The Trump Administration’s Disdain for Diplomats and Diplomacy
Trump has nominated Stephen Akard, an underqualified associate of Mike Pence, to serve as director general of the Foreign Service:
On Monday, the American Academy of Diplomacy, an organization representing retired senior U.S. diplomats, sent a letter to key lawmakers urging them to oppose Akard’s nomination, citing his lack of experience and concerns over the weakening of the U.S. professional diplomatic corps [bold mine-DL].
“While Mr. Akard is technically eligible for the position, to confirm someone who had less than a decade in the Foreign Service would be like making a former Army Captain the Chief of Staff of the Army, the equivalent of a four-star general [bold mine-DL],” said the letter, sent to Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), chair and ranking member respectively of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Akard’s appointment requires a still-pending Senate confirmation.
Ronald Neumann, president of the academy, told FP he hasn’t sent such a letter in his 10 years as head of the organization and can’t recall if it’s ever been done in the organization’s 34-year history.
The Akard nomination would be a cause for concern by itself. Taken together with the president’s obvious disdain for diplomacy and the ongoing wrecking of the State Department under Tillerson, it is a much more worrisome sign. The nominee doesn’t have the requisite experience that is normally expected for the job, and according to department veterans it is a job that only someone with much more extensive experience can do well. Choosing someone with ties to the Vice President reeks of trying to install a loyalist in a position that is supposed to keep the Foreign Service as professional and apolitical as possible, and that in itself sends a message to more experienced diplomats that their service and expertise don’t count for much. Trying to put an underqualified person in charge of the diplomatic corps underscores how little respect for diplomats and their work this administration has, and it presages increasing disaffection and demoralization inside the State Department.