Friday, April 11, 2014

William Bradford Bishop, Jr: Your World Suddenly Got Smaller




Dear Brad:

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, your world has suddenly gotten smaller. As you surely are aware, the FBI has put you on their Top Ten Most Wanted list. This is quite an honor. Only those "considered a particularly dangerous menace to society due to current criminal charges" are placed on the list, and only 502 criminals have gotten there since its inception sixty-four years ago. The only ways to get off the list are through capture, death, dismissal of charges and being deemed no longer a “particularly dangerous menace to society.” Only six listees have been removed for this reason.

Let's take these one at a time. If you're dead, you're off the hook. Thirty-eight years after the murders, there's been not a hint of dismissing the charges. And making the Top Ten list pretty much rules that one out. At 77, you're still very much considered to be a dangerous menace to society, the oldest fugitive to be on the list -- another distinction. That leaves capture. And this leads to why your world has suddenly shrunk. Of the 502 fugitives who have been on the Top Ten list, 471 have been apprehended or located. Quite an impressive number, wouldn't you agree? And most of these were fingered through "citizen participation" -- a fancy term for snitches, alert neighbors, observant acquaintances, friends and family members, just about anybody who crosses paths with you, Brad. From now on, you can count on being at much greater risk of being found out and turned in. That grocery clerk, that gas station attendant, that second wife. Spurred to act by that hundred grand in reward money on your head. Unless you've had major plastic surgery, your face is now a bullseye, irrespective of facial hair and eyeglasses. In short, Brad, your world has gotten much, much smaller.

I was up into the wee hours last night plowing through the diary you kept from 1965 to 1971. Though mostly containing banal stuff about "how to succeed in the Foreign Service," your 30-something self gives away some very interesting glimpses into your soul. To wit:

Toxic, degenerate psychoses with confabulation. Chronic, low-level maniac involutional [sic] megalomania.
Could you have meant "involutional melancholia," a psychiatric disorder marked by "anxiety, agitation, restlessness, somatic concerns, hypochondriasis, occasional somatic or nihilistic delusions, insomnia, anorexia, and weight loss"?

I am getting better. I am on the threshold. I recognize now that to twist my accursed confines, I must develop a continuing and constant sense of surging for confidence, awe, and becoming and love - This is my greatest challenge for this is always been the great impediment to freedom and total self realisation [sic] - to burst the bounds. 
I don't know, Brad. Call me politically incorrect, but this sounds like it was written by a crazy person.

You stand on the threshhold of: Love Knowledge Style faith charisma absolute confidence Intensive analytical penetration Intense [indecipherable] mental processes.
Ditto.

This accursed insomnia makes me sleazy.
Can't argue with that.

No more recriminations - It's amazing, despite how lousy you fell all doped up - smoking a few cigarettes, etc How I suddenly have new powers.
Back to crazy.

Your family grows more beautiful, and you still stand on the threshold = Outwardly, your accomplishments are great = My, quick symbols = promotions, citations, languages, degrees Still, you stand on the threshold. You have soared to the heights & plummeted, each time, to the depths.
I find this passage to be the most intriguing, Brad. What's the "threshold"? And what do you mean by "the depths"?

Your handwriting gets increasingly manic as the years go by, and your entries less coherent. I picture Colonel Kurtz in the movie Apocalypse Now, scrawling in his own diary, "The horror, the horror."

The fact is, you were seeing psychiatrist Frank Caprio twice a week during your last Washington tour of duty. He had you on the antidepressant Serax. You suffered from chronic insomnia. Your domineering mother constantly berated you. Your wife wanted to pursue her own career as an artist and to remain in the U.S., a source of friction in your marriage. You were passed over for promotion. Devastating. And then there were financial strains. So many tensions. So many pressures. For a man on the psychological "threshold," the "depths" were easy to fall into, weren't they, Brad? Did you know that Dr. Caprio quit psychiatry after the murders? Apparently, he couldn't live with himself. He took with him to his grave in 2005 his inside knowledge of what was going on inside your head.

