Burn Bag: Oh, Mr. Personality, Your Visa Stamp So Sexy ūüėć !!!

Via Burn Bag:

“Those consular adjudicators who met a “high bar for qualifications and underwent a rigorous screening process”? I’m not sure it’s a good idea to skip the rigorous screening process that normally applies to Foreign Service officers (FSOs), as these adjudicators have the very same powers as FSOs and appear to the outside world to be diplomats. For example, at my post, the very first time one officer represented the Mission at a representational event, he spent the time picking up women, rather than working (he’s married, and here with his family). Within two weeks, he’d told his wife their marriage was over. I can’t believe this represents the kind of good judgement the FS is looking for, any more than I believe the woman he picked up is interested in his personality.”

 

hello-I-love-you-Patrick

Via reactiongifs.com

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Renunciation of U.S. Citizenship About to Get More Expensive: From $450 to $2,350

–¬†Domani¬†Spero

 

Updated 8:36 am PST,¬†Aug 28, 2014: ¬†The Federal Register has now published¬†¬†this interim final rule online.¬†This interim final rule becomes effective September 6, 2014. Written comments must be received on or before October 21, 2014. A note on “interim final rule” from the Federal Register: “When an agency finds that it has good cause to issue a final rule without¬†first publishing a proposed rule, it often characterizes the rule as an ‚Äúinterim final rule,‚ÄĚ or¬†‚Äúinterim rule.‚ÄĚ This type of rule becomes effective immediately upon publication. In most¬†cases, the agency stipulates that it will alter the interim rule if warranted by public comments.¬†If the agency decides not to make changes to the interim rule, it generally will publish a brief¬†final rule in the Federal Register confirming that decision.” See more here (pdf).

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Yesterday, we got the following via the Burn Bag:

“CA [Consular Affairs] will publish a proposed rule on Thursday in the Federal Register raising the fee for renunciation of citizenship from $450 to $2,350. This will not be popular. Fee based on annual fee study and lack of common sense.”

Today, the Federal register posted online the pre-publication interim final rule for the changes in the Schedule of Fees for consular services (see full interim rule embedded below). ¬†The percentage ¬†increase in the¬†renunciation fee is¬†422%. With an estimated 2,378 annual renunciation of citizenship cases, this increase would net the USG an estimated $4,518,200. ¬†Using the projected FY 2014 workload,¬†Consular Afffairs’ estimated change in annual fees collected for affected consular services is $64,003,862. Below is an extract from the interim final rule which will be published on August 28:

The interim final rule makes changes to the Schedule of Fees for Consular Services of the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs. The Department sets and collects its fees based on the concept of full cost recovery. The Department completed its most recent review of current consular fees and will implement several changes to the Schedule of Fees based on the new fees calculated by the Cost of Service Model (CoSM).
[...]
The CoSM demonstrated that documenting a U.S. citizen’s renunciation of citizenship is extremely costly, requiring American consular officers overseas to spend substantial amounts of time to accept, process, and adjudicate cases. For example, consular officers must confirm that the potential renunciant fully understands the consequences of renunciation, including losing the right to reside in the United States without documentation as an alien. Other steps include verifying that the renunciant is a U.S. citizen, conducting a minimum of two intensive interviews with the potential renunciant, and reviewing at least three consular systems before administering the oath of renunciation. The final approval of the loss of nationality must be done by law within the Directorate of Overseas Citizens Services in Washington, D.C., after which the case is returned to the consular officer overseas for final delivery of the Certificate of Loss of Nationality to the renunciant. These steps further add to the time and labor that must be involved in the process. Accordingly, the Department is increasing the fee for processing such requests from $450 to $2,350. As noted in the interim final rule dated June 28, 2010 (77 FR 36522), the fee of $450 was set substantially below the cost to the U.S. government of providing this service (less than one quarter of the cost). Since that time, demand for the service has increased dramatically, consuming far more consular officer time and resources, as reflected in the 2012 Overseas Time Survey and increased workload data. Because the Department believes there is no public benefit or other reason for setting this fee below cost, the Department is increasing this fee to reflect the full cost of providing the service. Therefore the increased fee reflects both the increased cost of the provision of service as well as the determination to now charge the full cost.

Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 10.45.00 AM

The Department intends to implement this interim final rule, and initiate collection of the fees set forth herein, effective 15 days after publication of this rule in the Federal Register.
[...]
Administrative Procedure Act | ¬†The Department is publishing this rule as an interim final rule, with a 60-day provision for post promulgation comments and with an effective date less than 30 days from the date of publication, based on the ‚Äúgood cause‚ÄĚ exceptions set forth at 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(3)(B) and 553(d)(3). Delaying implementation of this rule would be contrary to the public interest because¬†the fees in this rule fund consular services that are critical to national security, including screening visa applicants.

Anybody know where we can find a copy of CA’s¬†Cost of Service Model (CoSM) study?

Apparently, dual citizens in Canada trying to shed their U.S. citizenship have created a  backlog at the U.S. consulate in Toronto that stretches into the third week of January 2015.

In any case, Americans who will be upset by this change in renunciation of citizenship fee can  contact Congress to complain about this. Their elected representatives, presumably will be super-helpful to the soon-to-be non-voters.

We should note that interim final rule also lowers the consular time fee of $231 to $135 per hour, per employee:

The Department previously charged a consular time fee of $231 per hour, per employee. This fee is charged when indicated on the Schedule of Fees or when services are performed away from the office or outside regular business hours. The CoSM estimated that the hourly consular time charge is now lower. Accordingly, the Department is lowering this fee to $135 per hour.

See the full interim final rule below. The document posted below is a pre-publication copy. It is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on 08/28/2014 and available online at http://federalregister.gov/a/2014-20516, and on FDsys.gov

 

 

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Opposition to George J. Tsunis Nomination as Norway Ambassador Now a Social Media Campaign

–¬†Domani¬†Spero

 

On September 10, 2013, President Obama announced a slew of executive nominations including that of George J. Tsunis as his nominee for¬†Ambassador to the Kingdom of Norway. ¬†In January 2014, Mr. Tsunis made an appearance at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (see ¬†Senator John McCain‚Äôs ‚ÄúNo More Questions‚ÄĚ at the Senate Confirmation Hearing Gets a¬†GIF¬†and¬†US Embassy Oslo: Clueless on Norway, Murder Boards¬†Next?).

In February, a group of Norwegian-Americans made their opposition to the nomination known (see Norwegian-Americans Petition For Withdrawal of Tsunis Nomination as Ambassador to Norway).  The same day we wrote about their opposition, the SFRC panel cleared the Tsunis nomination (seeSFRC Clears Barber, Bell, Tsunis, Harper, Talwar, Rose, Gottemoeller, Chacon, Carroll).

In April, murder boards became real (see State Department Seeks Contractor For Simulated Congressional Hearing Sessions). On August 7, the Washington Times reported that Orlando, Florida-based AMTIS, Inc. was awarded a $545,000 contract by the State Department for simulated congressional hearings and communicating with Congress classes.

Last week, opponents of the Tsunis nomination rolled out a new social media campaign to sink his nomination.  We did not see it until we got poked on Twitter today.   Tom Lundquist who started the original petition asking President Obama to withdraw the nomination posted the following on change.org:

Today looks to have been the first full day of starting out with a never-before-tried social media campaign in this effort to have George Tsunis withdrawn or defeated. An integrated Twitter, Facebook, and Web campaign have been launched!

http://citizensvstsunisdems4compdips.weebly.com/

https://twitter.com/CitizensvTsunis

https://www.facebook.com/citizens.vs.tsunis.dems.competent.diplomats/info

 

Screen Shot 2014-08-26

Twitter profile of Citizens v. Tsunis

 

On its website, the group listed several reasons why they opposed the Tsunis nomination including the following:

Perception of American Incompetence and Arrogance Abroad:

America‚Äôs foreign image hasn‚Äôt been the best over the last decade or so. Let‚Äôs not make it worse. George Tsunis‚Äô wildly inaccurate statements of fact, diplomatic outrages, and lack of qualifications offended a number of Norwegian officials and Members of Parliament, including the mayor of Norway‚Äôs capitol city who made it clear that President Obama should send a far more knowledgeable and qualified person. To send Tsunis to Norway would be a fist in the face of a key ally ‚Äď and an arrogant message to the world. Norway is a vital member of NATO, a key supplier of energy to the EU, an important player in peace efforts in the Middle East, and a strong U.S. ally everywhere. With rising tensions in Eastern Europe and the Middle East the U.S. has to take its diplomacy seriously and treat key allies with respect.

