Quote note (#169)

“Alone among major powers, the United States has not professionalized its diplomacy” with disastrous consequences, writes Chas Freeman:

… what if every four or so years, you administered a frontal lobotomy to yourself, excising your memories and making it impossible to learn from experience? What if most aspects of your job were always new to you? What if you didn’t know whether something you propose to do has been tried before and, if so, whether it succeeded or failed? To one degree or another, this is what is entailed in staffing the national security functions of our government (other than those assigned to our military) with short-term political appointees selected to reward not their knowledge, experience, or skill but campaign contributions, political sycophancy, affiliation with domestic interest groups, academic achievements, success in fields unrelated to diplomacy, or social prominence.

(Pillaged further here.)

June 18, 2015admin 19 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Democracy

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19 Responses to this entry

  • Barnabas Says:

    I shudder to think of the decline from Kissinger to Hillary but the Yes Minister scenario has its own problems.


    Posted on June 18th, 2015 at 1:48 am Reply | Quote
  • Quote note (#169) | Neoreactive Says:

    […] By admin […]

    Posted on June 18th, 2015 at 1:50 am Reply | Quote
  • Quote note (#169) | Reaction Times Says:

    […] Source: Outside In […]

    Posted on June 18th, 2015 at 5:39 am Reply | Quote
  • Xoth Says:

    It’s really more of a haircut than a frontal lobotomy, isn’t it?


    admin Reply:

    I was thinking ‘frontal lobotomy’ might have been understating the problem.


    E. Antony Gray (@RiverC) Reply:

    Brain transplant.


    Xoth Reply:

    Oh come now. There’s still a State Department around somewhere after they go, isn’t there? And a CIA, NSA, etc also stuffed with longterm employees who might even have some use for amateurs who can be plausibly rotated out if the latest schemes turn sour. Meanwhile the Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights can placidly have another meeting with his eight reports.

    As an aside, NGOs too have a related sort of charm to them.

    Posted on June 18th, 2015 at 9:08 am Reply | Quote
  • Brett Stevens Says:

    The principle of the US Constitution was that by hamstringing government at every turn, we could avoid the great evil of tyranny. Instead, it means that government operates by working around the rules. This exacerbates the culture of political amnesia described above.


    Orthodox Laissez-fairist Reply:

    Moldbug summed it up nicely it is not absolute, but partial power that corrupts… partial authority not formally matched with partial responsibility.


    Posted on June 18th, 2015 at 9:45 am Reply | Quote
  • low income low status low brow juvenile reader Says:

    1. Isn’t the so called deep state always there?
    2. Given that the government’s main domestic policy plank is to commit genocide against me and mine, I’m not seeing a problem with a setup that makes it harder for the government to get what it wants abroad. Can we get the lobotomy applied here at home, too?


    Posted on June 18th, 2015 at 11:44 am Reply | Quote
  • Patrick L Says:

    Various hacking and leaks against the government reinforces what’s previously been hinted at: an alternative strategy of pretending to be incompetent, while actually being super good at their job. The career diplomats and analysts are the best in the world, they’re extremely aware of the current limitations of policy, where there are problems, and what are the best solutions to it.

    The measuring stick is not to compare against some imagined super diplomat core, but to how well everyone else is doing. South America no longer defers to us, because they’ve spent the last 75 years begging for us to stop helping them, to the point where they’re demand for autonomy was causing them to be stupid: this correction was long over due. Russia is hostile to the US, but they’re also hostile towards everyone, including neutral parties that should be easy to bring into its orbit. Russia is a hostage of their democracy, their bellicose foreign policy demanded by their populace is against their nation’s best interests. Europe questions are judgement, but when haven’t they? They’re more in our camp than ever. The Middle East is a disaster, but we’ve known they were fucked for years whether we do anything or not. Yemen was inevitable, but at least the US got what it ‘wanted’ from the nation before things went to hell.

    Let me offer an alternative hypothesis for the article: The Department of Defense is massively under performing. War is our alternative to diplomacy. There’s only so much that can be done with the state department, and there are relatively simple problems that can be solved through proper application of violence that would be nearly impossible or expensive through diplomacy. The military is like a pop-band that can’t sing, or a movie star that can’t act. Doesn’t stop them from getting way too much attention and way too much money, but we’d be stupid to draw a conclusion of the state of the rest of the arts based on the fact that we have bad celebrities.


    SVErshov Reply:

    “strategy of pretending to be incompetent.”

    that is good point. but still this strategy do not justify for doing stupid things. at the end of this pretend and extend game, those who prepared better military will be the winners. and no body prepared better then US. for military, who is doing real job, diplomats just annoying clowns.


    dantealiegri Reply:

    @Patrick L

    Diplomacy is not an alternative to War, it is simply a point along the continuum of “dealing with other sovereigns with which we disagree. Often times the threat of escalation ( currently relevant: Greece ) is required.

    In reality they should both fall under a “Foreign Relations” department, but the State squishes probably vehemently protest against the military style rules.


    Posted on June 18th, 2015 at 1:22 pm Reply | Quote
  • northanger Says:

    “The 21st century is a really terrible time to be a control freak”


    Posted on June 18th, 2015 at 4:04 pm Reply | Quote
  • peter connor Says:

    My comment at AC:
    Excellent piece! I have only one quibble, which is with regard to the statement about the professionalism and effectiveness of the US military. The US military, by far the most expensive in the world, and loaded with boondoggles like the F-35, is neither very professional nor effective, except with regard to fighting 3d world countries, and even there it has been less than impressive. The Pentagon continues to buy weapons that would have been useful decades back, like tanks and aircraft carriers, but which will be of no use against a high tech modern power, even if they could reach the theater of war. So our provocations of Russia and China are extremely foolish…but Ashton Carter seems determined to continue them.


    Posted on June 18th, 2015 at 5:06 pm Reply | Quote
  • vxxc2014 Says:

    The Deep State just got Deep Sixed, and will be replaced with shallow but compliant staffer vassals.


    Posted on June 18th, 2015 at 7:33 pm Reply | Quote
  • Foseti Says:

    “professionalized its diplomacy” is of course synonymous with “de-democratized its diplomacy”

    I think that’s the best way to understand the bureaucracy. It’s an optimal solution to the governance problem, but it did solve the problem of having a democracy, which, of course, never had a chance at succeeding.

    I’m highly skeptical that our diplomacy really changes that much every four years though. I’d bet strongly against that.


    Alrenous Reply:


    1) Having the president or any of his appointees actually set policy would indeed be a terrible idea.

    2) Wow, just wow this Chas Freeman fellow is super pozzed.
    I stopped paying attention so I don’t know the American Conservative’s role in the culture wars, but if you know how right/fringe it is, you can put a lower bound on the dominance of misinformation.


    Posted on June 19th, 2015 at 12:40 am Reply | Quote
  • Hard Right Says:

    I see great continuity in our incompetence. The Bush Administration insisted on “free elections” in the West Bank and Gaza. The Jihadis won. The Obama Administration insisted on “free elections” in Egypt. The Jihadis won. I could go on and on. The incompetence never ends no matter who is in the White House.


    Posted on June 19th, 2015 at 3:46 am Reply | Quote

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