the place of ethics in public diplomacy.  They divide into four categories.  What should ethical diplomacy look like?  What are important ethical considerations?  What can be learned from the past?  And ethics during a pandemic.  Edited by USC students, PD Magazine blends the work of students, scholars, and practitioners.  It is entering its second decade as a publication that focuses broadly on issues and trends in diplomacy’s public dimension.  Congratulations to all.

Adam Garfinkle, “The Erosion of Deep Literacy,”  National Affairs, Number 43, Spring 2020.  Garfinkle, (founding editor of The American Interest), begins with Canadian scholar Harold Innis’s useful observation that “sudden extensions of communication are reflected in cultural disturbances.”  Thoughtful 20th century public diplomacy practitioners learned from Innis in the early days of television.  Garfinkle builds on his thinking to argue that today’s pervasive IT devices have comparable transformational impacts.  They include democratization of users and written language, diffusion of cultures, and the promise of different cognitive capacities.  Another impact, in the thinking of UCLA neuroscientist Maryanne Wolfe, may be the loss of “deep literacy.”  By this she means engagement with an extended piece of writing that enables a dialectical process with its text and meaning.  Such engagement can empower creativity, nurture capacity for abstract thought, strengthen the ability to pose and answer difficult questions, refine our capacity for empathy, and produce a revolution in the brain that has potential payoffs for understanding history and politics.  Garfinkle explores the meaning of Wolfe’s claim in the ideas of thinkers, past and present, and its relevance to today’s populism and political extremism.  Loss of deep literacy can be one explanatory factor, he argues, in approaching a range of theoretical and practical questions confronting leaders, strategists, diplomats, and communication theorists.

Robert M. Gates, “The Overmilitarization of American Foreign Policy: The United States Must Recover the Full Range of Its Power,”  Foreign Affairs, July/August 2020.  The former US Defense Secretary makes an evidence-based case that the United States has become too dependent on military tools as it seriously neglects diplomacy and other nonmilitary instruments of power.  To address a fundamental mismatch between ends and means in US foreign policy, he proposes an array of strategic and structural reforms.

(1) Place a stronger and bureaucratically transformed State Department at the core of the nonmilitary tool kit.

(2) Strengthen economic power (multilateral institutions, foreign aid) as a smart way to court partners, pressure rivals, and compete with China’s Belt and Road Initiative.  The US relies too heavily on economic tools (sanctions, tariffs) just to punish adversaries.

(3) Create “a new top-level organization—akin to the USIA on steroids and located within the State Department but empowered by the president—to enable consistent strategic communication using all available venues.  It would oversee all traditional and electronic messaging, including social media, and all public statements and other communication efforts by other parts of the U.S. government relating to foreign policy.”

(4) Take the offensive in cyber warfare “from time to time” to give authoritarian governments “a taste of their own medicine.”

(5) The structure created by the National Security Act of 1947 has “outlived its usefulness” for the whole of government approaches to foreign policy issues that are now routine.  The NSC is incapable of providing necessary “day-to-day management and operational and budgetary integration and coordination.”  What might do the job, however, is obscure apart from his chimera that a “restructured and strengthened State Department would serve as the hub for managing all the spokes of the government involved in directing nonmilitary resources to address national security problems.”

The article is drawn from Gates’ recent book, Exercise of Power: American Failures, Successes, and a New Path Forward in the Post–Cold War Period  (Knopf, 2020) in which he expands briefly on his view that “The U.S. strategic communications effort is a joke.” Why?  “Multiple entities are involved in this arena – the White House, State, Defense, Treasury, and the CIA, to name just a few.  For the most part, each goes its own way, with its own issues and emphasis.” (pp. 402-403).

