‘America Abroad’ is the title of Associated-Rediffusion’s fourth programme in the Intertel series. It was filmed in four countries – Cambodia, South Vietnam, Pakistan and Ghana – all of which receive American aid in one form or another.
Previous Intertel productions by Associated-Rediffusion were set in Asia, Europe and North America. They dealt with South Vietnam (‘The Quiet War’), France (‘The Heartbeat of France’) and Canada (‘Living with a Giant’). These programmes were screened in the four major English-speaking countries in the world through the International Television Federation – Intertel. The members of the federation are the National Education Television Network and the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company of America, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
It is planned to show ‘America Abroad’ over the British Independent Television network on Wednesday, May 30, and subsequently throughout the world . . . previous Intertel productions have had an audience of about 42 million people.
The first article on these pages is by PETER HUNT, producer and writer of the programme who also took some of the photographs reproduced here, and the second article is by MICHAEL INGRAMS, director of ‘America Abroad’.
There are roughly two million United States citizens living and working abroad. About two-thirds are members of the armed forces, their wives and children. About 100,000 civilians work for United States organizations; about 30,000 are missionaries,
25,000 are businessmen, some 33,000 are ‘Government’ people. All are scattered over the world, in some 70 nations which profit by American aid. Not all are popular; some have proved to be indispensable. Some are popular and useless. Some are brilliant but misplaced. Some mean well but are misunderstood. All contribute to the so-called ‘image’ of the American abroad.
But what is this ‘image*? Is it the image of the badly paid doctor who volunteers to work where he need not work because he thinks he should? Is it the image of the well-paid soldier who drives a car too fast? Is it the image of the administrator, with dollars to circulate, who is taken in by the people who want his dollars because they understand the language but he does not? Is it the image of the Peace Corps worker who is getting to understand a language, is getting to understand a people, but is young in the hazards of administration?
It became clear to us, when preparing our programme, that the ‘image’ is really hardly worth considering because there are so many Americans abroad doing so many different things, thinking so many different ways, working, eating, sleeping, loving, hating, being just people in so many different countries. There are, for instance, nearly one hundred different North American missionary societies represented in Japan alone.
What interested us was something on a simpler scale.
American aid across the world – guns in South Vietnam, money in Pakistan, people in Ghana.
Until World War II the United States tended to keep out of the Old World’s affairs. There was, it is true, a European involvement in the World War I, but it was quite short. World War II brought Mr America face to face with the very opposite of a prosperous society. He met have-nots everywhere, from the Rhine to Naples, from India to Hiroshima. He saw disintegration, poverty, disease, corruption on a world-wide scale; and some Americans started to try to do something about them.
Cynics have said, do say and will go on saying that America interests herself in the health of the Old World merely because it wishes to avoid catching its troubles – finance in the red, diseases which are catching, Communism. There can hardly be anyone in the world who does not have a particular view on that matter.
Some plain facts remain. Citizens of the United States, to the tune of some two millions, are today living and working in some 70 countries where they used not to be. They are there today largely because the government of the United States thinks they ought to be there. They are working on an incredible variety of jobs. Some are efficient; some not. But they are there.
Not very long ago it would have been extraordinary if someone suggested that volunteer teachers from America should go to a British colony in West Africa to teach English. But it has happened, and on an impressive scale. Today, in ex-British colonies, in ex-French colonies, and in a lot of other countries, there are Americans working for and with new governments, in trade, in education, in hospitals, in dredging, in pumping up water for parched fields, in training soldiers, in building roads, in producing new crops.
It has all happened very quickly, and because it has, there have been some bad mistakes. But all the indications are that President Kennedy’s Act for International Development, the new name and changed format for the idea started off by General Marshall in 1947, is a gigantic gesture in terms of money, administration and knowhow, which is going to change the face of the earth and its people in need.
It is a concept of help and self-help representing many billions of dollars. It is also a concept which is very conscious of the aid which is being given to parts of the world by the Communist bloc countries. Today, the Communist bloc countries give aid to some 24 countries. Nearly 7,000 economic technicians from the bloc countries are now working in the less developed countries. Their record, generally, is good. If any of these countries were to be dependent only on the Communist bloc for their aid, this would give cause for concern because it would set the stage for a possible political take-over.
We visited four countries in which there arc variants on this situation. We went to South Vietnam, hardly a Jefferson-style democracy but violently anti-Communist and actively at war with Communists. We went to Cambodia, coyly neutral, accepting aid from United States, from France, from the Soviet Union, from Communist China; and no friend of South Vietnam. We went to Pakistan, fully committed by military agreements to defence against possible Communist aggression, acutely conscious that Russia and China and unfriendly India are all too close for comfort. We went to Ghana, violently anti-colonial, sturdily independent, yet lurching, it sometimes seems, towards all that democracy is not.
Of these four countries two have become independent of France, two of Britain: all are now partially dependent on American aid. The extent of dependence varies in each country. In South Vietnam, despite national pride and a certain amount of tub-thumping, there is not the slightest doubt that the country would fall flat on its face without American aid. Cambodia is poor, would like to be rich, would like to be completely independent. The Head of State, the shrewd and likeable Prince Sihanouk, has played political poker with the great power blocs for some years now. He has done it with skill and courage. Can he keep it up? Pakistan accepts giant spoonfuls of American aid, but Pakistan worries about the amount of aid given to India, about American indecision over the Kashmir question. Ghana is new, and in the hands of Dr Nkrumah, highly volatile. Is Nkrumah, the ‘Messiah’ of Ghana, heading towards a situation as in Cuba? Americans cannot help but notice the presence of Russian pilots and Chinese technicians in Accra.
American, Russian and Chinese aid are all forthcoming in the Far East. The pictures here show three different forms the aid takes in Cambodia.
The permutations on the problem for Americans, and they are by no means united in the desire for unqualified aid to all who want it or need it, are immense. Yet all have to be contained within one general policy.
It is in this light that we visited some Americans abroad, in four countries. We went open-minded; we returned convinced that they arc doing a good and thoroughly worthwhile job. Where the task involved direct interference in the internal affairs of a country we found acute difficulty, some hard feelings. Where it could be taken at face-value, a job being done because it is good that it should be done, we found co-operation and admiration.
Yet how docs a huge and powerful and positive country like the United States give aid to a large part of the world without involving itself in the internal affairs of the countries it aids? This is the dilemma at the core of the entire process.
Our programme is a sketch of that process in action.