Category Archives: Secretary of State

Bill Burns Retires: Read His 10 Parting Thoughts for America’s Diplomats

– Domani Spero

 

After 33 years in the Foreign Service, career diplomat, Bill Burns who served as Deputy Secretary of State since July, 2011 (only the second serving diplomat in history to become Deputy Secretary) is retiring from the Service. His retirement had been postponed twice previously but will finally happen this month.

His 10 parting thoughts for America’s diplomats piece was published by Foreign Policy. Excerpt below:

The ability of American diplomats to help interpret and navigate a bewildering world still matters. After more than a decade dominated by two costly conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and the worst financial crisis of our lifetime, the United States needs a core of professional diplomats with the skills and experience to pursue American interests abroad — by measures short of war.

The real question is not whether the State Department is still relevant but how we can sustain, strengthen, and adapt the tradecraft for a new century unfolding before us. As I look back across nearly 33 years as a career diplomat — and ahead to the demands on American leadership — I offer 10 modest observations for my colleagues, and for all those who share a stake in effective American diplomacy.

  • Know where you come from.
  • It’s not always about us.
  • Master the fundamentals.
  • Stay ahead of the curve.
  • Promote economic renewal.
  • Connect leverage to strategy.
  • Don’t just admire the problem — offer a solution.
  • Speak truth to power.
  • Accept risk.
  • Remain optimistic.

Read it in full at FP (registration required).

Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns visits St. Michael’s Cathedral, where he meets with Maidan medics, civil society representatives, and religious leaders in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 25, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns visits St. Michael’s Cathedral, where he meets with Maidan medics, civil society representatives, and religious leaders in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 25, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Excerpt from D/Secretary Burns’ letter to Secretary Kerry:

Over more than three decades, I have done my best to serve ten Secretaries of State. I have had the opportunities and experiences far beyond anything I would have imagined when I entered the Foreign Service. I owe a great deal to my friends and colleagues in the Department – to the mentors and role models who showed me over the years how to be a good diplomat; to the peers and subordinates who always made me look far better than I ever deserved; and to the men and women who serve our country with honor and distinction in hard places around the world as I write this letter. I also owe a debt of gratitude greater than I can ever express to Lisa and our two wonderful daughters, who shared fully in our Foreign Service life and made it whole. I look forward to the next chapter in my professional life, but nothing will ever make me prouder than to be a career American diplomat.”

More about the diplomat’s diplomat that made Secretary Kerry felt the need “to build a system that builds the next Bill Burns”:

Deputy Secretary Burns holds the highest rank in the Foreign Service—Career Ambassador—and became Deputy Secretary of State in July 2011. He is only the second serving career diplomat in history to become Deputy Secretary, and the longest serving. Ambassador Burns served from 2008 until 2011 as Under Secretary for Political Affairs. He was U.S. Ambassador to Russia from 2005 until 2008, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs from 2001 until 2005, and Ambassador to Jordan from 1998 until 2001. Ambassador Burns has also served in a number of other posts since entering the Foreign Service in 1982, including: Executive Secretary of the State Department and Special Assistant to Secretaries Christopher and Albright; Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow; Acting Director and Principal Deputy Director of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff; and Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Near East and South Asian Affairs at the National Security Council staff. He speaks Russian, Arabic, and French, and is the recipient of two Presidential Distinguished Service Awards and a number of Department of State awards, including the Secretary’s Distinguished Service Award, two Distinguished Honor Awards, the 2006 Charles E. Cobb, Jr. Ambassadorial Award for Initiative and Success in Trade Development, the 2005 Robert C. Frasure Memorial Award for conflict resolution and peacemaking, and the James Clement Dunn Award. In 1994, he was named to TIME Magazine’s list of the “50 Most Promising American Leaders Under Age 40″, and to TIME’s list of “100 Young Global Leaders.”

* * *

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Ambassadors, Foreign Service, FSOs, John F. Kerry, Public Service, Retirement, Secretary of State, State Department

Meet Secretary Kerry’s New Foreign Policy Board

– Domani Spero

 

Via state.gov:

The distinguished group is comprised of up to 25 members who meet at the Department of State periodically to discuss strategic questions, and to provide the Secretary and other senior Department officials with independent informed perspectives and ideas.

The following new members were appointed by Secretary Kerry:

  • Ambassador R. Nicholas Burns, former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs;
  • Ambassador Johnnie Carson, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs;
  • Mr. Nelson Cunningham, President and Co-founder, McLarty Associates;
  • Retired Brigadier General Stephen A. Cheney, Chief Executive Officer, the American Security Project;
  • Dr. Karen Donfried, President of the German Marshall Fund of the United States;
  • The Honorable David Dreier, former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and chairman of the Rules Committee;
  • Ms. Anne M. Finucane, Global Chief of Strategy and Marketing, Bank of America;
  • Ambassador William Kennard, former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, and former Chairman, U.S. Federal Communications Commission;
  • Ambassador Daniel C. Kurtzer, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel and Egypt;
  • Dr. Joseph S. Nye, former Chairman, U.S. National Intelligence Council;
  • Ambassador Louis B. Susman, former U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James and former Vice Chairman, Citigroup Global Markets;
  • Mr. Thomas J. Vallely, Senior Advisor, Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation;
  • The Honorable Christine Todd Whitman, former Governor, the State of New Jersey, and former Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

These new members join the following returning members to the Board:

  • Mr. Stephen J. Hadley;
  • The Honorable Jane Harman;
  • Ambassador Carla A. Hills;
  • Dr. Robert Kagan;
  • Retired Admiral Michael Mullen;
  • Dr. Vali Nasr;
  • Ambassador John Negroponte;
  • Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering;
  • Dr. Anne-Marie Slaughter.

At Secretary Kerry’s request, former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott will continue to serve as the Board’s Chair. He will work closely with the Secretary and his Policy Planning Director, David McKean, to coordinate the Board and its meetings.

The State Department statement says that “These appointments continue the tradition of a distinguished, diverse, and bipartisan Board membership with a wide range of expertise and backgrounds, including from government, academia, politics, development, and business.”