Rather than get caught, why don't you finally give yourself up? Drop me a line.

See also --

On the Trail of a Murderer: William Bradford Bishop, Jr.

- and previous



Saturday, March 15, 2014

How to Buy Off U.S. Senators in Your Quest to Purchase an American Ambassadorship

A cozy relationship cemented by moolah

In my Feb. 7, 2014 article in POLITICO Magazine, Why Does America Send So Many Stupid, Unqualified Hacks Overseas?, I stated, "In the last two Congresses, for example, George Tsunis (ambassadorial nominee for Norway) contributed to the campaigns of five senators, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, former Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry and current Chairman Robert Menendez, as well as to the Senate Majority PAC. Before Tsunis paraded his ignorance before the Foreign Relations Committee, New York Senator Charles Schumer gave a gushing introduction. Tsunis had donated $4,600 to Schumer’s campaign fund in 2009."

A colleague did some further digging, and came up with the following additional details drawn from the Center for Responsive Politics:

"Further analysis indicates that in the 2012 election cycle, George Tsunis and his immediate family contributed $79,000 to 10 senators. All but one of the contributions ($1,500 for Sen. Corker) were for $2,500, the individual maximum contribution per candidate per election. Same limit applied to immediate relatives of the contributor.

Cardin (D-MD) $7,500, SFRC member,
Menendez (D-NJ) $15,000, SFRC member, now Chairman
Nelson (D-FL) $2,500
Reid (D-NV) $2,500 Majority Leader
Gillibrand (D-NY) $10,000
Tester (D-MT) $2,500
Warner (D-VA) $10,000
Lugar (R-IN) $2,500 was a member of the SFRC, but lost election in 2012
Snowe (R-ME) $22,500, retired in 2012.
Corker (R-TN) $5,000, SFRC member, now ranking Republican

Seven Democrats -- Cardin, Menendez, Nelson, Reid, Gillibrand. Tester, Warner -- received contributions. The two on the SFRC, Menendez and Cardin, have already helped him through the SFRC. Majority Leader Reid stands ready to help on the Senate floor. Corker is the only remaining Republican recipient. Tsunis won 12-6 in committee."

DIPLO DENIZEN note: Pay very close attention all you plutoctats/wannabe ambassadors: spread your bets and pay generously. Every politician's vote can be yours for the right price, almost irrespective of party affiliation. Isn't America a great country? Anybody can become a U.S. ambassador -- for the right price!

 Now out at major book retailers:

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Foreign Circus - Why Washington Always Gets It Wrong



Ever wondered why Washington is so bad in foreign policy? Why folks like, say, the Russians, walk all over us and laugh about it? Why scandal after scandal, ranging from intelligence failures to drunken, lecherous ambassadors bedevil us? Why Americans would much rather watch re-runs of Keeping Up With the Kardashians than pay attention to Syria, Crimea or global climate change? Then read my latest book, The Foreign Circus: Why Foreign Policy Should Not Be Left in the Hands of Diplomats, Spies and Political Hacks. It's a compilation of essays drawn from this blog. As an added benefit, I also provide fascinating insights on being the tortured soul called, "Writer."
  
From the back jacket cover:

An ambassador orders his staff into the lawless interior of a civil war-torn country as guerrillas are targeting foreigners for assassination. Hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S.-bought weaponry are channeled to Afghan religious fanatics, the future Taliban. White House players leak classified information to the media, then blame the leaks on career civil servants. Diplomats succumb to the temptations of exotic overseas sexual playgrounds. Political hacks and campaign money bundlers are rewarded with ambassadorships in a diplomatic spoils system that hearkens back to the Robber Baron age. Computer nerds Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning steal a veritable Croesus of sensitive national security information and give it away free to our adversaries.

