The Foreign Service Journal - January/February 2018
10 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL LETTERS Bringing It All to Life Now that I’m retired, I have more time to actually read the FSJ cover to cover. The October issue is a real home run! I liked the focus on Iran (I joined the Foreign Service in 1979, and the hostages were taken shortly after I began training at the U.S. Information Agency), and I learned a lot that I didn’t know. I thought Roy Melbourne’s use of language was lyri- cal, harkening back, perhaps, to a time when we spent more time refining language. The tragedy of Alexander Sergeyevich Griboyedov (“Love in Tiflis, Death in Tehran”) was also new te r- ritory for me, and I enjoyed Ambassador Limbert’s story immensely. The reports fromAFSA’s officers had just the right bal- ance of trepidation about the future of the department and our profession, and encouragement to persevere even under difficult circumstances. Indeed, the whole issue was well written and well edited. Thank you for your work in bringing life to our day-in/day-out efforts and for putting it all into context. Michael Korff FSO, retired Arlington, Va. We Be They My friend and entry-level classmate Michael Pelletier’s excellent piece, “Own- ing Leadership” (November), reminded me of an inspiring speech I once heard. Admiral Mike Mullen, who later became chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was Chief of Naval Opera- tions when he spoke to my class at the Eisenhower School (then the Industrial College of the Armed Forces). Bemoaning the phenomenon of senior officers saying “they should do this” and “they should fix this,” Mullen’s three-word distillation of owning leader- ship was “We Be They.” Thomas Hodges FSO Consulate General Hong Kong Owning Leadership We should rightly be concerned by the loss of leadership in our ranks, but we should also—as Michael Pelletier reminds us in the November FSJ — acknowledge and develop the leaders who remain. What’s more, we should admit that even when we were “full strength,” we could not claim to have a robust culture of leadership in the State Department. Perhaps now is the time to recognize that there are State employees at every level who couldmove our organi- zation forward. These leaders could take ownership of some of our most nagging deficien- cies, including reform of the 360 review process and the EER system. They could also initiate new personnel policies that better support Locally Employed staff— the backbone of our workforce. Finally, they could push to empower FSI’s excellent Leadership and Man- agement School to create, develop and enforce changes in the organization that foster a sustained culture of leadership. John Fer FSO Embassy Riga Iran’s Religious Revolution Congratulations to the Journal for the concentration of articles on Iran in the October issue, at a time when Iran has again become a prominent factor in American politics. However, from my per- spective, having served as interim deputy chief of mission and political counselor at U.S. Embassy Teh- ran through the 1979 revolution, I have to point to the elephant in the room that was not identified in these articles. Very simply, the Iranian revolu- tion was a religious revolution, the first such revolution since Britain’s several centuries ago. But unlike warrior-poli- tician Oliver Cromwell’s use of religion to establish his secular power, Ayatol- lah Ruholla Khomeini’s revolution was intended to establish government by religious leaders and to export religious revolution to its neighbors (though Kho- meini originally hid that intent). The problem was—and remains to this day—that Khomeini’s Shiite Islam immediately challenged the Sunni Islam of its neighbors and of the majority of the Islamic world. Fear of Shia insur- rection in Iraq drove Saddam Hussein’s 1980 invasion of Iran. Iran’s Shia revolution also chal- lenged Saudi Arabia, whose status as the guardian of Islam’s holiest sites has largely protected that kingdom in an area fraught with rivalries and conflict despite its relatively weak military and small population. Without a doubt Gary Sick is right when he says in his magisterial “Iran Inside and Out” that the governing cl ass of Iranians “are realist to the core and driven almost entirely by the perception of the long-term interests of the nation,” and suggests that the shah himself might have followed a similar course if similar conditions had allowed.