U.S. Department of State: A Reference History

By Elmer Plischke | Go to book overview

After two centuries the Department of State--its offices and its people--comprise one of the world's nerve centers of world affairs. During the earliest days of the Republic, it made indispensable contributions to the preservation of our independence. . . . Across the twentieth century, as Americans came to accept the responsibilities of leadership, the Department, like the nation it serves, has experienced remarkable growth in size, influence, and function. . . . For more than two centuries the men and women of the Department have chosen this form of public service because they are deeply committed to the search for solutions to the problems of tomorrow. Throughout the world they daily face the threat of disease, terrorism, war, kidnapping, and death. Along with these hazards come the normal demands of day-to-day problemsolving, decisionmaking, and coping with life at home and abroad. All things considered the people of the United States have been well served. 57

Thus, since 1789 the Department of State has constituted the epicenter of the growing and mutating foreign affairs of the United States and has evolved into one of the world's leading political and administrative agencies for the conduct of diplomacy and the search for contemporary and future solutions to international issues and the amelioration of conflicts. It continues to possess the primary administrative responsibility for international problem solving, decision making, and promoting American interests and welfare in world affairs. During and following World War II the United States assumed an active world leadership role, not only in American foreign policy making but also in the promotion of, and participation in, diplomatic relations, multipartite organizations, and international conferencing, which it will continue to bear in the twenty-first century.


NOTES
1.
Schuyler, American Diplomacy and the Furthering of Commerce, pp. 4-7; for a description of early Department of State functions and activities, also see pp. 7-40.
2.
Moore, The Principles of American Diplomacy, pp. 425-27.
3.
Foster, The Practice of Diplomacy, pp. 1, 7, 13.
4.
Thayer, Diplomat, p. 72.
5.
Stuart, American Diplomatic and Consular Practice, p. 417. On this subject, he also quotes Mowrer, Our Foreign Affairs, p. 193, and adds that, on the other hand, citizens in democracies appreciate the value of armies and navies dealing with foreign affairs. Peter L. Szanton, focusing on the past, suggests: "Critics of military planning have remarked that in time of peace generals prepare to win the previous war" and "Critics of diplomacy have added that in time of peace diplomats attempt to avoid the previous war." See Robert Murphy, Commission on the Organization of the Government for the Conduct of Foreign Policy, Appendixes, vol. 1, Appendix A, p. 5.
6.
Introduction to Harr, The Development of Careers in the Foreign Service, p. xiii.
7.
See Stuart, The Department of State, p. 466.
8.
Quoted in Trask, A Short History of the U.S. Department of State, 1781-1981, p. 37.
9.
Macomber, The Angels' Game: A Handbook of Modern Diplomacy, p. 191.

-679-

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