THE idea that the United States of America ought to have a professional service for the performance of diplomatic and consular functions abroad had its origins in the final years of the last century. By 1914 it had already found recognition in the creation of separate career services for these two main branches of activity. Its fruition was reached in the mid-twenties with the passage of the Rogers Act, which combined the two existing services into a single "Foreign Service of the United States." High hopes prevailed at the outset for the future of the new combined service. No one doubted that a corner had been passed. The United States Government, it was assumed, would now proceed to develop in permanence a good professional arm to assist in the work of representation of this country abroad and to act as the main source of information and advice for American statesmen and envoys who were themselves not likely to be professionals. In the ensuing years a number of trustful young men, among them this writer, took the prescribed examinations and entered the new Foreign Service, confident that the country had made up its mind about the virtues of career diplomacy; that it wanted a real professional service; that the basic principles underlying the Rogers Act had been permanently accepted; and that one could rely on the uniformity and stability of the conditions in which, from then on, the competition for advancement and recognition would proceed.

These hopes and expectations, as experience was to prove, were largely unfounded. Those who nurtured them had failed to take account of the unsuitability of the American governmental system for the promulgation of any sustained administrative program (particularly one calling for the annual appropriation of sizeable sums of money) that was not supported at all times by the enthusiasm of some interested domestic pressure group. But beyond that it gradually became apparent that the rationale of the Rogers Act was poorly understood outside the small circle of its authors and the members of the Foreign Service itself. Neither the public at large, nor the press, nor the leaders of succeeding administrations, nor the majority of the members of succeeding Congresses, had any very clear idea of what was involved in the experiment or cared very much whether the Foreign Service, as envisaged in the Rogers Act, prospered or languished.

Since the development of a good professional service is a longterm operation, where the normal time-lag between decision and result in major matters is measured in decades rather than in years, this lack of comprehension and of sustained interest was gradually to prove fatal to the experiment. One by one, the principles on which it was intended that the new Service should operate were neglected, distorted or abandoned. I shall not attempt to recount the involved and painful stages by which this decline took place. The immediate causes were numerous and varied. The constantly recurring failure of senior government officials to understand why the Foreign Service should be treated any differently from the Civil Service as a whole; the endless jealousies aroused by what seemed to many the glamourous and privileged nature of the Foreign Service function; the tendency of other government departments, more powerfully supported in Congress than was the State Department, to set up competing foreign services; Mr. Roosevelt's dislike of the Service and unconcern for its future; the complete suspension of admissions for periods of years on end, a procedure which starved the Service at the bottom and sharply disbalanced its age structure; the failure to clarify the relationship of the Service to the war effort in 1941-1945; the proliferation of parallel and rival organizations during and after the war; the latter-day illusion that "management" is something wholly divorced from function, and the consequent burdening of the Service with a succession of administrative heads who had no experience or understanding of the diplomatic profession; the repeated and extensive "lateral" infusions of new personnel at intermediate levels; the growing tendency of able older officers to seek more promising fields for self-expression; and last but not least the operation of the postwar security programs, bringing humiliation, bewilderment and the deepest sort of discouragement to hundreds of officers--all these factors played a part. But all of them, it will be noted, were embraced in the major causes mentioned above: the unsuitability of the American governmental system for a prolonged administrative effort of this sort, and lack of comprehension for the nature and exigencies of the diplomatic function on the part of a great continental society not accustomed to regard prospering foreign relations as important.

The result of all this was that by 1953 the old Foreign Service was weakened beyond real hope of recovery. The present Administration inherited not a going professional service but an administrative ruin, packed with people who had never undergone the normal entrance requirements, hemmed in and suffocated by competing services, demoralized by anonymous security agents in whose judgment and disinterestedness its members had little confidence, a helpless object of disparagement and defamation at the hands of outside critics. This was the tragic ending of an experiment launched, with high hopes and with none but the most innocent and worthy intent, three decades earlier. As of the year 1953, it was no exaggeration to say that the experiment of professional diplomacy, as undertaken by the United States in 1925, had failed.

Members and friends of the Foreign Service watched with deepest interest to see what the new Administration would do about the state of America's professional diplomacy. While what was left of the Foreign Service remained--as it always had been --genuinely nonpartisan in spirit, older officers could not but remember that the Rogers Act was the product of a Republican Administration and that most of the vicissitudes that had befallen the Service (though not all) had occurred during the subsequent period of Democratic ascendancy. There was, accordingly, a natural curiosity as to whether a new Republican Administration would not again show appreciation and concern for the principles on which the Service had originally been established, awareness of the reasons for its decline, and a desire to make a new start, this time perhaps on broader and more hopeful foundations, at the creation of a creditable and efficient diplomatic arm.

The first steps of the new Administration, consisting of a further tightening of the screw of the security controls (which most officers felt had already been tightened far beyond the requirements of any demonstrable national interest), were not encouraging. But there was still the hope that all this represented only the last phase of a governmental response to a wave of popular emotionalism--a final application of the lash, designed to disarm suspicion that the Administration would be "soft" in security matters and in this way to win Congressional confidence for a new program that would in itself be sound. And while the Service as a whole would long remain saddened and troubled by the memory of what had been done to individual officers in the name of "security," there was readiness in most quarters to accept even this final salt in the wound if the result were to be the laying of a new foundation for healthy service. When, therefore, the Secretary of State announced in the early spring of 1954 that he had appointed a committee of distinguished persons, headed by Dr. Henry M. Wriston, President of Brown University, to examine into the state of the Foreign Service and to advise him as to what should be done about it, this action was greeted with deep and hopeful satisfaction by all those who had the interests of the Service at heart.

At this writing, if the press reports may be credited, a year has elapsed since the Wriston Committee took up its work, and several months since its findings were made available to the Secretary of State. The writer is not aware that the recommendations of the Committee have ever been published in any single and comprehensive form, nor does he recall seeing any published summary of the action taken subsequently by the Secretary of State with regard to the Foreign Service. Nevertheless enough has become known to the general public through press reports, governmental circulars and pamphlets to give some impression of the questions to which the Committee addressed itself, the general nature of the views at which it arrived, and the outlines of the action the Government is now taking, or proposing to take, in the light of these recommendations. Particularly helpful in this respect was the pamphlet of the Committee entitled "Toward a Stronger Foreign Service," although it is not fully clear at what stage this pamphlet was prepared or what relation it bore to the formal findings of the group.


The first and most conspicuous feature of the Wriston Committee's recommendations, and one that appears to have met with the entire approval of the Secretary of State, was the provision for amalgamation of the old Foreign Service with that portion of the personnel of the Department of State primarily concerned with the substantive problems of governmental policy. The desirability of such an amalgamation has been the subject of active and sometimes bitter debate in Foreign Service circles over the course of many years. In the circumstances of today it is hard to see how this measure, in itself, could be seriously challenged. Most Foreign Service officers have always understood that there were many people in the Department of State who belonged, subjectively speaking, in the ranks of the Foreign Service, in the sense that they were concerned with the substantive problems of foreign affairs and had come to regard their work as a calling and not just a job. The question is admittedly everywhere a difficult one, with a good deal to be said for any one of the main possible solutions. The present step merely brings American practice into accord with that of most other governments.

It is true that any attempt to marry services brought into existence on different standards of recruitment and advancement invariably involves inequities and hardships. If one were really concerned at this time to protect the career principle, as envisaged in the Rogers Act, it might have been wiser to effect this reform gradually, stepping up the rate of admissions into the Foreign Service and increasing little by little the percentage of officers serving in Washington as qualified Foreign Service officers became available. But since the present program is not really an effort to restore the old Foreign Service, but rather an attempt at the creation of a new one, the step may as well be taken at once.

There is, to be sure, one disadvantage connected with the present amalgamation which governmental leaders will ignore at the country's peril. That is the sheer size of the resulting administrative entity. When the writer entered the Foreign Service, it was made up of only some 700 officers. It is now to number something like 4,000.

The Wriston Committee, in the pamphlet mentioned above, took note with disapproval of the relatively small size of the old Foreign Service. Everything else in government, it concluded, had grown enormously; hence, it suggested, the Foreign Service should have grown too. To those who view governmental "bigness" as a disease rather than an advantage and who see in it a serious breakdown of the possibility for real inner-governmental communication as well as for administrative flexibility, this simple, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses reasoning of the Wriston Committee will not commend itself. There are even some antiquated spirits who would think it more important to have 25 really superior officers than to have 2,500 mediocre ones.

The elephantiasis of government is contagious; and there can be no question but that a governmental entity based primarily on quality rather than quantity would find itself uncomfortable, unappreciated and suspect in the governmental family today. Unless the general spirit underlying future governmental administration were to be one of emphasis on personal excellence and on the development of individual talent, the effort to preserve a small and compact Foreign Service, marked by that intimacy and mutual internal confidence peculiar to small and select organizations, would undoubtedly be a difficult task. Many older officers will feel that it would still have been a worth-while effort, from which the country would have been the gainer.


From the Wriston Committee's pamphlet one derives, perhaps erroneously, the impression that the administrative emphasis in the future handling of the Service is to be on the broadening of the variety of professional skills represented in the Service rather than on the all-around development of the individual officer. This seems to flow from the emphasis placed by the Committee on the need for specialists, as opposed to "generalists." One of the principal criticisms levied by the Committee against the administration of the old Service was the latter's effort to assure that men should become generally useful officers, to the neglect and detriment, as the Committee saw it, of the inclusion in the Service of adequate numbers of specialists in various fields of interest and endeavor.

As one who was among the first of the full-fledged area specialists produced by the old Service and who found a rich and satisfying field of activity in that capacity, the writer will perhaps not be suspected of any lack of appreciation for the virtue and possibilities of specialization. But he wonders whether in this respect the Wriston Committee has not confused two quite different things: specialized professional skill, on the one hand, and roundedness of education, judgment and personality on the other. Few older officers could fail to note, with a certain sinking of the heart, that whereas the Committee's pamphlet made frequent reference to the need of the Service for "skills," nowhere did it speak of the need for people as people. One sensed in this presentation not only a subtle rebellion against the Foreign Service officer as a type and as a mode of subjective identification, but also a certain military "table-of-organization" psychology--a belief that for any given task we need only so-and-so many of this "skill" and so-and-so many of that and we will have a suitable organization, the nature of the human personality behind each one of these "skills" being of secondary importance, so long as the subjects are professionally competent and "secure." This principle may be applicable for construction work, for industrial processes, and for many military functions. But it is not likely to be useful for the work of the Foreign Service, where what is important and decisive in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred is the totality of the man himself: his character, his judgment, his insight, his knowledge of the world, his integrity, his adaptability, his capacity for human sympathy and understanding. With these things, all specialties (and who would challenge the need for specialties?) will flower and bear fruit; without them, no specialty will really help.

It is true, as the Wriston Committee evidently concluded, that the work of the Foreign Service is not, properly speaking, a specialty in itself, or at least not an adequate one. What there is to be learned about the external amenities of international intercourse--the forms of correspondence, the correct channels for communication, international procedure, social customs, and the body of international law that enters into Foreign Service work --is admittedly not enough to make up a real professional discipline, in which the totality of a man's capabilities can be realized. It must be supplemented by substantive knowledge of the world in which we live and the processes by which human society functions. But if the Foreign Service be regarded as a way of life, rather than merely a job, then there is indeed a sense in which it is vitally important that every officer be a "generalist"--and that is in his quality as a person of character, intellect and good judgment. In the sheltered atmosphere of our domestic life, the real personality can take refuge behind the conventions and stereotypes with which every human community lubricates its various moving surfaces. In contact with the outside world, this is no longer possible. In the confrontation with the "differentness" of a foreign environment, personality is revealed, tried and tested as nowhere else. It makes little difference what the status may be in which an individual American official resides abroad--he is bound to be judged by many people, and his country will be judged by him. A nation, in particular, that controls about one-half of the world's wealth and talks of world leadership should be under no illusions as to the intensity and criticalness of this scrutiny. The outside world will be quick to tear off any masks with which its representatives try to conceal themselves. If what is revealed is a person of parts, endowed with imagination, dignity, warmth of feeling and knowledge not only of external reality but also of self (implying a measure of detachment Americans do not often acquire and do not easily forgive in other Americans), then the interests of the United States will be well served. But woe betide us if what emerges under this scrutiny is a petty or mediocre or pedestrian nature. In this case no laboriously acquired "skill" will redress the balance. The outside world is too well aware that a bear, taught to ride a bicycle, is still a bear.


This issue of "skills" versus the man himself brings up the venerable and delicate question of the compatibility of a good professional diplomatic arm with the temper of a democratic society. There is no criticism of the Foreign Service older and more ubiquitous than the charge that it is exclusive and removed from the society it represents; that it leans to foreign ways and modes of thought; and that it is therefore unrepresentative and unsuitable as a vehicle for the promulgation of American foreign policy. It is this chronic distaste of democratic opinion for the image of the professional diplomatic agent that led Jules Cambon to observe that while democracies would always have diplomacy, it was a question whether they would ever have diplomatists.

The Foreign Service officer invariably finds difficulty in dealing with the charge that his profession is exclusive and unrepresentative; for it involves some subtle distinctions. If the charge is meant to imply that there is something lacking in the patriotism and loyalty of the professional diplomat toward his own country and government, then he can only deny it flatly, and not without indignation; for the United States Foreign Service has been happily and singularly free of anything of this sort. But when it merely implies a belief that "differentness" from the national norm in external aspects is in itself unacceptable in a foreign representative, the answer is more complicated.

The function of the Foreign Service officer abroad is not to serve as a museum exhibit of the external habits and demeanor of the average American, but to constitute an effective channel of communication with other governments and a perceptive observer of life in other countries. No sensitive and adaptable person can live for long years abroad and be obliged to cultivate, as a professional duty, communication and understanding with people of other nationalities, without acquiring outlooks, habits of mind, and occasionally even mannerisms, that will ever after distinguish him from the bulk of his fellow countrymen who have remained at home. If he did not react in this way he would not be useful to his country in the representative capacity. A great deal of his usefulness consists precisely in his ability to put himself in the position of the other man. To understand, in the international sense, is not only, as was once said, to forgive; it is also to identify one's self to a degree with that which is understood. This capacity for understanding and adaptation has absolutely no other effect on a man's patriotism or loyalty to his own government than to deepen the foundation for it. There is no firmer or wiser form of national feeling than that of the person who has seen his country's faults as others see them, and can yet find it in his heart to devote his life to the service of it. But this experience does leave its marks on people; and the ways in which these people are apt to express their love of country may be different indeed from those of the men whose conception of the values of his own society has never been enriched by any real standard of comparison.

It is understandable that the Wriston Committee was concerned for the reputation of the Foreign Service in the eyes of Congress, which has to be the sole source of the Service's financial sustenance, and that it attempted to cast its report in terms calculated to disarm the irrepressible Congressional suspicion that the Service of the future is to consist of people alienated from the ways and thought of their own society. But it is a question whether Congress should be spared the harsh necessity for facing up to the basic problem involved. The issue is a clear one, and there are really no two ways about it.

Democratic society must make up its mind, at long last, whether it wants its representatives abroad to be effective in its own cause or whether it wants them to be mirrors in which it can admire what it conceives to be its own virtues. It cannot have both. It can recognize that the talented and receptive officer will always be apt to take on some of the coloration of his world environment, and it can muster the generosity to be tolerant of this fact, confident that it will be better served by it in the end. Or it can insist that the country be represented by men untouched by any real contact with foreign realities and indistinguishable in their habits and manners and interests from most other Americans. In this latter case, the country will still have diplomacy but, as Cambon suggested, it will hardly have diplomatists; and it would be unwise for us to attempt to persuade ourselves, or the young men involved, that it could be otherwise.


This question as to whether the Foreign Service should be a highly selected group or a general cross section of the citizenry is reflected again in the problems of recruitment and entrance requirements. The Wriston Committee recommended that the examinations be shortened and administered in such a way as to make it possible for candidates to take them in many parts of the country. Beyond this, and as a long-term measure, it proposed "a fundamentally new method of recruitment to be known as the Foreign Service Scholarship Training Program." Under this scheme some 750 young people who had finished their sophomore year in college would be selected as candidates for the Foreign Service and would receive a Federal grant of $900 for each of their last two years, to enable them to complete their education at an accredited college of their choice. The Committee's pamphlet is not wholly clear as to the method of selection, but seems to indicate that this would be first on the basis of Congressional appointment and then of competitive examination under the Department of State. Since this system would require new legislation, it could not be put into effect at once. As late as March 1955 the Department of State was still in the process of developing the draft legislation to be submitted to the Congress.

In advance of the formulation and passage of this legislation, it is of course impossible to assess the new arrangements. But a number of questions present themselves at once.

In the first place, if the competitive examinations referred to in the Committee's report are to take place before the candidate begins his last two years of college work, the question arises: Does the candidate then have to take, two years later, the regular Foreign Service examinations given to candidates who have completed their college course? If so, does not the Government run the risk of losing its $1800 in the case of failure? And would this not provide an easy way out for the candidate who merely wanted to take advantage of government financing for his last two years of college? If not, would this not mean that the Government has no competitive examination check on the entering candidate after completion of his sophomore year in college--surely much too early a stage for any such determination?

It is true that these candidates were to complete their college course under the general guidance of the Foreign Service Institute of the Department of State. But whether this could be regarded as an adequate substitute for the regular Foreign Service examinations, and how such candidates would be rated competitively as against those who had taken the examinations, is quite unclear. This question is rendered particularly acute by the fact that whereas the Foreign Service was estimated in the Committee's report to require a yearly intake at the bottom of about 500 officers, a total of 750 Congressional appointments to scholarships annually is envisaged. Even allowing for a 33 percent attrition in the ensuing examination, this would still leave enough to fill the annual quota. In these circumstances competition would obviously have to be severe between these people and those who had not been through the scholarship program but wished to take the Foreign Service examinations anyway on completion of their educational career.

A further question arises as to what colleges are to be accredited for this purpose. The number of institutions in this country equipped to give a college student the type of liberal education he requires for Foreign Service work, particularly in the last two undergraduate years, is limited. These institutions will hardly be found to be distributed throughout the country in anything resembling equal geographic distribution. Presumably, however, it was precisely in order to achieve something more closely resembling equal geographic distribution in recruitment for the Foreign Service that the Committee favored Congressional appointment to the majority of these scholarships. This problem may in part be solved by the transfer of candidates from institutions not equipped to give this training to ones that are so equipped.

Finally, there is the financial side of this scheme. The writer was not aware that lack of funds with which to complete the last two years of college was ever a serious impediment in the path of young people desiring to enter the Foreign Service. Far more serious were the delays surrounding the administration of the examinations and the subsequent admission to the Service--an evil which the Wriston Committee rightly recognized and opposed with all due vigor. The financing of the last two years of college is all the more questionable for the reason that those young people, in particular, who have been able to find the money for the first two years of college and have acquitted themselves creditably in their studies up to junior year do not normally have great difficulty in meeting the financial problem involved in the completion of their college course. Yet in the case of the Foreign Service, the educational requirements are such that no student who has not done well in his first two college years should be considered for the Foreign Service at all.

Beyond this, there will be many who will be troubled by the idea of governmental subsidy to individual college education in general. This is a question which of course carries far beyond the mere problem of preparation for the Foreign Service. Does this not bring us one step closer to the theory that the Government owes every young person a college education at public expense?

These questions are all ones that will have to be answered in some way or another in the forthcoming proposals for legislation. Meanwhile, general examinations are being held, once again, for recruitment into the Service; and the character of these examinations, in so far as it can be judged from the specimen produced for prospective candidates, strongly suggests a distinct lowering of educational standards for admission. The examination, in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee, has been shortened, and is now to be taken in a single day. Only a specialist could state authoritatively how it compares with the examinations formerly given to candidates for the Service. To this writer it seems most implausible that the present one could constitute any reliable test of intellectual excellence or degree of aptitude for Foreign Service work. The questions seem to be overwhelmingly of the "multiple choice" variety, involving very little test of the candidate's own creative intellectual capacity. Although the examination purports to test "whether the candidate can write correctly and effectively" and "whether he can organize his ideas properly," it appears to include no requirement for individual prose composition, and thus fails to touch one of the most common weaknesses of American college education today, namely, the failure to teach people to write the English language with any degree of precision, clarity or grace. The foreign language test, again, seems to be based only on vocabulary--surely an inadequate basis for testing ability in this field from the standpoint of usefulness in the Foreign Service.

There is room for doubt whether an American undergraduate education, even at its best, is now sufficient preparation for entry into the Foreign Service--whether, that is, it ought not to be supplemented, as a regular requirement, with some form of postgraduate study. This question will become even more acute with the further decline in quality of undergraduate education that is to be expected from the anticipated vast increase in college attendance in coming years. In these circumstances, the arrangements now envisaged would probably be of doubtful adequacy even if they attempted to identify and recruit the cream of attainment and personal excellence in persons graduating from college. When, as would seem rather to be the case, they are designed only to make sure that the applicant has the minimum attainments of the average C-plus senior of the average college, then one can only have misgivings about the result.

The same applies to the oral examinations. Boards will sit, we are told, in various parts of the country, to spare the candidates the inconvenience of coming to Washington. For this reason, and because the whole Service will be so much larger, there will have to be many boards. The examination, says the Department of State, "will continue to be searching." But who will make up these boards? And by what principles will they operate? When the writer entered the Service, the examining board included such figures as Mr. Joseph C. Grew, Mr. Wilbur Carr and Mr. J. Butler Wright. They were a terrifying panel; but no candidate could doubt their great experience, their knowledge of the Foreign Service profession and the breadth of their judgment. Will we find such people today--to staff not just one board, but many? And will their criteria be the same? The most important qualities making for effectiveness in the diplomatic profession are, after all, ones engendered in the family and the home. They have little to do with money, but they have a great deal to do with what used to be called breeding. Nothing in the Wriston pamphlet gives the reader grounds to hope that future boards will find it natural to search for such qualities or will be encouraged to do so.

The question, in both cases, is again whether you want your Foreign Service to be (let us frankly use the abhorred word) an elite, in character and intellect and education, or whether you want its members to be as close as possible to the mean of other Americans of their age. I am sure that the founding fathers of our Republic would unhesitatingly have favored the former, as did all those who had to deal with Foreign Service affairs up to one or two decades ago. It was left for the present generation, given to confusing republican institutions with an egalitarian conformism, to embrace the theory that we should be represented by our average rather than our best.


It is announced that in the future, as in the past, the obligations of military service are to take precedence over the duties of a Foreign Service officer. If an officer is called for military service, his Foreign Service work and career are to be interrupted for so long as the armed services are entitled to claim him. No work he might be doing in the Foreign Service is to be regarded as of such importance, from the standpoint of the national interest, as to take precedence over his military service. The reasoning behind the retention of this principle is not difficult to perceive. Distinctions with respect to military obligation are always invidious. As one who favors universal military service for all young men alike, the writer would be the last to challenge the principle that military obligation should be equal for all.

But as the system now operates, and as it is to operate in future, it has in it the makings of much wastage of training and experience from the standpoint of the Government. So far as peacetime is concerned, if a man is going to do military service at all, it would obviously be better that he do it and get it over with before he enters the Foreign Service, so that his subsequent Foreign Service career not be disrupted by this sort of an interruption. Much more serious are the implications of the present system for time of war. We had occasion from 1941 to 1945 to see how this principle operates. In time of war, the functions of the Foreign Service are so closely related to the war effort that they often become indistinguishable from those of a good portion of the armed services. During the past war many Foreign Service officers had the experience of working side by side with officers in uniform at common tasks. Yet there was usually a reason, as it happened, why some should be in uniform and some in mufti. When officers left the Foreign Service and went into uniform, either voluntarily or because they were called by their draft boards, it often merely meant that they were set to tasks in which they were less useful to the Government than they would have been had they remained in the Foreign Service, and that other, less qualified personnel had to be recruited to do their Foreign Service work. The State Department knew this, and encouraged men to plead with their draft boards to exempt them on the grounds of their greater usefulness to the country in the Foreign Service. Most Foreign Service officers knew it, too, and realized that their greater duty was to remain in the Service if they could. Yet the Department of State itself refused to take any responsibility in asking the draft boards for deferment. The men were thus left with a bitter personal choice: whether to ask for deferment as a matter of conscience, at the cost of being reproached as slackers and draft-dodgers, or to go unprotestingly to the armed services, knowing that the Government's interests as a whole would be worse served for the change. Since the old system is to be retained without change, all these problems are bound to arise again in the event of war.

It must not happen that the Foreign Service simply melts away and becomes largely unavailable for its duties precisely at the moment when, if the experience of the last war is any criterion, one might have greatest need for a trained and experienced corps of men for the performance of a multitude of duties in allied and neutral countries that do not come strictly within the military competence. Better than this, it would seem, would be a system whereby every young man did his military service automatically, before entering on his Foreign Service career, but remained thereafter wholly at the Government's disposal, to be employed in uniform or out of uniform, in the military ranks or in the offices of the Foreign Service, as the interests of the country might dictate.


The failings of the new program noted thus far have been largely ones of commission. But the most fateful and serious deficiency is one of omission. It lies in that problem to which the Wriston Committee, for some reason, neglected to face up, and to which the Government as a whole has not faced up: the problem of security. Although the security system has been probably the greatest single factor in the collapse of Foreign Service morale, the Wriston program appears to have contained no recommendations for revising the system as such. And the implementation of the Wriston Committee recommendations by the Department of State also reflects no desire to revise or modify in any important way the unsound and dangerous state of affairs that has been allowed to grow up in this connection.

The scope of this discussion does not permit any detailed examination into the workings of the present security system; nor would the writer be prepared to say that he understands them all, shrouded as they are in the usual mixture of mystery and red tape. Only a specialist, able to give a great deal of his time to this subject, could hope to follow the shifting complexities of law, regulation and administrative policy by which the treatment of the individual officer is, at any given moment, determined.

It is plainly the business of government, as the employer of people entrusted with public duties of unusual delicacy and responsibility, to see to it that these latter are loyal to their country, have reasonable strength of character and are not afflicted with personal weaknesses that would incline them to lapses of self-control or render them likely objects for blackmail or malevolent exploitation by outsiders. These requirements are elementary. They are not peculiar to government. They are ones many other employers have to meet. Normally, they are handled as integral portions of regular personnel work, to be met with due prudence and common sense in the recruitment, supervision and advancement of personnel. They were so handled for many years in the old Department of State and Foreign Service.

The system did not work badly. During the quarter-century that the writer was actively associated with the Foreign Service, something in the neighborhood of three thousand officers must have been employed in it at one time or another; yet he can recall none that was ever discovered to have been disloyal to the country while serving in this capacity, and none that was ever blackmailed by a foreign government. If there were such cases, they were neither numerous nor important. Of indiscretions there were, of course, plenty; for mankind is given to indiscretion. But the older generation of diplomatists was taught that virtue did not lie in any perfectionist attempt to avoid this weakness altogether but rather in keeping it within the bounds of the tolerable --in the facility, that is, for being indiscrete only with a measure of discretion. Actually, even the most injudicious indiscretions of Foreign Service officers have rarely rivalled in egregiousness those regularly committed by the loftier of their superiors in government.

The totalitarians were the first to arrive at the idea that a man's "security" was a peripheral attribute of his personal makeup--something unconnected with his fitness for office generally, and something to be tested and established by a special race of men who needed to know nothing of the other aspects of his character and performance. In the aftermath of World War II, for reasons which would warrant some careful soul-searching on the part of the nation as a whole, the United States Government came to embrace this same philosophy with an enthusiasm approaching abandon, and to erect upon it, in the particular case of the State Department and Foreign Service, a new system of security controls that could scarcely have been more unsound in concept, more onerous in operation or more tragic in consequence. More than any other single factor, it was this innovation that was responsible for the discouragement and demoralization that have characterized the Foreign Service in recent years.

The new security system involved, as was indicated above, the establishment of a wholly new career service to check on the reliability of the old one. The members of the new service were not required to have had any personal experience or familiarity with the work of the old one. Although they were supposed to judge the political reliability of other men--often men considerably more mature and experienced than themselves--and although they were commissioned for this purpose to examine into and weigh the political views of these other men, there is no indication that it was thought necessary to give them anything resembling an adequate education in political affairs. Although they were charged with prying into the most delicate and intimate phases of people's lives, there appears to have been no requirement that they themselves be people of superior detachment and understanding in these matters. Whereas in the past such inquiries have generally, by the common consent of society, been left to men who might be presumed by virtue of age, training and previous experience to be able to conduct them with ripe judgment and detachment and to avoid bringing unnecessary damage or pain to the people involved--such men as priests, physicians, psychologists or judges at the bench--here they were turned over to brash young men whose qualifications appear to have been confined to the college or law school diploma and whose own superior virtue was documented by no other fact than that they were too young emotionally, and too virginal intellectually, to have known temptation.

If we are to judge from what is known of past loyalty cases, no adequate arrangements exist for the evaluation of adverse information obtained in the course of this investigative work. Just how much sifting of evidence is theoretically supposed to be carried out before charges are formally preferred against an officer remains something of a mystery. In any case, the records of past loyalty proceedings are replete with instances where the Department of State obviously took cognizance of charges raised by people outside the Department and, without subjecting them to any independent critical scrutiny worthy of the name, flung them against the officer in formal proceedings, with the lighthearted injunction: Defend yourself if you can! This is an indefensible procedure, foolish even from the standpoint of the Government itself. It does not necessarily elicit the truth; for it is not always that the employee is able or inclined to refute malicious and vague charges, particularly when they emanate from persons whose identity is concealed from him. It is a procedure that leaves everyone, including the Government itself, at the mercy of the informer. If there is any penalty attached to the filing with the Government of false information, known by the filer to be false, about a governmental officer, many of us have yet to learn of it. It is obvious, and has been obvious for several years, that such a system is open to exploitation against us by the Communists themselves. That it has been retained so long, in the face of these circumstances, can be explained only by a belief on the part of Government that it makes no difference who gets dropped or who inspires the dropping (even though it be the Communist Party), so long as no one remains in government who might conceivably be insecure. Such a view, implying the assumption that our country is infinitely rich in talented, devoted and experienced public servants and that new ones can always be found where the others came from, is not the view of a provident or realistic employer.

Finally, there is the inexcusably painful and injurious method by which, in recent years, many officers who have fallen foul of the security system have been released from the Service. Most, if not all, of these men have been released for reasons having nothing to do with their loyalty. Many have been released, after long years of faithful and sometimes distinguished service, for reasons highly personal, which would have no relation to their usefulness in other walks of life. Some of us continue to doubt that in many of these cases the charges were ever adequately proven or, if proven, had any great relevance to the officer's fitness for further service. But even ignoring these doubts and supposing the charges reasonable ones and adequately proven, there could be no justification for releasing these men, as was actually done, in such a manner as to bring great anguish to them and their families and to damage their public reputations as well as their chances for future employment. We have yet to observe any penitence on the part of the Government for the injustice and suffering it has wrought in these cases.

