Chas Freeman's Address to USIA Alumni 10/4/06
Why Not Let Them Hate Us, as long as They Fear Us?
Remarks to the United States Information Agency Alumni Association
October 4, 2006 in Washington, DC
Chas W. Freeman, Jr.
Ambassador (USFS, Ret.)
We are gathered together to reflect upon our country's adoption of
Caligula's motto for effective foreign policy - ODERINT DUM METUANT -
"let them hate us, as long as they fear us." As we do so, let us observe
a brief moment of silence for the United States Information Agency and
also for our republic, both of which long stood for a different approach.
Most of you devoted your many years of public service to USIA. I served
with the agency twice, once abroad and once at home. I am proud to have
been able to join you in making the case for America. I wish to honor
and thank you for your service to our country in a time of great peril.
Although most of my career was associated with the Department of State,
I confess to sadness when the agency was subjected to euthanasia in 1999.
Americans began our independence with an act of public diplomacy, an
appeal for international support, based upon a "decent regard to the
opinion of mankind." But, 243 years later, we convinced ourselves that -
inasmuch as we had won decisive victories over totalitarianism and
tyranny and democracy and the rule of law faced no serious counter
arguments anywhere - our history had been fulfilled, and the requirement
to explain ourselves to others had ended.
I guess we forgot Dean Rusk's famous insight that "at any moment of the
day or night, two thirds of the world's people are awake, and some of
them are up to no good." Still, the notion that there was a lessened
need for public diplomacy wasn't as foolish as you and other veteran
public servants judged at the time. Nor was it as obvious as many others
now agree it was.
No country was then more widely admired or emulated than ours. The
superior features of our society - our insistence on individual liberty
under law; the equality of opportunity we had finally extended to all;
the egalitarianism of our prosperity; our openness to ideas, change, and
visitors; our generous attention to the development of other nations;
our sacrifices to defend small states against larger predators both in
the Cold War and, most recently, in the war to liberate Kuwait; our
championship of international order and the institutions we had created
to maintain it after World War II; the vigor of our democracy and our
dedication to untrammeled debate - were recognized throughout the world.
Critics of our past misadventures, as in Vietnam, had been silenced by
the spectacle of our demonstrable success. This, our political betters
judged, made the effort to explain ourselves, our purposes, and our
policies through public diplomacy an unnecessary anachronism. The spread
of global media and the internet, many believed, made official
information and cultural programs irrelevant.