Ignorance Abroad: American Educational and Cultural Foreign Policy and the Office of Assistant Secretary of State

Ignorance Abroad: American Educational and Cultural Foreign Policy and the Office of Assistant Secretary of State

Ignorance Abroad: American Educational and Cultural Foreign Policy and the Office of Assistant Secretary of State

Ignorance Abroad: American Educational and Cultural Foreign Policy and the Office of Assistant Secretary of State

Synopsis

In the past, the United States has focused on the military, economic, and diplomatic aspects of our foreign policy, while neglecting the area of educational and cultural affairs. Wieck considers the development of U.S. foreign educational and cultural policy from 1938 to the present, with a particular focus on the Kennedy initiative to enhance development of such a policy through the establishment in 1961 of the Office of Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs. As the United States struggles to compete in the arena of international trade, the importance of educational and cultural affairs as an integral part of U.S. foreign policy continues to grow.

Excerpt

"The slum area of U.S. foreign policy," "the dumpheap of the Foreign Service," "a pasture for old horses," "the graveyard of incompetents"--such phrases have been used over the years to describe, and to justify neglect of, the realm beyond governmental military, economic, and diplomatic foreign relations: the area known as Educational and Cultural Affairs (E&CA). But we as Americans neglect at our peril the people-to-people exchanges that are at the heart of ECA. People-to-people exchanges embody a slow yet inexorable force for good--difficult for politicians elected at two-, four-, or six-year intervals to discern--that dwarfs delivery of arms, bank loans, or an ambassador's smile. And these exchanges are cheap! For the price of a Stealth bomber or two, the gamut of ECA programs could operate for several years. These programs make up a sort of foreign policy whose benefits, come to fruition, could effect change more swiftly and with greater impact for good than all the smart bombs a Stealth could ever drop. Considering what we pay for a Stealth--or any recent bomber--we behave foolishly in ignoring the force we could harness in ECA. Simply put, we are wasting our money. We could get a more substantial return on our investment. But huge defense contracts and kickbacks are a great short-term temptation: they're wonderful income enhancers.

A foreign leader who has studied in the United States or an American expert who knows another country and its people cold can often prove to be of invaluable worth. The effect of a Stealth is no more immediate, its impact no more powerful, than essential expertise at a crucial moment or a helpful decision taken by a well-placed foreign friend.

These points have been made before, but their kernel of truth endures, and gentle, persistent repetition of this truth can lead to understanding. Many of . . .

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