Page 29 - Foreign Service Journal - December 2012

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e are in the midst of an
important but undeclared
debate about how America
engages with the world. In
the Foreign Service, we are
the ones on the front lines
of engagement, and how we
choose to conduct diplo-
macy in today’s world will have long-term strategic implications.
Te second half of the 20th century witnessed repeated attacks
on diplomatic facilities by criminals and terrorists of all stripes—
communist, nationalist, Islamist and narcoterrorist. In most of
the world since the end of the Cold War, that violence has faded.
But ideologies that reject modernity and use violence to advance
political aims continue to fester in some regions.
As a result, we face the temptation to pull away when a tiny
minority defames their society through an act of violence against
our colleagues or our diplomatic facilities. Tis is one of the major
challenges of the new century. Fortunately, our frst Secretary of
State, Tomas Jeferson, gave us pretty solid guidance on how to
handle it in a 1797 letter to Elbridge Gerry: “Nothing but good can
result from an exchange of information and opinions between
those whose circumstances and morals admit no doubt of the
integrity of their views.”
Indeed, American diplomacy has a long history of openness.
Our ideals and engagement have helped nurture freedom around
the world, from the early 19th-century revolutions of indepen-
dence throughout the Western Hemisphere to our outposts of
uncensored thought throughout the Soviet bloc, and on to our
moral support of the Arab Spring’s struggles for dignity.
Our embassies and cultural centers have long been not only
symbols of our values but physical incubators of those values.
We have ofered gathering places and uncensored information
because we understand that free societies, no matter where or
who, are in our long-term interests. And just as importantly, we
engaged the people and societies of our host countries, showing
the world the best of America and learning to understand each
unique culture in which we found ourselves.
Earlier this year I received AFSA’s William R. Rivkin Award
for constructive dissent by a mid-level Foreign Service ofcer.
Tis honor recognized my dissent cable asking the Department
of State’s leadership to reconsider policy decisions on security
which, I believe, are having negative strategic consequences for
our foreign policy. In that cable, I suggested that our zero-risk
policies would make us less secure. In particular, I questioned
the move toward the fortress architecture that characterizes the
Now it is more important than ever to
maintain our tradition of open diplomacy
all over the world.
Joshua W. Polacheck, a mid-level public diplomacy ofcer, is currently
the senior policy adviser for Near Eastern afairs to Ambassador-at-
Large Melanne Verveer in the Ofce of Global Women’s Issues. After
joining the Foreign Service in 2003, Polacheck frst served in Harare
and Santo Domingo, then on the Provincial Reconstruction Team in
Ninewah and in Beirut. In his most recent overseas assignment, he was
a deputy border coordinator in Islamabad, where he traveled regularly
to Afghanistan. He was this year’s winner of AFSA’s William R. Rivkin
Award for constructive dissent by a mid-level Foreign Service ofcer.