Scott Horton sounds a clarion call against the regular phenomenon of presidents’ rewarding campaign supporters with choice ambassador positions. He writes, “The process cheapens our diplomatic relations and sends a bad message to the states to which these ambassadors are sent. And it’s getting cruder and greedier.” I agree, but there is also a less stated reason for objecting to this process: the toll it takes on the foreign service bureaucracy.
About a third of the Ambassadorships historically go to political appointees. Among these are the choicest posts. If you are a career foreign service officer with a stellar record, your chances of being rewarded with a choice ambassadorship at the end of your career is severely limited. Crony appointments undermine the career prospects of ambitious, talented foreign service officers, and in so doing, undermines the ability of the State Department to retain and attract new talent. This does real damage to American foreign policy over the long run.