The Foreign Service Journal, March 2021

22 MARCH 2021 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL S ince I entered the Foreign Service three decades ago, I have heard the constant refrain that State’s influence in foreign policy is eroding due to the entry of other players, mistrust by political lead- ers, its own institutional weaknesses and its failure to keep up with the accelerat- ing pace of information. This perception even led some of my colleagues to leave the Service early in search of that greater influence. I’m not sure they found it. The idea that State’s influence has eroded is, in part, a result of misplaced nostalgia. In fact, there are no consistent “glory days” in State’s past. Harry Kopp and John Naland write in Career Diplomacy: Life and Work in the Foreign Service, 3rd edition (Georgetown University Press, 2017) that Woodrow Wilson had an absolute disdain for the State Department and “key foreign policy decisions … were all made without regard for the secretary of state and his department.” Congressional Quarterly reported in 1968 that in neither the Cuba missile crisis nor in Vietnam “has the State Department played a dominant role.” How to “get out of our own way” and secure a seat at the foreign policy table. BY KE I TH W. M I NES Keith W. Mines is director for Latin America at the U.S. Institute of Peace. He retired from the State Department in 2019 as director for Venezuelan affairs after a career including posts in Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and South Asia. His recently released book, Why Nation Building Matters: Political Consolidation, Building Security Forces, and Economic Development in Failed and Fragile States (Potomac Books, 2020), recounts his experiences in peacebuilding and postconflict stabilization. FOCUS State‘s Influence on Foreign Policy IS THIS REALLY AS GOOD AS IT GETS? NOTES TO THE NEW ADMINISTRATION