The website also listed the names of four Senators who already made their opposition to the Tsunis nomination known, calling them, Senate Heroes. As well, under the section “Money Bound,” the group listed the names of 9 Senators who were recipients of donations from Mr. Tsunis, urging supporters to email/call the senators and their aides. Check out the Senators Living Dangerously,¬†the Silent Senators, and¬†Our Party’s (Apparent) Worst Enemies. The website also includes the well-circulated clips¬†from Anderson Cooper and the Daily Show.

The group¬†suggests a series of questions constituents should ask their congressional representatives noting that¬†“Until a Senator comes out publicly against the absolute most inane, unqualified nomination the Senate has perhaps yet ever seen, tacit support of Tsunis ‚Äď and the damage it is doing to our Party and democracy ‚Äď must be challenged.”

It also adds¬†a carrot for the rabbits in the Senate,¬†“By the Senator making a public commitment to vote against the Tsunis nomination, the Senator‚Äôs page here will be removed from this website and the Senator will be promptly added to The Principled Heroes list for all constituents to see.”

Over on Twitter, a new hashtag battle could be¬†brewing — @CitizensvTsunis‘¬†¬†and what appears to be a¬†parody account by Not George J. Tsunis using the¬†@ambGeorgeTsunis¬†handle with the¬†¬†hashtag. This¬†could¬†get¬†nasty.

Given the many challenges facing our country these days, we don’t think the White House appreciates¬†this new kind of headache. I mean, who would? ¬†But we also suspect that it would not withdraw the nomination on its own. Once it nominated Mr. Tsunis,¬†the WH is bound to stand by¬†its nominee.¬†The only way we think the WH would withdraw this nomination is if Mr. Tsunis , himself, withdraws his name from consideration. ¬†That might be the most prudent action for Mr. Tsunis to do here. That would give¬†President Obama a¬†fresh start.

Of course, if the Democrats lose the Senate in¬†November, well … maybe none of the nominees will be going anywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dept of Correction for the Record Fail — Diversity Statistics Still in Jaws of SBU Chupacabra!

–¬†Domani¬†Spero

 

Last week, we blogged about the State Department’s missing diversity stats from the FS promotion results (see¬†Foreign Service 2013 Promotion Results ‚ÄĒ Gender, Ethnicity, Race Stats Still Behind the Great¬†Firewall). ¬†Previously, WhirledView’s Patricia Kushlis blogged about the State Department’s abysmal Hispanic record and¬†gender inequality at the State Department (see ¬†Unfulfilled Promises, Ignored Mandates: State‚Äôs Abysmal Hispanic Record and ¬†State‚Äôs Female-Proof Glass Ceiling: Breaking into the Good Old Boys Diplomatic Club is Still Hard to Do).

Yesterday, WhirledView¬†posted a new question:¬†What’s the big secret with the State Department’s diversity statistics and why?¬†¬†Patricia¬†also ¬†shared a¬†fan mail from the State Department’s Bureau of Human Resources.

Via WhirledView:

From: State/HR – Greenberg
To: WhirledView-Kushlis

Regarding: “Going back to 2000, the only year that State published promotion figures based on gender and ethnicity was in 2012, when they appeared in the June 2012 issue of State Magazine.  Those statistics disappeared from State Magazine in 2013 and 2014. “

The 2013 promotion statistics are available on page 32 of the June 2014 online issue of State Magazine at http://digitaledition.state.gov/publication/ and the 2013 Foreign Service promotion statistics will also be published in the July-August 2014 print and digital issue of State Magazine.

The 2014 promotion statistics are simply not out yet.  The promotion boards have just convened.

Brenda Greenberg
HR Public Affairs
202-647-4282

 

<RANT>Why … why… why … in heaven’s name are you wasting¬†your¬†time and other people’s time with this kind of mush?!</RANT>

The italicized portion above¬†is¬†a paragraph in Patricia’s blog post on State’s abysmal record on Hispanic hiring available here.¬† ¬†It is clear¬†that Patricia is¬†¬†referring to the published promotion figures based on gender and ethnicity. Which are, by the way, while mentioned on State magazine, are actually¬†not included in the published¬†edition. So the HR spox wrote to point out that the stats is you know, available on page 32!

