Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Zbigniew Brzezinski on Long-Term Cultural and Informational Effort in Islam (1979)

Note: For a brief period (1978-1982), the United States Information Agency (USIA, 1953-1999) was renamed/reorganized as the International Communication Agency.

From the newly-published papers newly by the Office of the Historian, U.S. Department of State:


195. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to the Director of the International Communication Agency (Reinhardt)1

Washington, December 12, 1979


Long-Term Cultural and Informational Effort in Islam (C)

To give effect to the President’s public statements concerning US respect for Islamic religious teachings and tradition,2 and to provide a long-term basis in the Moslem world from which US actions and the motives behind them will be more favorably perceived, ICA should now direct priority efforts toward developing information and cultural programs in Moslem countries (and those with significant Moslem populations) which will underscore American identification with the authentic values for which Islam stands. (C)

Cultural and educational exchange activity aimed at local scholars and journalists willing to examine, in an objective light, American attitudes on Islam and the world’s other great religions should be given special attention in this effort. At the same time, ICA should review all of its available assets—specialized publication material, speaker projects, library programs, and the Voice of America’s broadcast activity—with a view to adapting these to the objective of communicating the commonality of values, spiritual and secular, which link our society with those of the Moslem world. The promising initiatives which you outlined in your memorandum of November 263 in connection with a special VOA series on minority Islamic communities could possibly be expanded upon as part of this larger effort. (C)

As I have stressed in previous memoranda, your efforts should include information about Soviet treatment of Islam and the situation of Moslems in the Soviet Union. Crude comparisons between Soviet and American practices should, of course, be avoided, since the two [Page 581]situations are not analogous. It is the fundamental approach and attitude to Islamic values—as well as active Soviet oppression of them—which need to be stressed. The totality of this effort will seek not only to counter the attempts by our adversaries to portray the present crisis in Iran as “anti-Islam” but, more positively, to foster better understanding of this country’s true purposes in a world of increasing political, economic, and social turbulence. (C)

ICA should develop a specific action program and submit it to the NSC within three weeks. (U)

Zbigniew Brzezinski


1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Agency File, Box 10, International Communication Agency: 9–12/79. Confidential. A copy was sent to Vance. The copy received in the Department of State is in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P800010–1755. Rentschler sent a copy of the memorandum to Brzezinski under a December 11 covering memorandum, indicating that the memorandum had been reviewed by both Hunter and Sick and included “pertinent language” proposed by Henze. A stamped notation indicates that Brzezinski signed the memorandum to Reinhardt on December 12. (Ibid.)↩

2. For a representative example, see the President’s news conference of November 28, the transcript of which is printed in Public Papers: Carter, 1979, Book II, pp. 2167–2174.↩

3. See footnote 2, Document 192.↩

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