OpinionMeister

Monday, January 17, 2005

Condi Rice at State

The Christian Science Monitor asks:
When Condoleezza Rice goes to the Senate next week for confirmation hearings as secretary of State, she will appear before a row of senators as something of an enigma: a national security adviser who oversaw a steady shift of authority over foreign policy toward the Pentagon and the vice-president's office, and is now taking over the agency she helped eclipse.

The big question in Washington is whether she will reestablish the preeminent role of the State Department in foreign affairs, helping the careerists on C Street exert more influence over everything from Iraq to Ukraine. Certainly the early signs suggest this is her goal. Even her taking the job at State offers some indication. President Bush's closest confidante on foreign policy since the 2000 election, she initially hoped for the Defense secretary's chair.

Link to whole article.

There are good reasons that many presidents, not just George W. Bush, looked elsewhere than the State Department for foreign policy advise. The role of State is to implement foreign policy, not to design it. It is composed primarily of diplomats. They serve in foreign nations as representatives of the U.S., more or less a 'face of America' seen by foreigners.

One of the problems many Foreign Service officers face is that they live in foreign capitals for years at a time. This can affect them in ways that you do not want in people you rely on for foreign policy advise. Like everyone else, they want their lives to be pleasant. This goal is best served by getting along well with the host government and its members with whom they have to deal. If they send back reports accurately describing the depravity of their hosts, their lives will not be as pleasant as if they make excuses for them. Over time, they internalize this rosy view of whatever country in which they serve. They end up representing their foreign host to the United States, rather than representing the United States to thier foreign host government.

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