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The Traditions and Travails of Career Diplomacy in the United States

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The US Department of State has embarked on a significant expansion of personnel, yet still grapples with the consequences of severe cutbacks in the 1990s that now hamper its ability to fulfill more expeditionary tasks in the wake of 9/11. Historical factors slowed the development of career diplomacy in the US up to 1924, and in recent decades the State Department has been impacted by greater Congressional assertiveness in foreign affairs, an expanded role for other US agencies and the military, and increased security restrictions in the face of terrorist threats. Numerous studies have called for a greater emphasis on civilian diplomacy amid US military involvements in Iraq and Afghanistan. Current US strategy documents evoke a ‘whole of government’ approach to nation-building as the primary context for devoting more resources to diplomacy and development. Over time, however, global trends toward multi-polarity and US fiscal limitations may require a more fundamental re-evaluation of the role and importance of career diplomacy in US foreign policy.

Affiliations: 1: University of Minnesota-Duluth Duluth, MN 55812 USA, Email:


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