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John Brown, a former Foreign Service officer who practiced public diplomacy for more than 20 years, now compiles the "Public Diplomacy Press Review," which can be obtained free by e-mail by clicking at http://www.uscpublicdiplomacy.org/index.php?/newsroom/johnbrown_main .
Now one year into her job as secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice has finally stated what the purpose of the State Department is under the Bush administration. Its new function, she announced in a recent major speech  at Georgetown, is "transformational diplomacy."
To be sure, she had used this phrase before. But to those respectful of plain English, the meaning of this elusive term was not entirely clear. Now, at last, we are enlightened. Rice's transformational diplomacy means nothing less than the elimination of American diplomacy. I see three reasons for this.
First, transformational diplomacy seems to have nothing to do with global issues—diplomacy's main concern. Rice's speech didn't focus on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Israel-Palestinian conflict, U.S. relations with Iran and North Korea. By ignoring these critical matters, Rice suggested that diplomacy has little relevance in solving foreign policy problems. This anti-diplomatic stance is in line with the Bush administration's core belief—displayed by its unilateral military actions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and (quite possibly) in Iran—that it is not diplomacy (State Department negotiations) but force (Pentagon power) that defines American foreign policy.
Second, Rice's transformational diplomacy dismisses the importance of formal relations between states. It declares that in our "extraordinary" times the "fundamental character of regimes now matters more than the international distribution of power."
But the fact of the matter is that countries with (as Rice puts it) "new prominence"—China, India, Brazil, South Africa—take their diplomatic ties with the U.S. very seriously. So do European nations, which Rice undiplomatically relegates to the ash heap of history, saying there are too many U.S. diplomats in the region. To ignore interstate relations is in effect to proclaim that diplomacy has no raison d'être.
Finally, Rice's clarion call to bring American diplomacy to an end is most clearly seen in her misguided view of how Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) should carry out their work.
Diplomats abroad, Rice proclaims, now should be "active in the field." They must be "first-rate administrators of programs, capable of helping foreign citizens to strengthen the rule of law, to start businesses, to improve health and to reform education." They also "must partner more directly with the military...work more jointly with our men and women in uniform." As for "young" diplomats in the field of public diplomacy, they'll be expected to "create and manage" a Virtual Presence Post, "an Internet site that is focused on key population centers."
Being "active in the field" is, of course, at the heart of diplomats' work. No FSO worth her salt wants to spend her day just writing telegrams to Washington. She sees her primary role as getting to know, and remaining in contact with, the key players of a society, an activity that requires much tact, time and energy. And no true diplomat doubts that, in order to do her work effectively, she should speak local languages, as Rice proposes. An FSO also wants to serve her country to the best of her ability in critical countries, and did not join the diplomatic corps—as Walter Russell Meade sarcastically suggests in a recent Los Angeles Times op-ed  —to look forward “to restful years in Paris and Rome.”
Rice’s must-do list for her remade FSOs, while giving the impression that they will become more relevant by engaging in numerous new activities, is far too long and unfocused. It is naïve in its assumption that diplomats can transform the “fundamental character of regimes” through programs requiring the kind of specialization that generalists (the core of the Foreign Service) simply do not (and need not) have.
Indeed, Rice's "transformed" diplomats are not diplomats at all, but program managers, servants of the military, Internet operators, and "missionaries for the democratic Gospel" (in the words of the British newspaper The Observer  ).
Condi the diplomat-terminator may be the ideal secretary of state for a bellicose, "bring' em on" White House that can't understand "what these dips are doing out there" (doubtless because Bush officials seldom listen to them). But, as the disastrous failures of the president's mindless military crusades overseas have demonstrated, we need more diplomacy, not less, if only to properly inform Washington of what's going on in the world before it goes about blowing it up.