Kojo and Tom Sherwood chat with D.C. Council Member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large)
After the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens in Libya, there’s new focus on what it means to be a diplomat in a dangerous world. Kojo explores the challenges facing Foreign Service officers working abroad and the debate at home about the role diplomats should play in American foreign policy.
- Josh Rogin Senior Staff Writer, Foreign Policy magazine; author of the blog The Cable
- James Jeffrey Former Ambassador to Iraq (2010-2012); Former Deputy National Security Advisor; Distinguished Visiting Fellow, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
- Marc Grossman Former United States Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan (2011-2012), Former Ambassador to Turkey; Vice Chairman, The Cohen Group
Changing The World: Joining The Foreign Service
MR. KOJO NNAMDIThe death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens in Libya has prompted new focus on what it means to be a diplomat in a dangerous world. His death created a firestorm of finger pointing on Capitol Hill, but it also raised questions about the role diplomats play in carrying out American foreign policy. The job of a foreign service officer today is a lot more than just reviewing visa applications and sending cables back to Washington. In many countries American diplomats work directly with the public on things like economic development and fighting terrorism under a hands-on model they call expeditionary diplomacy.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIBut this model creates new challenges for both individuals and the U.S. government. Some say the State Department has not adapted quickly enough to a world where in some places danger is the norm. Other worry that the professional diplomatic corps is losing influence with a president whose foreign policy decision involved a tight inner circle. Joining me to look at the challenges facing American diplomats and diplomacy is Marc Grossman. He's a former United States special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and former ambassador to Turkey, vice-chairman now of the Cohen Group. Marc Grossman, thank you for joining us.
MR. MARC GROSSMANThank you for having me.
NNAMDIAlso in studio with us is Josh Rogin. You may remember Josh joined us in Tampa for the Republican National Convention. Josh Rogin is a senior staff writer with Foreign Policy magazine and author of The Cable blog. Josh, good to see you again.
MR. JOSH ROGINGreat to be with you.
NNAMDIAnd joining us by phone from the Near East Institute is James Jeffrey. He's a former ambassador to Iraq, Turkey and Albania. He's a former deputy national security advisor and he's a distinguished visiting Fellow with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Jim Jeffrey, thank you for joining us.
MR. JAMES JEFFREYThank you for having me.
NNAMDII'd like to tell our listeners the phone number here is 800-433-8850. If you have comments or questions you can send email to email@example.com or you can send us a Tweet at kojoshow or you can simply go to our website kojoshow.org and join the conversation there. Are you or were you in the foreign service? Where did you serve and what was your experience? Speaking of which, Marc Grossman, describe the job of a junior foreign service officer when you became one in 1976 and compare it to the job today.
GROSSMANYeah well, thank you very much. That's a great question. When I joined the foreign service in 1976 my very first post was to go to Islamabad, Pakistan, which I did. And my job there really, Kojo, was to observe and to report and, as you said, to send cables back to Washington where other people could decide kind of what I was supposed to do next. And it was a great job. I loved it. I ended up my entire life in the foreign service. But if you compare that to what we're asking people to do today -- we're asking people, just as you say, to serve really on the frontlines of U.S. national security.
GROSSMANAnd the observing and the reporting piece of what people do is still important but we're asking people now to, you know, stop the trafficking of women and children, promote sustainable development, work on democracy, work with our military forces. All of those things are things that it's an active requirement. It's not about observing and reporting. And the other important thing is we're asking so many people now to make decisions farther out in front, whether that's ambassador's country teams or, as you say, even people who are very junior.
NNAMDIJim Jeffrey, same question to you. You joined the foreign service in 1977 after serving in the army. What was it like then versus now?
JEFFREYI was in Tunisia. It was a great post. Lots of sun, lots of surf, some work similar to Marc doing reporting, doing administrative tasks. And the business has changed dramatically. One thing I would say that was present then and is present now, in that we ignore what the emphasis rightly placed on expedition and diplomacy is our main job then and now is neither reporting nor going out and digging wells. Our main job is to get other governments to do what the United States or the International Community -- which we often confuse the two -- want them to do.