The Board is relatively new, constituted during the Clinton tenure.  According to state.gov:

The Foreign Affairs Policy Board was launched in December 2011 to provide the Secretary of State, the Deputy Secretaries of State, and the Director of Policy Planning with independent, informed advice and opinion concerning matters of U.S. foreign policy. The Board serves in a solely advisory capacity, with an agenda shaped by the questions and concerns of the Secretary. Its discussions focus on assessing global threats and opportunities; identifying trends that implicate core national security interests; providing recommendations with respect to tools and capacities of the civilian foreign affairs agencies; defining priorities and strategic frameworks for U.S. foreign policy; and performing any other research and analysis of topics raised by the Secretary of State, the Deputy Secretaries, and the Director of Policy Planning. [...] The Board meets in a plenary session several times a year and is chartered to have up to 25 members.

* * *

Leave a comment

Filed under Appointments, Foreign Policy, John F. Kerry, Secretary of State, State Department

Secretary Kerry Swears-In John Bass as Ambassador to Turkey

– Domani Spero

 

 

President Obama announced his intent to nominate John Bass as the next ambassador to Turkey on  June 3, 2014.  At that time, the WH released the following brief bio:

Ambassador John R. Bass, a career member of the Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, is the Executive Secretary of the Department of State, a position he has held since 2012.  Previously, he served as the U.S. Ambassador to Georgia from 2009 to 2012, the Leader of the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Baghdad, Iraq from 2008 to 2009, and the Director of the Operations Center at the Department of State from 2005 to 2008.  He served as a Special Advisor to the Vice President from 2004 to 2005, and from 2002 to 2004 he was a Labor Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Rome, Italy. Ambassador Bass served as Chief of Staff and Special Assistant in the Office of the Deputy Secretary at the Department of State from 1998 to 2001.  Before that, he was a NATO Desk Officer and Desk Officer for Belgium and the Netherlands in the Bureau of European Affairs.  He served in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research and his overseas assignments include serving at the U.S. Missions in Brussels, Belgium; Antwerp, Belgium; and Ndjamena, Chad. Ambassador Bass received an A.B. from Syracuse University.

— Bass, John – Republic of Turkey – 06-2014

 

Ambassador Bass had his confirmation hearing on July 15, 2015.  He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on September 17, 2014.  Our previously confirmed ambassador to Ankara, Frank J. Ricciardone, Jr. departed post on July 7, 2014, retired from the Foreign Service, and had since been appointed as vice president and director of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

Ambassador Bass takes over leadership at Embassy Ankara from retired ambassador Ross Wilson who arrived in Turkey on September 6, 2014 to take up duties as Chargé d’Affaires, ad interim.  He’ll have his hands full.

* * *

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Ambassadors, Foreign Service, FSOs, John F. Kerry, Obama, Secretary of State, Staffing the FS, State Department, U.S. Missions

Argentina Prez Calls Embassy Message “A Provocation,” Claims ISIS, No, U.S. Plans to Bump Her Off?

– Domani Spero

 

Don’t look now but it appears as if the situation in Argentina is about to get more than touchy serious.  On September 29, 2014, the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires released a Security Message for U.S. Citizens on General Security Awareness (pdf):

The U.S. Embassy wishes to inform U.S. citizens living and traveling in Argentina that in recent months, U.S. citizens have reported a number of crimes to the embassy. Crimes reported include petty crime, taxi scams (especially at international airports), mugging, snatch-and-grab robbery involving motorcycles and bicycles, and occasionally more serious crimes such as express kidnapping, home invasion, carjacking, assault, and sexual assault using date rape drugs. We recommend that U.S. citizens traveling and living in Argentina always be aware of their surroundings, maintain a high level of vigilance, and take appropriate steps to enhance their personal security. Please consult reliable sources for information on transportation, lodging, and the general security of areas you are visiting.

U.S. citizens should avoid areas of demonstrations and exercise caution in the vicinity of any large gatherings or protests. The majority of crimes reported to the Embassy occur in the major metropolitan areas but U.S. citizens should use an equal level of caution outside large population centers. While crimes happen at all times of day and night, they are significantly more frequent after dark.

The Embassy does not have evidence that victims have been targeted because of their U.S. citizenship. If you are the victim of a crime, please report it immediately to the police and inform American Citizen Services at the U.S. Embassy.

The message went out a few days after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints president David P. Robertson, of the Argentina Buenos Aires West Mission, was robbed and briefly held on the night of September 24. According to El Dia cited by a Provo newspaper, Robertson was driving his Toyota truck when he was stopped by armed bandits at an intersection in Ciudadela, a city in the Buenos Aires area. The assailants reportedly took his wallet, cell phone and vehicle, and then released him on the street.

The president of Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (or CFK), called the security message, “a provocation” and she knew exactly who to blame. Below via mercopress:

“The note is a provocation. Usually, when the embassy issues this type of warning messages, it focuses on specific events such as political rallies or hostage situations which can be dangerous to US citizens,” the Argentine president explained.

“In this case, the threat is not specific. It describes Argentina as if we were living in the far-west,” she added, and went on to doubt US interim ambassador in Buenos Aires Kevin Sullivan’s intentions with the note.

“We know who wrote it: the same person who announced the country was in default,” CFK said, referring to Sullivan’s remarks about the country needing “to exit default as soon as possible”.

“Maybe he thought: ‘I can provoke her with this statement, escalate tension and then they’ll kick me out of the country’. But we are not going to do this… because the person who comes to fill his position may be even worse. We know this one; we know who he is. I always say: If you know them, better leave them where they are,” the President stated.

Let’s see if we can get this straight …the Chargé d’Affaires (a.i.) Kevin K. Sullivan wrote the Consular Section’s security message to upset the host country president so that he, CDA Sullivan can be kicked out of the country where he has been boss-man at the U.S. Embassy since June 2013?  That make perfect sense, right?  If true, this might just be one of the nuttiest way of getting out of what we’d call a plum assignment in the diplomatic service.  Anybody out there who has successfully got himself/herself PNGed using this strategy?

15042919375_820a32271d_z

Chargé d’Affaires (a.i.) Kevin K. Sullivan (center) with Willem Dafoe and Mikhail Baryshnikov at Palacio Bosch, Argentina (photo via US Embassy Buenos Aires/FB)

Back in May, Diplomatic Security actually released its 2014 Crime and Security Report on Argentina where it calls crime a serious problem in the country. “Street and residential crime appears to be increasingly common,is more violent than in the past, and is often perpetrated with a firearm or other deadly weapon.“But the report also says that “Despite the negative perception of various U.S. government policies, Argentines are friendly to Americans, and visitors are unlikely to experience anti-American sentiment.”

