Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Juan Cole laments the failure of the US government to effectively argue for American ideals in the Arab world:

Goddamned Jesse Helms did irreparable damage when he succeeded in rolling the United States Information Agency into the State Department. State is always short on funds, and then security had to be beefed up at the embassies, and the USIA got starved. USIA used to have American libraries in the major cities of the Middle East. They were all closed and the books remaindered. Even the libraries that had existed were flawed, since they were English-only.

You know, if you were an Arab intellectual in Cairo, Amman or even Baghdad, and you wanted to read a book that collected some central writings of Thomas Jefferson in Arabic, you almost certainly could not get hold of such a book. I repeat: The major classics of American thought either have not been translated into Arabic, or were published in tiny editions and are now impossible to find.

But he's forgetting the highly touted "public diplomacy" initiatives of Dubya's State Department under former ad executive Charlotte Beers. Jefferson, schmefferson -- they had a lifestyle magazine and everything!


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