“Vocation Crisis” in the State Department: Problems of Converting US Foreign Policy Potential into Influence

“Vocation Crisis” in the State Department:
Problems of Converting US Foreign Policy Potential into Influence

Sushentsov A.A.,

Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University), Moscow, Russia, a.sushentsov@inno.mgimo.ru

elibrary_id: 240313 | ORCID: 0000-0003-2076-7332 | RESEARCHER_ID: F-8930-2017

Pavlov V.V.,

Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University), Moscow, Russia, pavlov_v@mgimo.ru

elibrary_id: 845426 | ORCID: 0000-0003-1128-2106 | RESEARCHER_ID: AAC-1764-2020

DOI: 10.17976/jpps/2021.02.06

For citation:

Sushentsov A.A., Pavlov V.V. “Vocation Crisis” in the State Department: Problems of Converting US Foreign Policy Potential into Influence. – Polis. Political Studies. 2021. No. 2. P. 76-98. (In Russ.). https://doi.org/10.17976/jpps/2021.02.06


Despite the high aggregate level of the US’ power, including its “soft power”, and significant amounts of funding allocated for diplomacy and the staffing thereof, a number of events in recent years indicate the problem of converting the foreign policy potential of the United States into real influence. An analysis of the evolution of US State Department priorities and work processes since the end of the Cold War suggests that presidential administrations have repeatedly approached this problem with various reform projects. However, none of them worked to solve the fundamental problem of the State Department. Secretaries of State entered the ministry with a new, often deeply idealistic, normative program, seeking to “reset” their department in a new way. Considering the practice of the State Department functioning in the administrations of George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump, the authors come to the conclusion that the American foreign policy process suffers from a set of chronic problems which cannot be resolved and in some cases have even been incorrectly identified by the actors of US foreign policy. These include (1) the use of foreign policy as a tool for the implementation of domestic political goals, (2) an excessive normative emphasis on foreign policy goal-setting, and (3) the American foreign policy community losing the culture of developing qualification skills necessary for diplomacy. The authors state that the problem of converting the US foreign policy potential into influence is difficult to overcome, but the US is satisfied with the current state of affairs as long as there is a significant imbalance in foreign policy financing between them and key international rivals. 

US foreign policy, Department of State, Secretary of State, the White House, foreign policy decision-making.


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Content No. 2, 2021

See also:

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