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By Katie Teague/Arab America Contributing Writer
The job of a diplomat is fundamental for globalization. As a foreign service officer, life revolves around promoting peaceful relations between another country and your own. Such a position offers opportunities for professional travel and interactions with individuals from all over the world, thus bringing about unique awareness and understanding. For American diplomats posted to the Middle East, such experiences often change how they view and support this controversial region. The perspectives they acquire while serving overseas are vital to the development of a positive image here in the United States.
When American diplomats are posted to the Middle East, they are tasked with complex jobs that are unique to the Arab world. Their ultimate goal is to adhere to the U.S Department of State’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs Mission:
“In cooperation with regional partners, we promote democratic values and foster a free, peaceful, and prosperous Middle East and North Africa. The Bureau uses diplomatic tools and public engagement to end conflict, highlight the value of education, and enhance respect for democratic institutions, including freedom of the press, human rights, religious liberty, and the rule of law.”
Many fail to realize the importance of such a mission in a world that is often misunderstood. It is why the opinions of foreign diplomats following their time in the Middle East is so critical. Interacting with both government officials and Arab nationals to ensure successful diplomatic relations establishes a newfound perspective that differs from what we see here on our television screens. This is especially true regarding issues such as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
A big part of the foreign service officer experience is family. For those who continue to work in the Arab world, families either start or continue to grow larger. The importance of a child’s experience in the American diplomatic community in Arab countries cannot be stressed enough. These children attend international schools and interact with Arabs of all ages and backgrounds.
They are exposed to the language and culture first hand and later bring their positive experiences back home to the U.S. Telling other young Americans their stories contributes to a vital understanding of Arabs among American youth. If we are to make progress on our knowledge of and relations with the Middle East long-term, it is they who must be on the correct page.
Ultimately, being informed on Arab issues gives you the power to change the status quo. Individuals and families who are blessed with the opportunity to do so from a diplomatic standpoint understand the power of their well-informed perspectives. Many continue to broaden their knowledge of the Arab world by repeating previous diplomatic tours or engaging with Middle Eastern affairs and the community following retirement.
It is not uncommon to see American diplomats who once served in the Middle East become professors at universities or pursue research at think tanks around the country. Moreover, some diplomatic children grow up to be passionate about the Arab world, hoping to attain careers that promote Arab and American interests as inspired by their childhood abroad. This process of continued contributions goes to show how influential a post to the Middle East can be.
For those of you searching for your future career, consider working in the Middle East. While this article is geared towards the diplomatic experience, joining the international community regardless of your profession will give you similar perspectives of Arabs and their rich culture; ones that you can bring back home and share with those who aren’t fortunate enough to have witnessed the region themselves. In the end, it is the relations we foster and the stories we tell one another that will help the United States and the Middle East grow together in the right direction.