Diplomats’ Job Not To Judge Policies

First, the good news: Since U.S. forces led the invasion of Iraq that toppled now-deceased dictator Saddam Hussein from power in 2003, more than 1,500 American career diplomats have volunteered to take posts in that country.

Now, the bad news: A survey of more than 4,300 diplomats working for the State Department has disclosed that many of them apparently don’t understand their jobs — or the meaning of the word “patriotism.”

After the State Department admitted that it was having trouble filling vacant diplomatic positions in Iraq, the American Foreign Service Association, a union representing diplomats, asked about 11,500 of them to respond to a survey. According to the union, 4,311 responses were received.

Sixty-eight percent of respondents said they opposed mandatory assignments to Iraq. Of that number, 48 percent said they didn’t want to serve in Iraq because they disagree with U.S. policy there. In other words, about one-third of those who responded to the survey seem to believe that they are supposed to represent this country diplomatically only when they agree with national policy.

Some reason for optimism can be found in the fact that a minority of diplomats even responded to the survey. More good news: One-third of respondents to the survey support mandatory assignment to Iraq, if necessary. And 59 percent cited “patriotism” as a reason to accept a posting in Iraq.

Still, the fact that a substantial number of allegedly professional diplomats — again, a minority in comparison to their peers — think that they should not represent policies with which they disagree is worrisome.

We agree with State Department spokesman Sean McCormack’s position, that truly professional diplomats can either serve their country regardless of its policies, or seek other employment. When asked about the survey, he told reporters, “When we signed up for these jobs, we signed up to support the policies of the American government. If people have a problem with that, they know what they can do.”

Here’s hoping they do it.