The Trump Administration’s Contempt for Diplomacy
Ambassador Barbara Stephenson, the president of the American Foreign Service Association, details 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.