AMERICA THE FORMER GREAT: UNDER TRUMP, AMERICA HAS SURRENDERED ITS WORLD LEADERSHIP POSITION — It’s Unlikely We’ll Ever Get It Back!

https://www.cfr.org/blog/year-one-america-first-global-governance-2017/?cid=3D=

 

 

Patrick T. Stewart writes for Foreign Affairs:

Coauthored with Anne Shannon, former intern in the International Institutions and Global Governance program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

After President Donald J. Trump’s election last fall, many experts predicted that 2017 would be a tumultuous year for international cooperation. During his campaign, Trump promised to “make America great again” by renegotiating or renouncing “bad” and “unfair” international agreements, and questioned the value of international institutions. Since January, Trump’s “America First” policies have seen the United States abdicate its global leadership role. Yet contrary to expectations, multilateral cooperation on pressing issues like climate change and migration has continued, as other states have stepped up to lead. Despite all the tumult, the world has recorded several important achievements for multilateralism alongside the setbacks.

Climate Change

More on:

Global Governance Diplomacy and International Institutions Trump Foreign Policy 2017
Trump’s largest blow to international cooperation came in June when he announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord. Early reactions suggested that other countries might respond in kind, reneging on their commitments and stalling overall progress on environmental governance. Nevertheless, this November’s climate conference in Bonn, aimed at finalizing aspects of the Paris Agreement, was a success. Participating states secured additional funding for climate initiatives and agreed to several objectives in the fields of agriculture, indigenous rights, and gender equality in climate governance.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who has made combatting climate change a signature policy, hosted a separate global climate conference this December, raising additional funds to meet Paris commitments. And while the Trump administration signaled its intent to abandon the agreement, many U.S. states, cities, and companies have stepped into the void, pledging commitments of their own. The successes in Bonn and Paris, combined with near-unanimous international support for the Paris Accords, indicate that multilateral cooperation on climate change will continue without U.S. leadership, even if the politics look challenging.

Global Trade

Trump’s protectionist campaign positions suggested that global trade would take a beating in 2017. Experts warned of trade wars, predicting that a downward spiral of tit-for-tat measures could strangle economic growth. In fact, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), global trade in goods and services increased, growing 4.2 percent in 2017, almost twice the growth registered in 2016. Despite Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and threats to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), neither deal is dead yet. The remaining TPP members revived the idea of trans-pacific trade at the Asia-Pacific Economic Partnership (APEC) summit in November, making significant progress without the United States toward what is now known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Even as extreme U.S. demands stall NAFTA renegotiations, U.S. public support for NAFTA increased in 2017, pressuring the Trump administration not to withdraw from the agreement. While the United States has abdicated global trade leadership, the European Union (EU) has made progress on several important agreements of its own, notably one with Japan, encompassing countries that account for over 30 percent of the world’s GDP. The EU-Japan agreement will reduce the ability of the United States to set world product standards and other regulations—disadvantaging U.S. exports in the process. In exercising his America First strategy, President Trump could actually hurt U.S. businesses. Reinforcing this possibility was the disappointing December WTO ministerial meeting in Argentina, in which parties failed to reach any significant multilateral deals.

Migration

Trump has continually and publicly expressed negative opinions about immigrants, particularly (although not exclusively) illegal ones. He demands a wall between the United States and Mexico and has signed several executive orders attempting to halt refugee admissions, as well as ban immigrants from various Muslim-majority countries. Nevertheless, international efforts to cooperate on migration issues have continued, notwithstanding certain setbacks.

In December, Mexico held multilateral negotiations toward a Global Compact on Migration, despite the United States withdrawal from the negotiating process. In November, the African Union-European Union summit saw both blocs condemn the situation of migrants in Libya and pledge to work toward a joint migration task force. All is not rosy, of course. According to Amnesty International and other groups, EU governments remain complicit in the Libyan migrant crisis. Elsewhere, Australia closed a refugee camp on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, while Bangladesh and Brazil struggled to accommodate influxes of refugees across their borders.

Nuclear Proliferation

Despite Trump’s decision not to recertify the “terrible” Iran deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) remains alive. Europe strongly condemned Trump’s decision, and along with China and Russia, pledged to remain committed to the JCPOA as long as Iran complies, even if the United States backs out. Were such a breakdown between the United States and other permanent UN Security Council members (as well as Germany) to occur, the U.S.-led sanctions regime against Iran could well disappear as European, Chinese, and Russian firms deepen business ties with Iran. The continued success of the JCPOA is also vital for the prospects of a peaceful resolution of tensions with North Korea. Indeed, some argue that the JCPOA could be a blueprint for a similar agreement with North Korea. By contrast, the United States would lose any negotiating credibility with North Korea if the Trump administration pulls out of the Iran agreement.

