The end of the Cold War, the advent of new communications technologies, the worldwide trend toward decentralized government, and the increasing importance of trade and economic—rather than political—relations require major changes in the way Washington conducts diplomacy. Not only can the conduct of U.S. foreign policy be significantly streamlined, more of the business of international relations can and should be handled by regional or local authorities, busi nesses, and private citizens.
Washington should rethink the importance of each country to U.S. interests and adjust the U.S. diplomatic presence accordingly. Many of the functions currently performed by embassy personnel—information gathering on obscure or unimportant subjects, for example—are irrelevant, and many essential functions could be performed equally well and at much lower cost by local hires or even private organizations.
Extraneous foreign policy institutions, including the United States Information Agency, the Agency for International Development, the Commerce Department’s overseas opera- tions, and U.S. membership in myriad multilateral special-interest organizations should be eliminated. The Office of the Special Trade Representative should concentrate on core missions—such as opening world markets—and stop engaging in peripheral or even harmful protectionist activities.
Washington today dominates the diplomatic world. If the United States were to take the lead in modernizing the conduct of diplomacy, other nations would probably follow suit, changing the conduct of international relations to better meet the demands of the post-Cold War era.