Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Foreign service

I discovered this morning who was behind the Oslo, Norway search of my name. It was an old friend of mine, who now works in the foreign service, somewhere in Europe. It would appear that Norwegian embassies worldwide are routed through Oslo. It's always nice to hear from old friends, to know someone is thinking about me.
Hi Articulate,
by a chance I saw somewhere your name and then I found your email address. (I hope it is you:)) how is your life going? we really haven't been in touch for a long time and i hope you are doing well...with all your ambitious and life spirit:))...

What a joy to hear from her! Our story is not quite the tale recently recounted by Prof. Me, but it is a fond memory.

Yesterday, I listened through a segment on NPR on life in the foreign service. (Here's Part I, and today's Part II segment). There is something attractive to me in the foreign service. And yet, I fear the mediocre foreign policy of the Clinton years (now, just how many civilian casualties did WE cause in bombing Kosovo? And how many Balkan war criminals are still at large?) and the ABSOLUTE DISASTER of foreign policy during the Bush years (which makes the errors of the previous administration appear like tripping on the sidewalk and skinning a knee, next to butchering a village... repeatedly!) have poisoned the image of America abroad for the next two generations.

It is an economist's view that risk should be balanced against potential benefits. The risk to an American serving abroad today is absolute; the benefits (certainly under the current administration) are likely negligible. I grow sick to my stomach every time I hear Bush or Condaleezza Rice pontificate on how we aim to mold the world in our own image ("We need always to be ... cognizant of ... and looking to ... what kind of a Middle East we are trying to build...").

Don't these people get it? We are not the great overlords with unchallengeable wisdom to match our power. We are a people, a nation, flawed and imperfect as we are inspired and capable. We must respect others, listen to them, understand them, challenge and chastise when we see fit. But we must be partners in the world, not rulers. True leadership is not bullying. They are not the same.

We must accept difference. Above all, we must rout hypocrisy from our own ranks and policies. We can not argue on the one hand that we oppose tyranny, yet make open deals with tyrants. We can not on the one hand claim we fight for the spread of democracy, yet arm and sustain those whose policies are undemocratic. In short, the world is not black and white, the only colors this administration sees. If we must be pragmatic, we must also be honest.

So, I guess the foreign service is out for me, for the forseeable future.

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