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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

|

JUNE 2017

7

was recently invited by the U.S. Global

Leadership Coalition to speak at an

event about the vital role the Foreign

Service plays in sustaining America’s

global leadership. As careful readers of

AFSA’s

2016 Annual Report

will know,

cementing a closer strategic partnership

with USGLC is one of AFSA’s top outreach

goals for 2017.

I am always happy to report progress,

but especially so at times like this when

the Foreign Service needs partners like

USGLC to help make the case for a strong

Foreign Service. There is no place like my

monthly column to review the case and

repeat our key messages:

Nine in 10 Americans support strong

U.S. global leadership. Such leadership is

unthinkable without a strong professional

Foreign Service deployed around the

world protecting and defending America’s

people, interests and values.

Since the end of World War II, the

United States has enjoyed a position of

unprecedented global leadership, which

was built on a foundation of military

might, economic prowess, good gover-

nance and tremendous cultural appeal—

and the diplomatic prowess to channel

that power, hard and soft, into keeping us

safe and prosper-

ous at home.

American

leadership is being

challenged by

adversaries who

want to see us

fail; we cannot let

that happen. We need to reassure allies,

contain our enemies and remain engaged

around the globe. If the United States

retreats, we leave a vacuum that will

be filled by others who do not share our

interests or values. Walking that back—

reclaiming American global leadership,

once lost—would be a daunting and

uncertain task.

How then do we, in the face of budget

cuts, avoid retreat? We collectively take

seriously our role as stewards of this great

organization, the U.S. Foreign Service.

We seize the opportunities of the transi-

tion to streamline and refocus on core

diplomatic priorities; we adopt compre-

hensive risk management policies so

we can get out and do our jobs; and we

reintroduce ourselves as the lean, high-

performing, cost-effective and responsive

tool of national security that we are.

I recap all this because I am deter-

mined to use my presidency to help the

Foreign Service do a better job of explain-

ing to the American people what we do

and why it matters. I increasingly realize,

however, the magnitude of the chal-

lenge. As I acknowledge in the Annual

Report, “Members of the Foreign Service

are famously reticent about tooting their

own horns. After all, American diplomats

pride themselves on coaxing a partner

overseas to ‘yes’ without leaving a trace of

their advocacy.”

The very skill set that makes us such

an effective diplomatic force representing

and channeling American power while

serving abroad (often best approached

with humility and understatement) can

be a handicap at home when we try to

articulate our case.

Which brings me back to AFSA’s stra-

tegic partnership with USGLC, and to the

focus of this edition of the

FSJ

, the role of

the military in foreign policy. While we

are working on improving our own ability

to speak up for our institution, we need

to make the most of friends and partners

who are eager to make the case for us,

including the 120 generals and admirals

who signed a letter in April praising the

Foreign Service.

One of those admirals shared the

stage with me at the USGLC event, and

he did a terrific job of explaining how

much he as a visitor to a foreign country

depended on the “enduring platform

”—

aka the U.S. embassy—to do his job.

With budget choices being framed as

either “hard power” or “soft power,”

Ambassador Barbara Stephenson is the president of the American Foreign Service Association.

Getting Out in Front

BY BARBARA STEPHENSON

I

PRESIDENT’S VIEWS

Being asked to choose between hard power and

soft power strikes me as akin to being asked by

hotel staff, when I urgently need to sew on a

button before a meeting, whether I would prefer

a needle or thread.