If President Donald Trump’s goal was to render the State Department powerless by putting Rex Tillerson in charge, he is succeeding.
The State Department is one of the most important and prestigious departments in our government.
Thomas Jefferson served as our first Secretary of State, and our country’s reputation around the world has been built by diplomacy ever. Without it, America would not have the allies we have today. In fact, we would not even be a sovereign nation with strong international standing.
But ever since Trump took office, our respect around the world has rapidly eroded and our reputation sullied.
America’s best foot forward has always been our top diplomats who work closely with other nations to help solve the most pressing issues facing the world today.
For instance, the Iran nuclear deal significantly reduced the chances of Iran becoming a nuclear power. It took months of negotiations and talking to work it out. Our relationship with Iran may not exactly be cozy, but the diplomatic effort made by the Obama Administration developed some ties between our two nations and prevented what could have been a costly and deadly war.
And now, as the situation with North Korea continues to escalate and Russia continues to interfere with elections in other countries while flexing its military muscles in a way not seen since the Cold War, our State Department is more important than ever before.
But Rex Tillerson and Donald Trump apparently want America’s military to be the foot we put forward to solve crises.
According to an explosive report by the New York Times, Tillerson and his team are systematically firing career diplomats and staffers or forcing them to resign, leaving many posts unfilled and weakening the effectiveness of the State Department.
“Mr. Tillerson has frozen most hiring and recently offered a $25,000 buyout in hopes of pushing nearly 2,000 career diplomats and civil servants to leave by October 2018.
His small cadre of aides have fired some diplomats and gotten others to resign by refusing them the assignments they wanted or taking away their duties altogether. Among those fired or sidelined were most of the top African-American and Latino diplomats, as well as many women, difficult losses in a department that has long struggled with diversity.”
Tillerson’s effort to gut the State Department has caused 26 senior employees to retire early. And even ambassadors and ministers are not immune from the onslaught.
“The number of those with the department’s top two ranks of career ambassador and career minister — equivalent to four- and three-star generals — will have been cut in half by Dec. 1, from 39 to 19,” The Times reports. “And of the 431 minister-counselors, who have two-star-equivalent ranks, 369 remain, and another 14 have indicated that they will leave soon — an 18 percent drop.”
Instead of filling the vacancies with qualified individuals, the work is being pushed upon junior employees who lack the sharpened skills of seasoned employees
Former ambassador Nancy McEldowney said:
“There’s a vacuum throughout the State Department, and the junior people now working in these top jobs lack the confidence and credibility that comes from a presidential nomination and Senate confirmation. Leadership matters.”
Indeed, do we want a junior-level employee handling the situation with North Korea or someone with the experience, standing, and knowledge necessary to reach a solution?
You don’t send an inexperienced staffer to negotiate with a dictator. You send a professional who knows what they are doing.
This is really bad news and sends a message to the world that America doesn’t take diplomacy seriously. Former undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns said:
“The United States is at the center of every crisis around the world, and you simply cannot be effective if you don’t have assistant secretaries and ambassadors in place. It shows a disdain for diplomacy.”
Former ambassador to Qatar Dana Shell Smith predicts disaster if Tillerson’s effort continues. Smith said:
“These people either do not believe the U.S. should be a world leader, or they’re utterly incompetent. Either way, having so many vacancies in essential places is a disaster waiting to happen.”
And that’s truly frightening since Smith was an early supporter of Tillerson when he was nominated to the post.
Tillerson has left many diplomatic positions open in several nations in the Middle East as the Syria crisis the war against ISIS rages on. South Korea does not have an American ambassador, nor has an assistant secretary for East Asia been nominated. Both positions are crucial in dealing with North Korea.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Gutting our foreign service has caused a shortage of people who would want to work in the State Department, which means we could be looking at a State Department that will be neutered long after Trump leaves office. That means years of weak diplomacy to come, which will likely cause further crises around the world that will either be ignored or require military action. The latter option would cost trillions and spread our forces even thinner, which would weaken national security.
This is why diplomacy is so important and should always be the first option. Abandoning it just because we have the strongest military in the world is lunacy. Diplomatic solutions prevent war, which prevents our troops from being killed.
Trump and Tillerson are going to set the world on fire with their incompetence, and our nation will end up paying a heavy price for it, both in dollars and blood.
Featured Image By Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images.