The Decline and Fall of the United States Information Agency Review by Juliet Antunes Sablosky

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Juliet Antunes Sablosky, Ph.D. is Adjunct Professor of Liberal Studies at Georgetown where she has taught courses in Cultural Diplomacy & American Foreign Policy and European Politics. Prior to this she was a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Information Agency, serving in Western Europe and Mexico as a cultural affairs officer. Her Washington assignments have included Deputy Director of the Fulbright Academic Exchange program and Director of the Arts America program.

Cull concludes that “it is plain that the Agency suffered in part because of the coincidence between new challenges and a weakness at the top"...

Cull, Nicholas J. The Decline and Fall of the United States Information Agency: American Public Diplomacy, 1989-2001. New York: Palgrave Macmillian, 2012. 276 pp. $85.00.

To the second volume of his history of the U. S. Information Agency, Nicholas Cull brings a similarly skillful survey of the institution and the role it played in furthering American foreign policy goals. This time he concentrates on the changes wrought by the end of the Cold War and the impact they had on the Agency, its programs, and its people. Throughout the book major attention is given to the Voice of America and to the policy advocacy aspects of USIA’s work. Professor Cull gives less attention to the other three “core components” of public diplomacy, which he identifies as listening, cultural diplomacy, and exchange diplomacy. This meticulously documented book, based on archival research, private papers, and interviews, helps fill a long-standing gap in the literature and sets the stage for further research on American public diplomacy. It will be much appreciated by those teaching and researching the public diplomacy dimension of international relations.

The Decline and Fall of the U.S. Information Agency complements nicely a number of books written over the years by practitioners of public diplomacy that are important for the understanding they provide of its possibilities and constraints, as well as for the vivid pictures they paint of how it was carried out overseas. But the Cull book provides a different perspective, coming from an established academic observer and concentrating on the domestic side of policy-making. While primarily of interest to the foreign policy and public diplomacy communities, students and researchers of public policy will find grist for their mills here as well. The political machinations that accompanied the death of the USIA as an independent agency and its integration (or re-integration, if one considers its early history) into the Department of State make for lively reading and provide an excellent case study... (purchase article...)