As a retired U.S. Information Agency (USIA) officer, I read with great interest the reviews by Dr. Michael Schneider and Mark Dillen of Nicholas Cull’s book on the history of USIA during the Cold War. I have no quarrel with those comprehensive and well-written reviews except to note that they failed to name the culprits who killed USIA: the “odd couple” consisting of President Clinton’s weak Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, and the late, ultra-conservative Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), with a notable assist by the last USIA Director, Dr. Joe Duffey, an ineffectual elitist who jumped ship when the going got tough. Ms. Albright made a deal with the devil and Duffey failed to defend his troops and the Agency with his alleged friends in the White House. Shame!
Mike Schneider mentions much-maligned USIA Director Charles Z. Wick, who may have been slightly strange and unpredictable but what he did do — in contrast to Dr. Duffey — was to defend and maintain the Agency’s budget during Reagan Administration cutbacks. The late Charlie Wick, who was a vigorous advocate for our Agency and its officers, also initiated Worldnet TV (which I relied upon as PAO in Australia and Venezuela) and other effective public diplomacy programs. He should be commended for shepherding USIA through tough times at the height of the Cold War. We really missed him after Duffey came in and began to dismantle our Agency.
The result of the 1999 State – USIA merger is clear for all to see by now. Public diplomacy was banished to the basement of the Fudge Factory, destined to become an afterthought in the arsenal of American diplomacy. What we have now is “hip-hop diplomacy” and international LGBT programs. Draw your own conclusions.
Guy W. Farmer
USIA FSO (retired)
Carson City, NV
p.s. Sorry if I offended anyone with my politically incorrect comments . . . but not really.