The Endangered Asian Century
America, China, and the Perils of Confrontation
APUBLIC controversy has arisen concerning the conduct of our foreign affairs, namely whether amateurs or professionals should be appointed to head our embassies abroad. If we are to examine the issue seriously, we must agree not to prejudge it by using the terms "professional" or "amateur" in any deprecatory or pejorative sense, such as equating them with "cookie-pushing" and "pin-striped pants" on the one hand or "bungling" and "political payoffs" on the other. Amateurs are frequently called upon to wear pin-striped pants and professionals have been known to bungle; and in the intramural politics of the State Department, no less than "on the Hill," there have also been "political payoffs." If the issue is valid, we must discuss the merits of the amateur ambassador as opposed to the merits of the professional.
Certainly it will readily be agreed that a man who has made the practice of diplomacy his life work, his only career, can be called a "professional." We can also agree that the term "amateur" may then be used to designate a man who has come into diplomacy from any other walk of life, and who does not intend to pursue it as his profession or career. We may further agree that an "amateur," that is to say a non-career man, who has worked closely with professionals over a period of years--who has, for example, served in the State Department, the non-career missions attached to our embassies, or other branches of government where he has acquired a wide and practical knowledge of foreign affairs--might fairly be classed as a semi-professional, or in the language in which the professionals themselves classify him, as a "foreign expert." Defined in these terms, the issue of "amateur versus professional" is a relatively new one, for the reason that a realistic choice between the professional and the amateur ambassador has existed only in recent times.
Envoys of the United States of ambassadorial rank were not sent abroad until the year 1893. At that time America began to be recognized, and recognized itself, as a world Power. The Foreign Service, as an organized, united, systematically staffed profession, providing the framework of a corps of highly trained career diplomats, first came into being with the Rogers Act of 1924. Submerged and disrupted by World War II, it was reformed as an élite corps again by the Foreign Service Act of 1946, when the rank of "career minister" was created. The rank of "career ambassador" was established only in 1955, and both ranks require Presidential appointment and confirmation by the Senate.[i]
The Foreign Service today claims to have available from the ranks of its "hard core" regular officers enough career men to fill the top jobs in all our embassies abroad. It is this fact which seems to give the issue validity today.
Plainly, when the ambassadorial question is raised solely in terms of a categorical choice between "amateur" and "professional," the issue seems to settle itself: the skilled practitioner of the art of diplomacy is clearly to be preferred to the novice; the diplomatic "generalist," or "trained political specialist with a knowledge of everything," to the untrained neophyte. When we further consider that the very survival of our nation, in this age of the hydrogen bomb and atomic weapons, depends on the success of our multitudinous, world-wide diplomatic undertakings, can any other answer be reasonable or prudent? Is it not, therefore, desirable--indeed vital--that our professionals, who are now fortunately available, should be put in charge of all our embassies, especially in sensitive areas where the lack of diplomatic skill, not to mention a "blooper," might endanger the success of our policies, perhaps the security of the United States itself?
With these definitions, and with these dangers well in mind, let us leave the field of argument to survey the field of facts.
How many professional U.S. ambassadors are there in our missions abroad today, and how many non-professionals? In what important posts, and in what sensitive areas of the world, are they stationed?
The first pertinent fact is that today two-thirds of all our ambassadors abroad are professionals. As of this writing, 54 of 76 United States diplomatic missions spread about the world are headed by career men.
