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THE COMPETITION C H A P T E R F O U R 25 T he comic-strip philosopher Pogo famously said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” This does not satisfactorily describe the nature of your relationship with your audience, but it captures an element that the craftsman should not ignore. You exist with them in a collaborative/competitive relationship—in some cases close, in some cases distant, sometimes mostly collaborative, at other times mostly competitive . It is important to remember, however, that your audience is only a part, and not always the most important part, of your competition. There will be those who will say, referring to diplomatic political analysis, “This is not a competition.” Do not believe them. It is a competition of ideas, not necessarily zero-sum, but a competition nonetheless. It is a competition for attention, much more nearly zero-sum, since attention requires time and energy, neither in unlimited supply. It is a competition for influence, if you are doing this work because you think it matters, rather than just collecting a paycheck. Let us look at your audience now as competitors, rather than simply as grateful recipients of the blessings of your brilliance. Then we can look at the ever-widening universe from which your other competitors can be drawn. THE COUNTRY DESK Ideally, and in most cases in fact, the country desk and the embassy political analyst are mutually supportive. The country desk can be of great help to the analyst, not only by encouraging a wider readership for his work, but also by letting the analyst know what issues are most on the minds of senior officials and suggesting analytical efforts that are 26 ———— THE CRAFT OF POLITICAL ANALYSIS FOR DIPLOMATS needed or would get Washington’s attention. This can help the embassy prioritize its work. It needs to be said again that time and energy are always more limited than are subjects for political analysis. Knowing what interests the leadership at home can guide, if not govern, the embassy’s use of its resources. If the country desk is uniquely positioned to help the embassy understand the capital’s interests and priorities, the embassy is uniquely positioned to help the country desk understand developments in the host country. As we indicated in the previous chapter, this is one of the most vital aspects of helping the desk officer achieve his own objectives. This mutual support can be the basis for a highly beneficial symbiosis. As we briefly mentioned before, however, it is not always necessarily sweetness and light in this relationship. When the desk and the embassy interpret developments differently , the desk officer will want his view to prevail. This is perfectly natural. It would, in fact, be irresponsible of him not to seek adoption of the view he considers best corresponds to reality. This should be a competition of ideas. It can all too easily degenerate into a conflict of personalities, which serves neither the embassy analyst’s interests nor those of the country he serves. Moreover, although desk officers, like embassy personnel, do not make policy, they answer to higher-ups in a chain that eventually leads to those who do and are exposed more directly to the interests and priorities of the policymakers. Personal contact is the best way to keep the competitive side of this relationship from becoming antagonistic. The embassy reporting officer should visit the country desk before departing on assignment abroad and whenever back in the capital. He should seek out the person or persons on the desk who will be most interested in the issues on which he will be reporting and get their ideas. This will be helpful as he orients himself initially at post. It will also enable him, as he is brought into his job at the embassy, to mentally highlight issues where there may be some divergence of view between the embassy and the desk. Finally, when he sends in something that the desk officer disagrees with, it will help the latter remember that there is a person and a professional at the other end of the line, not an irresponsible flake. THE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY Washington analysts, naturally, want to do their own analysis, rather than be the passive recipients of embassy analyses. While it is fair to say that they value embassy input, it is also true that some, although unlikely to say so for the record, would prefer embassies to confine their dispatches to...


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MARC Record
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