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12

SEPTEMBER 2015

|

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

first post. So, in a way—you succeeded.

If that does not lighten your heart,

remember you are working for an orga-

nization that pays well, has not eroded

all of the benefits and consistently ranks

in the top five places to work in the gov-

ernment. See? Good news!

However, if you feel as many of those

I have spoken to do, that a promotion

is the true mark of success—either we

have failed miserably, or the department

is trying to tell us that they do not need

our experience, our esprit de corps or

our successes.

There is a new breed on board and

the Oldersauruses (that’s us) are extinct,

even though we are still walking around

for a little while longer.

Richard E. McCormick

FSS, Operations Officer

Regional Information

Management Center Bangkok

The Epitome of

Professions

In his significant Speaking Out col-

umn in the July-August FSJ , “America Needs a Professional Foreign Service,”

Ambassador Charles Ray questioned the

professionalism of the Foreign Service.

On the basis of criteria offered by

Professor Dan Snider of the Army War

College, Amb. Ray concluded that the

Foreign Service was not fully a profes-

sion, at least not yet. I, on the

other hand, consider it the

epitome of professions, the

standard by which other profes-

sionalisms should be judged.

Practically speaking, I have

no choice. I was formed by the

Foreign Service; apart from a

stint in the Army during World

War II, I had no previous institu-

tional formation. Foreign Service

disciplines are the ones I bring to my

present profession: theology.

Further, if the Service is not fully a

profession, the links between it and

theology discerned in my book Theology and the Disciplines of the Foreign Service (reviewed in the April FSJ ) would not

work. In making these links apparent,

the book gives an account of the Foreign

Service, highlighting the following key

features.

The Foreign Service was forged by

its history, above all its post-World War

II history. In his historical survey, Ray

recognizes a difference before and after

the war.

But in my view he does not allow suf-

ficiently for the transformation that the

nation, and with it the Foreign Service,

underwent in those few years. From a

secondary player in the world it went to

being one of two superpowers, locked,

moreover, in a struggle for survival with

each other.

The resulting pressures on the

Foreign Service were tremendous. They

may be seen as the main source of its

strict hierarchism; its insistence on total

commitment by its members; its stress

on teamwork, not solo performance;

its insistence on both cogency and

exactitude in reporting; and its tradition

of accomplishing assignments no matter

how difficult and of meeting deadlines

no matter how tight.

These features are per-

haps most evident in its

performance in pre-1975

Vietnam.

And they have implica-

tions for training, one

of Amb. Ray’s concerns.

Certainly more training is

desirable. But for officers

to become fully profes-

sional, years of service under

supervisors already formed are required,

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