The second pertinent fact is that they are in command of almost all of those areas considered by the State Department to be sensitive or crucial: the revolutionary areas and the areas which threaten us with aggression or are themselves imminently threatened by the Soviet Union or other Powers. Mr. Llewellyn Thompson, the Ambassador in Moscow, the most important post in the world today from the point of view of our over-all foreign policy objectives, is a career man. (He is also considered by his own colleagues as eminently qualified for this crucial job.) Every one of our ambassadors to the Iron Curtain countries is a "pro." In the 33 top posts in Africa, the Near, Middle and Far East, and the Pacific, the professionals outnumber the amateurs by 28 to 5. They hold such sensitive posts as Tunisia and Morocco, Israel and Egypt, Korea, Formosa, the Philippines and Japan. Career men are also today in strategically important Pacific posts, Australia and New Zealand. Of the 21 countries in the American hemisphere, the "pros" occupy 14 posts, including Canada, and in South America the two most important posts, Argentina and Brazil. In Europe, career ambassadors serve in Finland, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Iceland and Luxembourg.[ii]
Let us now consider the whereabouts of the remaining 22 diplomats, whom we have agreed to classify either as amateurs, or foreign affairs experts--in either case, as non-career men.[iii] Five of them are posted in the smaller countries of Latin America, an area whose importance, while certainly great to the United States, is not commonly considered by the State Department itself to be a crucial or sensitive one. One is in Mexico, another in Santo Domingo, another in Cuba. Two, as we have noted, are in Africa (Libya and Liberia). In Asia, one is in Pakistan, one in Ceylon,[iv] and the third represents us in India (and Nepal). The remaining nine are posted in European countries. Of all these 22 posts which are today occupied by amateurs, only six are classified, in the language of the Foreign Service itself, as major diplomatic posts. They are London, Paris, Bonn, Rome, New Delhi and Madrid.
In view of the importance of the posts they hold, it is now not beside the point to ask who these non-professionals are.
Mr. Ellsworth Bunker (sugar and banking), now in India, has served under a previous administration as Ambassador to Argentina and Italy, and between ambassadorial assignments has worked in and for the State Department.
Mr. David Bruce, who is in Bonn, was a vice-consul in the Foreign Service for two years, Chief of the O.S.S. for the European Theater, Assistant Secretary of Commerce, Chief E.C.A. Administrator to France, Ambassador to France, Under-Secretary of State--all under Democratic Presidents. Under Mr. Eisenhower, he has been special observer to E.D.C., and U.S. representative to the European High Authority for Coal and Steel.
Thus, while our ambassadors to India and Germany are not professionals, it would seem that they could qualify as "foreign affairs experts."
Let us then take Mr. John Davis Lodge, in Madrid. A former member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, ex-Governor of Connecticut, brother of the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Henry Cabot Lodge, grandson of the late Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, whose name has figured so large in the history of diplomacy, he has already served four years in Spain. He speaks French, Italian and Spanish fluently. Can he also not lay a reasonable claim to the title of "foreign expert"?
Mr. James D. Zellerbach (chairman of Crown Zellerbach Paper Corporation), who is in Italy, served under President Truman and Secretary Acheson as our economic chief of mission for the Marshall Plan in Italy, and later as a Delegate to the U.N. Consequently it can be assumed that he is familiar enough, not only with Italian problems and world problems, but with the ways of an embassy, to lay some claim to being a "foreign expert."
Mr. John Hay Whitney assumed his duties at the Court of St. James's just 60 years after his grandfather, John Hay, went to the same post. He has been a special adviser on public affairs to the State Department, a member of the Commission on Foreign Economic Policy, and served on the Wriston Committee which reorganized the Foreign Service in 1954.
Mr. Amory Houghton, Ambassador to France (Chairman of the Board, Corning Glass Works), was an official of O.P.M., W.B.P. and the U.S. Mission for Economic Affairs under Philip Reed in London during World War II. His father, Alanson Houghton, was Ambassador to Germany and to England.
It is questionable whether either Mr. Whitney or Mr. Houghton can be called "foreign experts." But here honest reporting requires us to note that their appointments were well received by the Congress, the press and the public. Mr. Houghton suffered some brief criticism from certain sections of the press on the score that he could not speak the language of the country to which he had been posted. The criticism did not last long, possibly because this is a handicap that many career men also suffer, especially in the sensitive and crucial Iron Curtain areas and the Near, Middle and Far East.
Here it may not be beside the point to comment briefly on the question of the part "speaking a foreign language" plays in the qualifications for an ambassador. The lingua franca of diplomacy throughout the Middle Ages and well into the seventeenth century was Latin. French became the accepted language of organized diplomacy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. French power under Louis XIV and XV was great on the continent of Europe, and Cardinal Richelieu had set the mold of diplomacy for an era that ended with the Napoleonic expansions and conquests. Consequently, expediency and prudence dictated to the other chanceries of Europe that all their professional diplomats would be well advised to learn to speak French like Frenchmen. Moreover, until the middle of the eighteenth century, most Englishmen, as well as Europeans, of the cultured and ruling classes were bilingual in French. But most importantly, a lingua franca is a diplomatic necessity. Accordingly French, a language of precision and courtesy, offered the necessary neutral ground of a "dominant language" in which the diplomats of all other nations could converse with one another. Today, the use of French as the language of diplomacy is a dying tradition.