What's wrong with this picture? Everything. Our foreign policy is in the hands of the clueless, the self-serving and the politically corrupt. Read this book first. Then fill out papers to emigrate. The author provides a first-hand view from inside the belly of the beast of the U.S. foreign policy establishment. His insights are so spot-on that government censors have blocked out whole sections of text. The Foreign Circus will have you alternatively laughing and shaking your head. And when you read tomorrow's headlines, you'll have a better appreciation why Washington screws up.


All this for an introductory price of only $2.99 for the ebook! Now available at Amazon, Nook and Kobo. Paperback coming soon.

ETA:  The Foreign Circus has already hit Amazon's Kindle Bestseller lists for "Political Humor" and "International Diplomacy."

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Comment Peut-on Dire "Hack" en Français?

 My commentary in POLITICO, "Why Does America Send So Many Stupid, Unqualified Hacks Overseas?" has been picked up by Switzerland's largest French-language weekly --



Ces Ambassadeurs de fantaisie 

Diplomatie. Pourquoi les Etats-Unis envoient-ils tant d’amateurs incompétents occuper des postes d’ambassadeurs à l’étranger? Témoignage à charge d’un ancien diplomate américain.
- James Bruno

Récemment, l’un de mes amis du Foreign Service (service diplomatique) me parlait d’un ancien ambassadeur américain en Suède qui, quelques années auparavant, s’était évanoui dans la neige, trop ivre pour se relever. Il avait fait la fête durant une sortie à la campagne. Heureusement, un membre de l’ambassade l’a retrouvé à temps pour le ranimer. Notre ivrogne à Stock­holm n’était pas de la carrière, sa nomination avait été politique. Celui qui lui a sauvé la vie, en revanche, était un diplomate professionnel. Les rôles joués par les deux hommes cette nuit-là sont emblématiques.

Cette histoire, je m’en suis souvenu l’autre jour, quand la Commission des affaires étrangères du Sénat a donné son accord à la dernière fournée d’ambassadeurs choisis par le président Barack Obama, y compris quelques novices dont les performances désastreuses lors de leur audition laissent prévoir qu’ils auront à s’appuyer puissamment sur leur équipe du Foreign Service pour éviter de mettre les Etats-Unis dans l’embarras. Certes, nous n’avons pas de souci à nous faire à propos du sénateur du Montana Max Baucus, dont la nomination en Chine a passé haut la main l’étape du Sénat. Mais certains riches donateurs de campagnes électorales à la carrière très éloignée du service public ne manquent pas d’inquiéter. D’ailleurs, ils se sont d’ores et déjà illustrés.
Confusion. Quand le magnat de l’hôtellerie George Tsunis, candidat désigné d’Obama pour Oslo, s’est présenté devant le Sénat le mois dernier, il a avoué qu’il ignorait que la Norvège fût une monarchie constitutionnelle et il croyait que le Parti du progrès, populiste et anti-immigration, n’était qu’une formation marginale alors qu’il siège au gouvernement. Une autre candidate, Colleen Bell, partante pour Budapest, n’a pas su dire quels étaient les intérêts stratégiques des Etats-Unis en Hongrie. Le président pouvait-il vraiment s’attendre à ce qu’elle soit une experte de la région? Son job précédent était productrice de la série TV Top Models. Elle s’est pris les pieds dans les questions du sénateur John McCain comme le ferait sans doute, justement, une top-modèle de la série priée de faire un exposé sur la paix dans le monde. Quand les auditions ont pris fin, McCain conclut sarcastiquement: «Je n’ai plus de questions pour ce groupe de candidats à la qualification incroyablement élevée.»

Par comparaison, l’ambassadeur de Norvège à Washington a trente et un ans de carrière aux Affaires étrangères derrière lui, celui de Hongrie est un économiste qui a travaillé vingt-sept ans pour le Fonds monétaire international.

