The Foreign Service Journal - May 2014 - page 16

MAY 2014
Getting State and the Foreign Service
Back in the Game
Robert Hunter served as U.S. ambassador to NATO (1993-1998), lead consultant to the Na-
tional Bipartisan Commission on Central America (also known as the Kissinger Commission,
1983-1984), director of West European and then Middle East affairs at the National Security
Council (1977-1981) and foreign policy adviser to Senator Edward Kennedy (1973-1977),
among other positions. He is currently a member of the State Department’s International Secu-
rity Advisory Board and the American Academy of Diplomacy.
or some time, there has been a
spate of articles and other com-
mentary (I might even say hand-
wringing) about the diminished
role that the State Department is playing
in the overall “making” of U.S. foreign
policy, as opposed to “carrying out” at
least the non-military elements of it. (Wit-
ness Vali Nasr’s pointed analysis in
Dispensable Nation: American Foreign
Policy in Retreat,
Anchor, 2014.)
Though I have never served in the U.S.
Foreign Service, I would like to draw on
my experience as a former ambassador
to NATO and National Security Council
staffer, and a current member of State’s
International Security Advisory Board, to
offer the following suggestions for getting
State and the Foreign Service fully back in
the game, where they belong.
Strengthening the Foreign Service is
essential in its own right, but I believe it
is also critical to focus on the role that the
State Department must play in the inter-
agency process, as well as in developing
(and implementing) overall strategies for
the United States in the world.
This is not just about diplomacy, either
This is not just about diplomacy, either narrowly or broadly defined,
but about analyzing and integrating all instruments of power and influence—
political, diplomatic, economic and military.
narrowly or broadly defined, but about
analyzing and integrating
of power and influence—political, diplo-
matic, economic and military. (And also
cultural: I still bemoan one of the worst
decisions affecting U.S. interests abroad
in the last two decades, the elimination of
the U.S. Information Agency, for which I
spoke over many years and which should
be promptly revived.)
The Paradigm Gap
This mission has become even more
urgent since the end of the Cold War, with
the collapse of a relatively simple unifying
foreign policy paradigm. Indeed, there
is now a “paradigm gap” that—absent a
unifying “threat” from, say, China—will
not be closed, given the nature of today’s
diffuse international system and the likely
systems of tomorrow.
This reality is reinforced by the sheer
scope of U.S. interaction with the outside
world, encompassed (for want of a bet-
ter term) by the concept “globalization.”
Ironically, we face fewer direct threats to
the homeland than we did during the Cold
War, but are perforce far more engaged in
the outside world than ever before, and
must therefore be both smarter and more
Among other things, radical expan-
sion of the term “foreign policy” means
that there are a lot more players than
ever before in U.S. policy formulation
and engagement (not all of whom are in
Washington), including the public and
private sectors and nongovernmental
organizations. These players all have an
instantaneous capacity to interact and
communicate that defies centralization
under the authority of anyone, certainly
including the Secretary of State—let alone
any U.S. chief of mission abroad.
The country teams in many embassies
are already too huge to manage, forcing
the front office to spend more and more
time gathering intelligence on what is
being done in the name of the U.S. by so
many different actors—including combat-
ant commands that bear no allegiance to
the chief of mission.
Back in Washington, State has often
been sidelined since the end of the Cold
War—not just because the White House
has been drawing power to itself, but
also because State has not sufficiently
cultivated Foreign and Civil Service staff
with the talents and skills to play effec-
tive roles in strategic thinking and policy
integration. These are not, alas, generally
requirements for promotion.
Killing off the mind-expanding Senior
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