Haroro J. Ingram, Persuade or Perish: Addressing Gaps in the U.S. Posture to Confront Propaganda and Disinformation Threats, Program on Extremism Policy Paper, George Washington University, February 2020.  Ingram (George Washington University’s Program on Extremism) has three objectives.  First, he discusses malicious influence activities of state and non-state actors that threaten “not only the stability and security of nations but democracy itself” – and the related problem of deficiencies in the US government’s ability to deal with these threats.  Second, he profiles a century of “inconsistent” US approaches to the role of “persuasive communication” in foreign policy and national security.  He follows with a deep dive into his central organizational focus, the State Department’s Global Engagement Center and its immediate predecessors.  Third, he makes four recommendations: the need to learn from America’s past influence efforts, the benefits of developing an overarching paradigm to understand a “spectrum of threats,” the importance of “overt attributed US government messaging,” and a strategic interagency structure similar in intent to the Reagan Administration’s National Security Decision Directive (NSDD 75).  Ingram’s historical overview is a useful predicate for thinking about current change agendas.  His paper is limited, however, by its predominant attention to threats, organizational solutions, messaging, and influence model practices.  Missing is discussion of opportunities, solutions grounded in transformative policies and actions, and relational model practices.  See also Haroro J. Ingram, “Pandemic Propaganda and the Global Democracy Crisis,”  May 18, 2020, War on the Rocks.

Haroro J. Ingram and Alexander Guittard, “Revamping America’s ‘Soft Power’:  The Case for Centralizing America’s Messages to the World,” July 20, 2020, Foreign Policy Research Institute.  The authors (affiliated with George Washington University’s Program on Extremism) contend that “a central agency for American public messaging is urgently needed” to “recalibrate American influence efforts.”  They build on former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ recent call for a “top level organization . . . to enable consistent strategic communication” and Ingram’s longer paper, Persuade or Perish, listed above.  Their agenda emphasizes threats by malign external actors, the US government’s bureaucratic deficiencies, a new “independent agency of the State Department,” centrally managed “media buying and dissemination on non-U.S. government-owned or sponsored channels,” and development of “overarching doctrine and training in the tradecraft of persuasive communications.”  Their paper replicates recurring themes and approaches in countless past reports on US diplomacy’s public dimension.

H-Diplo/ISSF Roundtable 11-16 on Diplomacy: Communication and the Origins of the International Order,  H- Diplo, May 18, 2020.  Thomas Maddux (California State University Northridge) introduces this discussion of Robert F. Trager’s Diplomacy: Communication and the Origins of the International Order,  (Cambridge University Press, 2017) with a carefully constructed overview of its central focus and summaries of insightful comments by four reviewers: Todd H. Hall (University of Oxford), Marcus Holmes (The College of William & Mary), Brian Rathbun (University of Southern California), and Anne Sartori (MIT).  Trager (University of California, Los Angeles) responds in closing comments.  Trager’s book uses data from British Foreign Office communications between 1855 and 1914 to examine the role of communication in diplomacy with emphasis on “costless exchanges” (e.g., private discussions between two foreign ministers) and “costly signaling” (e.g., moving troops to a border).  The reviewers, who unanimously praise Trager’s work, offer suggestions for further consideration.

-- Reasons why writing by diplomats may not convey their thinking exactly (Sartori).

-- Constructivist and psychological questions on “the human element of diplomacy” relevant to Trager’s “assumption of rationality” (Hall).

-- Questions about the role of intentions in diplomacy and the subjectivity of potential costs (Holmes).

-- Issues relating to how “irrational emotions” affect diplomatic communication (Rathbun).

Their reviews do not ignore, but treat too lightly such issues as the relevance of 19th century diplomacy’s context, methods, and communications technologies to those of the 21st century.  And, if Trager’s study usefully points to the value of actors signaling intentions through “costless communication” in private, as the reviewers contend, what are the implications for “costless communication” in public?  (Courtesy of Donna Oglesby)

Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo, and Meg Kelly, Donald Trump and His Assault on Truth: The President’s Falsehoods, Misleading Claims, and Flat-Out Lies, (Scribner, 2020).  Before he took over the Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” feature in 2011, Kessler was a well-regarded Post foreign policy reporter.  This adds considerably to the book’s value.  A collaborative effort by the Post’s Fact Checker team, this book can be mined for insights into the mechanics of fact checking and “Pinocchios,” read selectively as a compilation of self-contained chapters (e.g., Trump’s biggest whoppers, Trump on Trump, Trump on immigration, Trump on impeachment, Trump on the coronavirus), or read as an organized description and interpretation of Trump’s disregard for truth.  The book provides clear analytical distinctions between falsehoods, misstatements, and lies, as well as observations on their implications: exploitations of grievance, strategies of foreign leaders, the “illusory truth effect,” and other consequences.  Kessler’s chapter on Trump’s foreign policy treats his falsehoods, disturbing ignorance on international issues, and false narratives.  He concludes with thoughts on Trump’s methods, his impact on the media, choices of voters and Democratic leaders, and America’s future after the “most mendacious president in American history.”