Ce déséquilibre s’explique par le fait que les Etats-Unis sont le seul pays industrialisé à distribuer des postes de diplomates comme des récompenses politiques, souvent à des donateurs de campagnes, d’une manière désuète évoquant les pratiques clientélistes en usage dans les républiques bananières, les dictatures et les monarchies de pacotille. Un système analogue permettait jadis à des alliés politiques de devenir gradés dans l’armée. Mais le Congrès y a mis fin après la guerre de Sécession, quand l’opinion publique a été révulsée par les boucheries inutiles voulues par de vieilles badernes incompétentes nommées au grade de général. Représenter les Etats-Unis dans une capitale étrangère reste cependant un privilège à la portée de n’importe quel riche abruti disposant de relations politiques.

Le président Obama, qui a pris ses fonctions en promettant de limiter ces pratiques, a sans doute plus fait pour amplifier ce problème que ses récents prédécesseurs. Les nominations de son second mandat ont concerné plus d’une fois sur deux des alliés politiques. Depuis la Seconde Guerre mondiale, la proportion était moindre: un tiers des postes d’ambassadeurs ont été offerts à des non-professionnels.
Les tarifs pour une ambassade. Pourquoi un hôtelier et une productrice TV sont-ils de bons choix? Colleen Bell a levé plus de 2,1 millions de dollars pour faire réélire Obama. Quant à George Tsunis, qui a quitté les républicains pour passer chez les démocrates, il a réuni près de 1 million. Selon le quotidien britannique The Guardian, le montant moyen pour mériter un poste dans dix des capitales les plus attrayantes d’Europe et des Caraïbes a été de 1,79 million de dollars. Mais le coût d’un poste luxueux dans une ville comme Rome, Paris, Stock­holm ou Canberra est à la hausse. Toujours d’après le Guardian, les candidats à ces postes ont collecté un total de 5 millions en 2012, contre 3,3 millions en 2008, 1,3 million en 2004 et 800 000 dollars en 2000.
Des scandales. La Scandinavie est promise à certains des pires dilettantes du lot. George Tsunis suivra les traces d’un candidat de Ronald Reagan: Mark Evans Austad. Lorsqu’il était en fonction, cet ancien missionnaire mormon s’en prenait en termes indélicats à toutes sortes d’institutions libérales norvégiennes ainsi qu’à la presse. En 1983, il a été emmené, ivre, par la police après avoir beuglé et frappé à la porte d’une femme à 3 heures du matin.

A peu près en même temps, son collègue de Copenhague a dû démissionner après que la rumeur a été répandue qu’il abritait deux prostituées dans sa résidence. D’autres pseudo-ambassadeurs se sont illustrés par des transgressions du genre contrebande de cocaïne par la valise diplomatique, scandales alcoolisés dans l’exercice de la fonction et ennuyeuses affaires d’adultère.

Malgré cette inquiétante mise aux enchères des ambassades, il y a certainement de la place dans le corps diplomatique américain pour des ambassadeurs non professionnels. Les Etats-Unis ont parfois été représentés très dignement par des profanes, comme Patrick Moynihan en Inde, Mike Mansfield, Howard Baker et Walter Mondale au Japon, Jon Huntsman Jr. en Chine et tant d’autres. Bien qu’il admette ne pas être «un véritable expert de la Chine», Max Baucus, spécialiste des échanges commerciaux et politicien rodé, est pourvu d’autres compétences utiles. Le premier ambassadeur dans un Vietnam réunifié a été Pete Peterson, un ancien prisonnier au «Hanoi Hilton» devenu député au Congrès, sous les ordres duquel j’ai servi comme conseiller politique à l’ambassade de Hanoi de 1997 à 2001. Grâce à ses connexions au Capitole et à sa crédibilité parmi les vétérans, il obtenait plus par un simple coup de fil que ne l’aurait pu un ambassadeur de carrière à l’aide de cent câbles à Washington.

En Norvège, je prévois que, comme la plupart de ses prédécesseurs, George Tsunis ne sera qu’un homme de paille soutenu avec compétence par une équipe de professionnels du Foreign Service, qui effectuera tout le travail dans l’ombre. Si Tsunis évite tout esclandre pendant ces trois années probables à Oslo, il aura accompli une performance.

