The Foreign Service Journal - July/August 2014 - page 8

8
JULY-AUGUST 2014
|
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
BY SHAWN DORMAN
UNCLASSIFIED
Reporting Matters
MRN:
14 FSJ 72956
Date/DTG:
JUL 13, 2014 / 132301Z JUL 14
From:
AFSAFSJ WASHDC
Action:
TRIPOLI, AMEMBASSY ROUTINE; MINSK, AMEMBASSY ROUTINE;
ALL DIPLOMATIC AND CONSULAR POSTS COLLECTIVE ROUTINE
E.O.:
13526
TAGS:
POL, ECON, APER
Subject:
IS ANYONE READING? IS ANYONE THERE?
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
1.
BEGIN SUMMARY:
AT ITS BEST, EMBASSY
REPORTING IS READ IN THE RIGHT PLACES
AT THE RIGHT TIME BY THE RIGHT PEOPLE,
WHO USE IT TO CONSTRUCT AND CON-
TEXTUALIZE FOREIGN POLICY. AT ITS BEST,
REPORTING CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. A
BIPOLAR WORLD HAS BEEN REPLACED BY
A MORE COMPLEX ONE, SATURATED WITH
VAST AMOUNTS OF INFORMATION FLOW-
ING AT LIGHTNING SPEED. DOES EMBASSY
REPORTING STILL MATTER IN SUCH AN
ENVIRONMENT? DOES ANYONE HAVE
TIME TO READ BEYOND THE SUMMARY
PARAGRAPH, OR EVEN TO READ THE FULL
SUMMARY? THIS MONTHWE TRY TO FIND
OUT. ARE YOU STILL READING? IS ANYONE
THERE?
END SUMMARY
2.
LOOKING BACK TO LOOK AHEAD.
ON
TEMPORARY ASSIGNMENT TO CONGEN
LENINGRAD’S OVERBURDENED CONSULAR
SECTION IN 1989, I WAS TASKED WITH
DETERMINING WHETHER A PERSON ON
“THE LIST” OF REFUSENIKS DENIED PER-
MISSION TO EMIGRATE WAS, IN FACT, STILL
ALIVE. THE LIST MATTERED. SECRETARY
OF STATE GEORGE SHULTZ PRESENTED
IT TO HIS COUNTERPART AT HIGH-LEVEL
MEETINGS AS PART OF AN ACTIVE HUMAN
RIGHTS CAMPAIGN. UNDER GORBACHEV,
ALMOST EVERYONE ON THE LIST WOULD
EVENTUALLY BE ALLOWED TO LEAVE.
3. I SET OUT BY TRAIN, NOTEBOOK IN
HAND, TO THE TINY TOWN OF URDOMA,
REACHABLE THROUGH THE BUSTLING
REGIONAL CENTER OF SYKTYVKAR. AS
FAR AS ANYONE COULD REMEMBER, NO
AMERICAN HAD TRAVELED TO THESE
PLACES, AS THEY WERE IN AN OFFICIALLY
“CLOSED” PART OF THE USSR. BUT IT WAS
THE GORBACHEV ERA, AND “CLOSED”
DIDN’T NECESSARILY MEAN CLOSED ANY-
MORE. AT THE END OF A LONG DIRT ROAD,
I FOUND THE HOUSE OF THE MAN I WAS
SEEKING. HE HAD PASSED AWAY THE YEAR
BEFORE, BUT I FOUND HIS SON. I VISITED
THE GRAVEYARD, SURVEYED THE LOCAL
ECONOMY AND LEARNED ABOUT LIFE IN
THE KOMI REPUBLIC.
4. I STILL RECALL THE STRANGE EXHILA-
RATION THAT CAME WITHWRITING
REPORTING CABLES LONGHAND BACK
AT THE CONSULATE, RIPPING PAGES OUT
OF YELLOW LEGAL PADS TO BE HAND-
CARRIED TO FINLAND FOR TYPING AND
TRANSMISSION THROUGH EMBASSY
HELSINKI. THE CONSULATE DIDN’T HAVE
SECURE COMMUNICATIONS AT THAT TIME.