Sarah Kreps, Social Media and International Relations, (Cambridge University Press, 2020).  In this brief, cogent, and well-written book, Kreps (Cornell University) assumes that social media can now be treated as an actor in international relations.  She then discusses questions that follow from this assumption.  What social media features attract foreign interference?  Are democracies more susceptible to information warfare than authoritarian states?  How can information operations and the Internet be used as instruments of war?  How do states assert digital sovereignty?  What new technologies, such as AI, threaten democratic vulnerabilities, and how can democracies respond?  Diplomacy scholars and practitioners will find particularly interesting her thinking on public opinion, traditional notions of the marketplace of ideas, social media as instruments of manipulation and weaponized information, how emerging AI tools lower barriers to entry in propaganda campaigns, and the contrasting values of AI and low technology tools in responding to them.  Kreps’ central argument is that social media are undermining longtime advantages of democracies in international relations such as public accountability and effectiveness in policy formulation, governance, and war.  Her book seeks to explain these phenomena and discuss responses to them.  (Courtesy of Donna Oglesby)

Christian Lesquene, “Ministries of Foreign Affairs: A Crucial Institution Revisited,” The Hague Journal of Diplomacy, Volume 15, Issue 1-2, March 2020.  In his introduction to this special HJD issue, Lesquene (SciencesPo) makes compelling arguments for why there are so few comparative studies of Ministries of Foreign Affairs (MFAs).  Scholars prefer to study exciting new institutions.  MFAs have lost their monopoly in whole of government diplomacy.  Their low transparency creates barriers to scholarly study. The role of MFAs is difficult to discern in many nondemocratic states.  Most practitioner accounts are self-referential and lack analytical distance.  He then explores reasons why it is precisely because MFAs have lost their monopoly that new research is needed.  Scholars must better understand diplomats in today’s MFAs and how they are recruited.  MFAs are at the center of new practices and communication methods in diplomacy.  And research on MFAs can usefully contribute to scholarship that theorizes diplomacy and IR through the mindsets of practitioners.  Lesquene’s clear and well-organized overview (accessible in its entirety online) provides a detailed agenda for future research, a bibliography, and cues to the claims and contributions of 11 articles in HJD’s special issue.

Laura Mills, “Empire, Emotion, Exchange: (Dis)orienting Encounters Of/With Post 9-11 US Cultural Diplomacy,”  Cultural Studies, published online June 22, 2020.  In this probing critique of US cultural diplomacy and its Youth Exchange and Study Program (YES), Mills (University of St. Andrews, UK) makes four claims.  First, post 9/11 cultural diplomacy is disorienting because cosmopolitanism and affective elements in YES recruitment materials demonstrate how empire, and its elements of power and control, are revealed in what is seemingly benign and unquestionable.  Second, the entanglement of emotion, empire, and exchange can “(dis)orient” participants through elements in YES orientation sessions and program handbooks.  Third, the seductive simplicity of an imperialist America frame problematically obscures government and performance complexities, tensions, and contradictions within the YES programs.  Fourth, challenging characteristics of empire and these disorientations opens the way to a creative re-imagining and reorientation of post 9/11 US cultural diplomacy.  Her article is grounded in the views of Michel Foucault and other scholars on how power relations are embedded in institutions and human interaction, Sara Ahmed and others on affect, and the literature of Franz Fanon and a host of writers on cosmopolitanism and colonialism.  Throughout, Mills cites numerous examples of language and practices in YES programs and program materials.  Cultural diplomacy practitioners will find her writing and theoretical logic demanding.  But it will reward as it summons a rethinking of their programs and methods.  Her article previews her forthcoming book, Post-9/11 US Cultural Diplomacy: The Impossibility of Cosmopolitanism (Routledge).

Amy Mitchell, Mark Jurkowitz, J. Baxter Oliphant, and Elisa Shearer, “Americans Who Mainly Get Their News on Social Media Are Less Engaged, Less Knowledgeable,”  Pew Research Center, July 30, 2020.  Pew’s researchers find that the one-in-five Americans “who rely on social media for news are less likely to get the facts right about the coronavirus and politics and more likely to hear some unproven claims.”  US adults who turn to social media for news tend to be under 30, have lower levels of education, express less concern about made-up news, and are less likely to be white.  See also Margaret Sullivan, “This Was The Week America Lost the War on Misinformation,”  July 30, 2020, The Washington Post.

