Tyler Cowen sets it all out:
I see diplomacy as a stressful and unrewarding profession. A good diplomat has the responsibility of deflecting a lot of the blame onto himself, and continually crediting others, while working hard not to like his contacts too much. And how does he or she stay so loyal to the home country when so many ill-informed or unwise instructions are coming through the pipeline? Most of all, a good diplomat requires some kind of clout in the home country and must maintain or manufacture that from abroad. The entire time on mission the diplomat is eating up his capital and power base, and toward what constructive end? So someone else can take his place? And what kind of jobs can you hope to advance into?
Diplomats are in some ways like university presidents: little hope for job advancement, serving many constituencies, and having little ability to control events. Plus they are underpaid relative to human capital. They must speak carefully. They must learn how to wield power in the subtlest ways possible. Who was it that said?: ” Diplomacy is the art of saying “Nice Doggie” until you can find a stick”.
Colum Lynch, meanwhile, is chewing on the hypothesis that if being a diplomat sucks, being one at the UN really sucks:
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 1965 until 1968, approached his job with trepidation, recalling that a generation of top American officials had been sent to New York to see their careers run aground. “I had seen Stevenson humiliated. Goldberg betrayed. Ball diminished. Wiggins patronized. Yost ignored. Bush traduced. Scali savaged,” Moynihan recalled in his memoirs on his U.N. days, Dangerous Place. “I had twice said no to the post I was now to assume.”
Dean Acheson, an affirmed believer in multilateral diplomacy, ran into Moynihan at the Metropolitan Club in Manhattan to convey his contempt for the top American job at the U.N. “Moynihan,” Acheson said. “My respect for you took a precipitous decline when I learned you even considered that ridiculous job.”