I get why this is a problem for Washington decision makers, and I think it’s a institutional problem more than a Democrat/Republican one. There is no substitute for person-to-person interaction, mutual respect, and having one’s skin in the game. How else can you show your seriousness and honesty to the people that matter – the civilians in developing countries who make the ultimate choice of (a) joining a militia and blowing things up or (b) trying to start a business, raise a family, grow food, etc.?
But if even the military is subject to the politician’s terror of losing office because of soldiers in body bags (not without d*mn good reasons, mind you), then what hope is there for the State Department and its appendages like USAID to escape the gravity/suck of politicization?
How can the USA *order* diplomats, engineers, ag. extension officers, economists, etc. into potentially dangerous situations?
An individual can more easily make that personal choice. But often they lack the massive resources of a large institution. So how do you get “Citizen Diplomats” and a “Citizen Economic Development Corps” that can mobilize its own resources?
Article Excerpt: “Vital diplomatic efforts like conflict mitigation and peace talks also suffer in the absence of constant, on-the-ground attention. ‘You’re trying to tell the people of South Sudan, ‘We’re with you,’ but it sends a bit of a mixed message to say, ‘We’re with you – but from Washington. We’re just not with you there.’ Ninety percent of everything in the world is showing up, right? When you aren’t there, that sends a message, no matter how well-intentioned you are.”