Foreign Service Myths
In two posts about the recent announcement that the State Department would force Foreign Service Officers to take hardship assignments in Iraq, Consul-At-Arms, a former soldier and current FSO, dispels some myths about his chosen line of work.
First, the alternative to Iraq duty isn’t necessarily a day at the beach:
[A]nyone who thinks that all Caribbean (or even all European) posts are either comfortable or safe is under the mistaken impression that U.S. diplomats serve at one of the Hedonism beach resorts instead of what in many cases are capital cities with slums on par with any in the rest of the Third World featuring violent gunmen to match.
The post also gives some interesting details about FSO’s get posting assignments.
This is not your father’s, nor your grandfather’s, Foreign Service. Not that the Ivy Leaguers aren’t well-represented in today’s Foreign Service, at least by comparison with the general population, but Ivy Leaguer’s these days seem to go where the money is. Law. Business. Politics.
There’s a tendency, especially among conservatives and, doubly so among those with military backgrounds, to view FSO’s as effete sons of privilege who spend their day sipping tea and eating cucumber sandwiches. To the extent that was ever the case, those days are long gone.
The post also notes that the Foreign Service has a problem in common with our armed forces: the lack of people with the skill sets needed for reconstruction and stabilization operations. Both our military and our diplomatic corps are built around a very different set of missions that those to which they are increasingly deployed. And despite “everybody” in the relevant decision chains knowing this, very little is being done about that fact.