Commentary: Diversity mania has hit the Foreign Service

A trio of articles in the latest Foreign Service Journal typifies the diversity mania sweeping the Foreign Service. Each largely ignores diversity’s elephant-in-the-room question, the double-edged sword: what exactly does diversity bring to the table in terms of achieving optimal foreign policy formulation and execution?

A trio of articles in the latest Foreign Service Journal typifies the diversity mania sweeping the Foreign Service. Each largely ignores diversity’s elephant-in-the-room question, the double-edged sword: what exactly does diversity bring to the table in terms of achieving optimal foreign policy formulation and execution?

Although making token mention of patriotism, intelligence, knowledge and character (let’s call them the “Foreign Service Essentials”) the ambassador’s article really focuses on the need to recruit “the right people,”  those who are the colors of the rainbow, LGBTQ and, if I read correctly, women – at least half.

Might then, the Foreign Service admit the less qualified by applying the “right people” criterion, while rejecting the most qualified if they are not, say, the color of the day?  Or, once the Foreign Service has enough LGBTQ officers, would it reject the next gay applicant though he or she had the diplomatic qualities of a Talleyrand or Metternich?  In effect, failure to maintain the essentials turns full-throttle diversity recruiting into a double-edged sword.

Here’s another double-edger: only by diversifying the Foreign Service, Congressman Castro writes, can we “assuage” minorities and gather their support behind American diplomacy and global leadership.  In other words, the congressman and his adherents want a Foreign Service (as the old saw goes) that looks like them. Questions: how does Congressman Castro square this approach with the progressive mantra that the best and brightest feel at home among those who are different? Evidently, Castro does not, and seems not to care how diversity is obtained.  Can  any institution thrive under diversity-take-all recruitment prescriptions?

Finally, a European bureau desk officer equates diversity with superior results: an embassy team containing a diplomat who shares the ethnicity of the host country better understands that host country.

Now, were that true, the department would promote better understanding by sending our Muslim diplomats to Arab countries. It would be Catholics, say, to Ireland, Italy or Poland.  Atheists and Democrat Socialists? Off you go to Cuba,  China, Venezuela and, when it opens, North Korea. And, although it’s not clear whether the writer extends his judgments on ethnicity to include race, might not African American and Asian American diplomats best serve  in Africa and Asia? Heavens! What diversity is here?  Rather, it’s the double-edged sword again: diversity obtained by dividing Foreign Service personnel into ethnic and racial groups, then stereotyping and assigning them accordingly.

The desk officer continues that differing points of view stem from different “experiences and insights” that he attaches to particular races, ethnicities, genders, economic backgrounds and national origins. Such mixtures, he implies, produce a better Foreign Service. But how, exactly? Again, the elephant is unaddressed.  So, do diverse American diplomats better defend those policies that favor their respective lands of origin?  Do those coming from straightened circumstances more effectively champion the augmentation of foreign aid? Might different “experiences and insights” – typical, let us imagine, of Latino-American consular section diversities – produce free-wheeling implementations of our visa issuance regulations?

Recruiting on the basis of diversity necessarily comes at the expense of the Foreign Service Essentials.  How can it be otherwise when, for example, diversity recruitment’s modus operandi (based as it is on race, ethnicity, gender and sexual preferences) excludes broad groups of applicants – half the males, possibly – from fair competition? Unfortunately, it appears that emphasizing the essentials over considerations of diversity is quite out of step, even risky!

Frankly, those who are patriotic, intelligent, knowledgeable and character-filled don’t give a damn what people look like, nor are they likely to recruit or advance anyone on that basis. Rather, they hold the essentials close, are the best champions and practitioners of both effective diplomacy and successful diversity.

Richard Hoover, a retired Foreign Service officer, resides in southern Warren County.