GE3V17049 The Cultural Cold War
Class 4 Exploring cultural diplomacy in the Third World
4. Lyndon B. Johnson
Different presidents develop their public diplomacy not only towards Western Europe, Eastern Europa, but also toward the Third World.
In his memoirs, President Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote about how decolonization had overwhelmed him: “In flood force, the spirit of nationalism had grown in all Africa.” The determination to attain “self-rule . . . resembled a torrent overrunning everything.” Although the United States had no direct interests on the continent, Eisenhower did not want to “see chaos run wild among hopeful, expectant peoples,” because “the communists would be only too delighted to take an advantage.” The metaphor of a mighty river was part of a burgeoning modernization discourse and reminiscent of longstanding imagery of primitive uncontrollable hordes. Yet, Eisenhower was confident he could “make constructive use of it” and relied on cultural assistance
Kennedy was celebrated in the Third World as a figure who could change the world.
4. Lyndon B. Johnson
The general historiography of United States–African relations in
the 1960s holds that the policies of Lyndon Johnson towards this
continent were a failure. Johnson, most historians suggest, generally
ignored Africa and, in doing so, squandered the good feelings
that many Africans had developed towards his more charming
and polished predecessor. However, such views do a disservice to
the Johnson Administration, which in fact embarked on a quiet
African programme rooted in American cultural and economic
power, and which proved to be more successful than is generally
believed. Two factors lay at the heart of Johnson’s decision to rely
on a soft power policy in Africa: the domestic political constraints
of the civil rights movement at home; and the belief in modernisation
theory that had emerged as a guiding principle for many of his
advisors. Johnson, to put it simply, may have lacked his predecessor’s
style but he compensated with a substantive and imaginative
policy that quietly produced a superior method of advancing both
American and African interests.
Presidents develop different strategies towards Africa. What we need to understand is the differences and the similarities.