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December 07, 2004

Common Sense from an Uncommon Source

I don't often find much worth reading in the left-wing weekly The New Republic, but this week's issue has two articles that justified the cost of my subscription.

First, Lawrence Kaplan has an excellent essay on reforming the Foreign Service and the challenge facing new SecState Condoleeza Rice.

Kaplan makes the point that the Foreign Service (the career diplomats who dominate the Department of State) have long been out-of-control; resenting and resisting political control over their agency. He cites a 1966 study requested by Democratic Secretary of State Dean Rusk conducted by Yale professor Chris Argyris as well as a bi-partisan 2001 review by the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century (aka the Hart-Rudman Commission).

The need for restoring discipline in the DoS is obvious and long overdue. The Department, contrary to what some pundits have been arguing in recent weeks, should not consider itself as part of a "loyal opposition" to the Administration that is entitled to independent opinions on matters of policy to act as a counter-weight to elected leaders. Rather, it is an instrument of Administration policy, which should effectively represent the government's views to foreign governments (and visa versa). Like military officers, career foreign service officers serve to implement the decisions of their elected civilian leaders. Unfortunately, too many US diplomats seem to have forgotten this essential truth.

Second, Editor Peter Beinart has a superb analysis of the presidential election results and their implications for the Democratic party. Hell, if Democrats were to take to heart Beinart's recommendation to return to the "hard", anti-totalitarianism liberal traditions of Truman or JFK, I might even consider voting for one again.


Beinart's essay has been boiled down for an OpEd column in today's WaPo titled "Can the Democrats Fight? Cold War Lessons for Reclaiming Trust on National Security." I hope that the party leaders meeting this weekend in Orlando to hear from candidates for chairman of the Democratic Party have a chance to read it.

December 7, 2004 at 12:48 PM | Permalink


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