JEFFREYAnd that's what you spend most of your time as a senior office, either at the ambassador level or advising ambassador, trying to figure out how to get the right vote in the UN, how to get a new program undertaken. While we do a lot of work out in the field, both US AID and State Department officers with the military or on our own, basically societies don't get changed from outside or from above. They get changed by a process in which we can influence both on the ground and in capitals, and we do that around the world.
NNAMDIA vivid picture of how things have changed, Marc Grossman, just for one second as I read where you had a little Datsun you used to drive from Islamabad to Kabul on the weekends?
GROSSMANIt's hard to imagine. I did. I used to get in that car and we used to go up to Kabul. And our friends in Kabul used to come down to Islamabad.
NNAMDIHow has technology changed the way diplomats at embassies around the world do their jobs, from the days when a classified cable was the only way to send information home to an era when cable television brings world events into our living rooms almost immediately as they're happening?
GROSSMANWell again, it's something I've thought about a lot. Again, to go back to my first post in Pakistan in 1976, you have to -- it's probably unimaginable to someone like Josh or some of our listeners -- no CNN, no Al Jazeera, no internet, no streaming, no blogs, no nothing. And when you look at today, the effort that has to be made both to get out the message with the electronic media and the social media, that's important.
GROSSMANBut the other thing, Kojo, I think that I've learned is these past few years about the electronic media is it isn't so much about sending out the message, but this is a dialogue. People are talking back. And so it's extremely important that our diplomats today -- and I think they do a very good job of this -- are not just talking but also listening to what people have to say.
NNAMDIJosh Rogin, in the aftermath of Ambassador Chris Stevens' death in Libya, there's a heated debate about the safety of our diplomats and who should determine the level of security that they need, refresh our memories about who provides security at American embassies and consulates around the world.
ROGINSure. Well, at most American outposts around the world, perimeter security, outside security is provided and depended on by the host government. In other words, we have local forces protecting the outside of our embassies and consulates and missions. And some of those local forces are subcontracted out to private contractors, it's maybe a mix of local government forces.
ROGINIn the case of the U.S. mission in Benghazi, which was a temporary mission, it was actually contracted out to a brigade called the February 17th Brigade, which was sympathetic to the U.S. mission in Benghazi because they had been part of the effort to oust Gadhafi. Unfortunately, as we all now know, they were either not up for the task or not willing to do what was necessary or not able to do what was necessary to prevent the attack of September 11th. And this is called into question both the structure and the substance of how we provide security embassies abroad.
ROGINIt should also be noted that in the particular case of Benghazi, because this was a temporary mission not a permanent mission, there were some very specific anomalies. We had an annex that was run by another government agency. It's been reported that that agency was the CIA. And that annex apparently was -- had some level of responsibility for protecting and responding to incidents at the embassy.
ROGINOne of the things that the State Department's internal investigation found was that the contingency plans for an attack like the one we saw on September 11th were not perfectly clear. And this caused some confusion and may have contributed or exacerbated the damage of the attack. But what you're getting at here is the larger issue of diplomatic security, and it's what we call the balance between letting diplomats go out and do the work in the countries that they're assigned to or fortressing them inside the embassies. We call it fortress America. And this is a balance that the State Department struggles with all over the world.
ROGINAnd I'm sure they don't always strike that balance perfectly. But what we see in the aftermath of the Benghazi attack is sort of an increase on the side of caution and safety, a limiting of their restrictions, a limiting on the freedom of movement of diplomats in high-threat areas. I doubt that Ambassador Grossman would be able to drive his Datsun from Islamabad to Kabul today. I don't think the border security would permit that in any way, shape or form.
ROGINBut we're also seeing a greater cooperation between the diplomatic security bureau and the top levels of the State Department in a way that really has been overdue. Before they operated in stovepipes and now there's a recognition that the job of Foreign Service officers abroad and the need to protect them are interrelated and can't be divided.
