Yet another incredibly unique aspect of the Department of State is the politics. Typically, politics are ignored or avoided in the workplace, but there is no escaping them in my office. The State Department’s overall role is to implement Foreign Policy. The President of the United States sets the Foreign Policy agenda. Since the President is elected, the agenda for the State Department is ultimately set by the public voters, making the work that these men and women are doing political at its core. I had the opportunity to discuss this with the Director of my office. I asked specifically about US action in the Middle East for the past 10 years. My Director explained that there was an atmosphere of confusion and disbelief when the events that led to the war began to unfold. Political disagreements ran deep. Ultimately, he explained, the members of the Department of State, both Civil and Foreign Service, hold their responsibility to fully support our men and women in the field, on the ground, and around the world over political differences. The best they can do is to do their jobs as well as they can and serve the people that are counting on them.
Working in the public sector and specifically in foreign policy offers a unique opportunity to explore the world and the changing nature of global diplomacy. In the past year, we have seen changes in world power that we once thought would never come. The Arab Spring has shaken the Middle East to its core. The pressure of a globalizing world also adds a new dimension to working in Foreign Policy. I found an excelent examination of this paradox in Fareed Zakaria’s article, “The Future of American Power: How America Can Survive the Rise of the Rest.” The article in full has to be purchased to be viewed, but a summary can be found on the foreign affairs web archives. Zakaria says we are finding ourselves in the middle of “the third great power shift of the modern era – the rise of the rest.” Much of the Foreign Policy of the Obama administration has involved measures of inclusion rather than exclusion, and cooperation rather than pure competition. This attitude trickles down through the policy makers and the policy takers such as the employees of the State Department. The United States is reaching out to developing and rising nations, which I believe is creating a very positive global dialogue. Zakaria discusses the power of the US to “stabilize the emerging world order by bringing in the new rising nations, ceding some of its own power and perquisites, and accepting a world with a diversity of voices and viewpoints.” I believe this is true, this is the direction that US Foreign Policy is taking currently, and being a part of the work force that is directly involved in those efforts is challenging and inspiring, which is exactly what I want for my future career.