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Raymond F. Smith

This issue of American Diplomacy appears contemporaneously with the centenary of the creation of the US Foreign Service. I spent about 25 years as a Foreign Service Officer, privileged to work among the smartest, most dedicated, and hardest-working professionals that I could imagine. They were not, however, among the best trained. As an institution, the Foreign Service does not produce skilled negotiators, great strategic thinkers, or outstanding administrators. Naturally, there are exceptions. Because they are smart and dedicated, some FSOs become highly skilled at elements of their craft. They accomplish this, in my view, in spite of institutional constraints rather than because of institutional opportunities. The constraints are easy enough to identify, more difficult to cure: training is underfunded, under rewarded and understaffed. I am hardly the first to point this out; nor will I be the last. On behalf of American Diplomacy, I’d like to wish the Foreign Service another century of attracting gifted people while also providing them more opportunities to fully actualize their gifts.

In the lead article in this issue’s Commentary section, Philip Zelikow analyzes Woodrow Wilson’s failure to launch peace talks in 1916 to demonstrate that, in diplomacy, it is as important to know how to do what you want as it is to know what you want to do. Mark Wentling takes a skeptical look at US assistance programs and contends that if circumstances in the host country are not conducive to success the responsible action is to shut the programs down. Ted Craig acknowledges the problems besetting US relations with Pakistan, but also believes that US interests can be advanced by a realistic effort to engage more productively with the country. Hank Cohen looks at Russia’s current activities in Africa and finds similarity with those of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. As in the past, Russia can offer African autocrats military aid and expertise, but little in the way of economic development assistance. He believes that renewed US aid programs are the best way to counter Russian activities. Finally, Larry Tye describes the activities of three great Black American jazzmen in representing the best of the US abroad even during periods when some of its worst impulses were manifest.

In the Eyewitness section, Jonathan Rickert describes what it was like to serve as the ambassador’s staff aide in Moscow during the late 1960’s, living at the ambassador’s residence and managing a disparate collection of residence employees while also being up close and personal with some highly distinguished visitors. Don Kursch recounts the unsolved mystery of the identity of “Mr. Ziegler”, who visited the Budapest embassy’s consular section twice, the second time to commit suicide in the section’s restroom.

We are highlighting is this issue’s Archives section Foreign Service stories on serving in Vietnam in the days of the Vietnam war and on Cultural Diplomacy and the Cold War.

In our Moments in Diplomatic History section, we normally offer a couple of selections from the renowned oral history program of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST). In this issue, we invited ADST to tell our readers about their activities to mark the Foreign Service Centenary. They include publishing an oral history anthology and efforts to obtain Congressional approval for a commemorative coin. Take a look to see how you can help their efforts.

I have provided Links to an interesting essay on the moral compromises sometimes needed to advance larger worthwhile foreign policy ends and to a look at the Global South that identifies common interests, but also points out a variety of conflicting national interests.End.

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