Inventing Public Diplomacy: The Story of the U.S. Information Agency

In This Review

Inventing Public Diplomacy: The Story of the U.S. Information Agency

By Wilson P. Dizard, Jr.
Lynne Rienner, 2004
255 pp. $49.95
Purchase

This history of the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) could not have come at a better time. Fifteen years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the United States finds itself caught up in an ideological struggle with radical terrorists in the Middle East, and winning "hearts and minds" is once more at the center of the foreign policy agenda. As Washington busily struggles to re-invent the wheel and develop an approach to ideological combat, a career veteran of the USIA has written a history of U.S. public diplomacy from World War II to 1999, when the USIA was folded into the State Department. Dizard is sometimes too close to his subject: he slips a little too easily into regarding history as a morality play involving farsighted USIA professionals fending off ignorant redneck conservatives, and the tone of clubby reminiscence sometimes cloys. But on the whole, this is an extremely useful, clear, and compact introduction to a vitally important aspect of U.S. foreign policy. A familiarity with this history would save policymakers from repeating some costly mistakes.