The Formulation and Administration of United States Foreign Policy

By H. Field Haviland; Robert E. Asher et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter VII. Field Missions

The critical link in the foreign policy chain is direct contact with other nations in the field where plans must meet the test of action. Yet U.S. missions are presently operating under extraordinary handicaps, and prospective changes in the international environment are likely to make the situation even worse. Daily, the burdens of field staffs grow in volume and complexity, while financial and personnel resources continue to lag behind, restrictions imposed by Washington continue to restrain initiative and long-range thinking, and the proliferation of independent agencies hampers efforts to integrate the many activities into coherent programs. This situation calls for careful rethinking of the functions and organization of field missions.

The following analysis deals, first, with individual country missions and, second, with missions to multilateral organizations such as the United Nations, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the three European communities, and the Organization of American States. Much of what is said elsewhere in the report concerning other issues also relates to this discussion, and special appendixes deal more specifically with U.S. relations with multilateral organizations and the inter- American community.


A. ROLE AND SELECTION OF AMBASSADORS

The importance of the Ambassador in the conduct of foreign relations can hardly be exaggerated. He is the eyes, ears, and voice of the United States in the country of his assignment. It is chiefly through him that governmental relations with that country are funneled. He is the primary agency of negotiation with the host government and the image and embodiment of the United States to its officials. For the U.S. Government, he is the central source of information on what its multifarious agencies are doing under his general supervision. He is the primary source of intelligence and advice to which his Government looks in formulating its policies. He sets the bounds for the activities of all other U.S. officials within his jurisdiction and in times of emergency exercises a large measure of authority over other Americans as well. Probably more than any other official below the level of the Secretary of State, an Ambassador can make a shambles of U.S. relations with another country or organization, or can save it from irretrievable blunders.

Some criticism has been voiced regarding the effect on the ambassadorial role of direct negotiations conducted by the Secretary of State in the field. The personal preferences of Secretaries of State vary on this score, but the general tendency in this direction is probably inescapable. It is a consequence primarily of swifter transportation and is akin to the growing centralization of most governmental affairs. With telephonic conversation between all parts of the world and travel

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