Friday, November 20, 2009

How Much Does it Cost to be an Ambassador?

Now is a critical time for American diplomacy. We’re engaged in two wars, fighting a broader war on terrorism, trying to secure international cooperation on Iran, and coming up with a coherent international response to the economic crisis. At such a time, you’d think the government would want the most qualified people possible serving as diplomats, right? Well no, that doesn’t appear to be what the government wants unfortunately.

This article on the politico details all of the political appointments Obama has made to serve as ambassadors. These include some significant countries like France and Britain. Moreover, with how quickly things change in international relations, almost every country is now important. Those appointed for political reasons have often raised a great deal of money for Obama or the Democratic Party. To be fair, the Obama administration isn’t the first do to this. In fact, the split over the last couple of decades has been 70% career diplomats and 30% political appointments.

Apparently one response trotted out in defense of these political nominees is that they do have some understanding of international relations. For example, the ambassador to France’s father was also an ambassador. But I’m just not sure that’s good enough. If I’m going in for surgery, I don’t care if the person operating on me’s father was a skilled surgeon. I want to know if he is a good surgeon. In the same way, when I’m putting someone in charge of the military, I don’t care if his father was a soldier. I want to know his military record.

Cynics have long claimed their government is for sale to the highest bidder. Stories like this do not help in refuting them.

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