The musings of an Out and Proud Foreign Service Officer
Friday, September 14, 2012
Telling Our Story
Since the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Information Officer Sean Smith, and Security Officers Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty in Tuesday's terrorist attack on our Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, prayers and wishes have been all over regular and social media. But I know that as with all things, as we in the Foreign Service will continue to feel as though we are walking in the Twilight Zone, watching while the world moves on to the next thing.
But while we have this brief moment where the country's attention is focused on diplomats and what we do, I wanted to share with you a couple of good articles that have come out about our work.
We all need to do a better job of telling our story, and we need to start now, for the brief moment that we have the country's attention, even though it took the deaths of four patriots to get it.
From Nick Kralev at Foreign Policy: America's Other Army
"We cannot expect to be protected by our geographic position, which historically has been such an advantage for America -- I think Sept. 11 demonstrated that conclusively," Clinton told me. "In order to maximize the chances that we will enjoy security and tranquility here at home, we have to be in effect the chairman of the board of the world -- to try to get friends and allies to work with us, to mitigate problems, to bring about solutions that neutralize or prevent nonstate actors, as well as rogue states, from taking actions that put the lives and property of our people and our friends and allies at risk."
Got that? For the United States to be truly secure and prosperous, the whole world has to be secure and prosperous -- and that is "the world we seek," according to the National Security Strategy. At the same time, the White House recognizes "the world as it is" and acknowledges that the U.S. government must deal with it. This is where the U.S. diplomats come in: It's their job to reconcile the sometimes contradictory goals of protecting American interests in the short term while also -- somehow -- working to reshape the world into a more secure and prosperous place for future generations.
From Ambassador Prudence Bushnell writing for the NY Times: Our Diplomats Deserve Better
"Diplomacy is a dangerous profession. You cannot exert influence by whispering in diplomatic code to your government counterparts behind closed doors. You do not spread American values — especially in places where passions are high, governments fragile and guns plentiful — by remote control from Washington. You have to get out from behind the walls and engage with people. We know this can put us in harm’s way; our people in the Benghazi consulate knew it. And they did their jobs anyway.
That is because, hokey as it sounds, the people who represent us overseas really do believe they can make a difference. They confront violent behavior and strong passions with American leadership, smart power and peaceful means."
From Daniel Nasaw of the BBC: Libya attack: US diplomats have to work around the danger
"Of course, people who join the foreign service know what they're in for . . . I don't think American diplomats are surprised or intimidated by the fact that they have to serve in difficult places," -- Paul Bremer
From Larry O'Donnell and Senator John McCain on MSNBC: Dangers Facing State Department Workers
Senator McCain is especially eloquent, and O'Donnell makes clear that we and the military have in common that we are government workers serving the country.
And now I will leave you with two images, one is of Secretary Clinton and President Obama at "The Wall" in the State Department that lists the names of all those who have died in the line of duty in the Foreign Service. Since World War II, more Ambassadors have died in the line of duty than Generals or Admirals.
And the next of of my friend Chris and his three fellow diplomats coming home. God speed.
This blog is intended to give anyone who is interested some insight into life in the Foreign Service. The views expressed here are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. State Department. But hopefully, I won't say anything that will even make you wonder.