Envoyer une productrice de la télévision à Budapest est plus risqué, puisque l’extrémisme et l’antisémitisme sont en augmentation en Hongrie et que l’économie du pays est à terre. Comment Colleen Bell, qui semble ne pas avoir la moindre idée des objectifs géopolitiques de Washington dans cette partie du monde, fera-t-elle pour traiter avec un premier ministre rusé qui restreint les libertés et l’expression politique? Difficile à dire.
Mais je voudrais rassurer les professionnels de la diplomatie évincés au profit de la sinécure dorée de Colleen Bell: prenez courage, on me dit qu’il y a un poste à prendre dans Top Models.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Petition Asking President Obama to Withdraw the Nomination of George Tsunis as U.S. Ambassador to Norway

File:Change.org Logo.png

A movement is afoot to petition President Obama to withdraw the nomination of George Tsunis as U.S. ambassador to Norway. As readers of this blog know, Mr. Tsunis, a wealthy campaign contributor with zero diplomatic background, put in a nails-on-the-black board performance at his hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, displaying no knowledge of the country to which he is to be posted. The petition appears to be generated by Norwegian-Americans, who are appalled by this embarrassing nomination to their ancestral land. The following text from their petition captures the sense of opposition to the Tsunis nomination:

"So, as opposed to nominating as a U.S. ambassador a person who has successfully developed over the years of a career specific expertise, business relationships, and useful contacts relating to, say, Norway, instead, something far more grotesque occurs. Instead, an extremely wealthy individual who has donated obscenely large amounts of money politically is nominated (and usually confirmed) to offices the requirements of which are far beyond their background and work skills. Individuals who lack even the slightest knowledge, experience, and relationships to the country upon which they are about to be foisted are, on the contrary, allowed to pass through. Would you ever be offered and hired for a job paying nearly $200,000 per year for which you have absolutely no qualifications? No. Neither would I. And neither should Tsunis.

Unskilled purchasers of offices are, therefore, turned loose on unsuspecting foreign nations and American foreign policy alike as know-nothing/accomplish-nothing ambassadors who, in the very worst cases, such as that of Tsunis, even PRIOR TO their confirmation and arrival in office do far more HARM in U.S. international relations than they ever will do good."

To sign the petition, go to:

Petition to End the Tsunis Nomination as Ambassador to Norway

See also:

Why Does America Send So Many Stupid, Unqualified Hacks Overseas? ~ POLITICO Magazine

Monday, March 10, 2014

Senior Diplomats Call For Rejection Of Ambassadorial Nominees

Fifteen former presidents of the American Foreign Service Association sent out the following letter to Senators opposing the nominations of three of Obama's unqualified ambassadorial nominees and calling for an end to the practice of selling ambassadorships:

March 6, 2014

Dear Senator Reid,

Among the nominees for ambassadorships currently under consideration by the Senate, three have generated considerable public controversy: George Tsunis (Norway), Colleen Bell (Hungary), and Noah Mamet (Argentina). The nominations of Mr. Tsunis and Ms. Bell have been forwarded to the full Senate by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

As former presidents of the American Foreign Service Association, the professional association and trade union of career members of the Foreign Service, we urge you to oppose granting Senate consent to these three candidates. Although we have no reason to doubt that the nominees are conscientious and worthy Americans, the fact that they appear to have been chosen on the basis of their service in raising money for electoral campaigns, with minimal demonstrated qualifications for their posts, has subjected them to widespread public ridicule, not only in the U.S. but also abroad. As a result, their effectiveness as U.S. representatives in their host countries would be severely impaired from the start. Their nominations also convey a disrespectful message, that relations with the host country are not significant enough to demand a chief of mission with relevant expertise.

