Texas Governor Rick Perry's comments about members of the U.S. Foreign Service during a Nov. 7 radio interview (http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2011/11/7/perry-questions-intentions-of-american-diplomats) reflect a serious misunderstanding of their role in promoting American interests overseas. Diplomacy is rightly recognized as the first line of defense and a vital instrument for ensuring national security, along with the military. Foreign Service professionals carry out their role with exemplary dedication all over the world, including war zones and other dangerous regions.
Indeed, hundreds of American diplomats have given their lives in the line of duty, including six ambassadors: John Mein (Guatemala, 1968), Cleo Noel (Sudan, 1973), Rodger Davies (Cyprus, 1974), Francis Meloy (Lebanon, 1976), Adolph Dubs (Afghanistan, 1979) and Arnold Raphel (Pakistan, 1988). Other Foreign Service professionals who have made the ultimate sacrifice at the hands of terrorists or drug traffickers include Charles Robert Ray (France, 1982), William Buckley (Lebanon, 1985), Gary Durell and Jacqueline Van Landingham (Pakistan, 1995), George Tsantes (Greece, 1983), Leamon Hunt (Italy, 1984), Barbara Green and Laurence Foley (Pakistan, 2002), James Mollen and Edward Seitz (Iraq, 2004), Barbara Heald, Keith Taylor and Stephen Sullivan (Iraq, 2005), and David Foy (Pakistan, 2006). The bombings of our embassies in Beirut in 1983 and 1985, and in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1998, killed scores more.
Wherever they are posted, American diplomats are dedicated to serving their country, promoting U.S. national interests as articulated by our country's elected leaders. Drawing on invaluable expertise accumulated over decades of living and working in countries all over world, often separated from family, they provide sound advice for policy decisions regardless of which party is in power, in keeping with high standards of professional excellence. They serve at the pleasure of the president, are confirmed by Congress and need the informed support of both branches of government to be effective.
In an ever more uncertain, complex world our diplomatic personnel deal with the entire spectrum of our interaction with the rest of the world. So to keep America strong and secure, we need more diplomacy, not less. And we need more, not less, support from our political leaders and citizens for their work to defend and advance our interests abroad.
Very diplomatically put. Hopefully, Governor Perry is paying attention. Of course, who can say if he'll even remember any of this?