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Inventing Public Diplomacy

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Inventing Public Diplomacy: The Story of the United States Information Agency

Wilson Dizard offers the first comprehensive account of public diplomacy’s evolution within the U.S. foreign policy establishment, ranging from World War II to the present. Public diplomacy–the uncertain art of winning public support abroad for one’s government and its foreign policies–constitutes a critical policy instrument in the face of today’s rising anti-Americanism. Dizard focuses on the U.S. Information Agency and its precursor, the Office of War Information. He traces the political ups and downs that determined the agency’s trajectory and highlights its instrumental role in creating the policy and programs underpinning today’s public diplomacy.

Drawing on his own distinguished careers as both diplomat and author, Dizard narrates the day-to-day activities of USIA’s overseas posts, the U.S. Information Service (USIS), and the Foreign Service officers who ran them. Throughout, he balances the overall historical narrative with illustrative anecdotes. He is also the first to document USIA’s frequently overlooked role in the postwar expansion of U.S. media and cultural exports. Though USIA ceased to exist in 1999, it left an indelible legacy of what works–and what doesn’t– in presenting U.S. policies and values to the rest of the world.

In Inventing Public Diplomacy, Dizard has given us a fascinating and thoroughly accessible account of a remarkable, eclectic corps of dedicated men and women who spoke for the United States in the latter half of the twentieth century. The book should prove invaluable to students of international communications, media globalization, the practice of diplomacy, and the history of U.S. foreign relations.

WILSON P. DIZARD JR. served from 1951 to 1980 in Washington and overseas in the State Department and USIS, emerging as a recognized expert on international communications. Author of more than sixty scholarly articles and seven other books, most recently Meganet and Digital Diplomacy: U.S. Foreign Policy in the Information Age, he has taught at MIT, Georgetown University (1975–95), and the National War College and was a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (1983–2001).