The Foreign Service Journal - October 2017

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | OCTOBER 2017 17 ponent in the training of young Marine lieutenants. While ethics is a part of our training at the Foreign Service Institute, my survey of the courses being offered indicates that FSI emphasizes compliance -based ethics. Such courses do not address the issue of “value conflict”—those situ- ations when it’s not a matter of legal versus illegal, or even right versus wrong, but when two or more courses of action are legal, but contain value conflicts. For example, what does an FSO decide when asked to do something that is legal, and in a certain context, right, but would forestall another action that is also legal and right? An example from my own experience illustrates the point. When I served as ambassador to Zim- babwe, an American citizen was arrested in one of the provinces on trumped-up charges by an over-zealous provincial police chief. While the embassy, myself included, worked quietly behind the scenes with senior government officials, the governor of the same province made an inflammatory public statement about the operation of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in his province; his announcement was out of line with Zimbabwe’s national policy and exacer- bated a situation that NGOs were facing in other countries. At the time, our policy was to take a firm line on such actions, which would, ordinarily, have called for a strong public statement at the least. But I faced a dilemma: If I made a public statement against the governor, it would probably have torpedoed our efforts to secure the American’s release from prison. On the other hand, failing to respond could lead to problems with NGO opera- tions countrywide; and, at the time, the majority of our programs were run through NGOs. I had two “right” courses of action. What was I to do? I decided that the most immediate and identifiable harm would be caused if we did anything to jeopardize the Ameri- can citizen’s situation. Because the other nine provincial governors had publicly expressed disagreement with their col- league’s position, and I had received assurances from senior national officials that the national policy would continue to be applied, I decided that any imme- diate harm to NGOs would be minimal, and we would have time to work it out after the American had crossed Zimba- bwe’s border as a free man. Events vindicated my decision. The American was freed with an apology from the police, and the NGO announce- ment turned out to be all smoke and no fire. The governor had been trying to burnish his credentials as a hard-liner, and had overreached. His announce- ment was quietly ignored and the NGOs continued to operate under the existing rules. Later, the NGOs thanked me for not muddying the waters of their closed- door negotiations with the governor with a provocative public statement. I’d like to be able to say that my FSI training or my time in uniform prepared me to assess such situations, but sadly, that’s not the case. I had to rely on my own instincts and experience, trusting that they were right. Transforming Training If we are to prepare Foreign Service personnel of all ranks to operate effec- tively in these troubled times, this has to change. While compliance ethics must remain a part of our training, it is not suf- ficient. We need to prepare our people to operate effectively in the gray areas—the situations when the line between right and wrong is blurred. They have to be able to assess situations when they face