• Advice for State Department Entry Level Officers: Gangnam Style

    October 2, 2012

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State

    Of the many, many ironies of the past year, my role as an author and blogger has enabled me to speak with a very large number of young people either thinking about a Foreign Service career or, having recently joined State as Entry Level Officers (ELOs, formerly Junior Officer, JOs). When I worked at State no one seemed particularly interested in my advice, but now some ask. Go figure.

    So, in the interest of public service (formerly “giving back”), based on recent news pieces, here are some points for you young’uns to raise with your State Department mentors:

    — Clinton’s personal spokesperson, Philippe Reines, called a major media reporter an “unmitigated asshole” and told him to “fuck off” in writing. Given the varied needs of diplomacy, under what specific circumstances are State Department personnel allowed to use such terms without punishment? For example, I was charged by State with “unprofessional conduct” for far less offensive speech on this blog. Bonus: Is there such a thing as a “mitigated asshole”? Discuss.

    — It was less than a year ago that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was videotaped gleefully laughing at the brutal death of then-Libyan leader Qaddafi. “We came, we saw, he died!” giggled the Secretary of State. Under what specific circumstances are officers allowed to act gleeful in the face of the death of world leaders? Putin? Assad? Ahmadinejad? The Gangnam-Style guy?

    –When the Secretary talks about them killing us it is “terrorism.” When we kill them it is legitimate self-defense. At what point in a State Department career do these things actually start to make sense? Bonus: Is there something in the water at State Department HQ? Should I be drinking more of it or less of it?

    Alec Ross, State Department social media guru, called Hillary Clinton the “most innovative Secretary of State since Ben Franklin.” Should you Tweet that your own boss is the most innovative boss since Benjamin Franklin as part of your mandatory self-promotional “managing up” strategy? If so, should you use an official State Department social media account to do so as Ross did, or a personal account? What is your play if you only have access to a MySpace account due to local conditions overseas?

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Recent Comments

    • John Poole said...


      Most of DC proper is built over marshes. Perhaps swamp gas explains the addled thinking of our notable leaders who work there. Unfortunately Hillary is not a fleeting Will O’ the Wisp. Her victory cackle was very real and still resonating in the real world.

      10/2/12 1:00 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      Here’s another question: After the “Benghazi Blunder,” why do you still call it Diplomatic SECURITY?

      10/2/12 1:48 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      10/2/12 4:32 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      And another: If there was a ‘Bradley Manning’ inside DS, wouldn’t we would know the truth Benghazi asked for more security?


      Agents Bauer, you’re “24 Hours” are up.

      10/2/12 4:50 PM | Comment Link

    • JVC said...


      Hillary Clinton has always been frightening to me. Otherwise laughable were she not in power, the woman exudes arrogance and since her time as First Lady, has been surrounded by a synchophantic PR pool and doting press.

      In my agency our version of ELO’s are one of the most damaging components of the institution as they, “Drink the Kool Aid”. Within a fairly short period of time following their entry on the job, most establish themselves as to which groups they will fall into. The brown nosers making it obvious their predilection for going up, the worker bees who keep their heads down to avoid trouble and the critical thinkers who will most likely wind up as marginalized low-grade career civil servants.

      I do not have a positive outlook on any of this though my discovery of The American Empire Project gives me hope. More than anything I’m just looking at the books and it’s obvious Uncle Sam is broke. When this financial Ponzi scheme Sam is playing finally goes… only then will this BS stop.

      10/2/12 6:44 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      JVD: “When this financial Ponzi scheme (uncle) Sam is playing finally goes… only then will this BS stop.”

      Or when we run out of bullets:


      10/2/12 7:19 PM | Comment Link

    • Eric Hodgdon said...


      As to personnel concerns, it’s the very notion of being in a position, any position for longer than a 6 months to a year, which creates these ‘groups’ JVC mentions.

      Shuffling personnel around, no matter who, keeps people focused on their work, and not reaching for the HUBBA.

      In my case with the college,* lifers were running the show, 10-20 years for some at the same college. It’s unhealthy for them as it was for me. This is the admin group of perpetual lifers blocking their own and others ability to progress.

      Specialization is an unhealthy imbalance, except in very few situations. And, that is after being well-rounded. Well-rounded is the goal. Equality and leveling, raise the whole, increases survival.

      * Previous rant somewhere here, I think.

      10/2/12 8:30 PM | Comment Link

    • JVC said...


      Eric Hodgdon: Generally agree with your premise. In my area of expertise specialization is necessary but you make a good point.

