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Journal of Cold War Studies 4.3 (2002) 125-127

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Book Review

The Voice of America and the Domestic Propaganda Battles, 1945-1953

David F. Krugler, The Voice of America and the Domestic Propaganda Battles, 1945-1953. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2000. 256 pp. $34.95.

Democratic countries that depend on the free flow of information within their borders have a direct interest in promoting the free flow of information beyond their borders as well. The United States is no exception, and, beginning with the establishment of the Voice of America (VOA) in 1942, the United States set up a number of facilities—Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty in 1951, Radio and TV Marti in 1985, and Radio Free Asia in 1994—to provide precisely that service to an international public.

During World War II there was an unquestioned consensus in the United States about the need to broadcast America's message, but after 1945 that consensus broke down and had to be reestablished in often acrimonious debates within and between the executive and legislative branches of the government and the broader American national security elite. David Krugler, a historian at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, documents these debates and their outcome in his important new book. He carefully examines the statements and actions of forty U.S. senators and members of Congress during a critical eight years of transition from the end of World War II to the forging of a new national consensus by 1953 about the need to oppose the Soviet Union in particular and international Communism more generally. [End Page 125]

That such a consensus would form was by no means preordained in 1945. The usual pattern in the United States after wars abroad was that a large portion of the country and its leaders would turn inward. Having just declared victory in World War II, Americans had little desire to take up a new challenge or to maintain the institutions that had facilitated the triumph over fascism. The military budget was slashed, and many in Congress were convinced that the VOA should be cut back or eliminated as well. Some members of Congress argued that the U.S. government should not be involved with the media, a view that gained additional currency in January 1946 when the Associated Press and United Press stopped providing VOA with news out of concern that a relationship with a government-funded media service might compromise their integrity.

After the 1946 U.S. midterm elections—the first postwar vote—hostility in the Congress toward international broadcasting in the form of VOA grew. The service's budget was slashed, and its employees were investigated for "subversion." Some of those identified in the probe later figured in the charges of Senator Joseph McCarthy, who was assisted in his investigation by "a group of New York VOA employees who called themselves 'The Loyal Underground'" (p. 185). By early 1953, Krugler writes, VOA had "withered under the glare" of McCarthy's public campaign.

Krugler identifies four sources of this hostility to U.S. international broadcasting: (1) a desire to roll back the programs of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman; (2) concerns in the Congress that the executive branch could use such broadcasts to promote its narrow interests; (3) the desire on the part of some on Capitol Hill to exploit an issue with a limited domestic constituency; and (4) a lack of agreement within the executive branch about the purposes of U.S. international broadcasting. Many Americans citizens believed that the growth of the government under Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman needed to be reversed, and at least some Republi- cans sought to revise the activist and liberal philosophy of government of those two presidents. Suggestions that VOA was in the hands of New Dealers, Krugler shows, made it a tempting target for conservatives. Those concerns were heightened when Congress learned that the VOA leadership was acting on the basis not of legislation but of an executive order of the president. Although some in Congress...