Unless Mr. Sullivan is pulling double duty as the Regional Security Officer  (RSO) at Embassy Buenos Aires, we’re pretty confident that he also did not write that crime and security report.

We should note that the nominee to be the next permanent resident of Palacio Bosch is Obama bundler, Noah Mamet.  Mr. Mamet one of the more controversial political appointees is still stuck in the Senate.  If Mr. Mamet gets through the confirmation process, CFK may have to get to know him, too. Mr. Mamet speaks a little Spanish but has never been to Argentina, so there’s an opportunity for some work there.

In the meantime, as if all this is not convoluted enough, the  Guardian reported that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner  has now“claimed the US may be behind a plot to overthrow her government and possibly even assassinate her.” Whaaaat? Excerpt below:

[S]he gave a rambling televised address in which she claimed the US may be behind a plot to overthrow her government and possibly even assassinate her.

“If something should happen to me, don’t look to the Middle East, look to the North,” Fernández said during the address on Tuesday night, in which she alluded to an alleged plot against her by local bankers and businessmen “with foreign help”.

Fernández had previously claimed to have received death threats from Islamic State (Isis) because of her friendship with Pope Francis. In last night’s speech, however, she seemed to suggest the threats against her, received in three emails to Argentinian security officials, had come from the US.

Her claim comes in the wake of a rapid deterioration of Argentina’s already rocky relationship with the US after the country went into default in August.

This is the president of over 41 million Argentines who says “the first thing I demand is respect.” 

Secretary Clinton With Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner  U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton poses with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner following a press conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina March 1, 2010. [State Department Photo/Public Domain]

Secretary Clinton With Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton poses with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner following a press conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina March 1, 2010. [State Department Photo/Public Domain]

According to the Guardian, Elisa Carrió, the UNEN party presidential candidate has called President Fernández “completely out of touch with reality”. “

“Since she doesn’t resist reality, with unemployment, high inflation, the rising dollar, she says it’s no longer Isis trying to kill her, but the US,” said Carrió. “She’s inventing conspiracies.”

In related news, CFK on September 30, also publicly criticized the country’s Central Bank “for allegedly leaking inside information” according to Bloomberg News. Central Bank President Juan Carlos Fabrega officially resigned yesterday which resulted in deepening Argentine bond and stock markets losses.

No, it’s not useful to revisit that INR (Bureau of Intelligence and Research) cable; that one only has questions, and none of the answers. And we’d really like to know who is CFK going to suggest of plotting to kill her next.

Hey, what’s gong going on with Arturo, the only polar bear in Argentina?

* * *

1 Comment

Filed under Americans Abroad, Consular Work, DCM, Diplomacy, Foreign Service, FSOs, Hillary, Huh? News, Leaks|Controversies, Nominations, Secretary of State, Staffing the FS, State Department, U.S. Missions

Secretary Kerry Swears In Ambassador-Designate to Iraq Stuart Jones (Photo with Iraq Team)

– Domani Spero

 

Secretary Kerry Poses for a Photo With General Allen, Ambassador Jones, Assistant Secretary Patterson, and Deputy Assistant Secretary McGurk at Ambassador Jones' Swearing-in Ceremony  From left to right, General John Allen, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Ambassador-designate to Iraq Stuart Jones, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Anne Patterson, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Brett McGurk pose for a photo at the swearing-in ceremony for Ambassador Jones at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on September 17, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Secretary Kerry Poses for a Photo With General Allen, Ambassador Jones, Assistant Secretary Patterson, and Deputy Assistant Secretary McGurk at Ambassador Jones’ Swearing-in Ceremony
From left to right, General John Allen, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Ambassador-designate to Iraq Stuart Jones, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Anne Patterson, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Brett McGurk pose for a photo at the swearing-in ceremony for Ambassador Jones at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on September 17, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

As of this writing, Embassy Baghdad’s website is still showing Robert Stephen Beecroft as the U.S. ambassador to Iraq.  Ambassador Beecroft was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the next ambassador to Cairo on June 26, 2014.

Prior to his appointment to Baghdad, Ambassador Jones was the COM at the US Embassy in Jordan. President Obama announced his nomination on May 8, 2014. He was confirmed by the Senate together with Ambassador Beecroft on June 26, 2014. The WH released the following brief bio at that time:

Ambassador Stuart E. Jones, a career member of the Foreign Service, Class of Career Minister, is currently the U.S. Ambassador to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, a position he has held since 2011.  Ambassador Jones previously served in Iraq as Deputy Chief of Mission in Baghdad from 2010 to 2011 and as Governorate Coordinator for Al Anbar Province in 2004.  He was Director for Iraq on the National Security Council staff from 2004 to 2005.  Ambassador Jones served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs at the Department of State from 2008 to 2010.  Prior to this, he was Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt from 2005 to 2008.  Ambassador Jones served as Political Counselor in Ankara, Turkey from 2000 to 2002, and Principal Officer in Adana, Turkey from 1997 to 2000.  He served as Legal Advisor at the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador, El Salvador from 1990 to 1992 and as Consular Officer in Bogota, Colombia from 1988 to 1989.  At the Department of State, he served as Deputy Director for European Regional Political Military Affairs and as Desk Officer for Serbia.  Ambassador Jones also was the Executive Assistant to the Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations from 1994 to 1996.  He received an A.B. from Duke University and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.

-Jones, Stuart E – Republic of Iraq – 05-2014

Secretary Kerry’s top Iraq team members also joined Ambassador Jones’ swearing-in ceremony.  On September 13, 2014, the State Department announced the appointment of General John Allen as the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk as his deputy senior envoy with the rank of Ambassador.

The United States has asked one of our most respected and experienced military experts, General John Allen, to join the State Department to serve as Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. In this role, General Allen will help build and sustain the coalition so it can operate across multiple lines of effort in order to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL. General Allen is a patriot and a remarkable leader. His extraordinary career in the military speaks for itself. Whether as the top commander of NATO’s ISAF forces in Afghanistan during a critical period from 2011-2013, or as a deputy commander in Anbar during the Sunni awakening, or as a thinker, scholar, and teacher at the U.S. Naval Academy. And he has done significant public service out of uniform since he returned to civilian life. His commitment to country and to service has really been enduring.