NNAMDI800-433-8850. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing American diplomats today, 800-433-8850? James Jeffrey, you've said that in this era of expeditionary diplomacy, the U.S. needs a clearer statement of when, where and why we deploy our diplomats, a sort of Powell Doctrine for the Foreign Service.
NNAMDIFor those people who don't recall it, General Powell and Defense Secretary Cap Weinberger -- he was then Lieutenant General Colin Powell -- drafted an informal but influential guide which became known as the Powell Doctrine that informed our decision in Kuwait, Bosnia, Kosovo. It calls for military action only when key U.S. interests are at stake. Says we must state clear achievable objectives for every mission. You believe that there should be something similar for our diplomats? How would that work?
JEFFREYAbsolutely. First of all, expeditionary diplomacy is exceptional diplomacy. We're guests of the government and in some cases the government doesn't necessarily want us out there. We're not military, we're not armed, we're not equipped, despite some training, to deal with very, very awful circumstances. And I speak from three years in Iraq We're not messiah's, we're not missionaries. Our basic job is to try to work with governments on all levels and to try to work -- do some outreach to people.
JEFFREYThere are places where U.S. foreign affairs and U.S. national security require us to get out and operate. And then we have to balance whether the mission can be accomplished. First of all, is the mission important? Secondly, can we do the mission? Thirdly, can we protect our people at least to a certain degree? You can't protect everybody. At that other site they lost two people but they had enough security so that it wasn't overrun. At the embassy annex I know they lost two people, but they were totally overrun and they were just damn lucky they didn't lose everybody else.
JEFFREYSo there are security decisions that have to be made, but then they have to be policy decisions because even when you are in a good security situation -- we lost two people in Benghazi. Marc and I were both ambassadors in Turkey. That's a fortress there, as it well should be, and we had an attack two weeks ago. Everything worked but we still lost somebody. And so you will take casualties. The question is, is it worthwhile? Benghazi was worthwhile. God knows Turkey's worthwhile to have a big mission. But we have to evaluate that case by case.
NNAMDIDo you think, Marc Grossman, Josh Rogin, there'll be major changes as a result of this debate over security in Benghazi?
GROSSMANWell, I hope that there won't be so many major changes as there was in the past. I mean, you'll recall when some years ago there were attacks on embassies, you know, we had these -- we went through this period of having to have embassies with huge setbacks, they had to look a certain way. As Josh said, they became sort of fortresses. And I think that's too bad. What I hope will happen is along the lines of what Jim has said, which is two things. One is that there has to be clarity about the importance of the mission. And I think this is a really important thing, Kojo, after September the 11th.
GROSSMANI mean, I was the ambassador of Turkey before the 11th of September and I made a lot of decisions about people to say, well I don't want you to go here and I don't want you to go there because it's too dangerous. But I must say that after 9/11 the stakes are different. And so your decisions have to be adjusted, it seems to me, first. The second thing is, just to follow on the points that Jim made, he's right about the mission. He's right about security issues and policy issues.
GROSSMANThere's one other thing and that's training. And that is if we're going to send people out toward the front end of this mission, which I certainly believe that we should, then they're going to need some specific training. Maybe some escape and invasion, how to recognize danger, how to deal with some of this so that we're not just asking people who have come to a post and then say, well here, go do this mission. It's very important. I think there's going to have to also be some specific training in service and security.
ROGINSure. A couple of things I would say here. I think as Ambassador Grossman pointed out, there was a big wave of changes in safety and security for diplomats abroad after the 1998 bombings. Things like setting embassies back from roads and preventing those kinds of attacks. Now I'm already hearing from my friends employed in the Foreign Service that another series of changes is well underway. And this is about being more risk adverse in striking that balance between letting diplomats do their job then keeping them safe and secure.
ROGINIn other words, the attack in Benghazi, which many people feel was overly politicized in the heightened election season and really ultimately was unpreventable no matter how -- whether or not you had a couple more people here or there, may have been so massive that these changes would not have made a difference.