Nope, the promotion figures based on gender and ethnicity are not available on page 32. Here is what State, June 2014 says:

Screen Shot 2014-08-25

Neither¬†the original State mag publication of the promotion stats in June nor¬†the corrected version in July/August 2014 include the gender, ethnicity and race statistics. They are available¬†at¬†http://intranet.hr.state.sbu/offices/rma/Pages/DiversityStats.aspx. ¬†Let’s click on it, just for fun:

Screen Shot 2014-08-25

Ay, caramba!¬†They’re still in¬†the¬†jaws of the SBU¬†Chupacabra¬†(pdf) ?!!

Look — SBU or “sensitive but unclassified” information must not be posted on any public Internet website, discussed in a publicly available chat room or any other public forum on the Internet. You folks know that, right? ¬†Disposition¬†of¬†SBU documents is also important; it includes¬†shredding or burning, or by other methods consistent with law or regulation like chewing and swallowing (Note: Perfectly okay to do this with beer ūüėČ).

Hey, if a State Department HR official can cite a non-existent public report, we, too, can cite a non-existent citation on the FAM that goes well with beer. Because why not?

Also this via WhirledView:

“Why HR even needs its own Public Affairs Office is beyond me but that’s another question for another day er post.¬† Rumor has it that a piece of the incumbent’s job is to¬† block relevant WV posts and likely Diplopundit ones too keeping them from Bureau higher ups and staff supposedly under the ignorance is bliss category.”¬†

Oh, no — no need to block us, we are quite entertaining at times.

Subscription is easy and painless and we occasionally deliver sweet and sour news and opinion!

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Indian Foreign Service Hits YouTube, New Surprises Coming!

–¬†Domani¬†Spero

 

Via the Ministry of External Affairs India:

 

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France Commemorates Liberation of Paris – #WeAreFreeMerci!

–¬†Domani¬†Spero

 

Our friends in France commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Liberation of Paris, August 19-25, 1944.

 

Vive la France!

At the U.S. Embassy in Paris, a 45-star flag returned in 2013 is now on permanent display. ¬†The American flag was donated by Jean-Baptiste Lapierre fulfilling a promise he made to his grandmother to return the flag to American hands.¬†A U.S. soldier reportedly gave the flag to Lapierre’s grandmother during the liberation of Paris in 1944. According to stripes.com, the 45 stars on the flag suggest it was likely made between 1896 and 1908 when the U.S. had just 45 states.

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Tweet of the Day: Commemorating the White House Burning, Sorry!

–¬†Domani¬†Spero

 

First the good news! ¬†The British diplomats in D.C. enjoy a smokin’ good barbecue. ¬†Apparently, they had a ¬†a ‚ÄėWhite House BBQ’ to mark the 200th anniversary of a¬†‚Äėrather unfortunate event in UK/US relations.‚Äô ¬† The¬†embassy¬†even had a huge White House cake to commemorate¬†the burning. Then tweeted about it:

 

In related news, the embassy’s social media ninjas in D.C. shortly thereafter had to apologize for their tweet. It looks like some in the Twitterverse did not appreciate the joke even if it came 200 years later with cake. ¬†Some complained that this was ¬†bad form, some blamed David Cameron. ¬†No, no one has thought of blaming the Queen yet.

We hope they’re not going to fire the intern.¬†Anyone from Foggy Bottom attended the barbecue?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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USCG Karachi: Goodbye Michael Dodman, Hello Brian Heath

–¬†Domani¬†Spero

 

 

USCG Karachi’s Consul General Michael Dodman recently concluded his 2-year tour in Pakistan. ¬†Here is a memorable¬†photo of Mr. Dodman showing his dance moves¬†at the historic Kot Diji Fort in the Khairpur District of Pakistan’s southeastern province of¬†Sindh.

