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18
NOVEMBER 2012
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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
or decades, the percentage of
ambassadors who are politi-
cal appointees has remained
remarkably stable at a little over
30 percent. Should AFSA push to reduce
that number? Or does it still matter in
today’s world?
Some might argue that the ease and
speed of communications and travel
have made the work of ambassadors an
anachronism that is largely irrelevant in
the 21st century, and therefore some-
thing people with little experience in
government can easily do. But many of
us believe that the challenges presented
by globalization, and the fact that no
other major country has anywhere near
such a high proportion of noncareer
ambassadors, should sufce to prompt
reforms.
Either way, this feature of American
democracy is a time-honored practice
that is not likely to change. To under-
stand why, it helps to know a bit of
history.
Over our country’s frst 150 years,
there was a slow but steady increase in
the number of overseas missions, which
fell into two categories: diplomatic and
consular. Te chief function of the diplo-
matic posts was conducting the tradi-
tional political work involved in bilateral
relations. Consular ofces, on the other
hand, dealt with commercial and trade
Psst! Hey, Buddy, Wanna
Buy an Ambassadorship?
BY DENN I S J ETT
F
While speaking out won’t end the
practice of pay-to-play ambassadorships,
it is still worth doing.
Dennis Jett, an FSO from 1972 to 2000, was ambassador to Mozambique and Peru, and deputy
chief of mission in Malawi and Liberia, among many other assignments. Now a professor of
international afairs at Penn State University, he is the author of
Why Peacekeeping Fails
(Palgrave, 2001) and regularly writes op-ed pieces for major newspapers.
SPEAKING OUT
issues and the protection of American
businessmen, sailors and other citizens.
Consuls were expected to sustain
themselves by the fees they charged for
their services. Tat often put them in
a diferent social class from the diplo-
mats, who usually drew on considerable
personal wealth to supplement their
meager government salaries.
Te only real limit to the number of
consular posts was the number of cities
where a consul could do enough busi-
ness to be self-sustaining. Te number