State Department Employees Should Look More like Society

Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, November 21, 2017 | Go to article overview

State Department Employees Should Look More like Society


The President of the American Foreign Service Association released an advanced view of her 'President's Views' column detailing concerns about the depletion of career diplomats under President Trump. According to Ambassador Barbara Stephenson's letter, the foreign service has lost nearly 60 percent if its Career Ambassadors and half of its Career Ministers since January, a result she largely blames on reductions in promotions and other proposed departmental cuts.

This conflict between diplomats and the administration shouldn't come as a surprise. Trump campaigned on a rejection of the prevailing post-Cold War doctrines, condemning the military adventurism of the Bush administration as well as the internationalism of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He took direct aim at foreign assistance and international organizations that he portrayed as taxpayer-funded welfare for foreigners. The appointment of Rex Tillerson, a businessman with little experience in public diplomacy, as secretary of state confirmed the president's intent on management and reform at Foggy Bottom.

In response, some diplomatic officials have staged "quiet revolts," defending personal priorities within the bureaucracy in hopes of waiting out the administration. Others have sought early retirement or other career opportunities, making their displeasure known as they departed. Such actions further strain the relationship with political leaders who were already suspicious of the foreign service and federal workers at large.

The most important role of the federal government is to safeguard Americans from foreign threats so citizens have the freedom to pursue happiness and prosperity. Diplomacy is an irreplaceable tool at the disposal of the government, and the overall weakening of diplomatic capabilities is a serious danger for the United States.

As with nearly every instance of friction in Washington, both sides bear some blame for their situation. Trump's campaign message appealed to many Americans who were justifiably weary of their government's interference in the affairs of other nations and democracy-building projects that wasted resources and influence. But his rhetoric painted with broad strokes, belittling diplomatic efforts vital to our country and inflating misconceptions about the scope and cost of foreign assistance programs.

On the other hand, the foreign service corps is the most insulated body of government officials from "main street" America, as diplomats spend most of their careers abroad or within the cosmopolitan Washington beltway. The cheeky refrain that foreign service officers have more in common with their international counterparts than their fellow Americans is more true than not. Diplomats' eager embrace of controversial Obama administration policies and their open condemnation of President Trump's immigration plans called into question their objectivity and political leanings. …

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