Thursday, May 4, 2017

reconsidering Tillerson

I was surprised to read the New York Times report that Sec. Tillerson's speech to State Department people was concluded with "thunderous applause." Here was the guy with no governmental experience in foreign policy, who told his subordinates that our foreign policy had "gotten out of balance," that the department still had "not yet transitioned" from the Cold War era, who meekly accepted a 30% budget cut and substantial personnel reductions, yet his remarks provoked such a warm response.

So I read the transcript. And I saw remarks by a reasonable man, offering a tour d'horizon of global issues, articulating policies that sounded normal, not radical, more mainstream than I expected. I also saw that he praised his subordinates for their hard work.
So for those of you that have participated in these early efforts, thank you. I feel quite good about the one – the pieces that have been completed and are in execution, I feel good about those. I can tell you the White House feels good about it. The National Security Council really values the work that we provide in the interagency process. And I would share with you I hear that from them all the time, that the stuff that comes over from the State Department, we’ve done our homework. It’s a complete piece of work, it’s useful, we can use it, and that’s not always the case from all of the other agencies. So thank you for the efforts you’re putting into that in that regard.
 On the other hand, Tillerson persisted in the strange argument that policies and institutions were still stuck in the Cold War. He minimized the impact of the budget cuts, the personnel reductions, and the wrenching prospects of massive reorganization. At least half a dozen times he used the phrase "deliver on mission" as the goal of the Department and the metric for all his changes.

I don't know what that means in practice. At one level, State's mission is to promote U.S. interests. [Tillerson said we sometimes have to subordinate our values to pursue our interests] Ans those interests are broadly peace and prosperity, first at home and secondly abroad. But do you measure "peace" as the absence of war, or a reduction in violence, or stability, or social harmony, or what? And how do you figure that x+30% or x-30% in people or budgets gives a measurable change in "peace" or prosperity?

I'm more comfortable with Tillerson's leadership now than before, but still dubious that he has a smart approach to improving State and diplomacy.

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