International Institutions

Global governance has held ground in 2017 in other, less publicized, ways. The IMF and the World Bank, unlike other multilateral institutions, have largely escaped Trump’s criticism. Although several senior administration officials have long histories of disliking the IMF and World Bank, savvy diplomacy by Jim Yong Kim and Christine Lagarde seems to have placated the Trump administration so far.

President Trump has also backpedaled on some of his criticisms of international alliances and organizations. After repeatedly calling the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) obsolete on the campaign trail, Trump deemed NATO “no longer obsolete” in April after meeting Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Trump also toned down his rhetoric on the United Nations. In April he called the organization “unfair” and an “underperformer;” in September the president tweeted that the “United Nations has tremendous potential.” (Whether this rapprochement will withstand the UN General Assembly’s condemnation of the unilateral U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital remains to be seen.)

America First’s Future

Looking forward to 2018, it is difficult to predict how Trump’s America First agenda will affect global governance, particularly with a notoriously unpredictable president. It is possible that Trump will continue to renege on some campaign promises. Moreover, midterm elections in November could severely cripple his ability to pass nationalist-minded legislation. Still, he retains significant leeway, should he choose to use it, to undermine NAFTA, the JCPOA, and other international agreements through executive action.

Regardless of the president’s choices, his actions cannot overturn a fundamental contemporary reality—namely, that transnational challenges require global solutions. The lesson of 2017 is that other states are willing to step forward to fill some of the leadership roles vacated by the United States. In pulling back from international cooperation, Trump is forfeiting the United States’ historically important role in shaping international norms and multilateral policies. Nations that are willing to pick up the slack, whether under authoritarian regimes (like China) or democratic leadership (like France), will shape international rules and institutions to conform to their own priorities, not necessarily American ones. And they will not be eager to give up their new-found influence if and when the United States decides it wants the reins of global influence back.

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Surrendering moral, economic, and political leadership to the likes of Presidents Putin and Xi, plus making ourselves an inherently unreliable ally, will have long term adverse consequences for our country.

Bad stuff from the worst Administration in US history!

And, what does it say about those who voted for Trump and continue to support or aid and abet him?

PWS

01-01-18

 

TRUMP CONTINUES TO DIMINISH USA’S STATURE ON WORLD STAGE – HE & HIS “BASE” MIGHT THINK HE’S GREAT – BUT, EVERYONE ELSE, NOT SO MUCH – PRESIDENTS XI & PUTIN DELIGHTED THAT SUCH A “USEFUL FOOL” IS SURRENDERING USA’S ECONOMIC & DIPLOMATIC POWER TO THEM!

http://enewspaper.latimes.com/infinity/latimes/default.aspx?pubid=50435180-e58e-48b5-8e0c-236bf740270e

“BY TRACY WILKINSON, ALEXANDRA ZAVIS

AND SHASHANK BENGALI

WASHINGTON — China has now assumed the mantle of fighting climate change, a global crusade that the United States once led. Russia has taken over Syrian peace talks, also once the purview of the American administration, whose officials Moscow recently deigned to invite to negotiations only as observers.

France and Germany are often now the countries that fellow members of NATO look to, after President Trump wavered on how supportive his administration would be toward the North Atlantic alliance.

And in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the U.S., once the only mediator all sides would accept, has found itself isolated after Trump’s decision to declare that the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

In his wide-ranging speech on national security last week, Trump highlighted what he called the broadening of U.S. influence throughout the world.

But one year into his presidency, many international leaders, diplomats and foreign policy experts argue that he has reduced U.S. influence or altered it in ways that are less constructive. On a range of policy issues, Trump has taken positions that disqualified the United States from the debate or rendered it irrelevant, these critics say.

Even in countries that have earned Trump’s praise, such as India, there is concern about Trump’s unpredictability — will he be a reliable partner? — and what many overseas view as his isolationism.

“The president can and does turn things inside out,” said Manoj Joshi, a scholar at a New Delhi think tank, the Observer Research Foundation. “So the chances that the U.S. works along a coherent and credible national security strategy are not very high.”

As the U.S. recedes, other powers including China, Russia and Iran are eagerly stepping into the void.

One significant issue is the visible gap between the president and many of his top national security advisors.

Trump’s national security speech was intended to explain to the public a 70-page strategy document that the administration developed. But on key issues, Trump’s speech and the document diverged. The speech, for example, included generally favorable rhetoric about Russia and China. The strategy document listed the two governments as competitors, accused the Russians of using “subversion” as a tactic and said that countering both rival powers was necessary.

Russia reacted angrily: America continues to evince “its aversion to a multipolar world,” said President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri Peskov.

At the same time, Trump’s refusal to overtly criticize Russia, some diplomats say, has emboldened Putin in his military actions in Ukraine, where Russian-backed rebels are battling a pro-West government in Kiev. Kurt Volker, the administration’s special envoy for Ukraine, said that some of the worst fighting since February took place over the last two weeks, with numerous civilian casualties. Volker accused Russia of “massive” cease-fire violations.

Nicholas Burns, who served as a senior American diplomat under Republican and Democratic administrations, said the administration’s strategy was riddled with contradictions that have left the U.S. ineffective.

Trump “needs a strong State Department to implement” its strategy, he said. “Instead, State and the foreign service are being weakened and often sidelined.”

Trump’s “policy of the last 12 months is a radical departure from every president since WWII,” Burns said in an interview. “Trump is weak on NATO, Russia, trade, climate, diplomacy. The U.S. is declining as a global leader.”

The most recent example of U.S. isolation came with Trump’s decision to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, delighting many Israelis, but angering Palestinians and reversing decades of international consensus.

On Thursday, an overwhelming majority of the U.N. General Assembly, including many U.S. allies, voted to demand the U.S. rescind the decision.

For the last quarter-century, successive U.S. governments have held themselves up as an “honest broker” in mediating peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. Trump insisted he is not giving up on a peace deal, but most parties involved interpreted his announcement as clearly siding with Israel.

“From now on, it is out of the question for a biased United States to be a mediator between Israel and Palestine,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a summit of more than 50 Muslim countries that he hosted in Istanbul. “That period is over.”

Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Egypt under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush, said that if a peace deal is to be made now, “it won’t be from American policy.”

“Trump took himself and the administration out of the peace process for the foreseeable future,” he said.”

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Read the complete article about the fool that we have elected to lead us and how far from being perceived as a “tough guy” his “America First” policy is perceived as a joke by most of the world. No, he’s not “Making America Great Again.” He’s transforming us into an “Overprivileged Third World Has Been” almost overnight. Once lost, international respect and world power are seldom regained.

PWS

12-26-17

THIRD WORLD AMERICA! – THE ATTACK OF THE SWAMP RATS! — Under Trump’s GOP, Americans Now Correctly View White House As The Most Corrupt Institution — But, Who Are The Fools Who Voted These Immoral Jokers Into Control?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/josh-rogin/wp/2017/12/12/report-americans-view-trump-white-house-as-the-most-corrupt-government-institution/

Josh Rogin reports in the Washington Post:

“Almost half of Americans believe that corruption is pervasive in the White House under President Trump, a sharp increase over last year, according to a new survey. Americans now see Trump and his top officials as the most corrupt public officials in government, despite his campaign pledge to drain the swamp.

A new report out Tuesday compiled by Transparency International, the leading nonprofit organization tracking corruption worldwide, shows Americans have significantly lost faith that their government is ably fighting corruption, compared to last year. Overall, Washington-based government institutions are viewed by Americans are more corrupt than those outside the Beltway, the report found. But the Trump White House tops the list.

According to the group’s 2017 U.S. Corruption Barometer, 44 percent of respondents said that most or all of the officials in the office of the president are corrupt, up from 38 percent at the end of Obama’s second term.

Members of Congress are seen as the second most corrupt group of government officials of the nine categories in the survey, with 38 percent of Americans viewing them as mostly or all corrupt. After that, Americans perceive corruption as pervasive in non-White House government officials, business executives, local officials and business leaders in decreasing proportions. Only 16 percent of respondents viewed judges and magistrates as mostly or all corrupt, according to the data.

Meanwhile, 69 percent of respondents said the U.S. government is fighting corruption “fairly badly” or “very badly,” up from 51 percent in 2016. More than half of respondents said people don’t report corruption due to fear of retaliation.

Transparency International defines corruption as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.” Key issues within that definition include the influence of wealthy individuals over government, “pay for play” politics, revolving doors between government and corporate entities and the abuse of the financial system by elites.

The perception of Trump and his top officials as being corrupt is easy to understand. Trump and his family have scores of well-documented conflicts of interest they have dealt with in an opaque manner. Meanwhile, Trump’s failure to divest fully from his businesses, combined with his failure to release his tax returns, has fueled suspicions.

The phone survey, performed by the company Efficience3, included interviews of 1,005 randomly selected Americans in October and November. The data were weighted to be demographically representative of all American adults by age, race, gender, urbanization, social grade and ethnicity.

Zoe Reiter, Transparency International’s U.S. representative, said that the study was meant to form a basis for understanding how government is failing to uphold high anti-corruption standards and provide a call to action for Americans to respond. She pointed out that 74 percent of respondents said they believed ordinary people still can make a difference.

“The good news is a majority of Americans feel empowered to fight corruption,” she said. “Since our elected officials are failing to deliver, we need to figure out a way to push them much harder to take these issues more seriously.”

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Read the rest of the article at the link.

There is some disconnect here, because some of the folks who now are concerned about corruption voted for Trump and the GOP, despite more than ample public evidence of his endemic dishonesty, congenital lying, incompetence, and general immorality. Garbage in — garbage out!

But, the answer to the problem is still pretty obvious:

  • Vote Trump and his corrupt cronies out of office;
  • Dismantle the current version of the GOP, which has become an “aider and abettor” of corruption, greed, immorality, and bad government.

Yes, we could and should have a viable two-party system. But, no major party should include horrible immoral individuals like Donald Trump, “Ayatollah Roy,” Steve King, Stephen Miller, or Steve Bannon whose views are deeply Anti-American and threatening to our continued existence as a nation and to the entire free world!

PWS

12-12-17

 

VICTORY DANCE! — ICE’S HOMAN SAYS CLIMATE OF FEAR HAS STEMMED BORDER CROSSINGS & PROVES UNRESTRAINED, ARBITRARY IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT WORKS! — “There’s no population that’s off the table,” he said. “If you’re in the country illegally, we’re looking for you and we’re looking to apprehend you.” — America Won’t Be Truly Safe Until The Last Cook, Gardner, Construction Worker, Nanny, Janitor, Tree Cutter, Mechanic, Handyman, Carpenter, Home Health Aide, Computer Programmer, Healthcare Worker, Lettuce Picker, Cow Milker, Landscaper, Lawnmower, Bricklayer, Roofer, Window Washer, Waiter, Sandwich Artist, Teacher, Minister, Coach, Student, Parent, Clerk, Fisherman, Farmer, Maid, Chicken Plucker, Meat Processor, Etc., Without Docs Is Removed And US Citizens Take Over All These Jobs!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/arrests-along-mexico-border-drop-sharply-under-trump-new-statistics-show/2017/12/05/743c6b54-d9c7-11e7-b859-fb0995360725_story.html

Nick Miroff reports in the Washington Post:

“The number of people caught trying to sneak over the border from Mexico has fallen to the lowest level in 46 years, according to Department of Homeland Security statistics released Tuesday that offer the first comprehensive look at how immigration enforcement is changing under the Trump administration.

During the government’s 2017 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, U.S. border agents made 310,531 arrests, a decline of 24 percent from the previous year and the fewest overall since 1971.

The figures show a sharp drop in apprehensions immediately after President Trump’s election win, possibly reflecting the deterrent effect of his rhetoric on would-be border crossers; starting in May, the number of people taken into custody began increasing again.

Arrests of foreigners living illegally in the United States have surged under Trump. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers made 110,568 such arrests between inauguration and the end of September, according to the figures published Tuesday, a 42 percent increase over the same period during the previous year.

Tom Homan, ICE’s temporary director and Trump’s nominee to lead the agency, praised the president and gave a vigorous defense of ICE’s more aggressive approach.

“This president, like him or love him, is doing the right thing,” Homan told reporters at a news conference in Washington, accompanied by the heads of the U.S. Border Patrol and Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“A 45-year low in border crossings? That’s not a coincidence,” Homan said. “That’s based on this president and his belief and letting the men and women of ICE and the Border Patrol do their job.”

[How Trump is building a border wall no one can see]

Trump’s sweeping promises to crack down on illegal immigration fueled his presidential campaign and are at the center of his most ambitious domestic policy proposals, including construction of a wall along the border with Mexico.

Asked whether such a barrier was justifiable given its high cost and the decline in illegal immigration, DHS officials endorsed the president’s plan.

