New Appointment of the American Ambassador: do we matter?

Whereas the ambassadorship to the United States is regarded as one of the highest positions in the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the American representative to the Hague is not so highly regarded within the US Department of State. This notion has recently been reaffirmed by President Obama’s nomination of Timothy Broas to serve as American ambassador to the Netherlands. Broas, a prominent lawyer in Washington D.C. with no former experience in the foreign service, got the position because of his financial support to the Obama campaigns in 2008 and 2012. The appointment of such a low-profile person with no experience raises the question if the Obama administration cares about the relationship between the United States and the Netherlands.

Rutte Obama
Countless ‘this big Mr. President’ jokes have been made with this picture

Who is this Timothy Broas anyways?

Timothy Broas is a criminal defense lawyer in Washington D.C. As a member of the Democratic party he raised more than $500,000 and personally donated almost $100,000 to Obama’s Presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012. Although this might seem like a lot of money, in all reality it is just a droplet in the ocean of the billion dollar campaign of 2012. As a thank you for Broas’ support, Obama nominated  him for the position of ambassador to the Netherlands in April 2012. Shamefully, shortly after his nomination Broas was arrested for speeding whilst having had a little bit too much to drink. His nomination was revoked and the highest ranking officer in the embassy, Adam Sterling, remained in control as interim-ambassador. The arrest was not a reason for the administration to completely forget about Broas however and in July 2013 they gave him a second chance by nominating him again. Broas will assume office as of September 1st. A bit of advice for Broas: Bike back to the ambassadors residence after a heavy night in a ‘café’; you are less likely to get pulled over.


Broas American ambassador
Timmy! (Source:

Ambassadors without any experience

Broas’ nomination follows a series of nominations for financial backers of the Obama campaign who have very little or no foreign service experience. Earlier this year the new ambassadors to the United Kingdom, Germany, and Denmark were all fundraisers for Obama’s campaign. It is not unusual that big financial supporters are rewarded with an ambassadorship. Since his second term 23 out of 41 ambassadorial nominations have been political appointments rather than career based ones. There are rising concerns about this trend of appointing ambassadors who are lacking experience representing the United States overseas. There are instances in which a political appointment led to major problems within an embassy, which was the case at the embassy in Luxembourg. The appointment of Broas to the Hague therefore calls for legitimate concerns over the status of the US-Netherlands political ties.

The American embassy in The Hague, such a friendly and transparant building.
The American embassy in The Hague, such a friendly and transparant building.


Broas as the ambassador to the Netherlands

Even though Broas has no experience in fostering diplomatic relations, it is unlikely that his appointment will deteriorate the relationship between the US and the Netherlands. The two have been strong  for over four centuries and the appointment of one ambassador is not going to change this in just two years. Furthermore, since the relationship between the US and the Netherlands is so solid, the ambassadorship is mostly a symbolic position (it’s a dirty job, but someone has to cut ribbons and smash champagne bottles against boats). So long as Broas does not do anything too outrageous as ambassador, the relationship between the two countries is likely to remain unchanged. The only thing the appointment shows us is Obama’s preference for using diplomatic posts as a reward to financial backers. Since the ambassadorship of the Netherlands does not require a whole lot of expertise in foreign services, the position can easily be handed to someone like Broas.

Us Dutch stamp
Back in the day, when they still cared for us…



Although the nomination of Broas might have come as a surprise to some, it falls pretty much in line with other nominations of ambassadors to Western countries. The simple fact is that these ambassadorships are seen as symbolic and thus it is easy for President Obama to use them as a reward for his cronies and supporters. It is unfortunate that the highest representative to the Netherlands is not an expert in US-Netherlands relations, but this is how politics work. Regardless of Broas’ nomination, it seems that the relationship between the US and the Netherlands will continue to prosper. We do still matter to the US, despite the nomination of someone as trivial as Broas.


  1. It’s ridiculous that financial backers get some of the coveted ambassador positions… It’s almost like the cub scouts.. Sell enough chocolate bars and win!!!! I thought Washington would be worried about it’s foreign policy with recent shifts in polls worldwide. But I guess they are hellbent on losing public support 😛

    • The thing that makes it even more worrying is that in his ’08 campaign Obama promised to not use plum posts as a reward for his backers. As of today Obama has the highest rate of nominating backers for ambassadorships than any other American president. Talking about broken promises.

  2. Version:1.0

    Dat de Nederlandse regering zelf niets om de historische en
    daarom hedendaagse relatie Nederland/Amerika geeft is in 2009 gebleken nadat
    ik voor elf jaar voor de deuren van de ministeries en het parlement had gelegen
    om een gesprek met hun daarover te kunnen hebben. De code van stilte is een
    belangrijke taktiek in de onderwereld. Maar waarom in Den Haag en Amsterdam?
    Mijn meest innovatieve idée, sinds 1998, dat permanent aan
    die historische relatie zou gaan bijdragen en concrete resultaten zou gaan
    leveren op het gebied van mensenrechten werd in 2009 door Balkenende en
    Timmermans verworpen door een Oerol feest te houden op de eerste plaats in de
    Nieuwe Wereld waar de oer-Nederlandse principes van relieuze tolerantie en
    vrijheid van concientie waren gelegd in 1624. Niemand heeft daar een woord over
    willen of durven zeggen in 2009 en tijdens het Nederlandse feest op Governors
    Island is die historie expres verloochend. Dat blijft mij voor de eeuwigheid
    een raadsel: zie
    De historische achtergrond voor die vrijheden is
    uitgelegd op

    • Ja, Dat geldt natuurlijk ook voor Rutte. Niet EEN woord heb ik uit hem of zijn functionarissen kunnen krijgen. Zelfs niet vandaag de dag.


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