ROGINNevertheless has resulted in a new culture around the world, especially in high-threat areas, where people are perhaps given more instructions not to come to work when there are threats. Maybe given more instructions to keep their family and friends out of harm's way when incidents are likely to spread around the world, as we saw with the multiple 20-something protests at U.S. embassies and the overruns in Tunisia and Cairo. So this is a different culture that's being implemented, and we'll have to see how that plays out.
ROGINThe AR -- the Independent Reporter -- the State Department had a series of changes. They talked about how we reform the diplomatic security apparatus in terms of making sure the information gets to the right place. We're also going to be starting to put a lot more Marines -- U.S. Marines in embassies around the world now. Marines are not really primarily tasked with protecting diplomats. They're tasked with protecting confidential information, but that's about to change.
ROGINAnd we just got a billion dollars in new money, the State Department did, to start deploying Marines in all sorts of high-threat areas. Now these -- they will have a new and expanded role and will lean on them more. I would also say there's some changes that aren't even in the works that probably should be implemented. I mean, if you look at the way that security officials are promoted and -- just as one example in the State Department -- the best highest ranking ones are sent to the best posts, which are not the high-threat posts. So if you're a very senior security official you get the privilege of working in Paris where there's almost no threat.
ROGINAnd there should be some rethinking about how our security people are deployed around the world to make sure that the really dangerous places have the most skilled and highly-ranked individuals.
NNAMDIMarc Grossman, that means we can no longer think of the Foreign Service in terms of a time when having served in dangerous areas you can finally get a plush appointment someplace...
GROSSMANWell, I think...
NNAMDI...because the world has changed.
GROSSMANThe world has changed. I think it's important to stop here just for a moment -- and I think what both -- what all of you have been talking about, it's worth just stopping here for a moment really and recognizing the danger in which people serve abroad, their families, themselves, and pay homage to that.
NNAMDIThe people join knowing it's...
GROSSMANWell, exactly right. And that was the second point that I was going to make, which is that, you know, we very rightly pay a huge amount of homage, attention to our military men and women abroad, and that's right. but there is a sacrifice that happens when people join the Foreign Service, and I'd say also the civil service people who are deployed abroad. Because if you consider our -- the effort we're making in Afghanistan, that's Foreign Service. It's civil service. It's contractors. But all these people are Americans.
GROSSMANThey're American citizens, they're American government employees and we ought to pay homage to that, it seems to me, and recognize the service and the sacrifice that people have made, not just since Chris Stevens was murdered, but for a long time before that as well.
NNAMDIHere is Kathleen -- or Maureen, I'm sorry. Maureen in Alexandria, Va. Maureen, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MAUREENGood afternoon. It's great talking to you all. I -- hello.
NNAMDIYes, you're still on, Maureen.
MAUREENI just wanted to say, as someone who just retired from the Foreign Service and spent 30 years specializing in war zoned countries and transitions, I've been in many of these places. And I just wanted the people to know that when you're out there, we know that people are doing everything that they reasonably can to keep us safe. But, yes, there have been times when I've been in a civil war situation, gorillas came into my house. And your mind races really fast, what do I say? What am I going to do? Do I pretend I'm Canadian?
MAUREENAnd the comment about more training is an excellent one that would help. But I also don't think the blame game is very helpful in terms of Libya. I think people are very brave doing very dangerous work. And you can't over night build a fortress. We need to be in places in a world that's much more dangerous now. And yet there's life after the Foreign Service. Now I run a wonderful NGO that does education and health care in Africa. So just coming full circle.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for your call. Any thoughts about what Maureen had to say, Jim Jeffrey?
JEFFREYSimply, in here I think I may be a minority. I have no problem with fortresses. As I said, Ankara was a fortress and we saved a lot of lives because it was the other day. Cairo was a fortress and that's why even though people came over the wall, we did not need to use lethal force against them, although they probably didn't have our best -- they didn't have best intentions towards us because we do have the kind of things, setback and other things in the margins that may impact our mission.