“Pandemic Diplomacy: Living Up To Our Ideals,” Foreign Service Journal, July-August 2020.  Three articles in the Journal’s summer edition shine a useful spotlight on the pandemic, diplomacy’s public dimension, and whole of government diplomacy.

-- Jimmy Kolker, “COVID-19 and Global Health Governance,”  34-37.  Ambassador (ret.) Kolker lived whole of government diplomacy when, after a 30-year Foreign Service career, he led UNICEF’s HIV/AIDs section (2007-2011) and served as assistant secretary for global affairs in the US Department of Health and Human Services (2014-2017).  He urges the US to engage fully with the global community on pandemic and other health issues – and offers six practical recommendations directed at WHO, the UN Secretary General, the National Security Council, and the Department of State.

-- Donald M. Bishop, “Disinformation Challenges in a Pandemic,”  38-41.  Retired FSO Bishop (now the Bren Chair of Strategic Communications at Marine Corps University) draws on three decades of public diplomacy experience in his assessment of the pandemic crisis, Chinese and Russian disinformation, and “hidden disinformation.”  He argues that “PD needs to be recharged, and it must join whole-of-government policy deliberations at the highest level.”

-- Jian (Jay) Wang, “Rethinking Public Diplomacy for a Post-Pandemic World,”  42-44.  The director of USC’s Center on Public Diplomacy discusses the pandemic’s impact in the context of pre-existing global trends and offers suggestions for rethinking PD: take a network view, integrate the digital and the physical, expand city diplomacy, and invest in PD reskilling and upskilling.

David Shimer, Rigged: America, Russia, and One Hundred Years of Covert Electoral Interference,  (Alfred A. Knopf, 2020).  Shimer’s (Oxford University) aims in this book are (1) to examine a century of covert electoral interference by Russia and the United States, and (2) to analyze Putin’s 2016 interference in the US election as the evolution of past practice.  He defines covert electoral interference as “a concealed foreign effort to influence a democratic vote of succession” that takes two forms – changing ballots and changing minds.  His book makes four arguments.  First, it discusses the contours of interference by Moscow and Washington from the end of World War I to the present.  Second, it explores similarities and differences.  Both countries interfered to support or defeat candidates to promote individual change.  But Russia interferes to weaken democracies; the US has interfered to strengthen democracies.  Third, Russia’s 2016 interference was a direct continuation of past patterns of practice.  Fourth, digital technologies have irrevocably empowered hostile actors.  Shimer’s well written and deeply research book is remarkable in several ways.  Its on the record interviews with senior Obama and Trump national security officials are illuminating.  As is his deep dive into President Obama’s response to Putin’s 2016 strategy and its consequences.  He supports his arguments with new empirical material in case studies of KGB interference in the US and Europe and America’s overt democracy promotion activities at the end and after the Cold War.  And in case studies of US covert interference in Italy and Cuba (1947-1948), Iran and Guatemala (1950s), Japan (1950s-1960s), Guyana (1963), Chile (1964), and Serbia (2000).  Americans who may think covert interference is just a Russian playbook will find well researched evidence to the contrary in Shimer’s excellent, fact-based book.

Recent Blogs and Other Items of Interest

Michael Allen and David E. Lowe, “The Congress for Cultural Freedom and the Power of Ideas,”  June 28, 2020, The American Interest.

Mike Anderson, “Five PD Favorites,”  July 27, 2020; “Five PD Favorites,”  July 21, 2020;  “Five PD Favorites,”  June 9, 2020, Public Diplomacy Council.

Matt Armstrong, “The William Benton Scholarship,”  July 21, 2020, MountainRunner.us

Donald Bishop, “We Do It Ourselves In Our Own Capital,”  June 18, 2020, Public Diplomacy Council.

Miriam Berger, “The Pandemic Has Damaged the Appeal of Studying in the United States for Some International Students,”  July 23, 2020, The Washington Post.

William J. Burns, “‘Never More Adrift’: William J. Burns on Repairing the Damage Trump Has Done,”  June 10, 2020, World Politics Review“Polarized Politics Has Infected American Diplomacy Foreigners aren’t laughing at us. They pity and discount us.”  June 8, 2020, The Atlantic.

