Advancing a Free Society

The Atrophy of Diplomatic Power

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tammy Frisby's smart charts have shamed me into including one relevant to national security policy.  The chart below on Personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan is from the State Department's recent Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, and shows slices of staffing in those three embassies.  The chart was included in the report as advocacy for more people to be hired into the foreign and civil service.  The top two shaded sections are where to focus; they illustrate the number of American diplomats (both foreign service and civil service, who together make up our professional State Department) in purple, and the "other government" professionals in tan just below.



What this chart tells us is that the Department of State is increasingly the springboard for other government agencies to work overseas rather our diplomats being the center of our engagement with the world.  By the end of this year, our embassies in those three crucial countries will have more staff from outside the State Department than in it.  It does not count military personnel as other government; these are all suits, not uniforms.  The non-State people are drug enforcement agents identifying narcotics and working with those governments to prevent their production and trafficking, agriculture experts working crop substitution and irrigation projects, FBI investigators developing leads and collecting evidence, Treasury economists working with central banks and monitoring sanctions on other countries.

The glass half full explanation would be that we are finally becoming proficient at "whole of government operations" in which different agencies coordinate activity.  The glass half empty explanation of having more non-diplomats than diplomats in critical embassies is that responsibilities have migrated to other agencies because our diplomats lack the expertise to conduct them.