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Foriegn Service Life Letter to an Editor

November 2013

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What can be learned in three years of on-the-job training
by Edward Marks

Letter to the Editor of the Washington Post

October 16, 2013

Let me see if I understand the key points of the Oct. 15 Style article “Welcome to the world of Norm Eisen,” about the U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic:

1. At taxpayers’ expense, a friend of the president, with no knowledge of the business, is given a job as a U.S. ambassador, with three years of on-the-job-training.

2. With the support of a sizable team of professionals, this individual has learned to do a more or less passable job.

3. Among other things, he has learned that “you cannot discount the importance of being present in the flesh on a retail basis.” The members of the professional U.S. Foreign Service, soon to celebrate its 90th anniversary, will be gratified to learn this.

4. The appointment of political ambassadors brings to the practice of diplomacy, as an Austrian diplomat put it, a “level of energy and communications that is the great advantage of the American system.” This claim is unsupported by any evidence or argument and is noticeably ignored by almost every other country in the world, including Austria.

I wonder if Mr. Eisen’s litigation firm would consider hiring me as a senior litigator. True, I know nothing of the business, but I am confident that, with adequate staff support, I could manage reasonably well in two or three years.

And I already know how to go to three cocktail parties in a single evening.

Edward Marks, Washington

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The views expressed by the author are his own.


author The writer is a retired Foreign Senior Service officer. He serves on the board of the American Foreign Service Association.

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