“Diplomacy in Crisis: The Trump Administration’s Decimation of the State Department,”  July 28, 2020, Democratic Staff Report, US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

“Fulbright Grantee Letter of Appeal to the Fulbright Program: Request to Revised the US Fulbright 2019-2020 Policy and Response to Covid-19 Pandemic,”  May 5, 2020, Change.org.

Alina Dolea and Efe Sevin, “Integrating Scholarship Fields for PD: ICA/ISA Joint Panel,”  July 7, 2020, USC Center on Public Diplomacy.

Robbie Gramer, “Pompeo’s Attack on ‘1619 Project’ Draws Fire From His Own Diplomats,”  July 17, 2020, Foreign Policy; Nahal Toosi, “Pompeo Rolls Out A Selective Vision of Human Rights,”   July 16, 2020, Politico; Michael R. Pompeo, “American Diplomacy Must Again Ground Itself in the Nation’s Founding Principles,”  July 16, 2020, The Washington Post.   

Gavin Grindon, “This Exhibition Was Brought to You by Guns and Big Oil,”  May 26, 2020, The New York Times.

“How Objectivity in Journalism Became a Matter of Opinion,”  July 16, 2020, The Economist.

Mark Jacobs, “Exceptionalism Redux,”  n.d., Evergreen.

Lara Jakes and Edward Wong, “U.S. Diplomats Struggle to Defend Democracy Abroad Amid Crises at Home,”  June 8, 2020, The New York Times.

Hannah Knowles, “Top Democrats Launch Investigation Into the Late Night Firing of the State Department Inspector General,”  May 16, 2020, The Washington Post.

“A Letter on Justice and Open Debate,”  July 7, 2020, Harper’s Magazine; Jennifer Schuessler and Elizabeth A. Harris, “Artists and Writers Warn of an ‘Intolerant Climate.’ Reaction is Swift.”  July 7, 2020, The New York Times.

Michael Luo, “How Can the Press Best Serve a Democratic Society,”  July 11, 2020, The New Yorker.

Colum Lynch, “It’s Not Just Trump. The World Worries America is Broken,”  June 18, 2020, Foreign Policy.

Rachel Gandin Mark, “Film Diplomacy in the Time of COVID-19,”  May 27, 2020, CPD Blog, USC Center on Public Diplomacy.

Michael McCarry, “Looking at Foreign Students Through the Prism of National Interest,”  July 10, 2020; “Fulbright, China, and U.S. Presidents,”  July 20, 2020, Public Diplomacy Council.

Peter McPherson, “APLU Statement on New ICE Policies on International Students,” July 6, 2020, Association of Public & Land Grant Universities.

Matin Modarressi, “Stamps and Spies: The CIA’s Involvement In Postage Design,” July 21, 2020, War on The Rocks.

Joseph S. Nye, Jr., “Can We Recover Our Soft Power?”  June 9, 2020, The Hill.

Michael Peak, “Where Now for International Higher Education,”  May 2020, British Council.

Elizabeth Redden, “Trump Targets Fulbright in China, Hong Kong,”  July 16, 2020, Inside Higher Ed.

Dalibor Rohac, “Public Diplomacy and the Risk of Overmoralizing,”  June 23, 2020, TheBulwark.

Daniel B. Shapiro and Daniel Rakov, “Will Zoomplomacy Last?”  May 18, 2020, Foreign Policy.

Michael D. Shear and Maggie Haberman, “Trump Removes State Dept. Inspector General,”  May 16, 2020, The New York Times.

Tara Sonenshine, “American Prestige Hits Rock Bottom,”  June 26, 2020, The Hill; “Americans Should Fight Propaganda Like We Used To,”  June 1, 2020, DefenseOne.

Mark C. Storella, “An Argument for US Health Diplomacy,”  June 29, 2020, The Hill.

Nahal Toosi, “Adversaries Delight in America’s Convulsions, While U.S. Diplomats Despair,”  June 2, 2020, Politico; Conor Finnegan, “US Diplomats Struggle to Navigate Racial Protests, Trump’s Messages, Charges of Hypocrisy,”  June 2, 2020, ABC News.