JEFFREYBut our main mission in terms of dealing with people in a country is getting out. That's what I think is important. And in getting out you do take a risk. When you do move your people around there are ways to handle it. As Marc said, there's training you could use. But it's a calculated risk and frankly at any given movement you only have a relatively small number of people. In these installations, particularly the larger ones, you have hundreds of Americans.
JEFFREYAnd as we saw in Tehran in '79 or Islamabad also in the same year, if you have hundreds of people, either captured or about to burned to death, you have a critical national security problem. So fortifications are fine and then we have to -- when we are looking at missions, sending people out, if the risk isn't too high we've got to get people out there. That's simply how we do our business.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Maureen. It raises an interesting question, and that is, as Jim said, he doesn't have a problem with fortresses but you do have to get people out. How do you balance the mission of the need for interaction with the local population with the notion that you're holed up in a fortress?
GROSSMANWell, first, let me just thank Maureen for her service. The balance I think is a wider one than that even, Kojo. You have the balance between being protected and getting out. I think every person who serves the United States government abroad has the right to work in a clean, safe, secure building, and life in something similar, clean, safe and secure. So, as Jim said, you have to make this balance about going out. But there is also a balance about having people come to the embassy.
GROSSMANI mean, you said in your introduction, if you'd allow me, you know, that one of the things that's now kind of older is the giving of visas. I would disagree with you. I think the giving of visas, especially since 9/11, has turned into one of the most important things that embassies do abroad. One of the other most important things that embassies do abroad is American citizen services. Which means that people who live in that country, whether they're foreign or American, have to come to the embassy. And so it seems to me there's a series of balances. Being protested and getting out, but also making these buildings as best as you can, and obviously depending on the circumstances, as best as you can, welcoming to those people who live in that country, and certainly to American citizens who seek services in that county.
NNAMDIThe challenge in the wake of Benghazi, Josh Rogin, and you have been talking to people who you know in the foreign service, how has Ambassador Stevens' death affected security concerns among rank and file foreign service staff?
ROGINSure. Well, first of all, we should say that Chris Stevens was well known to be someone who got -- who loved to be amongst the people of Benghazi. He has flown into Benghazi quite in the middle of the war and lived in a hotel, and with a staff of only three people had made a real difference in advocating both inside the U.S. government and the international community for help for those people. So they he had a penchant for eating at local restaurants, meeting with people wherever they were, attending local cultural events. He has reason to think that the people of Benghazi had his back.
ROGINSo he was the poster child. Now, as we talk about the balance, some people would say that Chris Stevens perhaps didn't strike that balance perfectly, but nevertheless, he sort of can be held up as an example of the group inside the foreign service that believes that they really -- this really is a crucial part of their mission. And let's remember here that Benghazi -- I'm sorry, Libya, one of the crucial areas of the Arab Spring, is a reminder that American policy over the last 40 years has been built largely in that region on engaging with governments and regimes and elites and generals and monarchs and despots, and that's all changing and that proved ultimately not to be the best strategy.
ROGINAnd the world is -- and that region is forever changed now. And one of the things Secretary Clinton did to her credit was reorient our engagement with people of that region towards people and civil society groups and NGOs and local religious organizations. And that work can only be done largely face to face. We can do it through Twitter, we can do it through broadcasting, but it's just really not the effective.
ROGINThe other issue I would put here is okay, if we're going to go out and be extra careful with our diplomats, who's going to protect our diplomats on those missions? There's not U.S. military in a lot of these places. There's no U.S. military in Iraq. There's soon going to be no U.S. military or very little U.S. military in Afghanistan. So this, again, is a dependence on security contractors, private security contractors who don't operate under necessarily the rules that the military operates under.
ROGINThey have their own risks. This is another issue that's very sensitive for local populations. So what I'm hearing from the field is that these people worry that the overreliance on security is going to impact their mission and they see some evidence of that already.
