The Foreign Service Journal - July/August 2015
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Obsession with Security

Kudos to Jim Bullock for his pro-

vocatively written piece

questioning the ever-

growing security budget

and the preoccupation

with security at State.

Bullock knows what

he is talking about. I

served with him in Bagh-

dad, where “Mr. Out and

About” should have been

his position description.

There are no better officers serving this

country than Jim Bullock.

Our obsession with security has paral-

leled the expansion of the U.S. military

in the Middle East. The 1991 Persian Gulf

War was the most visible example of the

U.S. government’s steady retreat from

global engagement since Vietnam. As a

commercial officer in the region from

1981 through 2002, I watched this inexo-

rable shift of power from State to the

Defense Department with great dismay.

The trajectory of USAID since 1975 is an

excellent barometer of these shifts.

Everyone, especially our generals,

says we “cannot just kill everyone,” and

no one says most of the conflicts in

today’s world can (or will) be solved by

force. Tragically, nobody seems to want

to engage in the kind of commitment

the civilian side of conflict resolution


Worse, Congress does not seem

interested in altering the funding and

related policy priorities to energize a

new vision of U.S. civilian diplomatic

international engagement. And that is

not a pretty picture for U.S. diplomacy, as

Jim Bullock so articulately explains.

Charles Kestenbaum

FSO, retired

Former AFSA FCS VP (1997-1999)

Vienna, Virginia





MAY 2015





Out of the Cold

Thank you for publishing the remark-

able poem by Jim Owen, “Coming Out of the Cold” (May FSJ ), which

evokes with grace and humor how

a 12-year-old coped with the xeno-

phobia of Moscow in the 1950s.

Jim’s poem brought to mind a

passage fromGeorge Kennan’s

memoirs, in which he describes an

incident that occurred a few days

before the abrupt and wrenching

end of his brief tour as ambassador in

Moscow in 1952.

A spontaneous playful encounter

between his 2-year-old child and a group

of friendly Russian children was sternly

broken up by the Russian embassy


“It was a small episode, but it came

at the end of a difficult and nerve-

wracking summer,” Kennan writes.

“And something gave way, at that point,

with the patience I was able to observe

in the face of this entire vicious, timid,

medieval regime of isolation to which

the official foreigner in Moscow was

still subjected. Had I been the perfect

ambassador it would not, I suppose,

have given way. But give way it did, and

it could not soon be restored.”

Within 48 hours, Kennan had publicly

compared serving in Moscow with

internment by the Nazi regime. His

ambassadorship was at an end.

What makes Jim Owen’s and George

Kennan’s experiences of more than

just literary or historical interest is the

renewed groundswell of anti-foreign

sentiment that has been building in

recent years in Russia.

Most recently, the passage of

“undesirable organization” legislation

by the Duma marks an escalation of the

regime’s efforts to foment a climate of

suspicion about contact with foreigners.

Perhaps Jim Owen’s poem should be

included in briefing materials for current

assignees to Russia.

Bob Rackmales

Senior FSO, retired

Northport, Maine

State’s Equality Efforts

On April 16, I was shocked and sad-

dened to read comments from GLIFAA

and its president in an article titled

“Gay Diplomats Say State Department Is Failing Their Families,” published on

Having served in the Marine Corps

under “don’t ask, don’t tell” for many

years before starting my career in the

Foreign Service in 2009, I feel that

GLIFAA has completely misrepresented

the incredible determination the State

Department has put into being an

inclusive and welcoming employer for its

entire workforce.

As diplomats, most of us are aware

that functioning in a multinational and

multicultural world comes with limita-

tions. The United States pushes its agenda

abroad, recognizing that we will not be

able to realize all of our goals at once.

I remember how proud I was

when I read the first demarche that

advocated the accreditation of gay

employees’ spouses and pushed foreign

governments to treat their own gay

citizens better. This was a huge step,

because it meant that LGBT issues were

now officially included as a U.S. foreign

policy objective.

The principal complaint voiced by

GLIFAA was the inability of people to

live (and I assume that means openly

and without harassment) in all posts

worldwide. This is a worthy goal, but it

is not just gay men and women who are

limited by conditions overseas.

Families are separated for security