The following is the eighth installment in a series of undetermined duration and frequency about life in America after Trump (A.T.). Many departments will need to be rebuilt after Trump is gone; none more so than the State Department. Let’s take a brief look at that today.
To be fair the State Department has been in a state of decay since at least the Reagan administration. It got worse as part of the “peace dividend” after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Administrations of both parties share in the blame. The Trump administration has put the decline on its steepest downward trajectory.
The best 21st century book on the state of the State Department is Ronan Farrow’s War on Peace. The degradation of the State Department plays right into the hands and master plan of Vladimir Putin. Even in its diminished condition prior to Trump it was one of the areas where America was a world power and certainly superior to Russia. Putin can’t afford to build up Russia’s foreign diplomatic services but if America’s degrade he can catch it from behind. Putin wants to put Russia back into the “top tier” and it is cheaper to do it by bringing the “field” back to Russia than by improving Russia to the point it can catch up. Russia only wins if its competition (like the US and the UK) weakens considerably. In Donald Trump and Boris Johnson he has two useful idiots who he not so coincidentally helped put into power.
One of the practices we must put an end to is the rewarding of supporters with ambassadorships that they are in no way qualified for. Several Trump appointees certain match that description. EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland and UN Ambassador Kelly Knight Craft quickly come to mind. Both bought their ambassadorships. Before she got the UN assignment Kelly was the ambassador to Canada (a cherry assignment) although it appears she still spent most of her time in Kentucky.
This has been going on for several administrations. In his book, Where Have all the Leaders Gone?, (which I read and certainly do not recommend) the late Lee Iacocca claims George W. Bush offered him several ambassadorships as a reward for his support. Iacocca refused the offers because he only wanted the Ambassador to Italy gig. Ethnic heritage alone does not qualify someone to be an ambassador and neither does a huge campaign or inaugural donation.
The State Department used to attract the best college graduating seniors. Ivy League and other top tier schools were the normal alma maters of the incoming diplomatic corps. Then they put in their time learning their craft while mentored by experienced diplomats. We have to return to the days of the best of the best that are seasoned and qualified for these important positions.
The State Department should not only be America’s first foot forward but our Department of Defense’s best friend. It is a lot less expensive (in many ways) to put a few diplomats in the field and thereby keep a couple of divisions and/or carrier task groups at home.
Put yourself in the shoes of a foreigner. If an American diplomat negotiates with one of your elected official you probably don’t even know it. You certainly don’t have cause to hate Americans. If the U.S. military blows up your house you will hate Americans forever.
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