These three nominations represent a continuation of an increasingly unsavory and unwise practice by both parties. In the words of President Theodore Roosevelt, “The spoils or patronage theory is that public office is primarily designed for partisan plunder.” Sadly it has persisted, even after President Nixon's acknowledged rewarding of ambassadorial nominations to major campaign donors was exposed. Recognizing that the practice was inconsistent with democratic principles, the U.S. Congress in the Foreign Service Act of 1980 set the following guidelines:

SEC. 304. APPOINTMENT OF CHIEFS OF MISSION. —

(a)(1) An individual appointed or assigned to be a chief of mission should possess clearly demonstrated competence to perform the duties of a chief of mission, including, to the maximum extent practicable, a useful knowledge of the principal language or dialect of the country in which the individual is to serve, and knowledge and understanding of the history, the culture, the economic and political institutions, and the interests of that country and its people.

(2) Given the qualifications specified in paragraph (1), positions as chief of mission should normally be accorded to career members of the Service, though circumstances will warrant appointments from time to time of qualified individuals who are not career members of the Service.

(3) Contributions to political campaigns should not be a factor in the appointment of an individual as a chief of mission.

(4) The President shall provide the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate, with each nomination for an appointment as a chief of mission, a report on the demonstrated competence of that nominee to perform the duties of the position in which he or she is to serve.

(b)(1) In order to assist the President in selecting qualified candidates for appointment or assignment as chiefs of mission, the Secretary of State shall from time to time furnish the President with the names of career members of the Service who a re qualified to serve as chiefs of mission, together with pertinent information about such members.

(2) Each individual nominated by the President to be a chief of mission, ambassador at large, or minister shall, at the time of nomination, file with the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a report of contributions made by such individual and by members of his or her immediate family during the period beginning on the first day of the fourth calendar year preceding the calendar year of the nomination and ending on the date of the nomination. The report shall be verified by the oath of the nominee, taken before any individual authorized to administer oaths. The chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate shall have each such report printed in the Congressional Record. As used in this paragraph, the term  "contribution" has the same meaning given such term by section 301(8) of theFederal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (2 U.S.C. 431(8)), and the term "immediate family" means the spouse of the nominee, and any child,parent, grandparent, brother, or sister of the nominee and the spouses of any of them.

During his 2008 election campaign, President Obama recognized the appropriateness of these guidelines, and promised to respect them. The timefor the Senate to begin enforcing its own guidelines set forth in law for U.S. diplomatic chiefs of mission is now. The nation cannot afford otherwise.

Sincerely,

Fifteen former presidents of the American Foreign Service Association –

Marshall Adair, Thomas Boyatt, Kenneth Bleakley, Theodore Eliot, Tex A Harris, William Harrop, Dennis Hays, J. Anthony Holmes, Lars Hydle, Susan Johnson, Alphonse La Porta,  John Limbert, John Naland, Lannon Walker, Theodore Wilkinson


Friday, February 28, 2014

The U.S. Ambassadorial Crapshoot: Why Political Hacks Make Bad Ambassadors

 
“Diplomacy is seduction in another guise, Mr. Adams. One improves with practice.” 
~ Benjamin Franklin

Nine years ago this month, the U.S. diplomat George Kennan died at age 101. The renowned author of the containment policy vis-a-vis the Soviet Union gave sage counsel on foreign policy up until the end of his long life, to the great benefit of the American people. His 38-year diplomatic career included stints as ambassador to the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. An excellent New York Times op-ed the other day said of Kennan, "Like the Founders, he believed the wisest foreign policy limited military intervention abroad while affording the broadest scope for hard-headed diplomacy." Contrast this with the plunge into needless war of the previous administration led by the so-called neo-cons, all ideologically driven, not one a career diplomat.

