Sunday, July 30, 2017

the marginalization of the State Department

Further evidence today on how Secretary of State Tillerson is succeeding in weakening,marginalizing, and ultimately destroying the State Department. See this article by Roger Cohen.

Tillerson is refusing the nominate people to key positions, including many major ambassadorships and 20 of 22 assistant secretary posts. He is outsourcing a planned reorganization of the department,which seems driven by org chart elegance and money savings rather than roles and missions. He has acquiesced in savage budget cuts and failed to take even simple steps to boost the morale of career professionals.

Here's an example:
In the Saudi-Qatar eruption last month, the extent of dysfunction was clear. Saudi Arabia, with clear support from Trump, orchestrated a blockade of Qatar, where the United States has its largest regional air base, accusing Qatar of supporting terrorism. Never mind that such accusations coming from the Saudis are pretty rich. That was on June 5. Four days later, Tillerson appealed for reconciliation. The blockade was “impairing U.S. and other international business activities.” Barely an hour later, Trump called Qatar a “funder of terrorism at a very high level.”

Throughout this time, Tillerson never contacted Smith, who was then still the Qatar ambassador, she told me. By contrast, she spoke four times to Defense Secretary James Mattis during the first week of the embargo; that communication line, at least, was open. Finally, this month, Tillerson spent a few days in the region trying to broker a deal between Doha and Riyadh, to no avail.
So far, at least, Congress is resisting the deepest budget cuts, but unless Tillerson changes course, lawmakers will be funding a hollowed-out, aimless diplomatic instrument.

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