NNAMDIFrom the field back to the administration because Hillary Clinton has been replaced by John Kerry, but before we discuss that we're going to take a short break. If you have called, stay on the line. We will get to your calls when we come back. The number is 800-433-8850. What do you think is the most important function of American diplomats at embassies around the world? 800-433-8850, or shoot us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation about the U.S. foreign service for the 21st century. We're speaking with Josh Rogin. He is senior staff writer with Foreign Policy magazine, and author of "The Cable" blog. James Jeffrey is a former ambassador to Iraq, Turkey, and Albania, former deputy national security advisor, and distinguished visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. And Marc Grossman is former United States special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, former ambassador to Turkey and vice chairman of the Cohen Group.
NNAMDIMarc Grossman, now that we have a new secretary of state, the foreign service is part of the State Department. How does the transition to -- from Hillary Clinton to John Kerry affect members of the foreign service, and how closely do they indentify with whoever happens to be secretary of state?
GROSSMANWell, that's a good question. First of all, people identify very closely with the institution of the secretary of state. And one of the things that important, Kojo and listeners, to know is that foreign service officers, and civil service people -- foreign service officers take an oath of office, very much like the one the vice president and the president took on January the 21st here in front of all of us, and that's to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
GROSSMANAnd so when a new secretary of state arrives, the job of the foreign service, the job of the civil service, the job of locally engaged staff, all the people at the State Department is to support that person because they represent the diplomacy of the United States of America. And the other thing, I think, with foreign service people, and again, if you'd allow me, I'd speak also for civil service too, people want to be part of something that's happening. They want the State Department to be important.
GROSSMANThey want the State Department to be part of the national debate, and I think that with our most secretaries, and certainly with Secretary Kerry, the foreign service will say we are ready to support you because we want you to succeed because we want our country to succeed.
NNAMDIAnd Josh Rogin?
ROGINSure. I would say Secretary of State Kerry comes into a time of great crisis for the State Department in terms of its budget. Let's remember that Hillary Clinton came in with President Obama with a stated goal of elevating diplomacy and development alongside the fence as equal pillars of American power. She conducted an extensive review of the entire State Department in order to implement that. She got huge budget increases. She increased the ranks of the foreign service and the benefits of the foreign service.
ROGINAnd then the Republicans took over Congress in 2010 and put a slow down on all of that. And now the State Department is facing a budget crisis in the period of fiscal austerity while they face increasing responsibilities in war zones like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. A lot of their ambitious plans are being rolled back. A lot of the reforms that Secretary Clinton tried to implement or either partially implemented or not implemented at all, and John Kerry has to face all of these problems.
ROGINAnd he knows better than anyone that Congress can be a huge influencer in these issues. He may be in a position to contribute to the State Department's argument in Congress, on the other hand, all of the trends for the State Department's budget are pointed in the wrong direction.
NNAMDIJim Jeffrey, how do professional foreign service officers feel when there is a new secretary of state? In terms of being professional diplomats, your ability to influence the way foreign policy is being made, it is my assumption that you feel that the information that you pass on to the secretary of state should be taken seriously. Do you make judgments or secretaries of state based on that premise?
JEFFREYEverybody does to one or another degree, but I have to say that we are proud, as Marc said, foreign service officers, civil service officers, everybody working for the Department of State, we're proud of the quality of great Americans we've got. Hillary Clinton, candidate for president, Condoleezza Rice, the first black woman to be secretary of state and first in many other areas. Colin Powell, Madeline Albright, the list goes back to Dean Atchison and even further back to our history, John Adams and on and on.
JEFFREYSo it's a very proud tradition, and we're very, very happy to be part of this institution. The one thing is that we all recognize after a bit of time in the service, that the secretary of state doesn't run foreign policy. The president runs foreign policy. Not only because that's in his or her portfolio, but also because there are about a dozen agencies that are primarily involved in foreign policy and don't take orders from the secretary of state.
