A foreign service for the twenty-first century.

Author:Landis, Benjamin L.
 
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Editor's Note: "Fixing the Crisis in Diplomatic Readiness" with increased resources, as called for in the report of the American Academy of Diplomacy (see the box at the top of this page), is clearly necessary but is only a first step toward assuring the long-term success of U.S. diplomacy, this essay argues--quality enhancements and conceptual changes are also critical. The role of ambassadors and the Secretary of State must be strengthened, professionalism must be improved, long-term foreign policy goals must be developed, and out-dated concepts such as balance of power must be discarded. --Ed.

In its report of October 2008 entitled "A Foreign Affairs Budget for the Future--Fixing the Crisis in Diplomatic Readiness," the American Academy of Diplomacy takes a hard look at the state of the capabilities of American diplomacy and renders a verdict of unsatisfactory. It states that:

... the new Administration will face multiple, critical foreign challenges with inadequate diplomatic personnel and resources to carry out policy effectively ... Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the diplomatic capacity of the United States has been hollowed out ... Our foreign affairs capacity is hobbled by a human capital crisis. We do not have enough people to meet our current responsibilities. Looking forward, requirements are expanding. Increased diplomatic needs in Iraq, Afghanistan and "the next" crisis area, as well as global challenges in finance, the environment, terrorism and other areas have not been supported by increased staffing ... The status quo cannot continue without serious damage to our vital interests ... There must be enough diplomatic, public diplomacy, and foreign assistance professionals overseas and they cannot remain behind the walls of fortress embassies. They must be equipped and trained to be out, engaged with the populace and, where needed, working closely with the nation's military forces to advance America's interests and goals ...

The report proposes that:

* U.S. direct-hire staffing in [core diplomacy, public diplomacy, economic assistance, reconstruction/rehabilitation] be increased over FY 2008 levels by 4,735 over the timeframe of 2010-2014, a growth of 46% above current levels in these categories (20% of total State/USAID staffing), to be accompanied by significant increases in training and in the number of locally employed staff overseas; the additional staff and related costs will rise to $2 billion annually by FY 2014;

* Funding to permit ambassadors to respond effectively to humanitarian and political emergencies be increased by $125 million in FY 2010 and $75 million annually thereafter;

* Public diplomacy programs, especially exchanges, should be expanded significantly, at a cost that will total $455.2 million annually by FY 2014; and

* Authority over selected Security Assistance programs, totaling $785 million annually, be moved in stages from the Department of Defense to the Department of State, with much of the implementation remaining at Defense. In areas where combat operations continue, authority would stay with Defense for the duration of those operations.

The report is commendable in that it recognizes that the present staffing and funding of the American diplomatic effort is seriously inadequate, in that it pinpoints the inadequacies, and in that it proposes very concrete rectifications to that situation. I recommend its reading to all who are interested in the success of American diplomacy, who recognize that it is through the Foreign Service that American diplomacy is conducted, and that the success of that diplomacy rests upon the effectiveness of the Foreign Service.

Concepts and Quality

There are, however, other aspects to the effectiveness and success of the Foreign Service of the United States that the report does not address, namely, the concepts on which American diplomatic efforts are based and the quality of those efforts.

The report acknowledges implicitly that lack of success in American diplomatic efforts, at least since the fall of the Berlin Wall, are to some extent the result of inadequate staffing and funding of the Foreign Service; and it indicates that continued insufficient personnel and monetary support of these efforts in the future will continue to contribute to diplomatic failures, such as the misunderstanding by other countries of American purposes and objectives, the consequent unwillingness of other countries to adhere to American leadership, the reluctance of Americans to engage themselves beyond their own borders except in moments of crisis, the degeneration of relations with friendly governments, the exacerbation of relations with unfriendly states, and the ill-advised use of armed force instead of patient, persistent, and coherent diplomacy.

The report opens by stating that it has considered the twenty-first century "challenges for American diplomacy, and proposes a budget that would provide the financial and human capacity to address those fundamental tasks that make such a vital contribution to international peace, development and security and to the promotion of U.S. interests globally."

However, the report does not go far enough in examining how American diplomacy is going to face successfully the challenges of the twenty-first century. These challenges are unique, not only in their nature, but also in their extent and intensity: climate change, the exhaustion of petroleum as an energy source, environmental pollution, the development of new non-polluting energy sources, the fractious movement of the Islamic world into the comity of nations, the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the rampant and enduring poverty of...

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