November 16, 2004

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Turning away

Glenn Reynolds reports on the poor treatment of a former Egyptian ambassador's wife at the hand of the US INS. Andres follows up with his own tales of the poor treatment the US Foreign "Service" in China, not just with US citizens but especially with Chinese trying to get visas. It is a common topic in these parts, something I've covered both in small and big ways. America is missing out on creating a great bridge to countries such as China through educating Chinese students and encouraging Chinese tourists. In China US visa approvals for mainland travellers are down 40% from the 2001 with 25% fewer applicants.

What seems ironic is the US Foreign Service has a reputation for being a bastion of (by American standards) left-wing thought. As any fans of The Diplomad would know, mentioning the "R" word* in the service is a likely career-thwarter. But it appears the US Foreign Service rarely practices the tolerance it preaches. It can be argued they are simply implementing policy. It doesn't wash. Security is important but tight visa restrictions does not mean rude behaviour and disdain. The USA spends millions on PR for itself but causes itself far more damage when foreigners have to contend with poor service from the Foreign Service and INS. It is a common problem amongst English speakers (within which I generously include American) to treat non-English spreakers as ignorant fools who require slow, loud and simple words to made points understood. You would have thought those in the Foreign Service would recognise this intolerance and rise above it. Apparently not.

Could the appointment of Condi Rice as the new Secretary of State see a change in this attitude? She clearly is close to George W. and has solid anti-terror credentials. Here's hoping she is able to force a sea change in attitude at US consulates and embassies around the world. It won't be easy given the Service's likely hostile reaction to their new boss. But for America's sake she needs give it a try. It does huge damage to America's reputation abroad.

* Republican, of course.

posted by Simon on 11.16.04 at 02:31 PM in the


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Simon's China and East Asia Briefing: 30th Nov 2004
Excerpt: The following is a digest of highlights from the past month's Asia by Blog series over at The round-up has four key areas of focus: China, Taiwan & Hong Kong (Politics, Economy & lifestyle, History sport & culture, Information), Korea...
Weblog: Winds of Change.NET
Tracked: November 30, 2004 01:51 PM


I do think that America is hurting itself with regards to its severe limitations on visas. Once, the companies I worked for were vastly multi-cultural and the diversity was a welcome relief. Now I understand that the companies I worked for lost most of the foreigners as their visas expired and weren't allowed to be renewed.

I often hear stories about customs and immigration, about the US Foreign Service and the impossibility of getting into a country that once used to be a melting pot. Sitting on the other side of the water, I see that a lot of the stories are true, and it makes me want to cry and argue and see what my lovely home country can do to change back again.

posted by: Helen on 11.16.04 at 03:48 PM [permalink]

Solid anti-terror credentials?


posted by: asdf on 11.16.04 at 11:38 PM [permalink]

After reading the first page of the Diplomad, I believe he is confusing espousing blatant racism and American imperialism (Islam being stone age and Dutch liberalism is bad.) with espousing the "R word".

It's nice to know that the Diplomad has disdain on serving Americans in the mundane day-to-day duties (see that stuff on child custody in the book review) and actively pursues a tough visa policy (notice the disdain on the Clintonista that was pushing easier visas at the Diplomad?).

Before you blame the turning away of foreigners from the US, Simon, you might look at the changes at US State by your beloved neo-con-artists after 9/11.

The only Republican bloggers I saw actively pushing more open visa policies were Sully and Voluntarily In China, as he was dealing with resettling himself and his Chinese wife back to the States.

It's hardly a secret the extreme amount of xenophobia that exists at the Free Republic and Little Green Footballs and the active demonisation of immigrants, especially the active blurring of lines between legal and illegal immigrants in the statistics they throw about.

So before you and the InstaParrot blame the L word to garner a bunch of hits, you might want to check the company you keep for the problems you see.

posted by: Tom - Daai Tou Laam on 11.17.04 at 11:58 AM [permalink]

For all their faults pre-9/11, the sure manner with which the War on Terror has been prosecuted by the US since then, admittedly not always perfectly but always with a single purpose in mind, fully justifies Condi's anti-terror credentials.

Tom: I could not agree more that many on the right are guilty of discrete racism in their attitudes to immigration. My point in this post was two-fold. Firstly I hope that Condi, being of the neo-con school, can forge a new attitude at State so that the US is better represented overseas and that foreigners interactions (visas, tourism, whatever) with those in the frontline leave them with a better impression of America. Secondly I still find it strange that an organisation with many left-leaning members (note I avoid the word liberal) still manages to treat visa appliers with such disdain and rudeness. While these people have no control over the policy (which is overly tight) their implementation of it is over-zealous and causes further unnecessary angst and anger.

Finally it might surprise you Tom as to what my views actually are when it comes to politics. Liberalism is a much abused word these days. I strongly recommend you read Dean Esmay on liberalism. I proudly call myself a liberal.

posted by: Simon on 11.17.04 at 01:54 PM [permalink]

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