As the result of the long ascendancy of the English-speaking nations, English has already become the lingua franca in vast areas of the world. It is the favored "second language" in the chanceries of most great capitals, especially in the Orient. It is the "common tongue" in India, and among many Middle East rulers.
The practical use of a second language to an ambassador is limited by the fact that no wise diplomat (of any country) will try himself to conduct any delicate diplomatic negotiation in a tongue in which he is not bilingual. A reasonable knowledge of the language of the country to which he is posted is unquestionably an asset to an ambassador in his diplomatic and social contacts. In democratic countries, it is especially helpful with the people of that country, who are always flattered by the diplomat's attempts, however awkward, to use it. But a diplomat who is not completely fluent, indeed bilingual, will transact, at the peril of his nation, the real business of his nation in a language which is foreign to him. Mr. Houghton is said to be learning French, as a courtesy to the French. But it is to be hoped that he will not try to conduct any business in it more important than ordering a meal at the Ritz or delivering a friendly little speech.
In conclusion, one has only to reflect that if a top diplomat's knowledge of another diplomat's language were essential to the successful conduct of our foreign affairs, no conferences or meetings between prime ministers of various countries would be possible, certainly no "summit meetings." And the United Nations would be forced to close its doors. What is essential is that every American Embassy should have in residence an American officer cleared for security who is bilingual, in order to translate accurately any important negotiations between his ambassador or minister and the officials of the country. It is this deficiency of professionals who are linguistic experts in our embassies and not the ambassador's personal inability to speak the local tongue which has often created embarrassments, difficulties, even dangers for us in the conduct of our diplomacy. It is the task of the State Department to supply these bilingual experts wherever they are needed, just as it is the responsibility of the Congress to appropriate the sums needed for their training.
Certainly this review of the facts concerning the numbers, and whereabouts, of our amateur versus our professional ambassadors should remove any sense of public alarm or urgency which may today surround the issue. Two-thirds of our ambassadors are already professionals, and many of the remaining amateurs can be classified as semi-professionals and foreign experts.
These facts, however, do not invalidate the real issue--namely, in principle should United States Missions abroad be headed by professionals or amateurs? Is there any room for amateurs, even for those who have, in the course of time, become "experts" in American diplomacy? We cannot answer this question without widening the focus of our argument, by asking what room the American system, and the American Constitution itself, make for the "amateur diplomat."
The room that the Constitution itself provides is the President's room in the White House, and the Secretary's room in the Department of State.[v] The Constitution designates the President as our no. 1 American diplomat. Throughout our history all our top diplomats have embarked on their great appointed task of formulating and carrying out our foreign policy as "amateurs." The Constitution also permits our no. 1 diplomat, the President, personally to pick our no. 2 diplomat, that is his Secretary of State, from any walk of American life he chooses. The President is similarly empowered to appoint, with the advice and consent of the Senate, all our diplomats to foreign countries who are then sent abroad as the President's personal envoys.
Any comprehensive list of the Presidentially appointed amateurs who have been sent throughout our history to negotiate for the United States abroad, and who have done so with distinction, would be far too long to include here. One can only mention the names of a few amateur envoys of the past: Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Gouverneur Morris, John Jay, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Albert Gallatin, Washington Irving, John Hay, James Russell Lowell, Joseph Choate, Jacob Gould Schurman, Myron T. Herrick, Richard Washburn Child, Lewis W. Douglas, Admiral William Harrison Standley and General George Marshall--all names first associated in the public mind with achievements outside the field of diplomacy.
Nor can we limit the room made by the Constitution for non-professional diplomacy to the President, the Secretary of State or the President's personal envoys. Every United States Senator and Congressman functions at one time or other--and these days with increasing frequency--in the field of foreign affairs. Legislators who set about, by voice or vote, to support, amend, cripple or destroy the foreign policy of any given administration are profoundly affecting the conduct of our relations with foreign countries. They are, in the true sense of the word, foreign policy-makers. One has only to consider the impact abroad of certain resolutions (i.e. Suez, Formosa), immigration and tariff bills, and the vast complex of foreign affairs legislation and appropriations, to realize that in the final analysis our amateurs in the Congress have more influence on the foreign affairs of the United States, and wield more "diplomatic" power, than all the practitioners of "organized diplomacy" put together. In our constitutional democracy, the members of the Congress, amateurs all, are empowered to play a decisive part in the nation's diplomacy. As a result of the increased speed of communications, and the necessities of American foreign policy, many of them have now become familiar figures in our embassies and in foreign chanceries.
Senator Fulbright, author of the Fulbright Exchange Program, which is considered by all American professionals as one of the State Department's most successful undertakings, is frequently hailed as a "real diplomat" as well as statesman on his frequent trips abroad to investigate the workings of the program. I recall a speech made to him in my presence by an Italian official. "Few American Ambassadors," he said, "have ever done more to cement good relations between the United States and other nations than the Senator from Arkansas." Senator Mansfield, of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is another amateur laboring in the substantive field of foreign affairs whose appearance in any American Embassy around the world is hailed by the "pros" as a professional opportunity to listen as well as to talk. Not infrequently, Senators and Representatives "junketing abroad" are "briefed" by our Embassy before they call on local leaders in order that they may "drive home" some point the Embassy itself has not succeeded in putting across; and some of them have succeeded admirably in their diplomatic rôles.
We must also take into account the amateur diplomacy practised by the million or more Americans who visit, live or work in foreign lands: the American businessmen, creating better and more abundant commercial relations; the scholars, artists, lecturers, students, creating wider and deeper cultural relations; the agricultural experts, scientists, engineers and technicians, spreading American "know-how;" the news bureau men, constantly reporting to the home front on conditions abroad; the medical and religious missionaries, creating good health and good will among men; the hordes of American tourists who leave behind them a realistic impression of the American character; the organized groups of American labor men, spreading knowledge about the uses and practices of free trade unionism to the working men of other lands; the editors' groups, learning about foreign attitudes, explaining America's as they go; the members of our armed services, bringing the actual sense of America's solidarity with the countries where they are posted. All of these are "amateurs" (and I have listed only the most notable groupings) who are consciously or unconsciously assuming some of the tasks of modern diplomacy.[vi]
More than 30,000 civilians are working for the United States Government abroad. Less than one percent of them are officers of the Foreign Service corps. Even at the level of organized diplomacy, the amateurs vastly outnumber the professionals. About 20,000 of these men and women, who do not consider diplomacy their life work, are nevertheless engaged overseas in the conscious and full-time pursuit of our diplomatic objectives. These amateurs in organized diplomacy are to be found in great numbers in the missions outside the regular Foreign Service establishment, and among the attachés of other government departments--Treasury, Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Atomic Energy Commission, and so on. Thousands of them, for example, are in the I.C.A. (economic), the C.I.A. (intelligence), and the U.S.I.S. (information). It will not do to dismiss all the members of these missions from the argument as being "specialists" and "technicians." Their presence in organized diplomacy is germane to the professional-versus-amateur argument, since no American Embassy today could carry out its complex and voluminous instructions, negotiations, programs or even representational functions without their know-how and assistance.
But that is not all: even in the Service itself amateurs are now plentifully present. As a result of the "Wristonization" program of 1954, there has been a great influx of non-professionals into the ranks of the Service in all classes.
It seems that, under the American system, at least in the cold war world, there is not only some room for amateurs in diplomacy, there is very great room indeed. Initially provided by the Constitution, and sustained by the American tradition, amateur diplomacy is the American method, not only in the actual machinery, but in the theory which puts the machinery into motion. Indeed, it is impossible to see how our democracy could conduct its foreign policy without the organized and unorganized assistance of amateurs.
The mid-20th century American ambassador has to enact many rôles on a very broad stage and in relation to a cast of great number and variety, whereas, until shortly before World War II, the ambassador's contacts were largely confined to a relatively small circle composed of high officials of the host government and his opposites of the diplomatic corps.
In today's vastly enlarged diplomatic field, the ambassador must be a man with many and diversified interests and with the mental capacity to absorb the substance of various branches of knowledge. No longer can the diplomat confine his attention to politics and policies--important though they are. As executor of his country's comprehensive foreign policy, the American ambassador may be concerned with any or all aspects of human activity. His interests and his responsibilities range through politics, economics, commerce, industry, agriculture, finance, labor, standards of living, transport and communications, social welfare, education, science, art, religion--in fact all aspects of life in the country of his assignment. Not one can be neglected by today's ambassador, whose mission is to carry out a foreign policy based on the interdependence of nations and dedicated to removing the causes of war from the world.[vii]
Where does the conclusion that amateur diplomacy is the American method leave the ambassadorial question? Closed? Not at all. It simply puts it into its proper perspective. It consequently permits us to raise the ambassadorial issue in realistic terms; namely, who should represent America abroad: the professional, the amateur, or the best qualified man who can be found? Obviously, the latter. And just as obviously, the reasonable presumption must be that the professional is most likely to be that man.
Certainly, all other qualifications being equal, in simple justice, the career man should be given preference over an amateur when an ambassadorial assignment is being made. He has spent his life in the Service, always a life of discipline and hard work, often of sacrifice and danger. If he has risen on merit close to the top of his profession he is entitled to reap its proper rewards, the prestige, the position, the power and the pay of an ambassador. Similarly, all posts, in all areas, should be as open to him as they are to an amateur.
It is natural and proper enough that the Foreign Service resents that this is not the case today. Of our 76 ambassadorial posts, career men today occupy all of the "hardship posts," while the non-career diplomats hold many of the easy, and all of the "plush," ones. That is to say, wherever you find a post where living and working conditions are inadequate and uncomfortable, where disease is rife or danger imminent, where strange customs and alien ways are practised, where it is too hot or too cold, too damp or too dry for the average American, there you will find not the amateur but the career man.
Life for an ambassador in a satellite country, and in many of the countries of Africa, the Middle East and Asia, can be worse than hard: it can be grim, ugly and depressing. Medical, hospital, educational and recreational facilities for American children range from poor to nonexistent. Social life is dreary beyond belief; American diplomats and their families in some parts of these areas can seldom enjoy, in their leisure hours, the normal pleasures of an American--restaurants, movies, sports or even visits to or from friends. Worst of all, vast distances, as well as dangers, give them the feeling of isolation from their fellow countrymen, and from America itself.
To be sure, in point of expenditure of energy, effort and work, the European posts are no easier than they are, say, behind the Iron Curtain. Indeed, in the big European posts an ambassador's day is one of endless effort, sometimes to the point of exhaustion.[viii] But the honor, in the eyes of his countrymen, is greater. And life can be pleasant, stimulating, rewarding in Europe, especially for an ambassador's family. Where ambassadorships are concerned, we must admit that the professional often gets the skimmed milk of diplomacy, and behind the Iron Curtain the sour mash, while the non-career ambassador gets the cream.
All this strikes the men of the Foreign Service, and not without reason, as unjust. And the sense of injustice is in no way alleviated when they are told, true though it generally is, that they "couldn't afford the big European posts anyway." Rome, London, Paris, for example, are posts around which a dollar curtain has long been drawn. They can be assumed for any reasonable length of time only by men with private fortunes.[ix]
It seems to every career officer, as it must seem to any thoughtful citizen, that whatever other factors should be, or are, taken into account by the President in the choice of an American ambassador for any given post, money should not be one of them. When the mere possession of private wealth becomes a major qualification for an American diplomat, the Foreign Service has the right to feel "sore," and the American people ought to feel ashamed. The post of ambassador should not be an honor that can be put on an auction block. Nevertheless, the President today faces the necessity of picking only very rich men for certain posts. The way to remedy this situation is for the Congress to appropriate adequate funds to the posts themselves, for their representational maintenance.
We have agreed that wherever an amateur is not better qualified than a professional for a top diplomatic job, the job should go to the professional. We have also agreed that the mere possession of money should in no way constitute a qualification. Obviously, neither should it constitute a disqualification.
We come now to the basic question: Are there any criteria equally acceptable to professional and amateur which we can use in determining the "better qualified man"?
What criteria does the Foreign Service itself set in rating its officers for promotion? A large part of the answer can be found in studying the Foreign Service "efficiency report." This is a form which is periodically filled out on a Foreign Service Officer by his immediate superior.[x] The accumulated efficiency reports made on an officer as he comes through the ranks from the lowest class, 8, to class 1 (at which point he becomes eligible for promotion to minister or chief of mission) are the basis on which the Selection Board which sits annually in Washington considers him for promotion. On this form there are listed eight "qualities:" character, ability, conduct, quality of work, industry, experience, dependability and general usefulness.
Thirty additional "factors" are also listed: general knowledge of the Foreign Service; understanding of political and economic factors; of information programs and techniques (in the country in which he serves); knowledge of administrative practices and consular duties; effectiveness in applying laws and regulations correctly; thoroughness and accuracy of work and observation; effectiveness of written and of oral expression; negotiating ability; judgment; skill in dealing with the public; effectiveness as a supervisor; managerial effectiveness; ability in the field of intelligence; ability to get along with others; tactfulness; initiative; resourcefulness; decisiveness; forcefulness; adaptability; coöperativeness; patience; cost consciousness; security consciousness; good manners and politeness; and sense of humor.
The Foreign Service superior rates his subordinate officer on a basis of one to six on each of these 38 "qualities" and "factors."[xi] These are further analyzed by the rating officer in brief comments appended to the report. A perfect score would be 228 points, assuming of course that all the factors listed were relevant to his particular embassy task.
In actual practice, if an officer consistently maintains a score of five on each relevant point, he is well headed for continual promotion--always assuming that he doesn't hit a snag in the form of a superior who takes a personal dislike to him. (The professional deformation of the career officer, "not getting his neck out," is often acquired after he reads his first efficiency report.) On the other hand, the career officer who is able or lucky enough to make the right friends in the Department can always survive a poor efficiency report made out by a prejudiced rating officer. The Foreign Service is, after all, a human institution. Making the right friends, influencing the right people and "playing politics" are not confined to the non-career world.
This efficiency report is relevant to our inquiry because it offers interesting proof that the main qualifications for a good ambassador are the same as they are for a good anything: they are human qualities.
We have only to review the above list of the human qualities desirable in a professional to see that these same qualities are equally valued in the non-professional. They are possessed in a greater or lesser degree by any man who has risen to eminence in public life, or who has made a notable success in any enterprise or profession which calls for continuous teamwork, and wide and fruitful contacts with his fellow citizens.
Nevertheless, there can be little question that the non-career man would get a pretty low mark on "general knowledge of the service," "consular duties" and "administrative practices" and "effectiveness in applying laws and regulations correctly." It is not enough to say that he would soon learn them (as he probably would), or that his minister counselor and his staff of professionals are there to see that his personal deficiency in these technical respects should not embarrass him. We have agreed that in justice to the professional, the non-career man must be the better man, he must offer other virtues or qualifications which will clearly outweigh his professional deficiencies.
What qualifications over and beyond those required of the professional can the amateur ambassador bring to his job?
Now a curious fact emerges from a study of the efficiency report: the great intangible assets that throughout the long history of foreign affairs in all countries have rendered envoys most effective in the art of diplomacy are not listed here. They are: prestige and esteem in the eyes of the diplomat's own countrymen, a proven interest in public affairs, a knowledge of political and economic realities at home and abroad and friendly contacts with leaders on the domestic scene.[xii]
When a man has acquired great prestige at home through his own successful and popularly esteemed efforts as scholar, banker, industrialist, statesman, publicist, businessman, public servant or humanitarian; when he has, over the years, demonstrated a lively and constructive interest in public affairs; when he has wide and varied contacts with other leaders on the American scene, and if in addition he enjoys the prestige that flows from a mutually valued personal friendship with the President or Secretary of State, such a man can certainly be called "a man of proven distinction," a Somebody with a capital S.
The prestige of a Somebody will give him the power to influence public opinion at home, to approach "key figures" without diffidence and make suggestions to them without impertinence. He will be a man who can "get things done" and "put things across" at home. And he will always get a warm welcome from the diplomats of the country to which he goes, who will view his appointment both as an honor to them and an opportunity to transact mutual business fruitfully and rapidly. And when such an ambassador arrives to take up his post, there is general rejoicing on the part of the professionals on his staff. After all that has been said, this is not as strange as it seems: the Foreign Service is a service dedicated, above all else, to the furthering of our country's objectives abroad.
As the constitutional right to appoint envoys rests squarely with the President, so, also, the prime responsibility for finding "the better qualified man" lies with him.
We have seen that two-thirds of President Eisenhower's appointments have been career men, and that his assignments of amateurs to certain major posts from which Foreign Service officers have been excluded (because of the personal cost to the envoy of their representational maintenance) have been commonly considered good ones.
Nevertheless, a few appointments to lesser posts have evoked heated charges of "political payoffs."[xiii] This charge is not a new one in American history. It has been made not only against certain of President Eisenhower's choices, but in the past, against some of Mr. Truman's, Mr. Roosevelt's, and against many previous presidential appointments. What is a "political payoff," and how can the appointment of "political payoffs" be prevented?
Certainly there is a large measure of public agreement on what constitutes a "political payoff." In American political practice, the personal political convictions of an appointee; the size of his private fortune; the campaign contributions he has made in the past to the party of his choice; the private services he has rendered the party; his personal relation to key figures in government (such as his blood relationship, friendship or business association with them)--all are considered to be circumstances which as such neither qualify nor unqualify him as a candidate for any high office. But when these same circumstances are presented as being qualities or virtues of the candidate's person; especially when they seem to be his only qualifications for the job to which he aspires, it can be assumed--and the assumption is generally a valid one-- that the appointee is a "political payoff."
In view of the President's constitutional right to appoint whom he pleases, his appointments cannot be prevented. But, fortunately, the Constitution itself provides a recourse against the assumption of office by such men: the Senate has the power to disqualify them. It has the right to refuse to confirm their appointments.
In passing, let me say that although it is conceivable that legislation could be drawn to prevent their designation, in the first instance, by the President, it would be very difficult indeed to draw such legislation in view of the many reasons listed above why they are, in political practice, "paid off." Often the least of these is "the size of the campaign contribution." A "crony" of somebody high in government always has an inside track over the campaign contributor. Moreover, if the Senate fulfills its duty--which is to refuse confirmation of unfitted candidates--such legislation is obviously unnecessary.
Not only in recent years, but also in the past, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has failed in this, and even while "leaking" opinions from its secret hearings about the unfitness of some ambassadorial candidate, has proceeded forthwith to confirm him. It is this fact which makes subsequent charges of "political payoffs" both specious and hypocritical.
Such failures on the part of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee tend to prove that too many of the Senate's members-- Opposition no less Administration--still regard ambassadorships as a part of the political spoils system; and that the chief motive underlying their charges of "payoff" is the desire to embarrass the President and the party in power in order to score a party advantage in future campaigns. This suspicion is especially justified when--as is the case today--the Opposition controls the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and with it the power to refuse confirmation to an Administration candidate.
The Senate would do well to remind itself that the public today ardently believes that whatever room there may be for amateurs in modern American diplomacy, there is no room for the kind of amateur who was once graphically described by a Congressional friend of mine as "an unknown public nonentity." When the Senate confirms a man who, in the considered judgements of a substantial number of the Committee, is not qualified to represent America abroad, it is doing an unpatriotic act. An ambassador's prestige, when he arrives in a foreign country, is America's prestige. And obviously, when members of the Senate Committee set about to damage the reputation of a qualified man in order to secure some slight party advantage, the action is unpatriotic.
The responsibility for preserving and increasing American prestige abroad, as it is reflected in the calibre of our "Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary," is the dual responsibility of the President and the Senate. As concerns the rôle of the President in this connection, I might quote the words of Mr. James Reston in The New York Times of August 7. "The issue is not," he wrote, "whether the Eisenhower Administration is being more political in its ambassadorial appointments than the Democrats, or whether these jobs should be given to the top-career men in the Foreign Service, but whether the appointments have met the President's principle of appointing the best man available, regardless of party, wealth or foreign service record."
As concerns the Senate, I might quote Senator Hubert Humphrey, who led an important and illuminating debate on this subject in the Upper House on August 15: "Let us have a little more public discussion of nominations when they come to the committee. I think all of us have been slightly derelict."
In conclusion, let us remind ourselves again that, while there admittedly have been some lapses on this score, on the whole both the President and the Senate have recognized their responsibility. On the record, as we have shown, they have not done too badly by American diplomacy. Under the "amateur" guidance of 34 Presidents and their Secretaries of State and ambassadors, and in spite of the "unwarranted diplomatic interventions" of 85 Congresses, the "uninformed" advice of an uncontrolled press, and the pressures of hundreds of millions of "undisciplined Americans" on our foreign affairs, the United States has nevertheless reached the peak of world leadership.
It is the wisdom of the Foreign Service itself to understand that whatever else diplomacy is, or is not, it is a pragmatic art. "By their fruits ye shall know them." In its 181 years of diplomatic life, America has not yet made "the irrevocable diplomatic error."
[i] The Foreign Service has been engaged in a 30-year struggle for the achievement of two objectives: the maintenance of the Foreign Service Officer corps as an élite body of diplomatists, with an identity separate from other branches of the State Department and other U.S. agencies overseas; and second, the acceptance of the principle that the chief coördinator, at a country level, of all U. S. representational activities overseas should be an officer of this corps. The vast multiplication of American agencies overseas has made coordination necessary, and today this function rests squarely with the ambassador. Apart from his position of seniority, as the President's personal representative, he has a special coördinating charter in the form of Executive Order 10575 of November 6, 1954.
[ii]Career man Missions: Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czechoslovakia, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Finland, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Jugoslavia, Korea, Laos, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Morocco, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Union of S. Africa, U.S.S.R., Viet Nam. Two embassies, Uruguay and Sweden, are now occupied by former Foreign Service officers. Switching these two back to the ranks of the amateurs would leave the score still two-thirds professional.
[iii]Non-career man Missions: Belgium, Ceylon, Cuba, Denmark, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Great Britain, Honduras, India (also Nepal), Ireland, Italy, Liberia, Libya, Mexico, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Paraguay, Spain, Switzerland, Venezuela.
[iv] Mr. Maxwell Gluck whose appointment gave fresh impetus to the amateur-versus-professional controversy.
[v] The statutory basis for this responsibility lies in the Act of Congress, July 27, 1789.
[vi] One fact is certain, regardless of how favorable or unfavorable the impression of America that is left behind by these amateurs; they do leave a favorable dollar balance in all the countries they travel through. These dollars, estimated in billions, achieve one very definite objective of U. S. foreign policy: they raise living standards in foreign countries.
[vii] "The American Ambassador Today." Department of State Publication No. 6420.
[viii] A detailed description of the rigors of a modern ambassador's day will be found on page 7900 ff. of the Congressional Record of May 23, 1956.
[ix] To this point I can speak from experience. In Rome I spent, over and beyond my salary and representational allowance, some $30,000 a year. This expenditure was on efforts, entertainments, etc., that were closely connected with my ambassadorial functions. The financial drain of a "big post" on the minister counselor is relatively as great. Within recent weeks, the minister counselors in the American Embassies in London and France have asked to be transferred to other countries because their salaries would not cover the expenditures the duties of the posts required.
[x] It is reviewed by his superior, and can also be reviewed by the ambassador, at his discretion, where the ambassador himself is not already the rating or reviewing officer.
[xi] His degree of fluency in foreign languages is taken into account as an asset, but is not rated.
[xii] In the words of a recent article by Walter Lippmann, "An appointment outside the career service . . . has to be justified by the special quality and the proved distinction of the candidate . . . [he should be] a man of demonstrable ability in public life." Harold Nicolson, in "The Evolution of the Diplomatic Method," writes that "the Greek cities were constantly sending and receiving ambassadors of a temporary, or ad hoc character." These ambassadors "were chosen for their known respectability, and reputed wisdom."
[xiii] The term "political appointment" has no meaning in the ambassadorial context, except the derogatory one the speaker may intend to give it, since all appointments made by our top politician, the President, including those of career envoys, are by definition political appointments.