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Clientitis (also called clientism[1][2] or localitis[3][4][5]) is the tendency of resident in-country staff of an organization to regard the officials and people of the host country as "clients". This condition can be found in business or government. The term clientitis is somewhat similar to the phrases "gone native" or "going native".

A hypothetical example of clientitis would be an American Foreign Service Officer (FSO), serving overseas at a U.S. Embassy, who drifts into a mode of routinely and automatically defending the actions of the host country government. In such an example, the officer has come to view the officials and government workers of the host country government as the persons he is serving. Former USUN Ambassador John Bolton has used this term repeatedly to describe the mindset within the culture of the U.S. State Department.[6]

An example from business would be a representative for a company living in another nation, representing that company to the host nation and other institutions in that country. A business representative suffering clientitis would defend the host country government and operating environment as if those were his employers.[7]

Within the U.S. State Department[edit]

The State Department's training for newly appointed ambassadors warns of the danger of clientitis,[8] and the Department rotates FSOs every 2–3 years to avoid it.[9] During the Nixon administration the State Department's Global Outlook Program (GLOP) attempted to combat clientitis by transferring FSOs to regions outside their area of specialization.[4][10]

Robert D. Kaplan writes that the problem "became particularly prevalent" among American diplomats in the Middle East because the investment of time needed to learn Arabic and the large number of diplomatic postings where it was spoken meant diplomats could spend their entire career in a single region.[3]

Anthony Lake argues that while clientitis is a real danger, reflexive accusations of it can deter Foreign Service Officers from providing accurate analysis to policymakers.[11]

In the 1990s the phenomenon was seen within the State Department as being particularly acute in El Salvador, reflecting "both the polarization of the country and the highly ideological position of the United States within that polarization."[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Carter Years". Behind the disappearances: Argentina's dirty war against human rights and the United Nations. University of Pennsylvania Press. 1990. p. 156. ISBN 0812213130. Retrieved 2013-05-08. 
  2. ^ Timothy J. Lynch (2004). Turf War: The Clinton Administration And Northern Ireland. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 87. ISBN 0754642941. Retrieved 2013-05-08. 
  3. ^ a b Robert D. Kaplan (1995). "The Arabists". Arabists: The Romance of an American Elite. Simon and Schuster. p. 122. ISBN 1439108706. Retrieved 2013-05-08. 
  4. ^ a b Meyer, Armin (2003). Quiet diplomacy: from Cairo to Tokyo in the twilight of imperialism. iUniverse. p. 158. 
  5. ^ Freeman, Charles W. (1994). Diplomat's Dictionary. Diane Publishing. p. 58. 
  6. ^ The American Spectator online, from November 6, 2007, review by Phillip Klein of John Bolton's book: Surrender Is Not An Option,
  7. ^ Baker, George, The Tortilla Curtain, or Why Home Office Communications Fail  example given of an American business representative resident in Mexico suffering clientitis
  8. ^ Vera Blinken; Donald Blinken (2009). Vera and the ambassador: Escape and Return. SUNY Press. p. 58. ISBN 1438426887. Retrieved 2013-05-08. 
  9. ^ Eizenstat, Stuart E. "Debating U.S. Diplomacy." Foreign Policy, No. 138 (Sep. - Oct., 2003), p. 84
  10. ^ Kennedy, Charles Stuart (18 July 2003). "Interview with Ambassador Charles E. Marthinsen". Foreign Affairs Oral History Project. The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training.  Check date values in: |year= / |date= mismatch (help)
  11. ^ Anthony Lake (2009). Somoza falling. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 109. ISBN 0395419832. Retrieved 2013-05-08. 
  12. ^ Teresa Whitfield (1994). Paying the Price: Ignacio Ellacuría and the Murdered Jesuits of El Salvador. Temple University Press. p. 227. ISBN 1566392535. Retrieved 2013-05-08.