This recital of the evils of the security system, as they have been apparent in recent years, is by no means exhaustive. But it will, perhaps, suffice to show why the failure of the Wriston Committee to deal with this problem has seemed to many officers the weakest feature of its work. What the Government now proposes to do about these evils, we cannot tell. It has indicated that measures will be taken, or are being taken, to mitigate one or another of them. If so, so much the better. But there has been as yet no evidence of any disposition on the part of official Washington to re-think the entire system and the philosophic basis on which it rests. There has been no evidence of any readiness to face the basic question as to whether a man's security is really something that can be measured and judged apart from his own personality and the totality of his performance as an officer--like the color of his hair or the condition of his arches--and whether it is really something suitably to be determined by anonymous individuals who know little about either political science or human nature. Until government is willing to face up to these questions, many who have the interests of the Foreign Service deeply at heart must be forgiven if they remain skeptical of the prospects for any complete restoration of Foreign Service morale.


A year and a half ago, just before the Wriston Committee undertook its work, the writer was asked by a student editor to comment for the benefit of his readers on the merits of the Foreign Service as a career for young men leaving college. He replied that as things stood at that sad moment, he could not encourage any young man to enter the Service at the bottom by examination and to start up the ladder in the normal manner. He pointed out that the Administration was about to undertake a study of the whole problem and voiced the hope that this study would lead to measures which would again make the Service a promising and satisfying career. He urged the student-readers to await the results of this study before making any final judgment.

Today, the study is complete; the results are in large part at hand. What is there now to be said about the prospects of the Foreign Service as a career?

Democracy, as Cambon observed, will always have diplomacy. There will always be a group of civilian officials of this Government charged with the representation of the country's interests abroad. However the service of these officials may be administered, the work and the life will remain in many ways stimulating and interesting, particularly for the officer who wishes to make it so. It will always carry with it the excitements, the rewards, the challenges, often the hardships, of foreign residence. However the Government may try to reduce these advantages through the anxious paternalism with which it now surrounds its officers, something of them will always remain for the officer who has enough intellectual curiosity to turn his back on the American colony cocktail parties and to learn something of the life around him.

Beyond that, the life of the Foreign Service officer will continue to be enriched by his association with other Americans in the same work. As in so many other American institutions, the deficiencies of administrative structure will in part be corrected by the virtues of the national temperament. Whatever the selection system, intelligent and talented people will, by the law of averages, find their way into the Service, to enrich others with their insights and to inspire others with the example of their own growth. Whatever the Government's views on specialists as opposed to generalists, there will always be magic moments when minds previously confined within the walls of a narrow special interest are suddenly awakened by the Foreign Service experience to a realization of the unity of all knowledge. However ill-designed the security system and whatever premiums it may place on timidity and a cramped suspiciousness of outlook, friendships and loyalties will develop; men will find satisfaction in the appreciation of their colleagues for work that goes unnoted or unappreciated at home; there will be times when men will be privileged to stand by each other in danger and adversity and thus to taste one of the richest forms of human experience. Everywhere, even within the ranks of the security officers themselves, the golden mean of American characteristics will not fail to break through: men will learn by doing; experience will breed understanding and maturity; the instinct for common decency and fairness, instilled by a thousand earnest American mothers and on a thousand sand-lot baseball fields, will rise to assert itself and to do battle, wherever it can, with whatever is stupid or unjust in the system. Finally, and perhaps most important of all, the work of the Foreign Service will always have, in the eyes of those who perform it, that ultimate dignity that comes from the fact that it is the work of a great government, on whose performance rests the fate of a great people, indeed, in many respects, of the world at large--a dignity which means that whatever the Foreign Service officer may be occupied with in his official work, it will never be meaningless, never wholly trivial.

These things will go far to redeem the Foreign Service of the future, as they have redeemed that of the past. They will redeem it both as a subjective experience for those who live and work in it and as an instrument for the transaction of the Government's foreign business. And in many respects the changes introduced by the implementation of the new program will represent improvements over the state in which the Service has found itself in recent years.

Conditions will of course continue to exist which most older officers will be unable to view otherwise than as burdens on the development of an efficient and well-adjusted organization. In particular, no outsider can yet give to the young man entering the Service the assurance that the treatment he may receive at the hands of the security authorities will necessarily bear any relationship to the devotion and talent he may have given to his substantive work, and that it may not work tragic and undeserved hardship upon him. But in this, as in other respects, the future Foreign Service will be only in tune with an age committed to bigness, to over-organization, to de-personalization, to the collective rather than individual relationship. Skepticism of the value of individual excellence and reluctance to allow any of the weight of society to come to rest on the insights and intuition of the individual spirit will be the marks not of the Foreign Service alone but of the very environment in which it exists; and the young person seeking the road to self-fulfillment will not be likely to escape them by avoiding the Foreign Service career.

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  • GEORGE F. KENNAN, of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton; former U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union and head of the Policy Planning Staff in the Department of State; author of "Realities of American Foreign Policy"
  • More By George F. Kennan