The Foreign Service Journal, July-August 2011

20 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / J U LY- A U G U S T 2 0 1 1 you are not an expert in the country or region and/or you do not have some level of responsibility for poli- cies there, leave the dissenting to others. On the other hand, if you have the bona fides and your advo- cacy has not been successful, then you should consider formal dissent. If you choose that option, keep the following points in mind: • Articulate the case for change succinctly and precisely. • Record your years (hopefully) of experience in the country or area and your current responsibilities in the matter. Your immediate supervisors will know of your ex- perience and authority; others may not. • Have a plan for success (your dissent becomes policy) and for failure (your dissent is dismissed). If the former, have the next steps outlined in detail and ready to table. If the latter, know how you will proceed— simply go back to work and live to fight another day; seek a transfer; or submit your resignation and go public. Many, if not most, Foreign Service officers will never face the hard choices of formal dissent. Rather, the vast majority of them will have an impact on policy through advocacy. Those who do choose formal dissent are too valuable to lose, in my view. Accordingly, I am not a strong supporter of res- ignation, even though I understand that occasionally it will be the only way. From the perspective of 50 years of in- volvement, I would argue that particular foreign policies are not as critical with the passage of time as they seem to be in the heat of the moment. Still, dissent has become institutionalized in the cul- ture of the State Department and the Foreign Service, and the nation has greatly benefited thereby. F O C U S The most effective way to influence the permanent policy process is to convince superiors of the validity and utility of your views.