      The issue for me whether talking about private/public sectors, academia, etc., is controlling ego. The most egregious cases of waste, lack of accountability, cronyism and coverups i.e. the Benghazi mission, come down to the simple human need to feel good about oneself to the point of ameliorating the needs of others. Diminishing the input of others, dominating/controlling others, etc. Usually intwined in the hope that the boss will take notice and promote you. There’s a whole lot of social Darwinism in all of this.

      This condition explains the power trip that most federal managers I’ve met are on. I have seen this day in and day out over the course of nearly 13 years working for the federal government.

      It is likely that historical circumstances, morals, mores and the like were so different in the time of the founders and framers of the US Constitution, that those gentleman would today be rolling in their graves were they to see what is going on.

      My sense is that that group was so truly radical and outside-the-box… those moments in history are rare and fleeting.

      What happened to PVB was nothing less than an attempt at censorship & micro tyranny. There is no room for discussion or divergence at State; nor is there in my agency. As far as I’m concerned this situation is de rigueur at most Executive Branch agencies. I was not made aware, in my formative years, that the United States tolerated censorship of this kind. I was obviously wrong and naive.

      My forays into the university scene have shown me that this mentality dominates all areas of discourse and exchange. Sadder perhaps as I would expect the university folk to act like the educated professionals they supposedly are and welcome the sort of critique and criticism they regularly dispense with.

      But they’re only human. I can pity them as an objective spectator but when I’m under their boot, it make me want nothing less than revolution.

      Old timers in my agency and those who long ago retired tell me that it wasn’t always like this. Cultures change for better and for worse and I think we are in some bad times and for many reasons I don’t see it getting better until there is some sort of colossal reset be it in the form of a war, economic collapse or something of that nature.

      Appreciate the feedback. -JVC

      10/2/12 10:08 PM | Comment Link

    • Lafcadio said...


      The main thing a State Department elo needs to know: KUKD (kiss up kick down). That’s how you get ahead on your first tour, and, in fact, your whole career.

      My main recommendation is that a first tour elo should try to fire at least one les (locally engaged staff) on his/her first tour. Just say you saw the les viewing a hotmail or other non-official website at work. The bosses will eat that up. Shows toughness. Pick the les the boss seems to like least. Doesn’t matter if the les did anything wrong, just sya he did, in most developing countries, we fire ’em willy/nilly on a whim anyways. FYI: this won’t work in some developed countries, but it applies to most places.

      Also: if on a consular tour, and your boss is one of the “girls of CA,” casually mention to the boss how you heard Ambassador Jacobs gave a talk at such and such and how you were completely impressed by her knowledge, demeanor and professionalism. Keep on complimenting the whole CA ring of banditas, and particularly say how former AS Harty got a raw deal for getting axed in 2007. A few months of this and you’ll be on the road to State stardom.

      Just a couple of minor suggestions to start you off your State Department career.

      10/4/12 12:50 AM | Comment Link

    • wemeantwell said...


      Hey good news. Harty is making a comeback. Word is that she will be hired back as a part-time (WAE) inspector, traveling the world telling consular sections what to do, even though she was fired for screwing up passport services. It is the circle of life.

      10/4/12 1:50 PM | Comment Link

    • Eric Hodgdon said...


      @JVC and anyone else

      Thank you. With age come some changes, such as, pointing out and expressing more so on those things which are not right – a judgement taken seriously as a citizen should and must do as the need arises.

      From my earliest days I was aware, but said little.

      My concerns today are more to the structural components which form the basis or foundation from which the country can operate from.

      We write the rules not to fill a page with words to just say ‘Look at what I’ve done.’ But instead to write them be mean something and for them to be followed, otherwise we have a farce and a lie and the law is there to preserve the degenerative agreement to perpetuate the evil.

      My word selection encompasses knowledge of our founding era letters, papers, and other documents. So, it’s in that spirit which I say them.

      I seek not to return to an earlier period in time, I just strive to return control to those who are currently said to have consented and delivered our Supreme Law to create this federal government. We are born into something which we do not ever confirm. Voting does not supply agreement, or affirmation.

      All working in government are servants of the People, and must not be abused by anyone, nor should they follow illegal orders. Agreement and keeping quiet, has in the past, brought death to millions.

      Similar conditions are in place now with the Greater Surveillance Society of America in a Perpetual State of War (GSSAPSW). Imagine that folks, almost rhymes with Gestapo. Aren’t acronyms fun?

      Laughter in the face of adversity, is hope on alert.

      10/5/12 10:06 PM | Comment Link

    • Advice for State Department Entry Level Officers: Gangnam Style … - CollegeRecruiter.com said...


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