The Foreign Service Journal, December 2023

96 DECEMBER 2023 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL States for the presidencies from Dwight Eisenhower to Gerald Ford and looks at the 37,133 biographic entries for the diplomats who are mentioned. He also examines the words used in the Presidential Daily Briefs for the Nixon and Ford administrations. Based on this information, he concludes that “senior diplomats are responsible for nearly all consequential diplomatic activities” and “the main role they play is as intermediaries in intergovernmental communication.” That is about as insightful as saying generals matter more than lieutenants and concern themselves largely with military matters. Lindsey also has some curious thoughts about the character and effectiveness of diplomats. An English diplomat, Sir Henry Wotton, once observed that “an ambassador is an honest gentleman sent to lie abroad for the good of his country.” Lindsey appears to belong with those who believe nothing has changed since that remark was made 419 years ago. He goes on at length about whether an “honest” diplomat is more effective than one who is not, though he never clearly defines the term or explains what it means in a diplomatic context. Does he think diplomats are personally dishonest or that they lie because they want to hide the true intentions of their country? Reflecting the former, he throws in comments like this: “There are many noncriminal ways to use diplomatic or consular office in the pursuit of personal ends. Diplomats have widespread latitude in many administrative aspects of their work and can use this as they see fit.” At another point in the book, he asserts that “diplomats rarely have reputations for honesty” and that for a government “choosing an honest diplomat represents a trade-off.” As far as effectiveness, Lindsey believes the key is for an ambassador to be sympathetic to the views of the other country. So much so that he suggests that “a diplomat loyally serves the national interest by being less than entirely loyal to it.” In this way, the diplomat will supposedly build trust and credibility that will help overcome any bilateral difficulties. In addition to using massive amounts of data, Lindsey also cites several case studies to support his theories on how diplomacy works. None of them are particularly convincing for establishing the broad insights for which he searches. He makes no distinctions between career and political appointee ambassadors or between types of countries, governments, or leaders, perhaps assuming that being a diplomat in Cuba is the same as being one in Canada. In the end, Lindsey does come to two very sound, if obvious, conclusions. First, he decides that “it matters who becomes a diplomat.” And second, he observes that “leaders can achieve success and promote international cooperation by choosing the right people.” Anyone who reads The Foreign Service Journal does not need a 376-page book to help them realize that. Dennis Coleman Jett served as U.S. ambassador to Peru and Mozambique and in Argentina, Israel, Malawi, and Liberia during his 28-year Foreign Service career. He is a professor of international affairs at Penn State University and is the author of American Ambassadors: A Guide for Aspiring Diplomats and Foreign Service Officers (2nd ed., 2022). n