Most recently we worked together very closely in designing new approaches to meet the long-term security needs of the state of Israel, and I could not be more pleased than to have General Allen coming on board now fulltime at the State Department.

He’ll be joined by a terrific team, including Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk, who will serve as General Allen’s deputy senior envoy with the rank of Ambassador. Not only has Brett been back and forth to Baghdad and Erbil almost every month this past year, but he has also spent a number of years over the past decade posted in Iraq as a top advisor to three different Ambassadors. Brett is one of our foremost experts on Iraq, and he will be integral to this effort’s success. Both General Allen and Ambassador McGurk will begin work immediately.

Hello SPE/GCCISIL! Not sure if this will be a separate office and how many staffers it will have.  The Special Envoys and Reps according to the official org chart report directly to the Secretary. As of this time, we could not locate General Allen in the organizational chart or the telephone directory. Ambassador McGurk (doesn’t he need confirmation?) is still listed as a DAS for Iran/Iraq.

* * *

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Ambassadors, Assistant Secretary, Foreign Service, FSOs, Iraq, John F. Kerry, Regional Bureaus, Secretary of State, Special Envoys and Reps, Staffing the FS, State Department, U.S. Missions, US Embassy Baghdad, War

Madam ★ Secretary Debuts With a Crisis But Without Her Ops Center and Gray-Haired Advisors

– Domani Spero

 

Last week, CBS’ new kid in the block, Madam Secretary had its premiere screening event at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington D.C.  The cast and crew were joined by special guest Madeleine Albright.

 

Last night, the show finally aired, sandwiched between 60 Minutes and The Good Wife.  Twitter reacted with excitement, ugh and in between; take your pick. Here are our favorite reactions:

 

In the long history of the Secretaries of State of the United States, from Thomas Jefferson in 1790 to-date, the appointees have been predominantly male, white and old. It doesn’t look like like we’ve ever had one appointed in their 40’s nor have one with kids running around Foggy Bottom’s corridors. And we’ve never had one who did a minor make-over and with a short skirt, stopped the presses.  So this secretary of state is a tad unrecognizable.  But, okay, we’ll go along with the premise for now. We’d have liked to see her at the UNGA this week, but the UN’s TV magnets from  Iran and Venezuela will not be around this time, so never mind.

The pilot episode involves a couple of young American hostages held in Syria.  They were released in exchange for $1.5 million in kind (medical stuff and such), which may still be considered ransom payment.  According to  TVGuide, the second episode deals with a fiery attack on the U.S. Embassy in Yemen, and the third deals with an Edward Snowden-inspired whistle-blower/hacker causing havoc throughout the State Department. TVGuide promised that each situation will be resolved rather neatly.  By a secretary of state who is perfect in every way. Now, where’s the fun in that?

Here is a photo tweeted last week with the lead star Téa Leoni who played Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord, and her staff during an official dinner for the King of Swaziland and his merry wives. What’s wrong with this picture?

 

The most glaring one, of course!  Where are the rest of the Swazi guests, or more to the point, why are the secretary’s staffers sitting in on the principal’s table drinking champagne instead of more important D.C. invitees? Pardon me, they’re all note-takers?!

The staffers except for a couple look like they just got out of A-100 or the campaign trail.  Where did the SecState’s gray-haired advisors go?  Nooooo, not the broomroom!  Will Secretary McCord go to PTA meetings and curriculum nights?  Will she cook her own dinners or have take outs?  And who’s doing the laundry?  The pilot episode also showed us the secretary of state in her pajamas, are we going to see her with scrunchies next?

Next week’s episode is reportedly about an attack on U.S. Embassy Sana’a. Let’s see if the show will bring in the Secretary’s Ops Center and if anyone will be dragged before Congress for talking points. We’re watching. We want to know how long she can have it all.

The reviews are in, here are some of them:

The Hollywood Reporter: Leoni and Daly are a great couple, and if Madam Secretary does one important thing and nails it in the pilot, it’s making their marriage and family believable. Knowing that Elizabeth is grounded and sensible and funny at home — meaning she’s handling the mother and wife thing just fine, unlike so many women on TV who are great at their jobs and a disaster in their personal lives — gives hope that the series can be multidimensional.[...] And while it’s fun to see Leoni put out some international terrorist fires behind the scenes — while figuring out a way to get her point across delicately at State Department dinners that she’d rather not have — other parts of Madame Secretary need work.

Vox: Madam Secretary seems terrified the audience will miss something, to the degree that all of the characters might as well be walking around wearing index cards emblazoned with any given scene’s subtext glued to their foreheads. It is not a subtle show, and it mistakes copying the surface moves of Good Wife — to say nothing of other quality TV dramas — for being able to match that show’s depth. There’s promise here, but it’s already rapidly deteriorating.

TVline: The show’s biggest challenge will be making Elizabeth’s home life as compelling as her work life (something the pilot struggled to do despite some nice chemistry between Leoni and Daly). Also, the government cover-up subplot will likely elicit a collective eye roll from conspiracy-fatigued TV viewers.

Variety: “Madam Secretary” has enough interesting pieces, as well as a great big world of trouble to mine, to have significant potential. The premiere, however, doesn’t bode particularly well for being able to maximize those assets, and as they say in diplomatic circles, the devil is in the details.

USAToday: [U]nlike Good Wife, Secretary seems to fear that anything but the most straightforward plotting will lose us. Twists are too few, solutions too simple, and knowing moments too often canceled out by silly ones.

Some good news though for aspiring actors — according to Politico, in addition to real-life news events, we should expect some cameos from real-life Washingtonians. The Madam Secretary people threw in an invitation,  “We would love to have people from Washington come through, and real people in the media, to make the world — to ground it in reality, because we want this to feel like a recognizable version of Washington.”

What are you waiting for? Go. Call. Now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under Secretary of State, Staffing the FS, State Department

Former State Dept DAS Raymond Maxwell Alleges Benghazi Document Scrub Pre-ARB Investigation

Domani Spero

 

Today via  Sharyl Attkisson of the Daily Signal:

As the House Select Committee on Benghazi prepares for its first hearing this week, a former State Department diplomat is coming forward with a startling allegation: Hillary Clinton confidants were part of an operation to “separate” damaging documents before they were turned over to the Accountability Review Board investigating security lapses surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.

