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Conclusion


U.S. government international communicators have come a long way since Assistant Secretary of State Benton developed a nervous twitch trying to influence Hollywood filmmakers in the 1940s. The results speak for themselves. The Soviet Union had cautioned America that "try as you will, you cannot win the battle for men's minds. All your efforts are doomed to failure."12 In the end, however, we have discovered from the secret documents recently released from Russian archives that it was Soviet propagandists who developed a nervous tic.

From the U.S. side, Cold War public diplomacy objectives were for the most part carefully enunciated through the years by the White House and the Congress so that information specialists knew what was expected of them. President John F. Kennedy told USIA Director Edward R. Murrow in no uncertain terms that he was to "influence public attitudes in other nations." Specifically, Murrow was to extol the United States and "unmask" and "counter" the enemy. Ronald Reagan issued a directive that U.S. government broadcasts were to combat Soviet expansionism. Right or wrong, the government communicators had their marching orders from the White House.

President Clinton should articulate his expectations for public diplomacy in a similar fashion. Although another presidential commission is not needed, a clear definition of the new post-Cold War mission from the President certainly would be in order.

Further, government information specialists and the Congress should review whether a broadcasting operations budget that commits 94.1 percent to radio and only 5.9 percent to television is sound in the new technological age. According to former Expectations of the Congress also were articulated clearly through a series of landmark White Papers on "Winning the Cold War: The U.S. Ideological Offensive."13 In 1964 a House Foreign Affairs Committee report said that public diplomacy should "knock the myths that capitalism is exploitive and wants to dominate the world, and that communism is inevitable . . . [and] implant the notion that the future of the world belongs to democratic societies."14 The House report continued: "A clear-cut conception of aims and objectives is an essential requirement of any program seeking to influence a foreign population."

Congress should redefine its view of public diplomacy in today's world, perhaps by an initiative entitled "Winning the Peace: the U.S. Information Offensive." Congress also should hold hearings specifically devoted to repealing the domestic dissemination provision of the Smith-Mundt Act, now obsolete because of today's sophisticated communications technology. It can begin by eliminating the three little words, "for examination only," to make information more readily accessible to the American public.