America’s diplomats responded today to recent criticism of their work by GOP presidential hopeful Rick Perry, saying the Texas governor’s comments reflected “a serious misunderstanding of their role in promoting American interests overseas.”
In a radio interview on Monday, Perry told Fox News host Bill O’Reilly that “I’m not sure our State Department serves us well.”
“I’m not talking about the secretary of state here. I’m talking about the career diplomats and the secretary of state who, all too often, may not be making decisions, or giving advice to the administration that’s in this country’s best interest,” Perry said.
The union representing career foreign service officers rejected that accusation.
“Diplomacy is rightly recognized as the first line of defense and a vital instrument for ensuring national security, along with the military. Foreign Service professionals carry out their role with exemplary dedication all over the world, including war zones and other dangerous regions,” the American Foreign Service Association said in a statement.
To stress its point, the union listed the names of nearly two dozen diplomats killed while working in dangerous places abroad and noting that many more foreign service officers had lost their lives in bombings at American embassies.
“Wherever they are posted, American diplomats are dedicated to serving their country, promoting U.S. national interests as articulated by our country’s elected leaders. … In an ever more uncertain, complex world, our diplomatic personnel deal with the entire spectrum of our interaction with the rest of the world. To keep America strong and secure, we need more diplomacy, not less. And we need more, not less, support from our political leaders and citizens for their work to defend and advance our interests abroad,” the union said.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, herself a career diplomat, declined to comment earlier this week when asked about Perry’s remarks, saying she did not want to wade into electoral politics.