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The Trump Administration’s Contempt for Diplomacy

Ambassador Barbara Stephenson, the president of the American Foreign Service Association, details [1] the hemorrhaging of experienced personnel from the State Department:

There is no denying that our leadership ranks are being depleted at a dizzying speed, due in part to the decision to slash promotion numbers by more than half. The Foreign Service officer corps at State has lost 60 percent of its Career Ambassadors since January [bold mine-DL]. Ranks of Career Ministers, our three-star equivalents, are down from 33 to 19. The ranks of our two-star Minister Counselors have fallen from 431 right after Labor Day to 369 today—and are still falling.

These numbers are hard to square with the stated agenda of making State and the Foreign Service stronger. Were the U.S. military to face such a decapitation of its leadership ranks, I would expect a public outcry [bold mine-DL]. Like the military, the Foreign Service recruits officers at entry level and grows them into seasoned leaders over decades. The talent being shown the door now is not only our top talent, but also talent that cannot be replicated overnight.

As these figures show, Tillerson is presiding over the hollowing out of his department instead of its reform. It is hard to escape the conclusion that this administration simply doesn’t value diplomats or diplomacy, and these are the results. The president has made that clear on many occasions, and his budget proposal reflected his disdain.

This is not a case of removing the fat from the organization, but rather one of slicing off muscle and cutting out vital organs. Ambassador Stephenson asks at one point, “Where then does the impetus come from to weaken the American Foreign Service?” I assume that it comes from contempt for the work that the Foreign Service does and for the people who do that work. There appears to be no purpose behind all of this beyond damaging an institution that the administration considers to be useless. The effect will be to undermine U.S. diplomacy in many parts of the world and to make U.S. foreign policy even less informed and more militarized than it already is.

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6 Comments To "The Trump Administration’s Contempt for Diplomacy"

#1 Comment By SteveM On November 8, 2017 @ 11:21 am

When you have a Global Cop War Machine hammer and surround yourself with a Pentagon/Security State steering committee advising you to use it, everything else is a nail. I have to admit, Trump is even a much smaller man than I imagined him to be at his worst.

Belligerent global power projection is currently unaffordable and quickly becoming obsolete. While China is eating America’s lunch with it’s productive foreign aid and investments that do not involve killing, destroying and intimidation.

Neither of which Trump comprehends. And of his in-house Neocon minions (“my generals”), it goes without saying…

#2 Comment By Henri James On November 8, 2017 @ 11:24 am

This behaviour by the Trump administration is so stupid it hurts. Even if you believe that Trump is some kind of tough-talking foreign policy wunderkind (note: he’s not) what happens when he’s out of office and the American diplomatic core is down to Nikki Haley screaming into a phone in some basement office of the Pentagon?

#3 Comment By SDS On November 8, 2017 @ 11:51 am

It shouldn’t surprise us; as Mr. Trump’s idea of “negotiations” is to bully and threaten someone into a deal; which he soon welchs out of and threatens a lawsuit in response; hoping his former “partner” will give him an even better deal in frustration; which he will again renege on, due to his total lack of ethics…
These kind of people see honor and integrity as character flaws and weaknesses to be exploited…
Hence no need for even the appearance of diplomacy or a team to negotiate….They probably wouldn’t play that game very well….

I’d have thought Tillerson would be above that; though….evidently not….
Go figure…

#4 Comment By SDS On November 8, 2017 @ 11:53 am

“and the American diplomatic core is down to Nikki Haley screaming into a phone in some basement office of the Pentagon”…

That would be hilarious if it weren’t so prophetic…

#5 Comment By rayray On November 8, 2017 @ 1:13 pm

Every time a diplomat works to reduce tensions, build relationships, avoid conflict, this is literally taking money and opportunity out of the pockets of the Military/Industrial complex.

Trump, being ironically a terrible negotiator and, as @SDS notes above, has never had the temperament, intelligence, or empathy to be much more than a bully, is the perfect tool for the military/industrial complex.

#6 Comment By Russell Seitz On November 10, 2017 @ 5:01 pm

Not content with speeding the decay of American diplomacy, administration appointees like Perry and Pruitt are decimating the base of the nation’s scientific and technological excellence by gutting the advisory boards of the DOE , the EPA, and the FDA.

While the Chinese economy is burgeoning under the guidance of the engineers dominate the Politburo, Trump’s minions are replacing relatively disinterested scientists and technologists with lobbyists, corporate appointees, and unqualified political cronies from the oil patch.