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Networks of Empire

The US State Department’s Foreign Leader Program in the Netherlands, France, and Britain 1950–70


Giles Scott-Smith

Exchange programmes have been a part of US foreign relations since the nineteenth century, but it was only during and after World War II that they were applied by the US government on a large scale to influence foreign publics in support of strategic objectives.
This book looks at the background, organisation, and goals of the Department of State’s most prestigious activity in this field, the Foreign Leader Program. The Program (still running as the International Visitor Leadership Program) enabled US Embassies to select and invite talented, influential ‘opinion leaders’ to visit the United States, meet their professional counterparts, and gain a broad understanding of American attitudes and opinions from around the country.
By tracking the operation of the Program in three key transatlantic allies of the United States a full picture is given of who was selected and why, and how the target groups changed over time in line with a developing US-European relationship. The book therefore takes a unique in-depth look at the importance of exchanges for the extension of US ‘informal empire’ and the maintenance of the transatlantic alliance during the Cold War.


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PART IV FRANCE AND BRITAIN 327 CHAPTER 8 The Foreign Leader Program in France 1950-70 The most important factor in relations between the United States and France after WWII is the contrast between the level of dependence of the French on American political, economic, and military support, and their drive for a revival in national prestige and policy-making auton- omy. The ability of the US to interfere in French affairs was unparal- leled during that first decade, yet the governments in Paris were still able maintain an independent outlook and steer their own course, bene- fitting from their special place within US strategy towards Western Europe. The European Cooperation Administration, with its headquar- ters in Paris, exerted a tremendous influence on the French socio- economic scene, yet it implemented it via its own version, the Monnet Plan. US financial and military aid was recycled to enable long-running colonial wars to be fought in Indochina and North Africa. French reluc- tance to support an economic revival of Germany soon became subli- mated into structural plans for European integration, with Paris leading the way. While the CIA supported the Force Ouvrière trade union and a host of other anti-communist outlets like the Congress for Cultural Freedom in Paris, French political elites willingly adopted their own strategies to undermine communist influence. US influence was there- fore constrained by French political and social imperatives. It was also hampered by a lack of consistency and uniformity between different agents of US foreign policy, leading...

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