WE WROTE ABOUT POLITICS, ECONOMICS,
HUMAN RIGHTS AND LIFE BEHIND THE
IRON CURTAIN.
5. END USERS AT THE STATE DEPART-
MENT AND OTHER U.S. AGENCIES SEEMED
TO HAVE AN INSATIABLE APPETITE FOR
REPORTING FROM THE SOVIET UNION.
ON-THE-GROUND IMMERSION, LEARNING
AND CONTACT WORK LED TO REPORTING
THAT WAS USEFUL, WAS READ IN WASH-
INGTON, AND IN SOME CASES, COULD
EVEN INFLUENCE POLICY.
6.
REPORTING TODAY.
AIMING TO SHINE
A LIGHT ON THE SUBJECT, FSO DAN
LAWTON (PROTECT) LOOKS AT “THE ART”
OF EMBASSY REPORTING. THOUGH HE
IDENTIFIES MANY CHALLENGES—TRY-
ING TO REACH HARRIED WASHINGTON
AUDIENCES WITH SHORT ATTENTION
SPANS AND INFORMATION OVERLOAD,
AND COPING WITH THE FALLOUT FROM
THE UNPRECEDENTED ASSAULT ON THE
INTEGRITY OF CLASSIFIED COMMU-
NICATIONS—LAWTON BELIEVES THAT
“REPORTING FROM THE FIELD IS STILL
THE INDISPENSABLE INGREDIENT OF ANY
MEANINGFUL FOREIGN POLICY DISCUS-
SION.”
7. NEXT, FORMER CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE
AGENCY DIRECTOR FOR EUROPEAN ANAL-
YSIS JOHN GANNON (PROTECT) HIGH-
LIGHTS THE WAYS THAT EMBASSY REPORT-
ING IS UTILIZED, OFFERING EXAMPLES
FROMHIS OWN EXPERIENCE. A COMPILA-
TION OF SHORT PIECES OFFERS PERSPEC-
TIVES ON REPORTING FROM SEVEN FSOS
IN THE FIELD. A REVIEW OF RAY SMITH’S
BOOK, THE CRAFT OF POLITICAL ANALYSIS
FOR DIPLOMATS, HIGHLIGHTS A VALUABLE
PRACTITIONERS GUIDE THAT FEATURES,
AS A CASE STUDY, EMBASSY MOSCOW’S
PREDICTIONS OF THE FALL OF THE SOVIET
UNION.
8. IF YOU ARE STILL READING, LET ME ALSO
REPORT THAT THE CHIEF-OF-MISSION
QUALIFICATIONS DISCUSSION CONTIN-
UES. IN HIS SPEAKING OUT, AMB. DENNIS
JETT MAKES THE CASE FOR MEASURING
COM PERFORMANCE SYSTEMATICALLY.
IN THIS MONTH’S RELAUNCH OF THE
“AFSA ISSUE BRIEF,” AMB. CHARLIE RAY
LAYS OUT THE EVOLUTION OF THE AFSA
COM GUIDELINES. IN HIS PRESIDENT’S
VIEWS COLUMN, ROBERT J. SILVERMAN
EXPRESSES CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM ABOUT
THE NEW QDDR EXERCISE. AND WE OFFER
TWO VIEWS OF THE WESTGATE TRAGEDY
IN KENYA, ONE FROM A KENYAN JOUR-
NALISM STUDENT, THE OTHER FROM AN
AMERICAN HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT.
9.
BEGIN COMMENT:
REPORTING IS ALIVE
AND WELL. NO MATTER WHERE TECH-
NOLOGY TAKES US, THERE IS NO SUBSTI-
TUTE FOR REAL, LIVE, ON-THE-GROUND
REPORTING OFFICERS. SO PUT DOWN THE
BLACKBERRY AND PLEASE READ ON.
END
COMMENT
10. MINIMIZE CONSIDERED.
Drafted By: FSJED: SDORMAN
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