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making a diference in their
As my father memora-
bly put it in an article about
cultural diplomacy in the
June 1964 issue of
Te Foreign
Service Journal:
“Te [cultural
afairs ofcer] soon comes to
realize that his job is really a
form of lovemaking, and that
making love is never really
successful unless both part-
ners are participating.”
His diplomatic career was
not one long love-in, however.
In a recent article for the
nal of Belgian History
of the Soft Power Lens: Te
United States Information
Service in Cold War Belgium,
1950-1958”), Frank Gerits
recalls that while my father
was posted in Mexico, “a col-
league threatened to punch
him on the nose.”
While I am not sure the
degree to which my father’s
opposition to the Vietnam War
underlay his decision to leave
the Foreign Service in 1968, I know he was glad to return to
academic life.
For most of my own time in the Foreign Service (1981-
2003), I enjoyed my work and had no intention of leaving. It
certainly helped that most of the countries where I served,
mainly in Central and Eastern Europe, had populations that
were generally pro-American despite their leaders’ constant
criticism of the United States.
True, the degree of admiration varied from country to
country during that period. In Poland and Czechoslovakia,
many people saw America as a kind of paradise—the exact
opposite of the Soviet Union they despised. Te Federal
Republic of Yugoslavia, where I served from 1993 to 1995
(even though the United States did not ofcially recognize its
government), and the Russian Federation, where I was cultural
afairs ofcer in Moscow from 1998 to 2001, were less positive
about Washington. But as a rule, I seldom faced open hostility
toward the United States anywhere.
As a press and cultural ofcer involved in arranging
ofcial media and social events, I felt my priority was not to
debate the intricacies of policy but—aside from carrying out
public diplomacy programs and staying in touch with local
contacts—to get the logistical details right : making sure micro-
phones for press conferences worked, providing timely tran-
scripts of statements by U.S. ofcials, having the right people
on the guest list for a lunch at the ambassador’s residence, and
so forth. Not glamorous work, to be sure, but satisfying.
I should note that I had few, if any, moral qualms about
exercising “message control” while serving overseas. I did my
best to present American policy to local newspapers, radio
and television as rapidly and coherently as possible, and did
not feel it was appropriate for mission personnel to volunteer
their personal opinions about policy with local media—either
of or on the record.
Because dissent is essentially a matter
of individual choice and conscience,
formulating detailed standards for
its application within a hierarchical
bureaucracy like the State Department
is an inherently challenging task.