American Hypernationalism and Foreign Influence: A Last Word on Putin

September 19, 2013

I’m loathe to given any more attention to Vladimir Putin’s op-ed in the New York Times but I noticed Jeremi Suri’s piece at Foreign Affairs which places Putin’s intervention in a line of unsuccessful foreign attempts to influence American foreign policy debates that he traces back to the aftermath of the War of Independence through Khruschev.

For all the openness of American public debate, U.S. foreign policy has always been defined by individuals residing within its borders. American foreign policy is, above all, hypernationalist, and that is unlikely to change anytime soon. ….

The ongoing debate surrounding U.S. policy in Syria shows that Kennan was correct about the importance of “short-term trends of public opinion.” Those trends have always been defined by the words of prominent Americans, not those of foreign leaders.

Stirring stuff but America’s friends figured out at least a century ago that the key to influencing American policy debates was to work through Americans themselves.  The literature on the US as target for foreign public diplomacy is pretty substantial – some examples below.  Actually untangling what these campaigns did is tricky but it may be that students of public diplomacy are too reticent about making claims for influence.  For instance US entry into the two World Wars took place in a context of where the Allied powers were working very hard to shape the information environment.*   Of course the French or the British or anyone else who want to exert influence work with networks of collaborators who genuinely believe that the policies that they are advocating are in the best interests of the US.

*It’s actually people who want to argue against the impact of these campaigns who have to argue the counterfactual – that the debate and policy decisions would have played out the same way in the absence of these influence attempts.


Dubosclard A (2001) Diplomatie culturelle et propagande françaises aux États-Unis pendant le premier vingtième siècle, Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine, 48: 102–119.

Dubosclard A (2002) L’Alliance Francaise aux Etats-Unis, Outil de Diplomatie ou Association d’Hommes Libres?, in Dubosclard, et al A (ed) Entre Rayonnement et Reciprocite: Contributions a l’Histoire de al Diplomatie Culturelle, Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, pp. 117–37.

Dubosclard A (2007) L’action artistique de la France aux Etats-Unis : 1915-1969. Paris: CNRS.

Young RJ (2004) Marketing Marianne: French Propaganda in America, 1900-1940. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

Kim R (2011) South Korean Cultural Diplomacy and Efforts to Promote the RoK’s Brand Image in the United States and Around the World, Stanford Journal of East Asian Affairs, 11: 124–34.

Lee S (2006) An analysis of other countries’ international public relations in the U.S., Public Relations Review, 32: 97–103.

Snyder DJ (2010) The Problem of Power in Modern Public Diplomacy: The Netherlands Information Bureau in World War II and the Early Cold War, in Osgood KA and Etheridge BC (eds) The United States and Public Diplomacy: New Directions in Cultural and International History, Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff, pp. 57–80.

Tully JD (2010) Ethnicity, Security, and Public Diplomacy: Irish-Americans and Ireland’s Neutrality in World War II, in Osgood KA and Etheridge BC (eds),The United States and Public Diplomacy: New Directions in Cultural and International History Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff, pp. 81–102.

Anstey C (1984) The Projection of British Socialism: Foreign Office Publicity and American Opinion, 1945-50, Journal of Contemporary History, 19: 417–451.

Cull NJ (1995) Selling War the British Propaganda Campaign against American “Neutrality” in World War II. New York: OUP.

Cull NJ (1997) Overture to an Alliance: British Propaganda at the New York World’s Fair, 1939-1940, The Journal of British Studies, 36: 325–354.


One comment

  1. […] 24, 2013; “Nadia von Maltzan on Syrian-Iranian Cultural Diplomacy,” September 23, 2013;“American Hypernationalism and Foreign Influence: A Last Word on Putin,” September 19, 2013; “Five Points on Putin and His New York Times Piece,” September 13, […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: