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Trump and the Dissent Channel

Surprising no one, the White House has no respect for the State Department’s dissent channel process:

The White House on Monday warned State Department officials that they should leave their jobs if they did not agree with President Trump’s agenda, an extraordinary effort to stamp out a wave of internal dissent against Mr. Trump’s temporary ban on entry visas for people from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

The dissent channel exists to give members of the department a way to question and speak out against what they judge to be poor or reckless policy decisions without fear of reprisal. Ideally, this should produce better policy decisions overall. When employees are able to give their opinions freely without having to tailor their views to suit their superiors, their advice will be more honest and will likely be more valuable. Even if the dissenters don’t always get their way, it at least ensures that the Secretary of State and the president have the benefit of a wider range of views rather than just being told whatever they want to hear. Telling diplomats that sign dissent channel letters to “get with the program” shows the White House’s ignorance about how the department functions and its desire to ignore professional advice from civil servants. That’s not surprising, but it is worth noting, because it bodes ill for the functioning of the government and the administration’s policy decisions in the future. Trump might benefit a great deal from paying attention to what the dissenters are telling him because he has little foreign policy knowledge and even less experience, but his hostility to expertise all but guarantees that he won’t listen.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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