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unless, of course, technology finds a
way to make it infinite.
Another issue I think will be around
for a long time to come is human rights.
Some colleagues from my generation
were not at all comfortable with “inter-
fering in the internal affairs of other
countries,” and some saw it as a pecu-
liarly Latin American or Soviet bloc
issue. But now human rights are a rec-
ognized part of the international
agenda, and there’s no shortage of cases
requiring international cooperation and
leadership — leadership the United
States is uniquely qualified to provide.
The Limits of Power
So there will always be work for the
Foreign Service. But one thing I will
predict: it will not be an “expeditionary”
Service. The United States has done its
share of nationbuilding following mili-
tary conflicts; some of it was very suc-
cessful (Germany, Japan), some of it
much less so. But the idea that provin-
cial civilian-military teams are some
sort of new norm for the Service is sim-
ply nonsense.
Our country has wielded great in-
fluence around the globe, and will con-
tinue to do so. But look at Egypt, Libya
or Syria, if you want to see the limits of
American power in 2011. Look at Bur-
ma or Tibet. And in our own hemi-
sphere, consider Venezuela and Cuba.
I’m not saying that we will lose our
ability to affect events. But, as David
Remnick has written, “A calculated
modesty can augment a nation’s true in-
fluence.” I believe the United States
can continue to lead throughout the
next 50 years, because of our continued
significant (but not monopolistic) power
and, I hope, because of our continued
moral authority.
I happen to think that the United
States on the whole did pretty well as
the world’s policeman — with the
painful exceptions of Afghanistan and
Iraq — during the 60 years or so that
there was no one else around willing or
able to fill that role. But staying on in
that job would require both a contin-
ued acquiescence on the part of other
major countries and a continued will-
ingness on the part of the American
people to pay the very considerable
cost in money and lives. I see both of
those as steadily diminishing over the
next 50 years.
But there will be no decrease in the
number of crises around the world
where foreign intervention is needed
— whether humanitarian, as in the
Horn of Africa, or economic, as in
Greece, or even military.
So who, or what, gradually replaces
the United States as the Lone Ranger?
Multinational cooperation, as in Libya.
In 2061 we may —
may
— still be
primus inter pares, leading the organi-
zation of international efforts, con-
tributing substantially to their funding,
negotiating the objectives and terms of
the intervention. But multinational
agreement will not just be decorative
icing on the cake. It will
be
the cake.
What does this mean for the For-
eign Service? It means that those who
seek international organization experi-
ence will have a leg up. The number
of alphabet soup international agencies
today may be mind-boggling, but it is
going to increase exponentially over the
next 50 years. Regional organizations
such as the African Union, for instance,
will grow stronger and more active.
The United States will need to be
represented at virtually every single one
of these international fora in some way.
And all U.S. diplomats will need tech-
nical specializations more than ever: fi-
nancial, economic, scientific and in
areas one can’t even imagine today.
Specialization Needed
Does that mean the Foreign Serv-
ice generalist is going the way of the
despatch and the airgram? (If those
are unfamiliar terms, please consult
your nearest doddering retiree.) Yes
and no.
In the sense of officers with good
judgment, good people skills and the
ability to lead and manage, no; they
will always be needed. The old adage
about not putting a scientist at the
head of a scientific institution is still
true. But for officers who try to make
up with charm alone for their lack of
area, language and technical skills: yes,
I see little future for them.
One critical area of specialization
that will be required in the years ahead
is Islamic studies. It doesn’t take a crys-
tal ball to see that a largely stagnant part
of the world is waking up and changing
before our eyes — but into what ex-
actly? What
is
clear is that there are 1.6
billionMuslims who are going to play a
much more important part in world
politics than they have in the last 50
years, and that we as a country and as a
Service know very little about them.
This is partly because, as Americans,
we are not very comfortable talking
about religion or relating to people as
I believe we will
eventually abandon the
unfortunate aspiration to
have an embassy in
every sovereign country.
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