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F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 2
to influence events in a major part of
the world, just as that area is throwing
off old structures and systems and cre-
ating new ones, then it constitutes a po-
litical threat, as well. Knowing more
about the culture and religion that the
terrorists are coming from, and per-
verting, will help us deal with both
kinds of threats.
Much as I regret and deplore the
concrete bunkers that house our em-
bassies and the security precautions
that limit our ability to move around
and meet people, I don’t see those
going away over the next 50 years. It’s
a dangerous world and getting more so,
not least because technology has put us
so much more in each other’s faces.
But that doesn’t mean that we have to
build enormous fortresses in countries
of second- or third-rate importance to
the United States and people them
with huge support and security staffs.
Who Needs Offices?
In fact, I believe we will finally begin
to reverse the unfortunate decision,
made decades ago, that the most pow-
erful country in the worldmust have an
embassy almost everywhere, in almost
every sovereign country. Once we can
bring ourselves psychologically to aban-
don that idea, there will be fewer
bunkers to build. Officers can be more
mobile, operating out of hotel rooms
and other temporary quarters.
After all, who needs an office any-
more? Officers can write their reports
on their Googleberries and Podphones
and tablets, and one of these days will
send “telegrams” (as they are quaintly
called) from them too. Reports will in-
clude photographs and videos of riots
and ceremonies and even interviews.
The U.S. government will, of course,
continue to lag years behind the private
sector, but it’s just slow; it will get there
If I had been thrust into the Foreign
Service of 2011 when I was first sworn
in, I would have found it wondrous
strange. I’m sure that any of today’s of-
ficers who suddenly found themselves
in 2061 would find it just as strange an
institution: wondrous in its technologi-
cal marvels; discouraging, perhaps, in
the persistence of unresolved problems
and issues; and, I hope, reassuring in
the continuity of this country as a bea-
con of hope and leadership — even
from a position of relatively diminished
George F. Jones, a Foreign Service offi-
cer from 1956 to 1995, was deputy
chief of mission in Chile and Costa
Rica during the 1980s, and was am-
bassador to Guyana from 1992 to
1995. An Editorial Board member
from 2007 to 2011, Ambassador Jones
currently chairs the AFSA Elections
Committee and has long been active in
the association.
Since retiring from the Foreign Serv-
ice, he has remained heavily involved
in foreign affairs, including election
monitoring and democracy promotion,
and a variety of When Actually Em-
ployed assignments with the State De-
The United States will
continue to wield great
influence throughout the
next 50 years — just not
as a superpower.
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