“In this society, we use walls and fences to protect things. It shouldn’t be different on the border,” said Ronald Vitiello, chief of the Border Patrol.

Apprehensions by Border Patrol agents peaked at more than 1.6 million in 2000 and began falling substantially after 2008. The previous low point was 331,333 arrests, during fiscal 2015. Experts have attributed the decline to tougher U.S. enforcement, improving job prospects in Mexico and long-term demographic changes that have driven down the country’s birthrate.

3:32
On the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump supporters wait for th
Still, the drop in border arrests is among the sharpest year-to-year changes on record, one that only casts more doubt on the wisdom of building a border wall, said Doris Meissner, senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington think tank.

“It’s a throwback response to yesterday’s problems,” she said, arguing that the money would be better spent addressing what accounts for a growing share of illegal migration: families with children fleeing rampant violence and dismal poverty in Central America.

Border agents took more than 75,000 “family units,” classified as at least one child and a related adult, into custody during fiscal 2017. But the number of unaccompanied minors fell 31 percent, to 41,435.”

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Read the complete article at the link.

This has to be what true greatness looks like! Imagine a world without those pesky undocumented workers to support our economy, our society, and our “American” way of life! That’s making America Great Again!

I’m sure future generations will be inspired by Homan’s humanity and wisdom as they pick produce or pound shingles in 100 degree heat, clean toilets, empty urine bags for the elderly and handicapped, clean tables, wash dishes, limb trees, shuck oysters, schlep concrete blocks, dig ditches, and, horror of horrors, take care of their own children while working full-time. Man, that’s going to be “America the Great” just as Trump, Sessions, Bannon, Miller, Homan, and others envision it!

And, the best part: we won’t have to worry about any of that burdensome, nasty “globalism” and the unfair burden of global leadership! That’s because the Chinese, Indians, Canadians, Mexicans, and Europeans will be in charge of the world economy and the Ruskies will control world politics. So we can enjoy our little White Nationalist enclave modeled on post-revolutionary Cuba — life in the 1950’s preserved forever! Save those “Classic ’57 Chevies!”

Kinda sorry I won’t be here to enjoy it! But, then again, I already lived through the real 1950’s once — Cold War, Jim Crow, segregation, anti-semitism, racial covenants, no women doctors, lawyers, or execs, African Americans only welcome on the football fields and basketball courts of a few Northern colleges! Boy, it was great! But, not sure I want  to do it again, even to experience the pure, unadulterated joy of having “my Milwaukee Braves” win the 1957 World Series (before fleeing to Atlanta)!

On the flip side, at Homan’s “record pace” of “law enforcement,” he and his minions will have every single undocumented American resident removed from the U.S by 2080 — that’s if no more arrive in the interim. And, the really great thing — they and those around them (including U.S. citizen kids and family members) will be living in fear every moment for the next six decades! Now, that’s something of which we can be truly proud! Of course, this all assumes that the North Koreans don’t nuke us and the rest of the world out of existence first!

PWS

12-06-17

 

THERE IS A REAL THREAT TO OUR NATIONAL SECURITY — AND IT’S GOT NOTHING TO DO WITH GRANDPARENTS, MEXICAN WORKERS, OR CENTRAL AMERICAN REFUGEES!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trumps-behavior-is-the-biggest-threat-to-us-national-security/2017/07/09/a5d3a842-64a8-11e7-8eb5-cbccc2e7bfbf_story.html?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-b%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.6a555fb6107b

Lawrence H. Summers writes in a WashPost op-ed:

“Confusing civility with comity is a grave mistake in human or international relations. Yes, the Group of 20 summit issued a common communique after the leaders’ meeting. Some see this as an indication that some normality is being restored in international relations between the United States and other countries. The truth is that at no previous G-20 did the possibility occur to anyone that a common statement might not be agreed to by all participants.

Rather than considering agreement on a communique as an achievement, it is more honest and accurate to see its content as a confirmation of the breakdown of international order that many have feared since Donald Trump’s election. And the president’s behavior in and around the summit was unsettling to U.S. allies and confirmed the fears of those who believe that his conduct is currently the greatest threat to American national security.

The existence of the G-20 as an annual forum arose out of a common belief of major nations in a global community with common interests in peace, mutual security, prosperity and economic integration, and the containment of global threats, even as there was competition among nations in the security and economic realms. The idea that the United States should lead in the development of international community has been a central tenet of American foreign policy since the end of World War II. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the aspiration to international community has been an aspiration to global community.

