Opinion: Mass State Department Exodus Is a Really Bad Sign

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*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*

To get a really good idea of how mainstream media is normalizing a really bad administration, it is worth looking at a really unprecedented government exodus that was not really big news; in fact, it was hardly reported at all.

It’s little surprise that experienced people would be hesitant to have their names be connected with, or work for, an incredibly incompetent and inexperienced administration ruled over by a sophomoric leader dependent on conspiracy theorists, religious fanatics, and alt-right Nazis as his most senior policy advisers. It is just that situation that likely contributed to a departure of senior officials at the State Department that doesn’t bode well for American diplomats; not that anything remotely connected to Trump bodes well for anyone.

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Last week, four of the State Department’s highest level “administrators” abruptly resigned and walked away from their jobs to avoid being any part of the Trump administration; and who could possibly blame them? They would be working for a Vladimir Putin associate whose only foreign policy experience is being a close friend and confidante of Russia’s dictator and a director of a Russian oil company. They would also be working for and be part of an administration that is already predicting wars with China and in the Middle East and it informs that there isn’t going to be much need for experienced diplomats when predicting and preparing for wars is foreign policy any more than threatening to send the American military into a neighboring country, and an ally.

The Washington Post reported that the “State Department’s entire senior administrative team just resigned,” but it was business as usual for the Trump. Apparently, Vladimir Putin’s friend and newly confirmed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was at State Department headquarters when the “long-serving” undersecretary for management, Patrick Kennedy, and three of his “top officials” abruptly walked out. Mr. Kennedy was joined by Assistant Secretary of State for Administration Joyce Anne Barr, Assistant Secretary of State for consular Affairs Michele Bond, and Ambassador Gentry O. Smith, director of the Office of Foreign Missions. This is a really big deal because all four of the diplomats are “career Foreign Service officers with years of service in Republican and Democratic administrations.” It is a bad sign that these four would rather leave their admirable service to America rather than be a part of serving under Trump.

According to former Secretary of State John Kerry’s chief of staff, the exodus is beyond remarkable. David Wade said:

It’s the single biggest simultaneous departure of institutional memory that anyone can remember, and that’s incredibly difficult to replicate. Department expertise in security, management, administrative and consular positions, in particular, are very difficult to replicate and particularly difficult to find in the private sector.

Diplomatic security, consular affairs, there’s just not a corollary that exists outside the department, and you can least afford a learning curve in these areas where issues can quickly become matters of life and death. These are very difficult people to replace.”

Another foreign service expert and diplomat, Ambassador Richard Boucher, who served as State Department spokesman for both Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, said that a new administration does bring turnover, “but that’s not what happened this time.” Mr. Boucher added:

You don’t run foreign policy by making statements, you run it with thousands of people working to implement programs every day. To undercut that is to undercut the institution.”

Boucher is certainly referring to Trump’s constant “undercutting” the United States’ foreign policy establishment throughout the presidential campaign, and then appointing a secretary of state with no government or foreign policy experience as why the people that actually know what they’re doing jumped ship. Boucher also noted just how crucial it is to have career Foreign Service officers in charge and not some reality show contestant or any other Trump amateur.

The officials who manage the thousands of overseas diplomatic posts are charged with taking care of Americans overseas and protecting U.S. diplomats risking their lives abroad.

It is exactly what makes the senior officials’ sudden departure all the more important and cause for concern, but not to Trump and certainly not to the media, or it would have been a major story instead of religiously keeping tabs on Trump’s Twitter activity.

As WaPo noted in its opinion piece, this sudden departure of the “entire senior management team” running the State Department’s is disruptive enough, but in the context of a White House occupant who has shown no interest in, or any use for, the nation’s all-important foreign policy and diplomatic agency, the vacancies should be extremely disconcerting. But with an administration’s senior foreign policy advisor predicting a couple of wars, and an illegitimate president’s stated crusade against a major world religion, it is likely that America will have no need for a state department or diplomats; not when America is flush with bombs, bullets, and bibles.

The above commentary is the opinion of the author.