The Foreign Service Journal, March 2021

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MARCH 2021 25 I have had bosses who encouraged and defended the space to develop those ideas, and others who dug up the seeds of new ideas faster than they could be planted. The State Department should be the place where those ideas flourish, not where they come to be buried. In the end, the system is ever in flux, and each change in administration presents new opportunities. There are immense challenges ahead for our country and for the Foreign Service, and there are those days when it might seem that the execution of policies more creative and politically connected individuals devise is more than sufficient. But the assessment that “many of the most serious challenges the United States will face in 2021 and beyond will require our diplomats to take the lead” causes the Belfer Center report authors to urge the president and Congress to “restore the State Department’s lead role in … foreign policy.” They are mindful, as we all are, that exclusion of the organi- zation that has had the most direct connection with the issues being decided—whose members meet frequently with the foreign minister, imbibe the smell of the foreign prison cell, drink tea with warlords and tepid bottles of Coke with gang leaders, observe the voting at the polling station, walk the fac- tory floor—would be foolish. There is a good amount of rebuilding to be done, and some risks to be taken; but, meanwhile, we should keep our dish right side up and grab the opportunities for greater policy influence as they come. As George Kennan put it: “If State doesn’t take the initiative, others will.” n Getting to a place of more creative policies at State is itself something that will require creative thinking.