It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it

Christopher R. Hill has been on the job now for two years as head of the US delegation to the Six-Party Talks and apparently, it’s not getting any easier.

The latest hitch in the talks (North Korea’s Kim Kye-gwan refuses to return to the chief delegates meeting until the once-frozen $25 million are actually returned) has Hill fuming:

“We all have jobs to do. Waiting around for some forms to be filled out is not usually in our job descriptions,” Hill told reporters after having lunch with the South Korean envoy.

Another article put his frustration in this context:

“We all have jobs to do. Waiting around for some forms to be filled out is not usually in our job descriptions,” US envoy Christopher Hill told reporters after spending the first part of Wednesday in his hotel room.

Lunching with other Very Important People? Spending mornings lounging around hotels? That’s not in a diplomat’s job description? Surely one doesn’t spend the entire day representing, reporting, negotiating and protecting the national interest–where’s the fun in that? And if hotels and luncheons are out, what is in a diplomat’s job description?

Apparently the days of schmoozing over cocktails belong to a halcyon, pre-9/11 past. Here’s Marc Grossman, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and his job description for a 21st century diplomat:

A 21st Century Diplomat must not only be proficient in languages, but in intercultural communication.

A quick check of Hill’s bio suggests he’s got that one down: he speaks Polish, Serbo-Croation, Macedonian and Albanian.

They must understand the global issues.


They must understand the important role that public diplomacy plays in our dealings with the established and emerging democracies around the world.

This one has received even more emphasis lately since Dr. Rice introduced “transformational diplomacy” early last year. See here for a third party point of view on how well the State Department is doing with public diplomacy.

They must have the negotiating skills to deal effectively with governments, the media, NGOs and the private sector.

You might add “to deal effectively with one’s own government” to the list. The Bush administration isn’t always on the same page when it comes to the Six-Party Talks.

They must understand preventive diplomacy and international peace operations.


And they must be comfortable with the latest technologies, which will be changing in ways we cannot even imagine today.

Hmm, this is a hard one. The Blackberry had been out for two years when Grossman delivered his speech, so that was old news already. But considering all the flying back and forth to Asia Hill does, maybe being able to work the controls of cutting edge inflight entertainment is a handy stress-reliever (Virgin Atlantic’s V:Port is dang cool).

Anyroad, what knowledge/skills/abilities do you reckon a nation’s diplomatic corps ought to possess?



  1. Excellent point. Your political credentials matter.

    McCaw, for example, served as “Finance Co-Chair for Bush-Cheney ’04 in Washington State” (see ), no doubt honing her understanding of global issues all the while.

    It probably also didn’t hurt that she put her money where her mouth was: As a member of the Rangers, “a campaign group whose members were responsible for raising at least $200,000 for Bush’s re-election,” she demonstrated her commitment to pre-emptive strikes…I mean preventative diplomacy…yeah.


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