According to former Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell, the after-hours session took place over a weekend in a basement operations-type center at State Department headquarters in Washington, D.C.
[...]
When he arrived, Maxwell says he observed boxes and stacks of documents. He says a State Department office director, whom Maxwell described as close to Clinton’s top advisers, was there. Though the office director technically worked for him, Maxwell says he wasn’t consulted about her weekend assignment.

“She told me, ‘Ray, we are to go through these stacks and pull out anything that might put anybody in the [Near Eastern Affairs] front office or the seventh floor in a bad light,’” says Maxwell. He says “seventh floor” was State Department shorthand for then-Secretary of State Clinton and her principal advisors.

“I asked her, ‘But isn’t that unethical?’ She responded, ‘Ray, those are our orders.’ ”

Continue reading, Benghazi Bombshell: Clinton State Department Official Reveals Details of Alleged Document Review. 

* * *

A quick note: We’ve previously written about Raymond Maxwell in this blog; the latest was this oneThe Cautionary Tale of Raymond Maxwell: When the Bureaucracy Bites, Who Gets The Blame?  Last year, we also posted, with his permission,  his poem “Invitation“ in this blog.  (see Raymond Maxwell: Former Deputy Asst Secretary Removed Over Benghazi Pens a Poem

In Ms. Attkisson’s report, Mr. Maxwell criticizes the ARB for failing to interview key people at the White House, State Department and the CIA, including Secretary Clinton.  We actually see no point in the ARB interviewing Secretary Clinton, given that she tasked the ARB to do the investigation and that the report is submitted to her. The regs as it exist right now does not even require that the Secretary submits the actual report to Congress, only that the Secretary of State “report to the Congress on any program recommendations and the actions taken on them.”

12 FAM 036.3: The Secretary will, not later than 90 days after the receipt of a Board’s program recommendations, submit a report to the Congress on each such recommendation and the action taken or intended to be taken with respect to that recommendation.

So we’re not hung up on the fact that she was not interviewed  But who gets the actual ARB report is probably one more thing that Congress really do need to fix in the regs.

Mr. Maxwell also named other officials who allegedly were never interviewed by the ARB: 1) Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides, who managed department resources in Libya; 2) Assistant Secretary of State for Political Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro; and 3) White House National Security Council Director for Libya Ben Fishman.

ARB Benghazi in its public report never identified all the people it interviewed in the conduct of its investigation. ABB Kenya/Tanzania did that and the list is online.   We still cannot understand why those names in the Benghazi investigation are not public. What kind of accountability is it when we can’t even tell who the ARB investigators talked to? Redact the names of the CIA people if needed, but the names of those interviewed should be public unless there is a compelling security reason not to do so. There is an opportunity here for the State Department to declassify that part of ARB Benghazi’s report.

At the heart of this latest bombshell on Benghazi is that the weekend document session, according to Mr. Maxwell, was reportedly held “in the basement of the State Department’s Foggy Bottom headquarters in a room underneath the “jogger’s entrance.”

This would be the 21st Street entrance; and the room is underneath the jogger’s entrance [insert room number for prospective Foggy Bottom visitors].  We understand that FOIA has had offices there in the past but that most of the FOIA offices moved to SA-2.  Apparently, the only office the A organization chart shows to be in the Harry S. Truman basement are B2A61 the Facilities Managment Office and B258 the Office of General Services Management.  But which office is called the Emergency Management Operations Center?  Some media sites are already calling this the “boiler room operation.”

We have generally been disappointed with the Benghazi investigations.  The fact that it has become a political football to throw back and forth with all the offense and defense attendant of the game makes us cringe; even more so, every “new” book  or revelation gave us a sad.

But we think this one is a most serious allegation and cannot be swatted away by a  State Department spokesman simply calling the implication that documents were withheld “totally without merit.”  A State Department spokesman also told Ms. Attkisson that “it would have been impossible for anybody outside the Accountability Review Board (ARB) to control the flow of information because the board cultivated so many sources.” So, hypothetically, if folks scrubbed through the documents as alleged, then an instruction went down to IT to removed those docs from the system — that could not really happen, could it?

If this is not true, if no document scrub happened in the basement of the State Department as alleged by a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, then we’d like the agency spokesman to say so clearly and call out Mr. Maxwell on this.   Security access records should also indicate if these five individuals were at the State Department that weekend, when this alleged “review” took place.

So, let’s hear it people. But. Without the word salad, please.

In any case, now that this allegation is out in the open, the individuals named or positions cited in the Attkisson report are presumably candidates for an appearance before the Benghazi Select Committee:

1)  two officials, close confidants of Secretary Clinton (Congressman Chaffetz said that he was told then-Clinton Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills and Deputy Chief of Staff Jake Sullivan were there and overseeing the operation)

2) one office director (??? from NEA bureau)

3) one intern (??? about to become the second most famous intern in Wash, D.C.)

4) State Department ombudsman (Office of the Ombudsman – Ombudsman Shireen Dodson)

One entity not included in the report but potentially a candidate for an appearance in the Select Committee is the Office of the Inspector General. In September 2013, State/OIG under the then acting OIG issued a report on the “process by which Accountability Review Boards (ARB/Board) are established, staffed, supported, and conducted as well as the measures to track implementation of ARB recommendations.”

* * *

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Career Employees, Congress, FSOs, Hearings, Hillary, Leaks|Controversies, Media, Org Life, Political Appointees, Politics, Secretary of State, State Department, Technology and Work

Six Secretaries of State Together for the U.S. Diplomacy Center (USDC) Groundbreaking Ceremony

– Domani Spero

 

On September 3, the State Department held a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony for the new  U.S. Diplomacy Center.  The ceremony was hosted by Secretary Kerry and attended by his five predecessors, former Secretaries of State  Hillary Rodham Clinton, Madeleine K. Albright, Henry A. Kissinger, James A. Baker, III,  and Colin L. Powell. Wait, somebody’s missing!  What happened to Condoleezza Rice?

Whoops!  We missed one more!

