Monday, January 26, 2009

Quickie: An FSO’s Dad Pitches for Diplomacy

On Friday, Joe Klein posted Diplomacy First at Swampland.

I don't think enough has been said about the importance of Barack Obama's appearance at the State Department yesterday--the message it sent to the world and also to our foreign service. It was wonderful to see the President at Foggy Bottom on his first full day in office: such appearances are rare, especially compared to the frequency of presidential visits to the Pentagon. The symbolic message was clear: diplomacy will take precedence over the use of force in this administration (although the judicious use of force will continue, as evidenced by the Predator strike in northwest Pakistan yesterday).


Another word about Holbrooke: I thought his personal memories of first arriving at the State Department as a junior foreign service officer in the 1960s were quite moving, as was his acknowledgment of his old Saigon roomate, the departing Deputy Secretary John Negroponte. He was also right to note the importance of the President's presence to the oft-neglected career foreign service.

Then Joe admits to a conflict of interest:

I have something of a conflict of interest here: my son is a foreign service officer. As a father and as a citizen, it's good to see America's diplomats given the opportunity to take their rightful place, front and center in our foreign policy once again.

In the comment portion, somebody named hickoryduck says: “Seeing State employees basically cheering was sort of bizarre. Jeez, it's like they've been locked in a basement for 8 years.”

Speaking of that State reception last week, Scott Horton of Harpers writes that "the reaction of State Department employees as Hillary Clinton arrived this morning apparently bears comparison to the liberation of Paris at the end of World War II." Any other historical comparison out there? Related Item: Can Clinton and Her Envoys Rebuild U.S. Diplomacy?

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