In my previous commentaries on the anachronistic practice in this country of using ambassadorships for political patronage, I cited several examples of politically appointed ambassadors who had embarrassed the United States through their repellent personal behavior, incompetence or simple dereliction of duty. All had one thing in common: they bought their positions plain and simple. Yes, I know one cannot paint all noncareer ambassadors with the same broad brush, which I also point out in the case of distinguished Americans who did not exchange cold hard cash for their high positions, but who were selected based on relevant skills sets. And, yes, some who did buy their ambassadorial posts have actually performed superbly. But it's a crap shoot: lay your money down and throw the dice. What are the odds that they'll come up a Natural over Snake Eyes? Our senior diplomats should not be selected in a game of money-fueled craps. After all, not only is our national prestige at stake, but our national security as well.

Benjamin Franklin, America's first envoy to France, would be appalled by the dilettantes our presidents have been sending abroad as ambassadors -- people who know nothing of the countries for which they are nominated, nor their languages. Washington sends ambassadors to Spain, Italy, France and Germany who know no Spanish, Italian, French or German. Four of President Obama's latest nominees comprise a Boston attorney, a hotel kingpin, a party agitprop and an assistant producer of a TV soap opera. What do they share in common? Two things: a) they raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the president's last political campaign; and b) they know next to nothing of the nations to which they're destined nor do they speak their languages. Furthermore, they lack depth of knowledge of the mechanics of the U.S. foreign affairs apparatus.

The latter point is key, one that is overlooked in the news media: hoteliers, soap opera mavens, campaign organizers, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers may be really good at their given professions. That does not mean, however, they have the slightest idea how to carry out diplomacy -- how to deftly navigate foreign socieities, identify their power centers and communicate with the players in their own language; how to deal with dozens of U.S. agencies to tap their energies and resources and to keep them in line; how to manage relations with a Congress that can be your friend one day and your nemesis the next; how to ably manage a multi-agency embassy staff with sometimes conflicting agendas anchored in their D.C.-based departments. I really don't think I'd be good at managing a hotel empire, or making TV dramas, or raising campaign funds. Why would anyone think those with no grounding in statecraft would know the first thing about being a diplomat?

Canadian diplomat Sam Hanson states that diplomacy is more complex than rocket science: “If you get rocket science wrong you lose your spacecraft and crew. If you get diplomacy wrong…you can get locked into wars with no way forward, no way out and no end in sight.” He adds that “it is no more than prudent to take diplomacy as seriously as rocket science. Those who do not will have their heads handed to them by those who do.”

Each administration eventually comes under domestic attack over conduct of its foreign policy. President Obama, fairly or not, is frequently criticized for lacking strategic vision and for passivity. Whatever the merits of these critiques, there is a deeper problem, one that if not rectified, will guarantee that Washington will have its head handed to it on any number of issues. This is the overpoliticization of a foreign policy that increasingly is in the hands of nonprofessional diplomats driven by myopic political expediencies and lacking in institutional memory. Over half of the president's second term ambassadorial nominations have gone to noncareer people. The figure for both terms is around 37 percent -- on the high side traditionally. But the political appointees snatch up three-quarters of ambassadorships in major countries, NATO allies principally, leaving malarial backwaters, war zones and minor satrapies to career Foreign Service officers. What's worse, fully three-quarters of the top managerial jobs in the State Department are now occupied by political appointees, as well as 40 percent of the positions just below the top senior level. The upshot is that "the Foreign Service's input into the foreign policy process (and management of the department) has similarly declined," according to the Foreign Service Journal.

In her book, The Guns of August, the historian Barbara Tuchman provides a fascinating study in how the major European powers slid into the great mass slaughter that was World War I based on miscalculations and rash, short-term thinking. “Basic to the conduct of foreign policy is that problem basic to all policy: how to apply wisdom to government," she said.

Money does not equate to wisdom. It is time to remove it from our diplomatic appointments altogether. Not to do so makes the world's only superpower a laughing stock at best, and a blundering giant at worst.

See also --

Obama's Clown Car

- and previous

Why Does America Send So Many Stupid, Unqualified Hacks Overseas? ~ POLITICO Magazine