Via WaPo’s Dana Milbank:

Kerry likely forgot about the 93-year-old Shultz, who, though not in attendance, is still very much alive. Or perhaps Kerry was symbolically eliminating Condi Rice, also absent; she was, after all, a key adviser to the man who defeated him for the presidency in 2004.
[...]
The groundbreaking for the future U.S. Diplomacy Center began with a before-noon cocktail reception and ended with the six secretaries outside the 21st Street entrance to the State Department, each holding a silver spade embossed with the State emblem. They dug up about a tablespoon apiece of earth in the 90-degree heat and then were promptly relieved of their digging implements as they exited the construction site via a carpeted walkway. “They wouldn’t even let us keep the shovel,” groused Baker.

Of course not. Kerry had already eliminated one former secretary of state. They couldn’t afford to lose another.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the groundbreaking ceremony for the U.S. Diplomacy Center with former Secretaries of State  Hillary Rodham Clinton, Madeleine K. Albright, Henry A. Kissinger, James A. Baker, III,  and Colin L. Powell on September 3, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

 

According to the State Department, the USDC (http://diplomacy.state.gov), is a state-of-the-art museum and education center that will dedicate 40,000 square feet “to bringing the story of American diplomacy to life.” This will be our country’s first museum and education center devoted exclusively to exploring the history, practice, and challenges of American diplomacy.  The $25 million project is funded by private institutional and individual donors through the Diplomacy Center Foundation.

Screen Shot 2014-09-03

Night-time rendering oftheUSDC  Pavilionhttp://diplomacy.state.gov

Last May, the State Department announced the contract for building the center:

The U.S. Department of State and the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) announced the award of a $25 million contract to begin construction of the U.S. Diplomacy Center—the nation’s first museum and education center devoted exclusively to exploring the history, practice, and challenges of U.S. Diplomacy. The project is privately funded with donations to build a 21st century, state-of-the-art glass pavilion that will become a new public entrance at the Department of State’s headquarters.

GSA will oversee construction and awarded the construction contract to Gilbane Building Company through an open and competitive process. The architectural firm of Beyer Blinder Belle provided the modern concept design. Construction is set to begin early summer 2014 and it will take 18 months to construct the U.S. Diplomacy Center.

Something else to look forward to in 2016!

* * *

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Construction, Diplomacy, Diplomatic History, Foreign Service, Hillary, John F. Kerry, Photo of the Day, Secretary of State, State Department

State Dept Asks A Most Important Question: Folks, the Internet Answers Are Not/Not Pretty

– Domani Spero

 

Last week, the official blog of the State Department posted the following on QDDR 2014:

The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), initiated by Secretary Clinton, is an opportunity for State and USAID to look forward a generation at threats and opportunities, and ensure our capabilities, structures, and allocations of resources and personnel are maximizing our ability to advance.

Secretary Kerry has asked for the 2014 QDDR, the second iteration of this strategic review, to “be a blueprint for America’s success in this new world,” and “a product that guides a modern State Department and USAID and empowers our frontline diplomats and development professionals [to] get the job done.” As part of a process of continuous improvement, this QDDR will identify emerging policy and management priorities and the organizational capabilities needed to maximize the impact and efficiency of America’s diplomatic and development efforts.

At the request of Secretary Kerry, Special Representative Thomas Perriello joined the Department in February to conduct the 2014 QDDR and oversee its implementation. He is a former Member of Congress from Virginia who has worked extensively on transitional justice and conflict prevention overseas.  Deputy Secretary Heather Higginbottom and Administrator Raj Shah serve as co-chairs to foster a participatory process that engages State and USAID personnel, Congress, interagency partners, thought leaders, non-governmental organizations, the business community and the American public.

The State Department also posted the following video on the blog and in YouTube. Interested individuals are invited to send their ideas to QDDRideas@state.gov:

 

The State Department  then tweeted about it, and asked the Twitterverse about what it must think is a most important question.

 

The U.S. not only must right the world’s wrong, it must now also work on “improving the world?”

Oops! The AP’s Matt Lee tweeted what we were thinking.

 

A lucky thing the blog post and video went online on a holiday weekend. That said, the Internet, nonetheless, responded.  We’re sorry to report that the answers are not/not pretty. Below are the tamer selection:

 

 

 

 

Ouch!  This 21st Century public square is pretty wild. You never know who’s going to show up or what you’re gonna hear or who are going for the slug feast.  But a serious question; for purposes of the upcoming QDDR, how is this really helpful?

The current QDDR office is staffed with one special rep, Mr. Perriello, one deputy director, a staff assistant, two senior advisors and three policy analysts. This is the group tasked with engaging with State and USAID personnel, Congress, interagency partners, thought leaders, non-governmental organizations, and the business community. In addition, the same group presumably will have to comb through the submitted ideas the State Department is soliciting through QDDRideas@state.gov from the American public.  We’d like to see how much of the publicly generated ideas would make it to the QDDR 2014 report and how “a better job” would actually be measured.

We have to admit that our jaded slip maybe showing here but how come we feel as if this has a campaign flavor of sort? We’re almost afraid they’re going to ask us for $25 for a chance to have coffee with Mr. Perriello.  Sorry, that’s just us, sweet ones. If you’ve got ideas, they want it need it at QDDRideas@state.gov.

 * * *

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Huh? News, John F. Kerry, Org Life, Realities of the FS, Reorganization, Secretary of State, State Department, USAID

Ambassador Freeman on American statecraft — It’s hard to think of anything that has gone right.

– Domani Spero

 

Ambassador Chas Freeman was the U. S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia (1989 to 1992 ) during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs under Chester Crocker during the historic U.S. mediation of Namibian independence from South Africa and Cuban troop withdrawal from Angola.  More notably, he was the principal American interpreter during the late President Nixon’s meeting with Mao Zedong in China in 1972. He did tours in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe. In the 1990s, he was appointed Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.  He is the author of several books including a favorite of ours, the The Diplomat’s Dictionary published by the U.S. Institute of Peace Press. We  previously blogged about Ambassador Freeman here and here.

On August 19, he gave a speech at The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles California on How Diplomacy Fails.  What’s racking up a remarkably poor track record?  “Hastily-arranged presidential phone calls, hopscotch huddles with foreigners by the secretary of state, scoldings of foreign leaders by U.S. spokespersons, suspensions of bilateral dialogue, sanctions,” etc, etc  —  for starters.  Glad to hear Ambassador Freeman bring these up.  We hope more would speak up.

 

 

We are republishing the text of the speech below; a must read as it explains a lot of what ails American diplomacy.

