The Foreign Service Journal, July-August 2012

26 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 2 grams can be rebuilt relatively rap- idly, but institutional and personnel structures take decades to rebuild if they are not properly maintained. The so-called “peace dividend” taken after the collapse of the Soviet Union, with the opening of 20 new embassies and simultaneous reduc- tions in staff, resulted in a hollow diplomacy manifestly too weak to meet its responsibilities at the be- ginning of the 21st century. As re- cently as 2008, nearly a fifth of positions requiring language competence were not filled by officers possessing the relevant skill — the equivalent of soldiers without bullets. Half a decade later, even after greatly expanded budgets we are barely keeping pace with language requirements. This is symptomatic of the time required to build a capacity once lost or damaged. All these complexities only un- derscore the need for a well-re- searched, carefully documented, forward-looking study of America’s diplomatic needs. The post-Arab Spring world and the breadth of multinational challenges are here to stay. If the United States is to suc- ceed in recalibrating the levers of state power so that military action is not seen as the default solution, then it must have the tools and skilled personnel to conduct an ef- fective diplomacy in support of its interests. If we fail, the mistakes of the past will be a prologue for the future. Fortunately, this need not happen, and the Academy of American Diplomacy will do its share to avert such an outcome. Yet make no mistake: this struggle will be long and difficult. ■ F OCUS All these complexities only underscore the need for a well-researched, carefully documented, forward-looking study of America’s diplomatic needs.