Insider Quote: you’re not going to be able to depend on Washington for detailed advice….

Bruce A. Flatin—Kabul 1979 via US Diplomacy:

I’d like to say that it’s very important for young people entering the Foreign Service to realize that you’re not going to be able to depend on Washington for detailed advice.  If you look at the Foreign Service manual, you’ll see there’s absolutely nothing in it that will cover these situations.  And you’re expected by Washington to try and do the best you can, because they have no way of knowing what the on-the-scene operational needs are.

To begin with, to the degree that they can acquire an area of language training, and FSI offers the area training, they should take as much language training, even on their own, because that helps them.  When they get to the post, they should try their best to get to know people, especially people who are significant.  People like police officials and military officials.  That may be of use to you later. They should also know other diplomats.  My career was spent entirely in the Cold War against the Russians – as a soldier, as a soldier in Germany, followed as a diplomat in Germany and also in Kabul.  And I was the guy who always seemed to have face-to-face contact with the Soviets.  And there’s a certain way of dealing with your opponent.  You both have to deal with each other rather carefully, but it’s possible to do it.  The degree to which you get that kind of experience helps – as in negotiations with the Cubans, where this kind of experience helped.  They’re not nice guys, but you can do business with them, if you do it the right way.  The point is that the person should make themselves as prepared as possible for these types of very fast moving situations.  And if they can’t hack it, they have to be moved out.

Read in full here.