How Diplomacy Fails

We are here to discuss what we can learn from the failure of diplomacy to prevent, halt, and wrap up World War I.  We just heard a masterful review of what happened from Geoffrey Wawro.  He has already said most of the things I wanted to say.  So he’s left me  with no alternative but to actually address the topic I was asked to speak about, which is the failings of today’s American diplomacy in light of the deficiencies of diplomacy in 1914.

There are in fact some very disquieting similarities between the challenges statecraft faced back then and those it faces today.

The eve of World War I was also a time of rapid globalization, shifting power balances, rising nationalisms, socioeconomic stress, and transformative military technologies.  The railroad networks, barbed wire, dynamite, repeating rifles, machine guns, long-range artillery, aircraft and submarines that altered the nature of war then are paralleled by today’s cyber and space-based surveillance systems, drones, precision-guided munitions, sub-launched and land-based anti ship missiles,  missile defense and penetration aids, anti satellite missiles, cyber assaults, hypersonic gliders, and nuclear weapons.  Changes in the European political economy set the stage for World War I.  Changes in technology made it different from previous wars.

Armed conflict between major powers today would reveal that warfare has again mutated and developed new horrors for its participants.  But some factors driving conflict now would parallel those of a century ago.  In 1914, as in 2014, a professional military establishment, estranged from society but glorified by it, drew up war plans using new technologies on the fatal premise that the only effective defense is a preemptive offense.  Then, as now, these plans evolved without effective political oversight or diplomatic input.  Then, as now, military-to-military interactions within alliances sometimes took place without adequate supervision by civilian authority, leading to unmanageable policy disconnects that were revealed only when war actually broke out.

As the 20th century began, successive crises in the Balkans had the effect of replacing the 19thcentury’s careful balancing of interests with competition between military blocs.  This conflated military posturing with diplomacy, much as events in  the East and South China Seas, the Middle East, and Ukraine seem to be doing today.  Then, as now, decisions by the smaller allies of the great powers risked setting off local wars that might rapidly expand and escalate.  Then, as now, most people thought that, whatever smaller countries might do, war between the great powers was irrational and therefore would not occur.  And then, as now, the chiefs of state and government of the great powers practiced attention deficit diplomacy.  They were so engaged at the tactical level that they had little time to give full consideration to the strategic implications of their decisions.

Ironically, in light of what actually happened, few would dispute that the factors inhibiting war in Europe in 1914 were greater than those impeding it today.  European leaders were not only personally acquainted but, in many instances, related to each other.  They and their diplomatic aides knew each other well.  There was a common European culture and a tradition of successful conference diplomacy and crisis management for them to draw upon.  European imperialists could and had often solved problems by trading colonies or other peripheral interests to reduce tensions between themselves.  None of these factors exist today to reduce the likelihood of wars between the United States and China or Iran, or NATO and Russia, or China and Japan or India – to name only the pairings warmongers seem to enjoy talking about the most.

On the other hand, alliances today facilitate cooperation.  In practice, they no longer, as they did in 1914, oblige mutual aid or embody preconcerted common purposes.  This welcome but dishonorable fact reduces the moral hazard implicit in American defense commitments to weaker allies and diminishes the prospect that they might act rashly because the U.S. has their back.  It also reduces the danger of automatic widening and escalation of local wars.

No one wants war of any kind.  But, as events in Europe in the summer of 1914 remind us, discounting the possibility of war and not wanting it are not enough to prevent it from happening.  And, as the president suggested in his commencement address at West Point this May, we need to find alternatives to the use of force to advance our interests in the 21stcentury.  That means strengthening our capacity for diplomacy.

It is said that those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.  But it is equally true that those who learn the wrong lessons from history must expect reeducation by painful experience.  So it’s not surprising that, since the end of the Cold War, American diplomacy has suffered repeated rebuke from unexpected developments.  Some of these have taken place in the Balkans, where World War I was kindled – and where we have arranged a ceasefire, installed a garrison, and called it peace.

But most challenges to our problem-solving ability are coming from other places and are producing still worse results.  Consider the north Korean and Iranian nuclear issues, Israel-Palestine, 9/11 and our ever-intensifying conflict with militant Islam, regime change in Iraq, the Russo-Georgian war, the Arab uprisings (including that in Syria), “humanitarian intervention” in Libya, the “pivot to Asia” amidst tussles in the South and East China Seas, the collapse of Sykes-Picot and the rise of Jihadistan in the Levant, and the Ukraine crisis, among other tests of American statecraft.  It’s hard to think of anything that’s has gone right.

It’s worth asking what we have got wrong.  Clearly, military strength alone is not enough to guarantee international order or compel deference to U.S. desires.  So Americans are looking for a more restrained and less militaristic way of dealing with the world beyond our borders.

The president nicely captured the national mood when he said that “our military has no peer,” but  added that: “U.S. military action cannot be the only — or even primary — component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.”

That insight implies that we should be skilled at measures short of war, that is: diplomacy.  For many reasons, we are not.  To set aside  militarism and redevelop the capacity to shape events abroad to our advantage without a feckless resort to force, we need to unlearn a lot of bad habits and to reexamine some of the presuppositions guiding our approach to foreign affairs.   Military overreach cannot be offset by diplomatic incapacity.

Part of what is required is correcting dysfunctional assumptions about how to deal with ornery foreigners.  Denouncing them and breaking off dialogue with them is petulant.  It doesn’t solve  problems.  Refusing to meet with another government until it accepts and meets our moral standards is a sure recipe for impasse.  “Come out with your hands up or we won’t talk to you” is not a persuasive way to begin negotiations.  Declaratory “diplomacy” and sanctions entrench confrontation.  They neither mitigate it or address its causes.  We are seeing that effect now with Russia in Ukraine.

Short of the use of force, without tactfully persuasive conversation very few people and no nations can be convinced to change course.  It is difficult to get an adversary to yield when he believes his political survival as well as his dignity depend on not surrendering.  So as long as we know what we are going to say and what effect it is likely to have, it is better to talk than not to talk.  Those with whom we disagree need to hear directly and respectfully from us why we think they are wrong and harming their own interests and why they are costing themselves opportunities they should want to pursue and risking injuries they should wish to avoid.

