The Foreign Service Journal - July/August 2014 - page 31

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
|
JULY-AUGUST 2014
31
Hitting the Ball
By Christopher W. Bishop
Consulate General Osaka-Kobe
A senior officer of the old school—and four-time ambassa-
dor—once told me that diplomacy was like playing tennis. “The
cable is just the follow-through on the stroke,” he explained. “What
really matters is that you hit the damn ball. You have to go talk to
people and influence them.”
I’ve often thought about this analogy as I reflect on my work
as a political officer. The very term “reporting officer”—a favorite
State Department catch-all—implies that a political or economic
officer’s primary job is to report on conditions in the host country
to inform and influence the making of U.S. foreign policy. But isn’t
influencing host-country policy just as important to U.S. interests,
if not more so?
Reporting has long been an easy way to judge the “productiv-
ity” (if not the success) of a post’s political or economic section. A
friend at the American Institute in Taiwan once admitted he kept
a tally of howmany cables Embassy Beijing had sent the previ-
ous day, so that Taipei could match it the next day. (The fact that
Beijing had twice as many “reporting officers” as Taipei didn’t
matter—nor, apparently, did the question of whether either posts’
cables actually influenced policy in Washington.)
As a junior officer in Shanghai, I was routinely tasked with
writing quarterly cables on the local macroeconomic situation.
Even if anyone read them (something I doubted), I knew someone
FOCUS
EMBASSY REPORTING
STATE DEPARTMENT POLITICAL
AND ECONOMIC REPORTING TODAY
A SELECTION OF
VIEWS FROM
PRACTITIONERS
The
Journal
invited AFSA members to share
their perspectives on this important topic. We
asked five questions to spur discussion: What
is the state of State Department political and
economic reporting today? Can you provide
recent (unclassified) examples of how reporting
affected policy or led to a change in operations?
What is the impact of the vast and instanta-
neous flow of information in today’s digital
age on political and economic reporting (and
are embassy reporting methods changing as a
result)? What impediments to reporting—tech-
nological, physical access or process—have you
encountered, and what would be your proposed
remedy? Do today’s promotion boards give
too much or too little weight to reporting and
analysis versus other skills (e.g., management of
people and resources)?
Here is a selection of the responses we
received. We thank all those who responded.
—Shawn Dorman, Editor
1...,21,22,23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30 32,33,34,35,36,37,38,39,40,41,...84
Powered by FlippingBook