The Foreign Service Journal - July/August 2015
Table of Contents Table of Contents
Previous Page  9 / 104 Next Page
Basic version Information
Show Menu
Previous Page 9 / 104 Next Page
Page Background






Diplomacy: The State of the Profession



Shawn Dorman is the editor of

The Foreign Service Journal.

lay out the problems—in particular, the

degradation of the role of Foreign Service

officers in the policy process due to a

variety of factors, including an influx

of political appointees and non-career

officials. They then offer a set of 23 spe-

cific recommendations for renewing the

career Foreign Service’s role in formulat-

ing and implementing U.S. foreign policy.

We shared links to the report and the

recommendations with AFSA members,

and you will find their feedback in the

compilation, “Continuing the Conversa- tion.” The specialists we heard fromwere

particularly unhappy that their role was

only given a one-line nod, even as the

report devoted considerable space to

assessing the Civil Service.

This touches on a central theme that

deserves further discussion: how to

define the “diplomacy team.” Who gets to

be on that team, and how do we reconcile

the need for a truly professional Foreign

Service with the reality that diplomacy is

being carried out more broadly by more

types of agents than ever before?

In this month’s Speaking Out column, “America Needs a Professional Foreign Service,” retired Ambassador Charlie Ray

poses a different question: Is the Foreign

Service a profession? His answer may

surprise you.

Next, we hear from the head of the

brand-new British Diplomatic Academy,

Jon Davies, who shares the goals and plans for this first-ever institution—much of it actually online—to educate and train members of the British Foreign Service. The opportunity for collaboration

between the United States and the United

Kingdom in diplomatic training has never

been greater.

In “FiveThings You Should Know about the QDDR,” FSO Chris Degnan

brings us back to the United States and

the current state of the Foreign Service,

offering a look at the strategic plan for

the State Department and USAID. Here’s

hoping some may find inspiration there.

Finally, we share the full text of the

George Kennan article I quoted at the

start of this column, “On Diplomacy As a Profession.” Based on a speech Kennan

gave at AFSA, it was published in the May


Foreign Service Journal


As promised last month, and as a

follow-up to our April focus on Vietnam,

we bring you “Uncovering the Lessons of Vietnam,” including two 1975 Lesson


Learned memos—one by State FSOs, the

other by Henry Kissinger. They illustrate

two very different interpretations of what

one could, or could not, learn from the

American involvement in the Vietnam

War. We discovered the memos thanks

to Ambassador David Lambertson, who

drafted the State memo. State Depart-

ment Historian Steve Randolph frames

the two pieces with a useful intro.

In “Surviving Al-Jazeera and Other Public Calamities,” FSO Alberto Ferna


dez deconstructs the uproar over one

comment he made in an interview with

Al-Jazeera, offering insight into the art

and craft of speaking publicly today.

Help us keep the conversation about

the state of the Foreign Service going;

send letters to

or submit

a Speaking Out column.


“Diplomacy is always going to consist

to some extent of serving people who do not

know that they are being served, who do

not know that they need to be served, who

misunderstand and occasionally abuse the

very effort to serve them.”

George Kennan, May 1961


iplomats have long been the

unsung heroes of international

relations. As George Kennan

famously observed, no bands

will ever play for the Foreign Service.

Our profession is and has always been

misunderstood, if thought of at all, by the

American public. The Foreign Service

Acts of 1946 and 1980 call for the United

States to have a professional diplomatic

corps, but the implementation of that goal

frequently bends to the political winds.

For all these reasons, the institution

seems to be in a perpetual existential

crisis. So in this issue, we consider the

current state (pun not intended) of the

Foreign Service and the diplomatic pro-

fession today. Just how bad are things? Is

the Service truly in crisis and, if so, is the

situation indeed more serious than in the


First, American Academy of Diplo-

macy President Ronald Neumann, a distinguished three-time ambassador, summarizes AAD’s latest report, Ameri- can Diplomacy at Risk.

Released in April,

the study sounds the

alarm about a Foreign

Service under increas-

ing threat. Its authors