Dick Virden, “To Restore Our National Reputation, We Must Return to Our Core Values,”  May 27, 2020, MinnPost.

Ed Vulliamy, “‘Rockers and Spies’ – How the CiA Used Culture to Shred the Iron Curtain,”  May 3, 2020, The Guardian.

Vivian S. Walker, “Talking to Strangers: Public Diplomacy At a Distance,”  May 11, 2020, CPD Blog, USC Center on Public Diplomacy.

Matthew Wallin, “The Soft Power of American Protest,”  June 29, 2020, American Security Project.

“What the US Coronavirus Response Says About American Exceptionalism,”  July 8, 2020, PBS Newhour.

Selected Items (in chronological order): Trump / Voice of America / USAGM

Kathleen Parker, “Knowing Steve Bannon Shouldn’t Stop a Qualified Official from leading the VOA,”  May 19, 2020, The Washington Post.

Matt Armstrong, “The Significance of Trump’s Hostility Toward VOA,” [7-minute video]

Alan Heil, “Leadership Changes at VOA and the BBC, the Two Largest Western International Multimedia Networks,”  June 9, 2020.

The Editorial Board, “New Boss May Test Voice of America’s Credibility,”  June 16, 2020, The New York Times.

Jon Allsop, “Trump, Michael Pack, and the Complicated Role of Voice of America,”  June 17, 2020, Columbia Journalism Review.

Kim Andrew Elliott, “Repoliticizing Voice of America,”  June 17, 2020, , “VOA: Voice of Ambiguity,”  July 7, 2020, The Hill.

Brian Schwartz, “Sen. Bob Menendez Calls for State Department Inspector General to Investigate Federal Media CEO Michael Pack,” June 23, 2020; “Federal Media Chief Michael Pack Installs Trump Loyalists to Leadership Posts, Memo Says,”  June 17, 2020, CNBC.

“RSF [Reporters Without Borders] Alarmed by Abrupt Dismissals of US News Agency Heads by Trump-appointed CEO,”  June 18, 2020, RSF.

Martha Bayles and Jeffrey Gedmin, “It’s Not Broke! And You’re Not Fixing It!”  June 18, 2020, The American Interest.

Jeffrey Gedmin, “The ‘Wednesday Night Massacre’ in U.S. International Media,”  June 19, 2020, TheBulwark.

Editorial Board, “Voice of America and Other U.S. Government Media Have Always Been Trustworthy. But Here Comes Trump,”  June 19, 2020, The Washington Post.

Alan Heil, “An Unprecedented Shakeup at U.S. International Broadcasting,” June 20, 2020; Robert Chatten, “An Open Letter to Amanda Bennett, former VOA Director,”  June 20, 2020, Public Diplomacy Council.

“National Press Club and NPC Journalism Institute Statement on U.S. Agency for Global Media,”  June 20, 2020.

Josh Lipsky and Daniel Fried, “US Government Broadcasters Have Long Advanced the Cause of Freedom. Now They’re Under Threat,” June 23, 2020, Atlantic Council.

David Folkenflik, “Citing a Breached ‘Firewall,’ Media Leaders Sue U.S. Official Over Firings,”  June 24, 2020, NPR.

Byron York, “The New Voice of America Breaks His Silence,”  June 25, 2020, Washington Examiner.

William Powell, “Lawsuit Highlights Potential Threats To Independence at U.S. International Broadcasters,” June 26, 2020, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

“Radio Free Trump: Decapitating America’s State-funded Media,” June 27, 2020, The Economist.

Senators’ Letter to Michael Pack,  July 1, 2020.

Susan Crabtree, “Michael Pack Stands His Ground Amid D.C. Firestorm,”  July 2, 2020, “As Critics Rage, Pack Aims to Pierce China’s Info Firewall,”  June 26, 2020, RealClear Politics.

James Jay Carafano, “Michael Pack Will Need to Tackle America’s Great-Power Problem,”  July 6, 2020, The National Interest.

 “U.S. Judge Rules in Favor of CEO of US Agency for Global Media,”  July 7, 2020, VOA News.

Paul Farhi, “Voice of America Faces Loss of International Journalists as New Overseer Lets Visas Expire,”  July 9, 2020, The Washington Post.

David Folkenflik, “U.S. Broadcasting Agency Will Not Extend Visas For Its Foreign Journalists,”  July 9, 2020, NPR.