It takes time to establish the mutual confidence necessary for such dialogue.  It is counterproductive to stand on our side of the oceans and give other nations the finger, while threatening to bomb them.  It does not make sense to react to problems in other nations by severing communication with them.  As Winston Churchill observed, “the reason for having diplomatic relations is not to confer a compliment but to secure a convenience.”  Yet, for example, we routinely withdraw military attachés following military coups.  Since our attachés are the only American officials who know and have credibility with the new military rulers, this is the equivalent of gagging, deafening, and blinding ourselves – a kind of unilateral diplomatic disarmament.  Our diplomatic technique badly needs an upgrade.

But the more fundamental problem for U.S. diplomacy is the moral absolutism inherent in American exceptionalism.  Our unique historical experience shapes our approach to our disadvantage, ruling out much of the bargaining and compromise that are central to diplomacy.  In our Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the Cold War, we demonized the enemy and sought his unconditional surrender, followed by his repentance, reconstruction, and ideological remolding. The American way of international contention formed by these experiences is uniquely uncompromising.   Our rigidity is reinforced by the mythic cliché of Hitler at Munich. That has come to stand for the overdrawn conclusion that the conciliation of adversaries is invariably not just foolish but immoral and self-defeating.

The Cold War reduced most American diplomacy to proclaiming our values, holding our ground, containing the enemy, and preventing inroads into our sphere of influence – the zone we called “the free world.”  Despite occasional talk of “rollback,” with few exceptions, our approach was static and defensive – the diplomatic equivalent of trench warfare.  In this formative period of American diplomacy, our typical object was not to resolve international quarrels but to prevent their resolution by military means.  So we learned to respond to problems by pointing a gun at those who made them but avoiding talking to them or even being seen in their company.

Without our realizing it, Americans reconceived diplomacy as a means of communicating disapproval, dramatizing differences, amplifying deterrence, inhibiting change, and precluding gains by adversaries.  For the most part, we did not see diplomacy as a tool for narrowing or bridging differences, still less solving them by producing win-win outcomes.  We seem to be having trouble remembering that diplomacy’s usual purpose is  to do these very things.

The experience of other nations causes most to see diplomacy and war as part of a continuum of means by which to persuade other states and peoples to end controversies and accept adjustments in their foreign relations, borders, military postures, and the like.  Given Americans’ history of isolationism alternating with total war, we tend to see diplomacy and armed conflict as opposites.  We describe war as a failure of diplomacy, not as a sometimes necessary escalation of pressure to achieve its aims.

Americans suppose that diplomacy ends when war begins and does not resume until the enemy lies prostrate before us.  We imagine that wars end when the victor proclaims his military mission accomplished rather than when the vanquished is brought to accept defeat.  Lacking a tradition of war termination through diplomacy, we have great difficulty successfully ending wars, as Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya all attest.  We have yet to internalize the need to reconcile enemies to the political consequences of military outcomes and to translate these outcomes into peace agreements – binding acceptances of a new status quo as preferable to its overthrow.

The failure of diplomacy in World War I left most Americans with a very jaundiced view of it.  Will Rogers summed this up when he said “the United States never lost a war or won a conference” and added “take the diplomacy out of war and the thing would fall flat in a week.”  As a nation, despite our seven decades of superpower status, Americans still don’t take diplomacy seriously.  Most of us see it as an expression of weakness – so much namby-pamby nonsense before we send in the Marines.  And, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, we still seem convinced that diplomacy is an amateur sport.

We show this in how we staff our country’s statecraft and diplomacy.  Our military and our spies are professionals.  But, for the most part, our foreign policy is crafted, led, and executed by ambitious amateurs – ideologues, the paladins of special interests, securocrats playing games of musical sinecures, political spin doctors, and the occasional academic.  Our ambassadors in important capitals are selected as a reward for their campaign contributions, not for their experience in diplomacy or competence at advancing U.S. national interests abroad.  All too often these days, our politicians fiddle while the world turns, leaving the diplomatic ramparts unmanned as crises unfold.  As an example, we had no ambassador to Moscow for the five months in which Russophobes and Russians pulled down an already rickety Ukraine, detached the Crimea from it, and reignited East-West confrontation in Europe.  On August 1, the U.S. Senate cast its last votes of the season, leaving 59 countries with no American ambassador.

America’s dilettantish approach to national security is unique among modern states.  We get away with it – when we do – mainly because our diplomacy is supported by very bright and able career officers.  But our foreign service works in an environment contemptuous of professionalism that more often than not leaves its officers’ potential unrecognized, unmentored, and underdeveloped.  (If the highest ranks of the diplomatic profession in the United States are reserved for men and women who have made a lot of money in other professions and avocations, why should our most talented young people – even those who want to serve our country – waste time apprenticing as diplomats?  Why not do something less dangerous and more lucrative, then buy your way in at the top?)  Under the circumstances, it’s hardly surprising that the United States has come to be known for its military prowess, not its foreign affairs literacy, the wisdom and imagination of its statecraft, or the strategic sophistication and subtlety of its diplomacy.  This is proving dangerous.  In an increasingly competitive world, diplomatic mediocrity is no longer good enough.

Americans must now consider whether we can afford to continue to entrust our diplomacy to amateurs.  Hastily-arranged presidential phone calls, hopscotch huddles with foreigners by the secretary of state, scoldings of foreign leaders by U.S. spokespersons, suspensions of bilateral dialogue, sanctions (whether unilateral or plurilateral), and attempted ostracism of foreign governments are racking up a remarkably poor track record in the increasingly complex circumstances of the post-Cold War world.  So is the dangerous conflation of military posturing with diplomacy.  If we Americans do not learn to excel at measures short of war, we will be left with no choice but to continue to resort to war to solve problems that experience tells us can’t be solved by it.

To prosper in the multipolar world before us, Americans will need to be at the top of its  diplomatic game.  We are a very long way from that at present.  And time’s a wasting.

 

Frankly, we’re exhausted watching Secretary Kerry fly here and there. We know he meant well, but what does it say when he is required to do the work that his ambassadors or special envoys should be doing?  As to the spokespersons, we have to confess that there are days, and there are many of them, when we are overwhelmed with great envy that the Pentagon has a Rear Admiral Kirby behind the podium. Well, boo! for me.

The original material is located at http://chasfreeman.net/how-diplomacy-fails/.  Republished here with Ambassador Freeman’s permission.

* * *

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Ambassadors, Diplomacy, Diplomatic History, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Foreign Service, Learning, Lessons, Obama, Secretary of State