Photo via USCG Karachi/Flickr

Photo via USCG Karachi/Flickr

Brian Heath assumed charge as the U.S. Consul General in Karachi on August 20, 2014. USCG Karachi released the following official bio:
 A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Mr. Heath most recently served as the Minister-Counselor for Management Affairs at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York.
Since joining the Foreign Service in 1998, Mr. Heath’s overseas assignments have included Director of the U.S. Regional Embassy Office in Al Hillah, Iraq; Consul General at the U.S. Consulate in Lahore, Pakistan; Management Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Karachi, Pakistan; General Services and Human Resources officers at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Germany; and Consular Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Mumbai (Bombay), India.
In the course of several assignments in Washington, DC, Mr. Heath has studied at the National War College; worked as a Senior Advisor in the Under Secretary of State for Management’s Office of Management Policy; and served as a Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for Administration. Mr. Heath is the recipient of multiple Department of State Superior and Meritorious honor awards.
Mr. Heath graduated from Fordham University with a Bachelor’s degree in political economics, earned a law degree from Rutgers University, and received his Master’s degree in national security studies from the National War College. He is a member of the New Jersey and New York State bars.

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Consular Affairs Bureau Seeks to Expand Visa Waiver and Interview Waiver Programs

–¬†Domani¬†Spero

 

The State Department‚Äôs Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Janice Jacobs retired¬†last April (see Asst Secretary for Consular Affairs Janice Jacobs to Retire Effective April¬†3). ¬†As far as we know, no successor has been nominated¬†to date. ¬†Pardon me? You want ……..?¬†And you want¬†Overseas Citizens¬†Services DAS Jim Pettit? ¬†Excuse me, Mr. Pettit was already nominated as¬†Ambassador to the Republic of Moldova. ¬†Who else? ¬†You want ……. ? Well, maybe State should have a list of nominees and have all CA employees vote for¬†their¬†next boss per the bureau’s¬†Leadership Tenets. Because wouldn’t that be a screamingly fantastic experiment?

In any case, CA’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Michele Bond has been the Acting A/S since April 2014. ¬†This past June, at a hearing at the Senate Subcommittee on Tourism, Competitiveness and Innovation on ¬†The State of U.S. Travel and Tourism Industry, Ms. Bond¬†discussed how the bureau is meeting increasing demand for visas worldwide, particularly in ¬†Brazil, India, Mexico and China (see prepared statement).¬†Stressing that the State Department’s¬†¬†“top priority in visa adjudication is always national security,” the prepared statement provides¬†a look at where the bureau is seeking to expand. ¬† Specifically, it seeks¬†legislative authority to expand the Interview Waiver Program¬†and wanted to see an expanded ¬†Visa Waiver Program to¬†include additional countries¬†to¬†the 37 current¬†participants. ¬†The ¬†Interview Waiver Program (visa applications without personal appearances)¬†is potentially controversial given its history, and probably the reason the bureau is seeking legislative authority from Congress.

Below are excerpts from the prepared statement:

Consular Adjudicators

In 2013, Brazilian visitors contributed $10.5 billion to the U.S. economy, a 13 percent increase from the prior year.  During the same period, Chinese visitors contributed $9.8 billion, an 11 percent increase from the prior year, or $5,400 per visitor.  To address this important opportunity to contribute to our country’s economy, 167 officers perform consular work in Mission China.  Consular Affairs created over 50 new officer positions in China in fiscal year 2012 alone.  In the same year, we increased consular staffing in Mission Brazil by 40 percent within six months, and eventually increased staffing by more than 100 percent.  We met the President’s Executive Order target of 40 percent capacity increase in Brazil in June 2012 and in China in November 2012, both ahead of schedule.
[...]

In 2011, we realized our traditional hiring mechanisms wouldn’t allow us to deploy officers quickly enough to meet exploding visa demand in Brazil and China. We weren’t recruiting enough Portuguese- and Mandarin-speaking officers and could not wait for new entry-level officers to learn these essential languages.  In response, the Department created a rapid hiring pilot program to ramp up staffing at critical needs posts.  These adjudicators met a high bar for qualifications and underwent a rigorous screening process to assess their skills and background for these positions.  The first class of these adjudicators, appointed for one-year periods and limited to a maximum of five consecutive years, began in January 2012.  That year, we brought on a total of 24 Mandarin-speakers and 19 Portuguese-speakers, all of whom arrived at posts by mid-July.  In fiscal year 2013, we expanded the program to recruit Spanish-speakers.  To date, we have hired and deployed 59 adjudicators under this program to China, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic, representing an added capacity of 900,000 visa adjudications per year.