“USAGM Reviewing Foreign Journalists Visas,”  July 10, 2020, VOA News.

Editorial Board, “Failing To Renew VOA Foreign Staffers’ Visas Would Devastate One of Its Core Functions,”  July 10, 2020, The Washington Post.

Michael Pack, “Fixing Uncle Sam’s Global Broadcasting Arm Is More Important Than Ever,”  July 8, 2020, New York Post.

Martha Bayles, “An Abuse of Power,”  July 13, 2020, The American Interest.

Alan Heil, “Leading U.S. Members of Congress and Media Organizations Support VOA Foreign Journalists Whose Visa Renewals May Be At Risk,”  July 13, 2020, Public Diplomacy Council.

 Ken Bredemeier, “US Court Blocks Government Media Chief from Replacing Technology Fund Board,” July 21, 2020, VOA News.

Spencer S. Hsu, “Appeals Court Blocks Trump Administration Takeover of Organization Fighting Digital Censorship and Surveillance,”  July 21, 2020, The Washington Post.

Susan Crabtree, “Trump Stands By New Broadcasting Chief With Veto Threat,”  July 22, 2020, RealClearPolitics.

“USAGM Announces Investigation Into ‘Long-term Security Failures,’” July 24, 2020, VOA News.

Jessica Jerreat, “Temporary Visa Reprieve for VOA Thai Journalist,”  July 24, 2020, VOA News.

“CEO Pack Launches Investigation Into Pro-Biden VOA Content, U.S. Election Interference,” July 30, 2020, USAGM Press Release.

Helle Dale, “‘Severe Security Failures’ In This Federal Agency Need To Be Investigated,” July 30, 2020, The Daily Signal.

Kim Andrew Elliott, “The Voice of America’s Visa Conundrum,”  July 30, 2020, The Hill.

Daniel Lippman, “Deleted Biden Video Sets Off A Crisis at Voice of America,”  July 30, 2020, Politico.

Spencer S. Hsu, “Trump Administration Is Crippling International Freedom Effort By Withholding Funds, Officials Say,”  July 31, 2020, The Washington Post.

Gem From The Past 

Edward W. Barrett, Truth is Our Weapon, (New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1953).  As former Defense Secretary Robert Gates and others turn to the magical idea that a “restructured and strengthened State Department” could integrate, coordinate, and direct nonmilitary activities, including strategic communication, it is useful to dust off one of the better books that deals with the subject.  Barrett, a Newsweek journalist who had served in OWI, returned to government from 1950-52 as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs.  He was tasked to serve simultaneously as director of President Truman’s newly created National Psychological Strategy Board.  Truman and the NSC gave Barrett and the State Department responsibility for “coordination of policies and plans for the national foreign information program and for overt psychological warfare with the Department of Defense, with other appropriate departments and agencies of the U.S. Government, and with related planning under the [CIA].”  After eight months of bitter interagency quarreling, Truman gave up on coordination by the State Department.  We occasionally did “some good,” Barrett recalled, but overall it was an impossible task.  For the next 70 years occasional attempts to adopt a State Department coordination model met a similar fate.  Presidents and reformers, who periodically considered interagency coordination, typically looked to White House and NSC models.

Among Barrett’s lessons learned: (1) Presidents should have as permanent members of their top staff “a special assistant with the functions of ‘persuader-in-chief.’”  (2) These presidential aides should “function as coordinator-in-chief of government-wide psychological planning.”  (3) All such coordinators should regularly attend Cabinet and NSC meetings and have the full confidence of the president.  (4) Avoid “too much Washington masterminding of complex tactical problems that could be solved by first-rate men in the field.” (5) Information specialists should participate in the top policy councils of the State Department.  (6) Major government reorganizations invariably lead to “near stagnation of effort while countless bureaucratic characters struggle for months with mundane problems of office space, organization charts, liaison arrangements, budgets, and controls.”

An archive of Diplomacy's  Public Dimension: Books, Articles, Websites  (2002-present) is maintained at George Washington University's Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication.  Current issues are also posted by the University of Southern California's Center on Public Diplomacy,  the Public Diplomacy Council,  and MountainRunner.us.

GW is committed to digital accessibility. If you experience a barrier that affects your ability to access content on this page, let us know via the Accessibility Feedback Form.