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F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / J U LY - A U G U S T 2 0 1 2
grams can be rebuilt relatively rap-
idly, but institutional and personnel
structures take decades to rebuild if
they are not properly maintained.
The so-called “peace dividend”
taken after the collapse of the Soviet
Union, with the opening of 20 new
embassies and simultaneous reduc-
tions in staff, resulted in a hollow
diplomacy manifestly too weak to
meet its responsibilities at the be-
ginning of the 21st century. As re-
cently as 2008, nearly a fifth of
positions requiring language competence were not filled
by officers possessing the relevant skill — the equivalent
of soldiers without bullets. Half a decade later, even after
greatly expanded budgets we are barely keeping pace with
language requirements. This is symptomatic of the time
required to build a capacity once lost or damaged.
All these complexities only un-
derscore the need for a well-re-
searched, carefully documented,
forward-looking study of America’s
diplomatic needs. The post-Arab
Spring world and the breadth of
multinational challenges are here to
stay. If the United States is to suc-
ceed in recalibrating the levers of
state power so that military action is
not seen as the default solution,
then it must have the tools and
skilled personnel to conduct an ef-
fective diplomacy in support of its interests.
If we fail, the mistakes of the past will be a prologue for
the future. Fortunately, this need not happen, and the
Academy of American Diplomacy will do its share to avert
such an outcome. Yet make no mistake: this struggle will
be long and difficult.
All these complexities
only underscore the need
for a well-researched,
carefully documented,
forward-looking study of
America’s diplomatic needs.