The Foreign Service Journal - November 2015
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Civ-Mil Partnerships

Thank you for highlighting the impor-

tance of civilian-military relations in the

Foreign Service in the

October Journal


In Iraq, I would joke to friends that it was

often a challenge to be in a

place where people dressed

differently, spoke a different

language, were hospitable

but clearly had different

beliefs and customs—and

then you would go outside

the wire with the Marines and

be with the Iraqis.

Based on my experience, I

think the four keys to a strong

partnership between U.S. civilian agen-

cies and military units are:


An understanding of and respect for

each other’s mission, customs, personnel

practices and underlying approaches to

achieving objectives (what the military

calls “doctrine”).

This holds regardless

of whether a given mission is primar-

ily civilian, with some military support

(what we have in most embassies), or

whether the mission has a high mili-

tary component and yet has significant

diplomatic and other civilian agency ele-

ments, as in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Being able to “add value” to a given


For the Foreign Service this

means drawing on (and supporting)

its personnel who have deep area and

language expertise; who can understand

and deal effectively with foreign societ-

ies’ ambiguities and contradictions,

their outcasts and opposition, as well as

their privileged classes; who have long

experience addressing often contradic-

tory policy goals in dealings with foreign

governments, civil society, press and

security services; who understand the

full range of U.S. diplomatic, develop-

ment, intelligence, law enforcement and

military tools and interests; and who can

work well with the interagency process,

especially at our overseas missions. The

military respects and appreciates this

talent when we offer it.


Being willing to show up when

needed in difficult and even

dangerous circumstances.

To the extent that the For-

eign Service, and State, are

willing to embed officers

with military units or to staff

provincial reconstruction

teams, and more generally

to send its best to embassies

in countries at war, they gain

credibility and respect from

their colleagues in the military and in

other agencies.


Having the right leaders in the right


Embassy Baghdad under Ambas-

sador Ryan Crocker and the embassy-

U.S. military relationship led by Amb.

Crocker and General David Petraeus are

classic examples of the critical role of

leadership in establishing an effective

U.S. government and coalition civilian-

military partnership.

Stephen McFarland

Ambassador, retired

Bogotá, Colombia

The FS Profession

Lamenting that the Foreign Service is not

yet a profession (Charles Ray, Speaking Out, July-August FSJ ) is an unfortunate

tradition that has resurfaced from time

to time over more than 50 years.

James K. Penfield addressed this issue

in the March 1960 edition of

The Foreign

Service Journal

and urged the Foreign

Service to get over our “built-in inferior-

ity complex” and embrace the critical

professional role that we must play in the

life of the nation.

In his classic work,

The Soldier and

the State

, Samuel Huntington explicitly

identifies diplomatic service as a profes-

sion. And, I would argue, in the Foreign

Service Act of 1980, Congress did so as


Of course, there are always steps we

can and should take to further enrich

and advance our profession. But there

is no good substitute for it—experts just

won’t do.

As Penfield said: “No one would deny

that a good Merchant Marine skipper

is a professional sailor. It might even

be argued that he’s a better sailor than

the average captain of a Navy ship, who

spends a good deal less of his time at sea.

But who in his right mind would suggest

that the Navy would do its job better if it

hired Merchant Marine officers with-

out Navy experience to run some of its


Deep experience in diplomacy is criti-

cal for good diplomatic decision-making.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell,

in his leadership book, It Worked for Me , observed that the best decisions


those that draw upon “superb instinct”

informed and developed through “long

experience.” Such instincts are the hall-

mark of professionals, not experts.

Todd Kushner


Rockville, Maryland

Back Story to the

FS Act of 1980

The September articles on the Foreign Service Act of 1980 were interesting an


factual but neglected the back story:

the two-year battle of the then-AFSA

Governing Board with the department,

on the one hand, and with Congress, on

the other.

A little history may be in order: Con-

gress had already passed a major Civil

Service Reform Act and was then intent

on writing a Foreign Service Act congru-