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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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CONCLUSION. The Problems of Evaluation 403


403 CONCLUSION The Problems of Evaluation Evaluation of impact is always the most problematic aspect of re- search into public diplomacy, and exchanges are particularly awkward in this regard. The State Department, required to provide evidence of effectiveness to justify its budget for the educational and cultural pro- gramme, could focus relatively easily on the numbers of people sent to the United States, their future career development, and, in the case of journalists, the number of column inches that they wrote on the United States following their trips across the Atlantic.1 A fine example of this statistical approach is a State Department survey of the fourteen jointly- sponsored newspapermen who studied and worked in the USA during 1952. From this it was discovered that 44 per cent of their output in US papers was favourable in content towards the US, whereas for their home papers this figure dropped to 33 per cent, while the potential reach of their home papers combined was 2.3 million readers.2 But the limita- tions of these statements are obvious. The GAI’s 1964 report on the Regional Foreign Correspondent Project highlighted some of the clear problems involved in evaluating journalists: In evaluating a program such as this, it should be recognized at the outset that its most important benefits – notably improvement of international communication and understanding – are intangible and therefore not easily measured. Indeed the most obvious method of evaluation, examination of stories filed by the correspondents, is an imperfect device at best because they were...

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