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THE COMPASS AND THE WEATHER VANE C H A P T E R T E N 115 W hile deputy director of Southern African Affairs, I attended a meeting in Secretary of State George Shultz’s office between him and Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi. Savimbi presented the secretary with a carved African walking stick, remarking that in Africa leaders used such sticks to point the way for their people. Smiling, Shultz took the stick, lifted it outward in his right hand and said: “To the right.” A couple of years earlier, while a deputy director for Soviet affairs, I had attended a farewell party at the director’s home for our deputy assistant secretary, who was moving on to his next (upward) assignment. The two were friends, and both were relatively young, talented, well liked, and recognized as rising stars in our profession. The deputy received a number of humorous, inexpensive gifts during the party, including a compass from the director. In presenting it, the director told his friend he could use it to point the way and chaffed him about whether his career was more like a compass or weather vane. We all laughed but a little hollowly, since there was perhaps more truth in that chaffing than the director had intended—not just for the deputy, but for all of us. THE JOB, THE CAREER, AND THE VOCATION The issues implicit in those remarks are whether and how a diplomat can have an impact on his country’s policies and what a diplomat should do when his personal views differ from the policies of the government in power. What you do at those times depends in part on how you view your career. If diplomatic political analysis is a craft, it is a craft that is practiced within the broader context of diplomacy as a profession, just as medicine 116 ———— THE CRAFT OF POLITICAL ANALYSIS FOR DIPLOMATS and the law are professions. Professionals can approach their work in a number of different ways, each of which may be compatible with performing it competently. Acknowledging that this risks oversimplification, let us consider a profession as a job, as a career, and as a vocation. The professional doing a job puts in as many hours as are required, performs the required duties, regards the work as a way to make a living, and lives for when he is not working. The professional approaching his work as a career puts in as many hours as necessary to get ahead, does what is necessary in order to get noticed, has no policy views of his own, develops skills that enable him to provide superior tactical support for policies others make, and seeks jobs that give him visibility to those who control career advancement. The professional who approaches his work as a vocation puts in as many hours as necessary to do the job the way he thinks it should be done, lets his policy views be known even when they differ from the accepted view, and seeks jobs that he finds personally interesting. Few enter the diplomatic profession planning to be job holders, but many become just that. A few enter with the mindset of the careerist, planning a rise to the top of the profession without particular concern for policy issues. Those are, however, probably a distinct minority. Most, I suspect, look upon it in their early years primarily as a vocation . As they learn the rules of the game, some of those who have had early success will become careerists; some of those who have not will become job holders. The careerist becomes very good at providing intellectual content for the policies of those in power and adept at developing tactical steps to carry out those policies. He is a well-oiled and precise weather vane. If he has an internal compass, he keeps it tamped down, perhaps believing that he will be able to employ it effectively once he has reached a sufficiently high level in his profession. And, if he works in a sufficiently obscure functional or geographic area of diplomacy, that may in fact become the case. More likely, however, he will find that he never has the opportunity to put that compass to work or that it has ceased to function, and that he has become the instrument that he has acted as throughout his career—the ultimate weather vane. While this may seem an indictment of the careerist, it is hardly that simple. The...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781597977302
Related ISBN
9781597977296
MARC Record
OCLC
966875429
Pages
174
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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