A few weeks ago, Glenn Kessler (WaPo, May 26, 2008; A01) wrote about Christopher Hill entitled Mid-Level Official Steered U.S. Shift On North Korea. I supposed because he is not a cabinet level secretary, one could call him a mid-level official. But in the universe of Foggy Bottom, as Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP), Ambassador Hill is one of the principals, and one of the senior career diplomats. You can check out the org chart here where you can see him under P; that’s pretty high up in the food chain, or pay grade or whatever you call it these days.
“Officials in foreign ministries have an advantage which few other bureaucrats have; when dealing with an especially awkward or apparently insoluble problem they can instruct their nation’s ambassador abroad to register concern about, enabling themselves to claim to their superiors and to other interested parties at home that they have done something about the issue. If there are no results, they can impute blame to someone else for this deplorable outcome. If the issue is resolved, they will be in a position to claim credit for this.”
Rule #1 - In the conduct of diplomacy, a diplomat has forever the main supporting role, even as the lead actor is not on stage.
Uh-oh! Somebody with enough clout did not like that spotlight focused on the Hill.
That's going to be the last word on that, folks. Rebuttals are eternal in courts and even in real life, but not on this one. With barely a couple or so hundred days to go left on the six-party talks, I thought he might end up in the doghouse on this one, but based on recent news, it looks like there's no cause for concern. Still something is worth remembering...
Rule #2 - Be careful where you stand; casting a shadow on the lead actor is not good (unless you already have your next gig lined up elsewhere or you have an ace up your sleeve).
Rule #3 - Sometimes life sucks - on stage, off stage, in the FS and elsewhere in this universe - even when you're just standing on the sidewalk. I think the trick is simply not to get run over (or get super-glued inside the doghouse) so that you can get on to the next gig.
In his August 1 column, Al Kamen wrote about the possibility of Senate confirmation for career diplomat D. Kathleen Stephens to be ambassador to South Korea. Apparently, Sen. John Warner (Va.), senior Republican on the Armed Services Committee, invited Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), to a committee hearing yesterday. "Warner praised Stephens and then yielded his time so Brownback, who's not a committee member, could question her anew about her views on human rights and North Korea. Brownback had put a hold on her nomination in April, saying he "did not get satisfactory answers" from her when they chatted privately on human rights issues. She and assistant secretary of state Christopher Hill apparently did better yesterday. Brownback lifted his hold."
There is still George V. Voinovich of Ohio on behalf of Ohio resident Richard Melanson, whose son was allegedly abducted to South Korea by the boy’s mother, after a custody dispute in 2007. Perhaps we'll see Mr. Voinovich in another session at the Armed Services Committee, too?