is something you should know about because U.S. international broadcasting, of which it is one “entity,” will be an increasingly important arm of American influence in the world as Washington copes with its reduced power to intervene militarily, diplomatically, and economically. It’s relatively cheap — less than $1 billion funds the Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, RFERL, the Middle East Broadcasting Network, and the rest. Yes, its immediate impact is variable: Some stations help start revolutions, others register lightly in the public mind. But its real value is less in bringing crowds into the streets than in bringing minds out of a totalitarian or medieval passivity into an environment of free, open stand-up debate. It spreads American values but, even more subversively, it spreads an American mentality — the feeling that a man has a right to express his opinion and to question orders rather than simply to follow them. Its broadcasts create democrats and liberals in advance of liberal democracy. And as a result most of the authoritarian countries to which RFERL in particular broadcasts have liberal and democratic dissident groups who rely on it for intellectual sustenance, links with the outside world (and each other), and simple moral encouragement.
It’s about being a beacon, isn’t it?