Foreign Matters

Over the last 24 hours or so, I have learned something remarkable about myself. First, I learned that I was woefully ignorant about the Foreign Service part of the Department of State. Second, I learned that my ignorance was shared by a goodly number of those people currently employed by the Foreign Service. Thirdly, I learned that I was a lot smarter than they apparently are, because I can learn.

Before the whole brouhaha arose from the State Department with career diplomats saying “hell, no, we won’t go!” to Iraq, I didn’t realize that Foreign Service was not just a description, but a must-be-capitalized proper noun, the name of an actual government body.

I have also learned that Foreign Service Officers have more than a little in common with military officers. Both have commissions, both take oaths of service, and both (in theory) understand that they may be sent pretty much anywhere in the world as their services are needed.

There are major differences, though. As I understand it, only a single State Department employee has been killed in Iraq, and he was not a Foreign Service Officer. Also, FSOs can resign their commission at any time, and apply to another part of the State Department or leave the Department entirely.

Over at Outside The Beltway, former Foreign Service Officer John Burgess talked about his career — and how little respect he feels for those FSOs who were protesting their potential assignment to Iraq. And in the comments here, I discovered that longtime friend of Wizbang (and outstanding blogger in his own right) Will Franklin had sought to join the Foreign Service — and, in a loss to our nation, did not get the call after going through the steps and passing all the tests.

Also, in response to my piece yesterday, one commenter quoted a report that the Bush administration has been making efforts to ensure that diplomats sent abroad reflect the views of the Bush administration — the phrase “litmus test” has been used. That generated a “well, duh” response from me. According to their own web site, “Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) help formulate and implement the foreign policy of the United States.” Note that they HELP formulate and implement foreign policy — they do NOT set it. According to the Constitution (remember that), the President is the primary agent of foreign policy — with some limited input from Congress. The last thing we need is a bunch of self-important Dips deciding to set and implement their own foreign policy in whatever country where they are assigned. Lord knows we’ve seen enough of that sort of thing.

So here we have a bunch of Foreign Service Officers who think that their oaths and duties are optional, that they should not be obligated to carry out the duties that they agreed to when they signed on. Luckily, they do have the choice to resign at any time.

And if they need any help writing those letters of resignation, I cheerfully offer my services at no charge. It’s the least I can do for my country.

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