chapter  5
17 Pages

Building a community around the Pax Americana: the US government and exchange programmes during the 1950s


In the last few years there has been a notable increase in attention among Cold War historians to the ideological dimension of US foreign relations. The insistence by an expanding group of scholars that US foreign policy has been driven more by a set of values that define American identity than by economic, military or all-encompassing national security interests has at the very least established a recognised position within (or alongside, or perhaps even opposed to) the field of diplomatic history.1 The result has been greater recognition of the conduct of propaganda and psychological warfare initiatives to spread these values as a fundamental basis for the US Cold War offensive strategy.2 The clarion calls of freedom and truth that would be expressed consistently from the late 1940s onwards may well have been enhanced by the Cold War, but they certainly were not created by that conflict. Michael Hunt has ably chronicled the major ideological themes that have dominated the formulation of American foreign policy since the early part of the nineteenth century, and he makes a valid argument that three core ideas – ‘a quest for national greatness’ associated with ‘promotion of liberty’, racial hierarchy and an anti-revolutionary impulse – continued to underpin American views of the world after 1945.3 However, the Cold War period did represent a new phase in this scenario. First, the level of state involvement to coordinate and facilitate this ideological campaign marks it off from what previously had been practised either as ‘dollar diplomacy’ or by the private sector.4 Second, there was the designation of a powerful enemy with an antagonistic worldview against which the campaign could be mobilised and directed. ‘Ideology’, as Hunt put it, ‘defined for the advocates of containment the issue at stake: survival of freedom around the world. That

ideology also defined the chief threat to freedom: Soviet communism – which the United States had an incontestable obligation to combat’.5