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MAY 2015


Ambassador Picks: A Fix?

Anyone who has completed the A-100

course or worked for more than a week

at Main State knows of the tribulations

endured by career diplomats nominated

to be ambassadors. Their wait (some-

times many months) for Senate nomina-

tion hearings and votes of confirmation

by the entire Senate cause me to wonder:

Why is it that a Marine Corps major

general can assume command of a divi-

sion with 19,000 Marines and sailors,

tanks, artillery and other weapons of

smaller caliber, without Senate confir-

mation—while a Senior Foreign Service

officer with a couple of decades of tenure

must be confirmed by the Senate before

assuming leadership of an embassy with a

diplomatic staff of a dozen or so, in a coun-

try with a population of less than a million?

Each has been selected for promo-

tion to a senior grade by boards of senior

officers in their services. Each has been

nominated for promotion by the presi-

dent to the Senate. And each has been

confirmed for duty at the selected grade.

The Senate has already “advised and

consented” to the president’s recommen-

dation that the officers on the promotion

list are worthy of increased responsibility.

The difference is this: After Senate

confirmation for promotion, the com-

mandant of the Marine Corps has the

authority to assign personnel to suit the

needs of the service. One day the major

general is at a desk at U.S. Marine Corps

headquarters; the next, he is com-

manding a division in the field. Neither

the Secretary of State nor the Director

General of the Foreign Service has such


Of course, the U.S. Constitution speci-

fies that the Senate must “advise and

consent” on presidential nominations for

ambassadors. Yet, while the Constitution

also provides for advising and consenting

on “other officers of the United States,” in

practice only the top two tiers (three- and

four-star officers) of military appoint-

ments are for positions that attract the

scrutiny of the Senate.

I propose that career Foreign Service

officers go directly to their posts when

named by the president. Exceptions for

certain high-visibility posts could be

spelled out from time to time by the Sen-

ate. These exceptions might

include our major trading

partners, such as Canada and

Japan; enduring military allies,

such as the United Kingdom,

Australia and the Republic of

Korea; and missions where we

have extraordinary national

interest, such as the United

Nations, Russia and China.

The same principle of assum-

ing duties without Senate confirmation

could hold for those appointments within

the State Department, such as Director

General of the Foreign Service and other

posts traditionally filled by career FSOs

that are also akin to assignments in the

military for one- and two-star officers.

Political nominees would continue to

face the inquiry of Senate hearings and

votes by the full Senate.

Speaking as someone who served as

a colonel in the U.S. military and had an

opportunity to serve as Marine attaché

at Embassy London (1991-1994) and to

participate in the Senior Seminar, I think

this is an idea worth consideration.

It would be a major departure from

the way that ambassadorial nominations

have been handled in the past. But times

have changed since 1815, when we had

presidential representatives in only six

European capitals.

Robert B. Newlin

Marine Corps colonel, retired

Arlington, Va.

A Dubious Rationale

I cannot be the only loyal


Service Journal

reader to have been both

shocked and filled with gratitude at find-

ing AFSA President Robert J. Silverman’s deservedly high praise for the book by Gary Bass, The Blood Telegram: Nixon,

Kissinger and a Forgotten Genocide

, and

its clear indictment of both the policies

and character of former National Security

Advisor and Secretary of State

Henry A. Kissinger in the




Serious criticism of the

man commonly considered a

foreign policy genius and an

American hero of the Cold

War era is a rarity. Bass’

book and Silverman’s review

are focused on Kissinger’s

standby role in the Pakistani

military’s massacre of some 300,000 Ben-

gali Hindus in 1971, while attending to

other business he and his boss, President

Richard Nixon, thought more worthy of

their time.

We know of the massive death and

destruction that accompanied the deci-

sion to prolong the VietnamWar rather

than complicate Nixon’s quest for a

second term in 1972. And we know of

the failure to oppose the 1974 invasion

and subsequent occupation of some 40

percent of Cyprus by Turkey after the

unelected Greek military government,

itself supported by Nixon and Kissinger,

failed in its attempt to incorporate that

independent United Nations member


I accidentally discovered the rationale

for these and other policies while reading

Kissinger’s review of John Lewis Gad- dis’ George F. Kennan: An American Life in the Nov. 13, 2011, edition of The New York Times Sunday Book Review . Midwa


through this six-page review, apropos of