JEFFREYWhere the secretary of state is crucial is doing the formal side of foreign policy which is dealing with foreign governments and coordinating what everybody else does. Everybody else is in fact stove piped, and the only operation that can go parallel, horizontally across the various organizations is the Department of State. That's where the excitement is in the job, and that's where the challenge will be for Secretary Kerry to ensure that he has good relations with all of his counterparts across the U.S. government that we can work together as a team. That's what we want to do.
NNAMDIHere's Kathy in Washington, D.C. Kathy, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KATHYThank you, Kojo. Thanks for taking my call. I used to a foreign service dependant, and one thing that I've noticed in following all the discussions about the new foreign service and security, is that families aren't mentioned, and the old model of diplomacy was that families lived with the serving officer and lived our American values by entertaining and being entertained and going out and traveling in the countries and the regions to which they were assigned, and going to schools, sometimes local schools as well as American schools, and all of these things pose enormous security challenges, and enormous security costs.
KATHYAnd I mention it because I just don't think that outside this area, the American public is aware of how many ordinary civilians are out there, and how if they are injured or hurt, they're on their own personal insurance plans, you know. There are all kinds of aspects to closing down schools or suddenly having to yank people out of schools that are sacrifices, but there are also things that you might think is this the model of diplomacy that will work in the 21st century.
NNAMDII got to tell you, Marc Grossman, when I was a young man in Guyana, and then aspiring to be an actor, many of the plays I acted in were directed by American foreign service officers who also had children who participated in some of those performances. You want to keep that kind of thing going, don't you?
GROSSMANWe do, in every place that's possible. And I think the point that Kathy makes is extremely important which it the families represent the United States of America, not just physically, but as she said, in terms of values. And one of the toughest things that's happened I think the foreign service over the last 10 or 15 years is posts that used to be great family posts, Pakistan for example when I was there, have now become impossible to send families to. And so that makes the number of jobs that are available for people with families to go down and down.
GROSSMANOne point that she makes I think also that's extremely important, which is to keep in mind, as I said before, that one of the jobs of the foreign service is the protection of American citizens abroad. So as she said, it's not the families of foreign service officers, but it's also people who are representing the United States who may be there for a company -- a great American company who are doing business in that country, who are students. I mean, for example, you know, we have thousands and thousands of students all over the world, and of the jobs is to keep them connecting to societies around the world, but also their safety is important to us as well.
NNAMDIJosh Rogin, in an age of terrorist threats, that assumes all kinds of new security threats.
ROGINSure. Sure. So, you know, one issue is safety and security, but the other issue is how to recruit and retain the best and the brightest. I mean, when I talk the people, the younger generation in the foreign service, they say, you know, that most of them do it out of an effort for public service, maybe a thirst for amazing experiences or a combination of both of those. But that becomes a real challenge when you have a young couple moving to a foreign country, and the spouse cannot work, and the pay is not great, and then you have Congress to come in and try to chip away at that pay on top of that.
ROGINIt really begs the question of whether or not young people can really build a life in a young family in the foreign service, and I know that's a lot -- something a lot of people are struggling with before you even get to the issue of whether or not you can put your kid in a school that's not going to get overrun by terrorists or something like that.
NNAMDIHere is Mark in Bethesda, Md. Mark, your turn.
MARKThanks, Kojo. I'm going to swing back around to a couple of points that Josh actually made that I think has been overlooked at least from the public standpoint. I'm a private lawyer, I represent foreign service officers all the time. I work with DS Diplomatic Security all the time. But about 14 years ago I had a lawsuit against the State Department arising out of the '98 bombing in Kenya, representing the Kenyan victims. And the allegation was that the department didn't do enough to secure the embassy and especially use a certain type of glass that didn't shatter and cause all the injuries.
MARKAnd the understandable response from the department which extricated it from the lawsuit was, we would love to do that. We would love to have this type of protected glass, but Congress didn't budget it for us. And former Secretary Clinton mentioned this at the hearings and it gets overlooked all the time. All the blame seems to be assessed on the department when the fact of the matter is Congress hasn't given it the money that it needs to take the protection or create the protected level that the public would want to see. And that seems not to get enough attention. And I'll take any comments off the air.
