The Foreign Service Journal, July-August 2013

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JULY-AUGUST 2013 37 making a difference in their societies. As my father memora- bly put it in an article about cultural diplomacy in the June 1964 issue of The Foreign Service Journal: “The [cultural affairs officer] 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 Jour- nal of Belgian History (“Taking off the Soft Power Lens: The 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. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, where I served from 1993 to 1995 (even though the United States did not officially recognize its government), and the Russian Federation, where I was cultural affairs officer 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 officer involved in arranging official 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. officials, 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 off 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.