Newly anointed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced two new “special envoys” to handle the problems of Israel/Palestine and Afghanistan/Pakistan. Yet again the solution to our problems is a new layer of bureaucracy to an already infinitely complex foreign policy apparatus. So I guess we can think of these envoys as new “czars” of peace.
The question remains, however, don’t we already have Undersecretaries and Assistant Secretaries for these regions? What of our ambassadors to these nations? The media never asks the hard questions about where the czars fit into the scheme of our modern bureaucracies. Instead of throwing another person into the mix why are we not retooling our bureaucracies to meet these crises?
The appointment of a new czar is an essentially media phenomenon. Since the Washington Post and New York Times never report on the appointment of Undersecretaries, the only way to get their attention is to create a brand new position. The federal government is not Apple, we don’t need a government that is constantly announcing the launch of an exciting new product. (Holbrooke 3G! George Mitchell, now in 21 exciting colors!)
Holbrooke and Mitchell are now tasked with “coordinating across all levels of government” but what sort of official power do they really have and will the entrenched bureaucracy work with them? Realistically, these accomplished individuals would be tasked with retooling the State Department to perform these tasks without a special envoy. The job of fomenting peace in the world is not going to end when we tie up the loose ends in these two regions. In fact, it is highly unlikely that anything of note will be accompished before the special envoys move on to their next gig (“Thank you Karachi! It’s been a great farewell tour!”). We need permanent structures to accomplish these goals, not celebrities that float in, muck around, then drift back into “retirement.”