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American Diplomacy
Commentary and Analysis

June 2003

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Although the following is the text of a letter from the president of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), not an analysis of a foreign affairs question in the usual form, this journal believes it contains information highly relevant to consideration of such issues. The AFSA president’s message therefore is included for the information of readers.—Ed.

Subject: Defending the Foreign Service

Below is the text of a letter to the editor of the Washington Post that AFSA submitted on May 2. Although the Post has so far not published it, we thought that our members would be interested in our rebuttal to yet another attack on the career Foreign Service. We also e-mailed the letter to Mr. Richard Perle along with an invitation for him to attend the annual AFSA Memorial Plaque ceremony on May 9. He has not replied.

Dear Editor:

Your May 2 news article "Expert on Terrorism To Direct Rebuilding" included a shameful slur against America's career diplomats by Pentagon advisor Richard Perle. Discussing President Bush's selection of Foreign Service Officer L. Paul Bremer to direct the rebuilding of Iraq, Perle characterizes Ambassador Bremer as being "aggressive by Foreign Service standards (but) I've seen hummingbirds that are aggressive by Foreign Service standards."

It is unfortunate that Mr. Perle does not understand that our nation's diplomats do indeed aggressively promote vital U.S. interests, often in harsh or dangerous places. As Secretary of State Colin Powell told a Senate committee on April 30, "I send young State Department officers out to the most difficult places in the world to serve their country, taking their families with them where there may not be any hospital care, there may not be any school for their kids, or where they're separated from their families for a longer period of time than the average soldier gets separated from his family. And they go willingly because they're happy to serve the American people."

Indeed, I invite Mr. Perle to visit the Department of State this coming Friday, May 9, to witness the addition of six more names to the AFSA Memorial Plaques honoring American diplomats who have died in the line of duty while serving our nation abroad. Those plaques now contain 215 names. As a Pentagon advisor, Mr. Perle might be particularly interested in the fact that, in the last half century, more U.S. Ambassadors than generals and admirals have died in the line of duty.

Sincerely,
John K. Naland
President, American Foreign Service Association


John K. Naland is a career Foreign Service officer and president of the American Foreign Service Association.

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