Author Archives: James Thomas Snyder

About James Thomas Snyder

NATO fan, ex-diplomat, author, critic, translator, and former U.S. Congressional speechwriter. All opinions expressed here are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. government or any employer, past or present.

UPDATE: The Price of Promotion – Diversity and Retention

This is a follow-up to my earlier article, “The Price of Promotion,” which criticized the U.S. Foreign Service promotion system.  The following analysis is based on the Department of State Bureau of human Resources “Foreign Service Promotion Statistics by Cone, … Continue reading

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The Price of Promotion

The State Department’s employee evaluation process is worse than terrible.  It is no better than a gamble. Consider this career choice: you are a second-tour FS-04 consular officer serving your country in an American embassy abroad.  You have tenure, which … Continue reading

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The Cost of Lies

On April 26, 1986, Reactor #4 at a Soviet nuclear power station in northern Ukraine exploded.  As with almost everything in Soviet history, that is about all anyone can agree on, but it was enough.  The worst nuclear accident on … Continue reading

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The Secret History of Small Mercies

The most devastating scene in The Lives of Others, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s 2007 film about the East German Stasi, comes near the end when the playwright, played by Sebastian Koch, pulls the wire taps out of his walls of … Continue reading

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Tool of the trade

This is an L.C. Smith and Corona Company Standard Typewriter in the collection of the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.  It is a training model for children:  instead of letters printed on the keys, illustrations of animals correspond with … Continue reading

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Belief from the inside out

Carla Power’s Pulitizer Prize-shortlisted If the Oceans Were Ink, an outsider’s meditation on The Holy Qur’an with the help of a learned Islamic scholar, signals a subtle but seismic shift in our intellectual world.  It joins other unmistakable indications that mostly secular Western … Continue reading

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Why I Love Comic Strips

This comic strip, a Sunday installment of Peanuts by Charles Schulz, ranks as my favorite above all others.  I can’t explain why.  Maybe it’s the incredibly loaded conversations that don’t seem to go anywhere or resolve themselves.  Maybe it’s the … Continue reading

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Joan Didion, Californian

Joan Didion seized my attention early, before I wrote for myself.  Assigned “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” in high school, I read with amazement her cool, detached descriptions of things I recognized growing up in California.  I graduated quickly to “The White … Continue reading

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The Power of Babel

For most of the last nine months I have had the extraordinary benefit of intensive foreign language training.  I had resources, faculty, structure and time all to my benefit: online and computer resources, a diverse faculty from many countries to learn different … Continue reading

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What matters most

A recent opinion article by Roger Cohen about a book and polling data demonstrating a gulf in transatlantic public opinion struck me as a windy but representative example of the unnecessary polarization in our political debate.  We find more visceral examples of this bifurcated outrage … Continue reading

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