Our view: The wars we didn't have to fight

November 21, 2012 10:52:03 AM



It is doubtful that Josie Shumake was chosen to speak at Tuesday's meeting of the Columbus Rotary Club in deference to Thanksgiving. 


Although it was held two days before the holiday, Shumake did not mention Thanksgiving and there was no attempt to introduce her as the Thanksgiving week speaker. 


Yet on some levels, it seems entirely appropriate that Shumake was scheduled to speak this particular week. 


As Americans gather this week to give thanks to all of the blessings we have enjoyed, there will be many, many expressions of gratitude for the men and women who serve our country through military service. It is altogether fitting that we do so. 


Shumake is a reminder that not all who serve us on foreign soil are attached to the U.S. Military. Beginning in 1983 and continuing until her retirement in 2008, Shumake was one of 14,000 Americans who serve our country in the U.S. diplomatic corps in 265 embassies and consulates in 180 countries. 


The Columbus native emphasized the important role diplomacy plays in helping keep our country -- and other countries -- safe and prosperous. 


War is almost always the result of failed diplomacy. In that respect, for our war-weary country, effective diplomacy is more important than ever. 


It is comforting to know that, in our politically-charged nation -- where almost everything is viewed through the prism of politics -- there are at least some elements of public service that do not appear to function according to some rigid ideology. 


"I think it's important to know that policy is made in Washington, but it is implemented in the foreign service,'' Shumake told the Rotarians. "What some might not understand is that foreign policy is generally stable from one administration to the next, whether it's Republican or Democrat. There is a stability there that is important. An administration may build on the policies of the previous administration or adjust the policies, but they are generally not dramatic changes." 


Certainly, the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya has become a political football, to some degree. 


Shumake's view, based on her 25 years in the foreign service, is that trying to gain political leverage based on what happened in Libya is demeaning to the men and women who serve in the diplomatic corps and, ultimately, unproductive. 


Her view: Find out what happened, learn from it, implement whatever changes are necessary to prevent similar tragedies. There is nothing partisan about that. 


Nor should there be. 


As we gather to remember all of our blessings, it would be appropriate to remember those thousands of rank-and-file foreign service workers who have dedicated their careers to promoting America's interests and the interests of humanity in countries large and small. 


So we thank them for all the wars we didn't have to fight.