Why Diplomacy: American Academy of Diplomacy Ronald E. Neumann.

Author:Neumann, Ronald E.
Position:OpEd - Essay - Reprint

October 2017

It's essential to the successful pursuit of national security, foreign policy and economic goals.

Why should Americans pay for diplomacy... or care about a 28-percent cut in the State Department budget? The answer: because diplomacy is America's first line of defense--of security for U.S. citizens and advancement of economic interests.

The Many Faces of Diplomats

When Ebola raged and threatened to touch off a pandemic that would have inevitably spread death to the United States, it was America's diplomats in West African embassies who stayed at their posts to create the base into which multi-agency teams could deploy to staunch and finally end the crisis. When the Islamic State suddenly appeared in Mali, it was the diplomats on the ground who provided the knowledge to know the Islamists from other disaffected elements that could be brought back into a political framework to begin stabilizing the country with international military support.

It is diplomats who provide the political and economic insight essential to policy formulation in countries where people will express themselves frankly only face to face. This is work that cannot be done by email, phone or Facebook. These are places where U.S. journalists do not visit before a problem starts, and rarely have the deep background or language skills to understand what is happening once the crisis begins.

It is the diplomats who must strike the balance between the vetting to keep terrorists out, and letting in the flow of tourists and students who spend billions of dollars in America. And when things go bad, whether an earthquake in Haiti or the desperate need to evacuate U.S. citizens from Libya, it is the diplomats who are on hand to respond to frantic calls from home to find out what has happened to their loved ones or to safeguard survivors. When evacuation is required, it may be the military that provides the transport, but it is the diplomats who organize the evacuation and are the last to leave--if they leave at all. Often their work goes on.

When diplomacy fails and war comes, the diplomats often remain, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan or other global hotspots, to put the pieces back together. They often work without military protection in countries from Nigeria to Tunisia, where terrorism must be confronted and friendly governments supported. This work is not always safe or genteel.

One hundred eighty-one diplomats have died abroad since the end of World War II, most the...

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