NNAMDIJohn Rogin mentioned it before. I'll place it in his hands again.
ROGINSure. Well, of course this became another big issue in the aftermath of the September 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi. It's very easy to beat up on Congress. They deserve it. I've made a living out of doing it. It's actually valid in most respects. It's true that Congress often funds the security accounts in the State Department less than what was requested. That's on its face true, but I think we have to mention in this same breath that it really is the State Department that makes a prioritization and allocation decisions.
ROGINSo when the request came for an extension of security in Libya, was rejected by the State Department, not by Congress, and they used those funds in other parts of the world. Let's remember that the embassy that Ambassador Jeffrey ran is an embassy of 16,000 people that has so many security contractors and so many armored cars and so many fail safes that if you took off, you know, two percent of those and put them in Benghazi it would have been a totally different situation.
ROGINSo sure, we can blame Congress. I love to do it as much as anyone, but it also is the State Department's responsibility to take what resources are available and prioritize and distribute them accurately, and again, it's a balance that they honestly do try to strike, but they don't always do that perfectly.
NNAMDIJim Jeffrey, care to comment?
JEFFREYJosh is absolutely on target. I would have recommended given what we were dealing with daily in Iraq that rather than take some of the security personnel from Iraq we would have taken some of the run or so stationed in western Europe and shipped them into Benghazi because we only had an authorized five there. That wasn't enough. It would have had to have been by the way we do security at least 12, and -- which is what the other place had, and they didn't get overrun. And two of them were gone.
JEFFREYIt was just by accident that Chris Stevens was there with two more security people that we even got to five. So there's security risks that you take, and then there's security blunders. Benghazi was a security blunder, and looking at the impact on our foreign policy, on Susan Rice, on the continued uproar on the hill which is impacting the Hagel and Brennan appointments, this is the kind of thing that we might shrug our shoulders and say, well, it's Congress's fault, or yeah, we need to get out and young officers don't like to be under these restrictions.
JEFFREYBut look, something like Benghazi happens and look at the impact on our foreign policy. Look at our impact on what's going on back here. You have to try to avoid these kinds of things.
NNAMDIWe're running out of time very quickly, Marc Grossman, but in the minute or so we have left, comment on that, and talk about what you see as the greatest challenges the foreign services faces as we look ahead.
GROSSMANWell, the greatest challenge the foreign service faces is to adapt itself where you started to this new world, and to try to accomplish all the things that we've talked about for the past 45 minutes with the best human capital that it can. My comment is a simple one, which is to go back to a point that both Jim and Josh made. It's imperative here that the State Department, the foreign service, the civil service not be blaming other people. This is a matter of priority setting.
GROSSMANAnd that's why I think that what the secretary -- Secretary Clinton started with this quadrennial defense and diplomacy review, you know, not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but as Josh said, something that ought to be continued.
NNAMDIMarc Grossman former United States special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, former ambassador to Turkey and vice chairman of the Cohen Group. Thank you for joining us.
GROSSMANThank you, sir.
NNAMDIJosh Rogin is senior staff writer with Foreign Policy magazine, and author of "The Cable" blog. Josh, good to see you again.
ROGINAlways a pleasure.
NNAMDIAnd James Jeffrey is a former ambassador to Iraq, Turkey, and Albania, former deputy national security advisor, and distinguished visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Jim Jeffrey, thank you for joining us.
ROGINThank you for having us. Thank you.
NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
Most Recent Shows
Kojo and guests explore what you can learn about D.C. by riding its bus system.
T.C. Boyle's latest novel explores the darker side of the American ideal of freedom, from a woman who follows the extreme libertarian "sovereign citizen" movement to a disturbed young man who models himself on the pioneer John Colter.
It's your turn to discuss these topics or whatever is on your mind.