The Foreign Service Journal, May 2018

10 MAY 2018 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL LETTERS An International Conversation Is Needed I write in response to Senator Lindsey Graham’s call for a national conversa- tion on U.S. foreign policy in the March FSJ . Because problems of the interna- tional system are growing from day to day, American political elites should be aware of one thing: Even as a super- power, the USA is not capable of solving the problems of the world by itself. Heavily supported globalization has created global problems, and for the first time in modern history the United States needs true collaborators instead of strategic partners. Why? The USA’s competitors, such as China and Russia, are already very excited about the possibility of a power transi- tion. But their reputation and their lack of experience in world governance do not offer a very bright future for the international system. If the power transition occurs, the new world order will be based on hard power and pure militarization. No country has the kind of soft power gravitas the USA has. It is high time for the United States to utilize its soft power to bring about democratic values and peace for real. Action speaks louder than words, and this conversation should be international. Yi ğ it Anil Güzelipek Assistant professor, Department of Political Science and International Relations Karamano ğ lu Mehbetbey University Karaman, Turkey Support for Special Needs Kids Thank you to The Foreign Service Journal for publishing Kathi Silva’s excellent March Speaking Out column, “Families with Special Needs Kids Need Support.” Since Maureen Danzot and I co-authored a similar article in June 2016 to first ring the alarm bell about deteriorating State Department support for more than 1,000 Foreign Service families who have children with disabilities, the situation has, if any- thing, become worse. As Kathi Silva highlighted, over the past several years policies and practices regarding access to the Special Needs Education Allowance, burdensome and limiting bidding procedures and grow- ing medical clearance issues have all combined to increasingly limit oppor- tunities for a large number of Foreign Service personnel in terms of where they can serve overseas. This, in turn, leads to limitations on career advancement, more broken assignments and curtail- ments, and increasing instances of lengthy family separations. The parallel cost to the State Depart- ment and other foreign affairs agen- cies is significant. Personnel are forced to waste hundreds of hours jumping through unnecessary bureaucratic hoops, suffer from declining morale and are increasingly unable to serve in areas where their training and experience base could be utilized most effectively in pushing forward U.S. policy interests. Never mind the cost of addressing increasing numbers of Equal Employ- ment Opportunity complaints and grievances from affected employees who have simply had enough with how they and their families are being treated. There are some small glimmers of hope. The State Department recently formed a Special Needs Education Allowance Task Force, including all the various department stakeholders, and has asked for periodic input from AFSA and the Foreign Service Families with Disabilities Alliance. This indicates at least recognition that there are problems that must be addressed. It remains to be seen whether this effort will result in significant positive reforms, or will be limited to minor fixes. For the former to occur, we expect that greater atten- tion and engagement from more senior leadership in the department will be required. In the meantime, membership in the FSFDA employee organization is grow- ing. We encourage all those affected by these issues to join so that we can be more effective in providing mutual support while speaking with a com- mon voice on issues of concern. Please contact me via State email if interested in becoming a member. Mark R. Evans Chair, Foreign Service Families with Disabilities Alliance FSO Embassy Stockholm Steadfastness in Public Service When I was in the fire academy, dur- ing particularly hard stretches of physical training, our captain used life-and-death imagery to spur us on. He painted the picture of an uncon- scious victim in the back bedroom of a fully consumed house. Your air tank is low, you cannot see your hand in front of your face and the floor is getting spongy. But you’ve got to get to the back bedroom! “If you quit on this training,” he said, “you will quit on a fire.”