From Diplomatic Cables to Diplomatic Offices

This past week, my research project got a little less abstract. It’s one thing to read diplomatic cables, and another place to go see where they come from.

One of the things that I really like about this project is that it is giving me a window into how diplomatic affairs function. I’ve gotten to identify the players involved behind actions like issuing a human rights demarche and organizing meetings with other ministers of foreign affairs. I’m trying to soak every last detail in, as I hope to have a career in the Foreign Service. Reading these documents helps put into context that although the State Department acts as a large administration, individual people and personalities can make a big difference in state policies. It gives me a better idea of the inner functions of the kinds of offices I could one day work in.

I was lucky enough to have the chance to visit the United States Embassy in Buenos Aires in April. I was able to meet with some of the consular officers, who gave me a rundown of the cones of the Foreign Service. They showed me the consular offices where a lot of the visa processing takes place and told me about the political and economic officers. It felt funny to see the modern-day offices in person, as for this internship I have been sifting through documents that came from that building over forty years ago. I had a vague idea of the positions that the consular officers were mentioning because of this research.

I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to conduct research in an area so closely related to the field that I want to go into. The work that we are doing feels rewarding in that we are writing a chapter of history that needs to be written. That chapter has not yet closed because of the many human rights cases still open, and any information that we find could be helpful in closing them. But for me personally, the connection to my future career makes the work even more impactful. I see myself gaining tools that will be useful for the future, making me even more excited to be able to graduate and fully integrate myself into work and research within international relations. It also makes me more aware of some of the challenges that I could face. One of the tensions that we see within the cables is that which plays out between Ambassador Hill and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Although individuals had their own voice, there was a clear hierarchy to follow in terms of executing policy actions. It can be hard to reach a full consensus in action when dealing with issues as important and trying as human rights abuses.