Did you ever hear the joke about the diplomat and the missionary? Both are posted to a remote island nation. One day they meet for lunch to discuss their work. As they sip tea and discuss local affairs, the diplomat...

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Jeffrey Feldman, Editor-in-Chief
Frameshop, 01/19/2006

Did you ever hear the joke about the diplomat and the missionary?  Both are posted to a remote island nation.  One day they meet for lunch to discuss their work.  As they sip tea and discuss local affairs, the diplomat says to the missionary,"How can you do what you do?  By converting the natives to your religion, aren't you really trying to change them into something completely different from what they are? As a diplomat, my job is to learn how to relate to the natives, not change them into what I want them to be."  Puzzled and offended, the missionary replies, "I'm not trying to 'change' anyone!  When I convert the natives I always insist they stay exactly as they were before I arrived--except now they're Christian."

If Condoleeza Rce has her way, the U.S. Diplomatic core will soon be transformed into something much closer to the worldview of the missionary than the diplomat.

The new focus of diplomacy under Secretary Rice will not be to build strong ties with foreign nations, but to send diplomats into foreign countries to 'transform' those regimes.  That is, to keep them exactly as they were before the diplomat arrived--except now they're American."

'Transformational Diplomacy' is the latest attempt by Condoleeza Rice to resurrect new hope from the corpse of American foreign policy in an Iraq that experts describe as "out of control."   But as everyone can plainly see:  'transformational diplomacy' is just a thin disguise for 'missionary work.'

This article from the Washington Post describes this new initiative by Rice:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that she will shift hundreds of Foreign Service positions from Europe and Washington to difficult assignments in the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere as part of a broad restructuring of the diplomatic corps that she has dubbed "transformational diplomacy."

The State Department's culture of deployment and ideas about career advancement must alter now that the Cold War is over and the United States is battling transnational threats of terrorism, drug smuggling and disease, Rice said in a speech at Georgetown University. "The greatest threats now emerge more within states than between them," she said. "The fundamental character of regimes now matters more than the international distribution of power."

As part of the change in priorities, Rice announced that diplomats will not be promoted into the senior ranks unless they accept assignments in dangerous posts, gain expertise in at least two regions and are fluent in two foreign languages, citing Chinese, Urdu and Arabic as a few preferred examples.

Yes, of course.  Rice clearly wants to 'transform' the diplomacy wing of the U.S. government into the missionary wing of the Neo-Conservative religion.

When a person is a 'diplomat,' their job is to engage in 'foreign relations.'  That is:  establishing long-lasting relationships with other nations.

When a person is a 'missionary,' by contrast, their job is to transform that person into an adherent of the religion, worldview or philosophy of their boss.

As Rice sees it, the primary function of foreign service workers should not be to build relations with foreign nations, but to change the internal character of those nations.

It's missionary work plain and simple.

Interested in this line of work?  Here is what you will get if you sign up:

"These proposals are part of the secretary's continuing strategy to dramatically increase America's engagement and dialogue with the world," said Jim Wilkinson, senior adviser to Rice.

Rice has described the notion of transformational diplomacy as a shift from merely reporting on events to influencing them to foster the growth of democratic states worldwide.

Under the plan outlined yesterday, Rice will expand the U.S. presence by encouraging the spread of new one-person diplomatic outposts, now located in a few cities such as Alexandria, Egypt, and Medan, Indonesia. "There are nearly 200 cities worldwide with over 1 million people in which the United States has no formal diplomatic presence," Rice said. "This is where the action is today."

That's right:  'one-person diplomatic outposts.'  Sounds more like something out of the movie Dances with Wolves than a policy from the State Department.  Alone on the frontier.  Primary mission:  turn the restless natives into productive Americans. Today, a lonely wolf came to my watering hole.  If he returns I will name him 'four socks'...

OK, let's pause and think about this for a second....

'One-person diplomatic outposts'?!?!?!?!  Earth to Condi:  you just made the Foreign Service the last job anyone would want.

Imagine getting the fun job of being posted to a studio apartment in Darfur?  Or the plum job of a one-bedroom 'outpost' in downtown Cairo?

Imagine this job ad in your local paper:

"Wanted:  Person to be kidnapped and held for ransom for diplomatic outpost. Fluency in Urdu required."

Here's a better idea: keep the foreign service exactly as it was before you arrived--except now end the Iraq war.

©  2006 Jeffrey Feldman

© Jeffrey Feldman 2006, Frameshop

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