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America’s Other Army – Who Are They and What Do They Do?

“If you look up the word Army in the dictionary is a group of people. You don’t have to carry weapons to be an army. So a group of 13,000 people in the US Foreign Service in 275 embassies and consulates around the world is an army,” said Nicholas Kralev.

Kralev is the author of America’s Other Army. He told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program that the American sense of foreign service is currently being redefined.

America’s Oldest Feds

“The foreign service is america’s oldest agency. If you think about it they were the first real feds,” said Kralev. “Now you don’t just have to do diplomacy on a government to government basis but you have to broaden it. You have to open it up to the foreign public.”

Transforming the World

“In the last few years, really since the Iraq war, the American foreign service has been asked to transform the world. But former Secretary of State Condoleezz Rice says it’s not about imposing democracy or making other countries in our image. In fact transforming democracy is about bringing good governance to other countries, because if a foreign country has a responsible government that is accountable to its people, respects their rights and provides basic services then these people are less likely to turn to alternatives like crime or terrorism,” said Kralev.

“In the Muslim world more than half of the people are under the age of 40 and a high percentage are under 25. If they don’t have jobs that’s when problems arise,” said Kralev.

Teach Diplomacy

“The State Department wants to have as diverse of a workforce as possible. But that means taking in people who don’t have foreign experience in international politics. It’s like being thrown in a pool and having to teach yourself to swim. Some young foreign service officers are lucky and have good bosses. But many more people could have benefited from training,” Kralev.

“I interviewed 600 foreign service officers. I asked them if we had the best foreign service possible. And all of them said it was good but could be better with more training and professional development,” said Kralev.

Better, Faster, Cheaper and Friendlier

“Also known as humanizing the foreign service. The State Department has really tried to be more accommodating to allow people to take leave when they need to and to provide more benefits especially to same-sex partners,” said Kralev.

Major Misconceptions

“The biggest myth about diplomacy is that everyone can do it. Diplomacy is a profession not a hobby. You need training and experience,” said Kralev. “Ambassadors don’t do cushy work, so you can’t just reward political supporters with jobs. They need to have a real knowledge of how foreign service works.”

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