Facebook Builds Its Own Foreign Service

Mike Swift of The Mercury News has an item that may perk your interest, you battle tested foreign service officers out there — Facebook to assemble global team of ‘diplomats’

Quick excerpts:

With 70 percent of its more than 600 million members outside the United States, Facebook is creating its own foreign service, hiring a network of ambassadors from India to Ireland to represent the Palo Alto-based social network with foreign governments and cultures.

Facebook’s new global policy team will monitor the local political landscape and act as multilingual, TV-friendly communicators in countries and for cultures that, in many cases, have very different values and laws about privacy and personal communications than the U.S.
As part of this effort, Facebook is hiring policy directors for the Middle East, Britain, Italy, Spain, Scandinavia, Germany, Central and Eastern Europe and other countries and regions. Among their duties, the policy directors will be Facebook’s primary contact with foreign government officials and politicians. That will be especially critical in places like Europe, where regulators are scrutinizing the privacy and data-handling practices of Google (GOOG) and other U.S. Internet companies.
“Somebody forwarded me those (Facebook job) listings with a note: ‘Look familiar?’ ” said Andrew McLaughlin, Google’s director of global public policy from 2004 to 2009. “We did exactly that same thing.”
“Was it useful? Totally,” McLaughlin said of Google’s foreign policy staffers. “You literally build a foreign service for the company, people whose mission it is to represent the company outwardly, but also to translate the policy environment back into the company.”
Facebook is setting the recruiting bar high. Its posting for a Middle East policy director asks for someone with a degree in a related field, at least 10 years experience in both government and industry and “superb” written and spoken English but also fluency in Turkish, Arabic or another Middle Eastern language. Facebook wants a person comfortable with politicians at the most senior levels of government, who has experience as a media spokesperson, preferably on both radio and TV; and of course, has “a passionate belief” in Facebook.

The next thing you know there will be a Facebook Foreign Service Officer Test (FFSOT) across the United States online and an Oral Assessment in Palo Alto that includes a group exercise, a structured interview, and a case management writing exercise. Then a rank-ordered Register for eligible hires. Presumably with a quicker onboarding than the U.S. Foreign Service.

This is not a golden parachute and certainly not a sure thing, but if you are a career foreign service officer with the right set of skills and experience, there might just be a new career for you — that is, if you’re looking to jump from the mothership.

Of course, if Facebook is smart, and not saying it’s not, it can go after some talented officers that have been tic’ed out by the FS system or youthful 65s kicked out as too old by the FS system.  Hey, these folks have the right experience, and best of all, FB won’t have to train them from scratch in diplomacy, negotiations, languages and cultures and with the right individuals, they come with ready made local contacts in their rolodex.  What’s not to like?

Or FB can go on a talent war with the U.S. Foreign Service, an institution that is slooow to change because there are always more applicants than vacancy slots, see?  Taken for granted by our elected representatives, perhaps the news of Facebook building its very own foreign service will also be a wake up call from here to there. Google, Facebook, who’s next, BP, Exxon, Boeing? Heeello mega-diplomacy!

Now I know why I should have aimed for that 4+/4+ in Turkish the last time I was in school for six months! Maalasef arkadaşlarim, benim türkçe çok, çok paslı.

By the hair of his chinny chin chin, Yemen’s Abdullah Saleh hangs on to power

Ali Abdullah SalehImage via WikipediaAl Jazeera reports that Yemen’s president has laid down new conditions for signing a power transition deal, thwarting Gulf efforts to bring an end to a months-old political crisis in the country.

A Gulf mediator left Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, on Sunday, having failed to secure Ali Abdullah Saleh‘s signature on the deal, according to a report on the AFP news agency.

Abdullatif al-Zayani, the secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), “left without getting the signature of the president,” Tareq al-Shami, the spokesman of Yemen’s ruling General People’s Congress, was quoted as saying.

Saleh said he would not sign the deal, which would see him step down in 30 days, unless opposition leaders were present at the signing.

In a provocative statement on state television, he warned of civil war if the opposition defied his call for them to be present at his palace to sign the deal.

“If they remain stubborn, we will confront them everywhere with all possible means,” he said.

