The Foreign Service Journal - October 2015
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and tactical implementation. If all the

principals are out doing the latter, who is

doing the former? After all, as Shake-

speare noted, “Alas! How should you

govern any kingdom that know not how

to use ambassadors…”

The department is fully equipped

with a large number of assistant secre-

taries (who, it should be noted, are the

equivalent in rank to the military’s six

geographic combatant commanders),

their staffs and numerous experienced

ambassadors, not to mention literally

dozens of special envoys and such who

surely could perform some of these

duties so our leadership can be in Wash-


There is another aspect to consider.

Our luncheon speaker made some

insightful remarks about the political

character of foreign policy. If there was

ever a time when politics stopped at the

water’s edge, that day is long gone.

Domestic politics are an essen-

tial element of contemporary foreign

policy. But if everyone is out of town,

who is taking care of domestic politics?

Who is representing the State Depart-

ment in the corridors of power? As has

often been said, the absent are always

wrong—which may partially explain

the decline in the Department of State’s

influence in the world of Washington


Perhaps this year was an anomaly;

perhaps the planning and scheduling

for next year’s Foreign Affairs Day will

ensure a proper and respectful repre-

sentation from our leadership.

If not, I don’t see any purpose in


Edward Marks

Ambassador, retired

Washington, D.C.