American Diplomacy
Commentary and Analysis

August 2000

Highlight map


Support American Diplomacy RSS Mailing-list Subscription Email American Diplomacy Facebook

Special Report:
The State of American Diplomacy

William C. Harrop, a distinguished retired U.S. ambassador and former Inspector General, warns of the risks and offers succinct guidelines for the next U.S. President: "The Department of State apparently does not intend to pursue [several] urgently needed reforms. It is critical that the next administration vigorously carry out the modernization of its diplomatic infrastructure." (The Infrastructure of American Diplomacy)

FSO Stephanie S. Kinney, in an unsettling independent research study, finds that "as institutions, neither the Department of State nor the Foreign Service is ready to meet the challenges to American diplomacy foreseen between now and 2010." She proposes some fundamental remedies. (Developing Diplomats for 2010: If Not Now, When?)

Anthony Quainton, a former director general of the Foreign Service, issues a strong call for greater recognition in the Presidential election campaign of the need for stronger and healthier diplomacy: "The costs of diplomatic failure are high." (What ever happened to Diplomacy?)

The author brings to bear his thirty-eight years of experience in diplomacy to issue a strong call for greater recognition in the ongoing Presidential campaign of the role of diplomacy in the conduct of U.S. relations abroad, and for added emphasis on support for a strengthened U.S. Foreign Service. ~ Ed.

“The American Foreign Service provides the linguistic, cultural, and analytical skills which must inform every United States activity beyond its borders. . . . The costs of diplomatic failure are high.”

OTH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES have now spoken about their vision of America’s place in the world. Both are calling for American leadership in defense of freedom. Both advocate a strong military. Al Gore, seemingly the more activist, calls for a stance of forward engagement to create an “ever widening circle of freedom, human dignity and self-sufficiency.” But George Bush is equally clear about the need for “a distinctly American internationalism” which encourages “stability from a position of strength.”

Muscular foreign policy is in vogue. Both candidates are clear about the military resource implications of their policies. Gore espouses a strong national defense and a military capability second to none in order that America can wage peace through diplomacy. George Bush explicitly has announced he would restore the morale of the military, which he asserts has been squandered by shrinking resources and multiplying missions. The solution he proposes is better training, better treatment, and better pay. Gore calls for the “forces and resources” needed to deal with all threats to America’s security.

This emphasis on military resources has an ironic sound against the background of the extensive global agenda which the two candidates are committed to pursuing. None of the problems which they identify in U.S. relations with Russia, China, the Middle East, the Indian sub-continent, etc., is susceptible to a military solution. All require energetic and patient diplomacy. And yet diplomacy, as managed by the State Department and implemented by the Foreign Service, gets short shrift. Bush is dismissive, referring to the “smirks and scowls of diplomacy.” To be sure, Gore calls for waging peace through diplomacy and castigates the Republicans for their refusal to fund America’s diplomatic and international development efforts. But these are off hand remarks in a speech more notable for its emphasis on military capabilities than for its concern about the political, economic or social dimensions of foreign policy. Neither candidate acknowledges the hollowing out of America’s diplomatic capabilities over the last fifteen years as budgets have been slashed by more than forty percent in Democratic and Republican congresses alike.

None of America’s lofty goals and little of its leadership potential can be achieved without a strong professional diplomatic service, adequately funded, politically supported, and publicly acknowledged. Like that of its military counterparts, the Foreign Service’s morale has been squandered. But in addition, the profession of diplomacy has been demeaned, reduced in the public’s mind to a board game played by effete, elegant, and unrepresentative individuals more knowledgeable about champagne and caviar than the real concerns of Main Street America. The result has been a false sense that America’s world leadership can be had on the cheap. Like the armed forces, the Foreign Service needs better training, better treatment, and better pay.

A recent book from the American Academy of Diplomacy, First Line of Defense, eloquently makes the case for greater attention to diplomacy. It notes the high price in terms of lives lost that the American Foreign Service has paid over the years. It is no disrespect to the American military to note that more Ambassadors have given their lives in terrorist incidents than Generals did in Vietnam. Diplomacy is a high-risk business on which the security of America relies. The reporting, analysis, representation, and negotiation which America’s representatives abroad carry out are essential ingredients of our global leadership. No overseas program, whether in counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism, trade promotion or sustainable development, is likely to succeed without the value-added of professional diplomacy. The American Foreign Service provides the linguistic, cultural, and analytical skills which must inform every United States activity beyond its borders. When diplomacy fails, almost inexorably we are called on to use military resources.

The costs of diplomatic failure are high. As the presidential campaign unfolds, the candidates should explicitly recognize that diplomacy is indeed America’s first line of defense and forthrightly call for the resources necessary to sustain and enhance it.  


Reprinted by permission from INCONGRESS, a free unfiltered channel for interest groups to post issue information on current issues in Congress and other important topics. Incongress.com's Pundits' Place provides a distribution channel for op-ed articles written on timely topics by amateur pundits. Articles can be submitted at www.incongress.com/pundits.


Herman J. Cohen, an old 'Congo hand' and former assistant secretary of state for Africa, observes that "in a continent that is lagging further and further behind the rest of the world in economic development, this latest tragedy makes one wonder how and when Africa will finally hit bottom and start moving upward again."
(Agony in the Congo)

On the basis of his personal experience in wartime Vietnam, J. R. Bullington, argues that, contrary to popular belief, (a) the war was winnable and (b) the antiwar protests were largely responsible for bringing it to an end.
(Mythed Opportunities: Comments on Vietnam from Personal Experience)

Harvery Sicherman, president of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, assesses the Syrian leader over the three decades he exercised power. Dr. Sicherman argues that Assad was strategically slow to act.
(Hafez al-Assad: The Man Who Waited Too Long)

A retired senior Foreign Service officer with many years of experience in the Middle East, Curtis Jones concludes that President Asad had more success, at least in military affairs, than some of the other Arab leaders in the region. He notes nonetheless that Syria’s future under a new leader — like that of her neighbors — remains unpredictable.
(Governing Syria After Asad).

Search the American Diplomacy website





American Diplomacy                Vol. V, No. 3                Summer 2000
Copyright © 2000 American Diplomacy Publishers, Durham NC

Anthony C. E. Quainton was a career diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service from 1959 to 1997. Among his senior assignments were ambassadorships to the Central African Empire, Nicaragua, Kuwait, and Peru. He was assistant secretary of State for diplomatic security, 1992-95, and director general of the Foreign Service, 1995–97. 

white starAmerican Diplomacy white star
Copyright © 2012 American Diplomacy Publishers Chapel Hill NC