"No commodity is quite so strange/As this thing called cultural exchange."
--So wrote Dave and Iola Brubeck in their musical with Louis Armstrong, The Real Ambassadors.
Below a comment by yours truly to the following article: "Cultural Exchange and the Politics of Suspicion" - Robert Albro, PD News–CPD Blog, USC Center on Public Diplomacy:
Bob, Thank you for your article. In my view, what is particularly hard for congressional decision makers to accept is that cultural exchanges -- in and of themselves -- are worthwhile. Cultural exchanges are all too often seen by those in elected positions of influence as merely a "tool" for another, more "important" purpose, e.g., fight terrorism, convert the world to American "values," etc.
In other words, policy makers, concerned that the public could accuse them of wasting hard-earned tax dollars, are unwilling to "take the risk" that cultural exchanges, per se, are worth taking a risk, so these exchanges have to be "justified" politically by invoking a purpose other than themselves (see my piece at).
As Frank Ninkovich, U.S. Information and Cultural Diplomacy (1996) p. 58, puts it: "[C]ultural or informational programs cannot effectively promote narrow national interests (of which the United States has many). That sort of thing must be left to the traditional instruments of foreign policy. The programs themselves, like internationalism more generally, are based at bottom on an act of faith."
"Act of faith" are the key words here, in my opinion; indeed, studying the liberal arts (and taking them seriously because what, in themselves, they have to offer) is "an act of faith."
(Of course, for all his good intentions, Ninkovich himself could be accused of seeing cultural diplomacy as a "vehicle" for promoting an agenda beyond cultural diplomacy -- laudatory "internationalism").
Still, his heart is in the right place, in my view -- that, as he puts it (pp. 58-59) "an open and human world can be constructed through dialogue. Without that assumption, there would be no need for such programs except as outright propaganda. But in that case Washington would be left with power as the only reliable medium for promoting U.S. national interests."Image from