Join the US Foreign Service today? Absoutely

We both had the honor of serving our country as Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) for 66 years. Because FSOs have recently been thrust into the spotlight fulfilling their obligations to the law and appearing before Congress, we are now seeing more and more young people asking the same question: “Given what we hear is happening at the State Department and from what we see what happened to senior staff, should I join the Foreign Service today? Our answer is always a resounding “Yes”. Here are four reasons:

First, America will need professional, creative, and courageous diplomats who represent America’s values, diversity, and strength as long as we aspire to be an indispensable great world leader.

The women and men who become FSOs, along with their military, intelligence and public service colleagues, take a solemn oath at the start of their career and then reaffirm it during their service to our nation. The key words of that oath are worth quoting here: “uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.”

Second, FSOs learn that diplomacy is a profession vital to the advancement and protection of American interests, values, and citizens around the world. It is the job of diplomats to help elected and appointed American leaders create a foreign policy that, as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said, proceeds from “strategic plans rather than reactions to events.” discrete”. Once a decision is made and instructions given, American diplomats must have the skills – quoting Kissinger again – to achieve America’s goals with a clear understanding of “the history, culture and objectives” of the other party.

Third, people who join the Foreign Service today will be pioneers in new ways of doing diplomacy. When we joined the Service, we spent much of our time observing and writing reports. These skills are still vital, but today’s FSOs are being asked to manage the return of great power competition, defeat terrorism, fight drug trafficking, promote sustainable development, fight corruption, to end human trafficking, to support American businesses as they export and invest to create jobs, and to be the first line of defense of our borders while allowing legitimate tourists, men to business and students to visit our country.

The diplomats of today, and those who will serve America in the future, will do this exciting work in an increasingly dangerous world where many of our core values ​​are under attack and while managing the explosion of new ways of instantaneous and dispersed communication.

The essential skills to do this critical job well must be learned. This is the fourth reason why we encourage foreign service membership. The nation needs the best of the best to commit to becoming true professional diplomats; a professionalism that requires, as the diplomat and scholar George F. Kennan said, all the study and all the effort that one can devote to it.

When thousands of US diplomatic cables were illegally exposed by WikiLeaks, the FSOs were angry with the leakers and publishers of the stolen material. They feared that their contacts would never be honest with them again. But following the leaks, an interesting thing happened: journalists and others observed that the FSOs were smart, could write, understood the countries to which they had been assigned, and always kept America’s interests first. their analyzes and recommendations.

Perhaps reading the testimony of FSOs called to Congress will have a similar effect. In the United States, people will see those who serve them as models of a principled, courageous and vital group, proud to be foreign service officers.

That’s why, when asked, we say, “Yes, join the foreign service.” Serve your nation. Become a professional.” Taking the oath opens the door to living what former Under Secretary of State Richard Armitage memorably called a “meaningful life.”

Marc Grossman is Vice Chairman of the Board and Ronald E Neumann is President of the American Academy of Diplomacy, an organization of former senior diplomats. Their views expressed here represent a considered position of the Academy. Follow on Twitter @AcadofDiplomacy.

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