Interview Waiver Program

We are utilizing technology and advanced fraud detection techniques to help us expand the pool of applicants for whom interviews can be waived under the Interview Waiver Program.  This allows us to focus resources on higher-risk visa applicants while facilitating travel for low-risk applicants.

We are working with our colleagues across the government to expand this successful program, which became permanent in January 2014.  In fiscal year 2013, we waived over 380,000 interviews, and a recent study showed that tourist and business visitor visa holders whose interviews were waived, all of whom were subject to the full scope of security checks, posed no greater risk for an overstay than those who were interviewed.  We are interested in explicit legislative authority to supplement the existing Interview Waiver Program by adding additional low-risk applicant groups such as citizens of Visa Waiver Program members applying for other types of visas such as student or work visas; continuing students moving to a higher level of education; non-U.S. citizen Global Entry and NEXUS trusted traveler program members; and holders of visas in other categories, such as students and workers, who wish to travel for tourism or business.  The Department is interested in working with Congress on legislation specifically authorizing the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to enhance our interview waiver programs.

Visa Waiver Program

[W]e are working with our U.S. government colleagues to expand the Visa Waiver Program, consistent with U.S. law, as was recently done with the addition of Chile to the program earlier this year.  With this designation, Chile now joins 37 other participants and is currently the only participant from Latin America.  The Department supports the proposed amendments contained in the Senate-passed Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, because we believe they would restructure the Visa Waiver Program in a manner that would strengthen law enforcement cooperation, while maintaining the program’s robust counterterrorism and criminal information sharing initiatives and promoting commerce and tourism in the United States.

No to Premium Visa Processing

However, we do not recommend offering premium visa processing.¬† We believe many visa applicants would be willing to pay any ‚Äúpremium processing fee‚ÄĚ in the false belief that payment of a higher fee will ensure visa issuance, thus making any such program less efficient and compromising the integrity of the visa process.¬† The best approach to achieve greater efficiencies is the continued prioritization of student, medical, and urgent business travel applications, which is already in effect at consular posts worldwide.¬† We will also pursue increased visa validity where reciprocal agreement can be obtained with interagency support.

The full statement is available here.

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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 ‚Äď 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‚Äôs 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 ‚Äď 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), ‚Äúhumanitarian intervention‚ÄĚ in Libya, the ‚Äúpivot to Asia‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôs hard to think of anything that‚Äôs 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 ‚Äúour military has no peer,‚ÄĚ but¬† added that: ‚ÄúU.S. military action cannot be the only ‚ÄĒ or even primary ‚ÄĒ component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.‚ÄĚ

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‚Äôt solve ¬†problems.¬† Refusing to meet with another government until it accepts and meets our moral standards is a sure recipe for impasse.¬† ‚ÄúCome out with your hands up or we won‚Äôt talk to you‚ÄĚ is not a persuasive way to begin negotiations.¬† Declaratory ‚Äúdiplomacy‚ÄĚ 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, ‚Äúthe reason for having diplomatic relations is not to confer a compliment but to secure a convenience.‚Ä̬† Yet, for example, we routinely withdraw military attach√©s following military coups.¬† Since our attach√©s 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 ‚Äď 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 ‚Äď the zone we called ‚Äúthe free world.‚Ä̬† Despite occasional talk of ‚Äúrollback,‚ÄĚ with few exceptions, our approach was static and defensive ‚Äď 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 ‚Äď 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 ‚Äúthe United States never lost a war or won a conference‚ÄĚ and added ‚Äútake the diplomacy out of war and the thing would fall flat in a week.‚Ä̬† As a nation, despite our seven decades of superpower status, Americans still don‚Äôt take diplomacy seriously.¬† Most of us see it as an expression of weakness ‚Äď 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‚Äôs 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 ‚Äď 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‚Äôs dilettantish approach to national security is unique among modern states.¬† We get away with it ‚Äď when we do ‚Äď 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‚Äô 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 ‚Äď even those who want to serve our country ‚Äď 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‚Äôs 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.

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