“If they don’t bow, and want to take the country into a civil war, let them be responsible for it and for the blood that was shed and that will be shed if they insist on their stupidity.”

VOA News over the weekend also reported that witnesses say helicopters in Yemen have airlifted the ambassadors of the U.S., Britain and Gulf Arab nations who were trapped inside a diplomatic mission surrounded by armed loyalists to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh:

The loyalists surrounded the United Arab Emirates Embassy in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, on Sunday. They blocked roads and roamed the streets near the mission, where the ambassadors were discussing a Gulf region-brokered deal that would have Saleh transfer power within a month.

Yemen’s president appears to be backing out again from signing the deal.

Hours before he was scheduled to sign the agreement Sunday, Saleh said he is not interested in signing a deal inked “behind closed doors.”

On May 22, the State Department released a statement with the following excerpt:

“We are also outraged to learn that earlier today factions loyal to President Saleh encircled the UAE embassy in Sana’a. They refused to allow U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Gerald Feierstein, ambassadors from the United Kingdom the European Union and GCC states, the GCC Secretary General and other foreign diplomats to leave the embassy. We condemn this action and call on President Saleh to meet his international obligations to ensure the safety and security of all foreign diplomats and their staffs working in Yemen.”

We are outraged and ….?

The CSMonitor posted a question that begs an answer:

“At what point does the US consider cutting off Saleh’s financial spigot? […] The Washington counterterrorism establishment sees the Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as the next big thing, and would probably argue that maintaining decent relations with the guy in power is crucial. But what happened yesterday came pretty close to a hostage-taking of a US ambassador by a guy on the US payroll.”
Is it just me or is it becoming more apparent what kind of friends we have in these shaky, shaky places?  The guy on the US payroll pretty close to taking our ambassador hostage–you betcha Mr. Saleh is watching if the US is going to blink, and when? Over in another hotspot, our other great ally of Pakistan had elected reps inquiring if the  F-16s we gave them can shoot down our drones in the wild, wild west of their untamed border. 

My god! Frenemies are sometimes sweet but when they give you a headache, it’s worse than a 24/7 root canal!

Yesterday, May 23rd, the US Embassy in Sana’a issued a warden message informing American citizens in Yemen that U.S. Embassy employees are currently restricted from an area of the city, beginning near Hadda Water Factory.  The boundaries of the area, roughly a rectangle, are defined as: 24th Street east to 14th of October Street, 14th of October Street south to 50 Meter Road, 50 Meter Road west to Zero Street, Zero Street north back to 24th Street. The embassy says that the restriction is due to the presence of armed militia in the area and urged U.S. citizens to take the same security precaution. The embassy will also close its Consular Section to the public today and tomorrow, May 24 and May 25, 2011, and will be providing emergency American citizen services only.

Updated @10:28 PST:
By the way, about that reported helicopter ride, I just learned that Ambassador Gerald Feierstein actually left the Emirates’ embassy via motorcade, not helicopter as widely reported in the press.  The joke out there is that he’d rather test his luck with an angry mob than a Yemeni aircraft! 

I don’t know what those Yemeni helos are like but most of the country’s aircraft are Soviet Union era flying birds; they’re oldies, not sure they’re goldies, okay?  As to the angry mob, not to underestimate the danger there — but just so you know, Ambassador Feierstein had three tours in Pakistan, including a three year tour in Peshawar

Ireland celebrates homecoming of President O’Bama

President O’Bama and the First Lady arrived in Dublin, Ireland on Monday shortly after 9:00 in the morning.  Although he is just 3.1 percent Irish, many in Ireland considers this visit a homecoming.  Here is a catchy music video from the Corrigan Brothers with the karaoke lyrics and the president’s Irish roots (they also claim his Irish eyes and ears!).  Another Corrigan Brothers music video is here with the folks of Moneygall.

At 3:15 p.m. he and the the First Lady visited Moneygall, where his great-great-great-great-great grandfather hails from. That ggggg-grandfather is, Falmouth Kearney, an Irish immigrant who came to America in 1850. The president’s mother, Ann Dunham, was a descendant of one of Kearney’s daughters.

Check out the Moneygall connection here (pdf).

Now, there’s just one more thing I’d like to know — President O’Bama, can he also riverdance?