The Foreign Service Journal, March 2014

50 MARCH 2014 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL AFSA NEWS AThought Experiment on the Foreign Service On Jan. 30, AFSA’s Book Notes program welcomed Dr. Daniel Serwer for a presenta- tion on his book, Right- ing the Balance: How You Can Help Protect America , (Potomac Books, 2013). Daniel Serwer spent 40 years in public ser- vice, 21 of these in the Foreign Service. During his career, he served as minister-counselor at the Department of State; from 1994-1996, as U.S. special envoy and coordinator for the Bosnian Fed- eration; and from 1990-1993, as deputy chief of mission and chargé d’affaires at the U.S. embassy in Rome. His experience in foreign affairs has led him to an alternative view on our civil- ian institutions. A professor of conflict management and senior fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a scholar at the Middle East Institute, Serwer believes that America faces an imbalance between civilian institutions and the military in pro- tecting national security and building peace and democracy abroad. In Righting the Balance , he offers a thought experi- ment on what should be done, suggesting that the Depart- ment of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Foreign Service as we know them be abolished. In explaining the imbalance, Serwer points to the origin of our institutional setting. The leading role the military plays today, he says, has its roots in the French-Indian War of 1754 to 1763. Since then, the military has been the major player in U.S. foreign policy. The Department of State is much more limited in its capacities, which, according to Serwer, has become apparent in recent conflicts, such as the Arab upris- ing and especially the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “These conflicts left our diplomats puzzled on what to do. The enemies of today are not often states,” Serwer argues. “We won those wars, but we lost the peace after the wars.” AFSA BOOK NOTES BY JULIAN STEINER, AFSA STAFF Serwer sees national security as a joint operation of the military and the State Department, which requires state-build- ing capabilities that “are currently lacking in State and USAID.” As he sees it, part of the problem is the difficulty in training for democracy building. The U.S. military is training foreign soldiers, but “we are not training civilians who have oversight over the military.” Here, Serwer points to the importance of strengthen- ing citizen and cultural diplomacy efforts to counter violent extremism and to enhance understanding of the United States abroad. The problem he sees is that all of these efforts are “on the margin of traditional diplomacy,” and cannot be accomplished by the current institutions. “If we were to design our institutions today, would we design something like USAID and State?” No, Serwer answers. He describes the Department of State as a “static foreign min- istry with a 19th-century architecture” and embassies abroad as “overblown.” Here he draws from his experience at the embassy in Rome, which had 800 employees during his tours in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, and still has 800 employees today. Institutional architecture does not necessarily change with the change in foreign policy needs over time. Although there have been attempts to improve, such as the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, Serwer argues that these attempts do not go far enough: “We need to rebuild from the ground up, or at least attempt the thought experiment of rebuilding from the ground up.” While the book does not offer a detailed design of what a new foreign office might look like, it does suggest folding USAID into State to create a more unified organization. It also stresses the importance of nongovernmental and civilian efforts. According to Serwer, “public diplomacy is best done at an arms-length of the government, not under its thumb.” and proposes a readily assignable corps, trained to react to a variety of scenarios around the globe. Serwer ended his presentation by saying, “We need to build a new Foreign Service for a world in which almost everyone will soon be connected and ordinary citizens are going to be counting more than ever before in world history.” A lively discussion followed. To view the event online, please see n PHOTOBYÁSGEIRSIGFÚSSON On Jan. 30, at AFSA headquarters, Dr. Daniel Serwer presents his book, Righting the Balance: How You Can Help Protect America, to an interested audience.