The Bush administration’s efforts to reduce or eliminate the amount of English language broadcasting overseas by the Voice Of America are receiving close attention from all sectors of the body politic. Not all of the warnings about the shortsighted foolishness of the administration strategy are coming from the left and middle of the spectrum. Even the conservative Heritage Foundation, no hotbed of anti-Bush activism, raises the alarm. In a national security research memo issued by Heritage, Stephen Johnson writes:
Because public diplomacy efforts such as international broadcasting take years and decades to do their work, shifting massive resources to current hotspots may net little in the end. America needs a more balanced long-term strategy for its foreign broadcasting, and its overseers need to use greater creativity to spread American culture and ideas successfully.
More recently, poor vision has caused policymakers to regard the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington as proof that most threats now come from the Middle East. In a rush to influence Middle Eastern public opinion in a hurry, they gutted the global Voice of America (VOA) radio and TV networks to create new regional broadcasting services.
However, research shows that changing deep-seated perceptions takes time and targeting through multiple channels such as supplying textbooks, supporting libraries, and sponsoring academic exchanges. Sadly, face-to-face public diplomacy efforts remain disorganized at the U.S. Department of State.
To read the entire Heritage Foundation memo, go here.
Average Americans can do something about this dangerous plan, which works against the longrange interests of The United States. We can apply pressure. For the original Rifftides posting on this attempt to gut the VOA’s invaluable public diplomacy, click here. Then use the suggested message to e-mail your senators and representative in congress.
As for Rifftides readers around the world, please let us know what the Voice of America has meant to you. Use the “Comment” link at the end of this posting or the e-mail address in the right column.