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Cleaning The Stables At State

So far, Obama has only nominated one ambassador - career professional Susan Rice as ambassador to the UN. Here she is in September talking about Oba

So far, Obama has only nominated one ambassador - career professional Susan Rice as ambassador to the UN. Here she is in September talking about Obama's foreign policy.

Following up on reports of Obama's intended Herculean cleaning of the Agean Stables at the Department of Defense, where the entire body of Bush-appointed deputies and under-whatevers are expected to be fired, the Washington Post now reports that the incoming Obama administration has told every single Bush political appointee as an ambassador that their services will no longer be required come January 20th.

That's an awful lot of ambassadors. An unusually high percentage of Bush's ambassador picks throughout his presidency - about half - have been "political appointees," as opposed to career foreign officers and without fail those political appointees have been big campaign donors, each raising over $100,000 for Bush and lots more for the Republican Party.

Nations that have had these, usually clueless, ambassadors foisted upon them just so that Bush could thank his biggest funders with a prestige sinecure include: Canada, Mexico, Britain, Sweden, the Netherlands, Spain, Australia, Belgium, Hungary, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, France, Portugal, Switzerland, Singapore and the European Union as well as a host of smaller nations. The United States is the only nation which habitually staffs its top diplomatic positions in other countries with check-writing rank amateurs rather than professional diplomats.

Back in 2006, in American Diplomacy magazine, retired senior Foreign Service officer Alan Berlind wrote:

[T]he day will dawn when our elected leaders rediscover the need for dialogue and reasonable accommodation in our international relationships. When that happens, the job of repairing the enormous damage done to those relationships and restoring our reputation, credit, and influence in the world will fall in large part to America’s diplomats, most particularly, American ambassadors, i.e., the senior representatives of the American government and people abroad. What better time, then, to re-examine the almost uniquely American practice of including among those representatives large numbers of people only rarely qualified for the job.

What better time indeed. If Obama actually breaks with the tradition of the last three presidents and appoints more than two thirds of his ambassadors from the pool of foreign service professionals, then that will definitely be change I can believe in.

Crossposted from Newshoggers

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