restricted access 2. History
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10 2 History Like the US Congress, the US Foreign Service has rarely enjoyed the esteem as an institution that its members have enjoyed as individuals. Foreign service personnel are widely respected for their intellect, honesty, energy, courage, and patriotism. The service itself, and the Department of State with which it is so closely identified, have often been held in what the late Arizona congressman Mo Udall called “minimum high regard.” Dean Acheson, secretary of state under President Harry Truman, noted that many Americans did not want to hear too much about the complexities of foreign affairs or the stubborn refusal of foreigners to see the world as we do. When world events fail to follow American desires, he wrote, the “believers in American omnipotence, to whom every goal unattained is explicable only by incompetence or treason,” were quick to blame the department and the foreign service.1 Robert F. Kennedy exemplified the paradox. Traveling abroad in 1962 as attorney general in his brother Jack’s administration , he “made little connection between the Foreign Service people he met overseas, whom he by and large admired, and those working in a State Department he disparaged.”2 President Nixon loathed the foreign service. Henry Kissinger wrote that Nixon “had very little confidence in the State Department” and did not trust the foreign service, which he felt “had disdained him as Vice President and ignored him the moment he was out of office.”3 Indeed, Nixon said he intended “to ruin the foreign service. I mean ruin it.”4 Yet many young foreign service officers, several of whom went on to high office, played critical roles on his White House staff.5 Mistrust of the foreign service and the State Department is, as Acheson noted, partly a function of American suspicion of foreigners and, by extension , of those who deal with them. It is also a product of the history of the foreign service. Only in the past twenty years or so has the foreign service History 11 really begun to reflect Main Street America, and only in the past few years have American attitudes toward the service begun to recognize that shift. Amateurs and Entrepreneurs American diplomacy, like the American military, is older than the federal government. Even before adopting a declaration of independence, the Continental Congress established armed forces to fight against the British and commissioned envoys to seek support from other countries. American diplomats , notably Benjamin Franklin, secured French support that proved vital to military victory and then negotiated favorable terms of peace with Britain. The Constitution later provided not only for raising an army and a navy but also for naming ambassadors, ministers, and consuls. The paths of the military and diplomatic establishments quickly diverged. The American military developed a professional structure at West Point in 1802 and at the Naval Academy in 1845. Military service became for many young men an attractive career. American diplomacy, however, remained a part-time and largely amateur affair. Throughout the nineteenth century, Washington maintained two kinds of representatives. The diplomatic service handled state-to-state relations. The consular service, established in 1792, dealt with commercial matters and the problems of individual American citizens abroad. The diplomats were nearly all men of wealth who served with only token pay and rarely sought or received more than one assignment. Consuls, more numerous and socially less privileged, were typically American businessmen living in foreign ports who had political connections strong enough to secure an appointment .6 Working without salary (Congress authorized the first consular salaries in 1856, but payment was spotty), they were entitled to pocket the fees they collected for their services, largely related to merchant shipping. Many found ways to use their official positions to advance their private interests —behavior that was scandalous even by the standards of those days. Other than the spoils system by which they were appointed, members of the diplomatic and consular services had little to do with each other.7 In the 1850s, in the days of Horace Greeley, the New York Herald Tribune wrote, “Diplomacy is the sewer through which flows the scum and refuse of the political puddle. A man not fit to stay at home is just the man to send abroad.”8 A consular inspector sent out by the Department of State reported 12 The Institution in 1882 that the service was riddled with “incompetency, low habits, and vulgarity ,” and so much corruption that “the most cold and indifferent citizen would blush.”9 The...