All of this is troubling enough. The elephant in the room, however, is the president’s character and likely behavior in the difficult times that come during any presidential term. Biographer Robert Caro has observed that power may or may not corrupt but it always reveals. Trump has yet to experience a period of economic difficulty or international economic crisis. He has not yet had to make a major military decision in a time of crisis. Yet his behavior has been, to put it mildly, erratic.

. . . .

A corporate chief executive whose public behavior was as erratic as Trump’s would already have been replaced. The standard for democratically elected officials is appropriately different. But one cannot look at the past months and rule out the possibility of even more aberrant behavior in the future. The president’s Cabinet and his political allies in Congress should never forget that the oaths they swore were not to the defense of the president but to the defense of the Constitution.”

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The Administration’s fear-mongering, xenophobia, insulting rhetoric, environmental destruction, and sometimes outright racism is a smokescreen to divert attention from the real threat to American’s national security — Donald Trump, some of his right wing extremest supporters, and the “fellow travelers” in Congress otherwise known as the GOP.

PWS

07-09-17

 

 

 

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S WAR ON AMERICA’S GREATNESS CONTINUES –TILLERSON DECONSTRUCTS CENTURIES OF AMERICAN DIPLOMACY!

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/06/29/how-rex-tillerson-destroying-state-department-215319

Max Bergmann writes in Politico:

“The deconstruction of the State Department is well underway.

I recently returned to Foggy Bottom for the first time since January 20 to attend the departure of a former colleague and career midlevel official—something that had sadly become routine. In my six years at State as a political appointee, under the Obama administration, I had gone to countless of these events. They usually followed a similar pattern: slightly awkward, but endearing formalities, a sense of melancholy at the loss of a valued teammate. But, in the end, a rather jovial celebration of a colleague’s work. These events usually petered out quickly, since there is work to do. At the State Department, the unspoken mantra is: The mission goes on, and no one is irreplaceable. But this event did not follow that pattern. It felt more like a funeral, not for the departing colleague, but for the dying organization they were leaving behind.

As I made the rounds and spoke with usually buttoned-up career officials, some who I knew well, some who I didn’t, from a cross section of offices covering various regions and functions, no one held back. To a person, I heard that the State Department was in “chaos,” “a disaster,” “terrible,” the leadership “totally incompetent.” This reflected what I had been hearing the past few months from friends still inside the department, but hearing it in rapid fire made my stomach churn. As I walked through the halls once stalked by diplomatic giants like Dean Acheson and James Baker, the deconstruction was literally visible. Furniture from now-closed offices crowded the hallways. Dropping in on one of my old offices, I expected to see a former colleague—a career senior foreign service officer—but was stunned to find out she had been abruptly forced into retirement and had departed the previous week. This office, once bustling, had just one person present, keeping on the lights.

This is how diplomacy dies. Not with a bang, but with a whimper. With empty offices on a midweek afternoon.

When Rex Tillerson was announced as secretary of state, there was a general feeling of excitement and relief in the department. After eight years of high-profile, jet-setting secretaries, the building was genuinely looking forward to having someone experienced in corporate management. Like all large, sprawling organizations, the State Department’s structure is in perpetual need of an organizational rethink. That was what was hoped for, but that is not what is happening. Tillerson is not reorganizing, he’s downsizing.

While the lack of senior political appointees has gotten a lot of attention, less attention has been paid to the hollowing out of the career workforce, who actually run the department day to day. Tillerson has canceled the incoming class of foreign service officers. This as if the Navy told all of its incoming Naval Academy officers they weren’t needed. Senior officers have been unceremoniously pushed out. Many saw the writing on the wall and just retired, and many others are now awaiting buyout offers. He has dismissed State’s equivalent of an officer reserve—retired FSOs, who are often called upon to fill State’s many short-term staffing gaps, have been sent home despite no one to replace them. Office managers are now told three people must depart before they can make one hire. And now Bloomberg reports that Tillerson is blocking all lateral transfers within the department, preventing staffers from moving to another office even if it has an opening. Managers can’t fill openings; employees feel trapped.

Despite all this, career foreign and civil service officers are all still working incredibly hard representing the United States internationally. They’re still doing us proud. But how do you manage multimillion-dollar programs with no people? Who do you send to international meetings and summits? Maybe, my former colleagues are discovering, you just can’t implement that program or show up to that meeting. Tillerson’s actions amount to a geostrategic own-goal, weakening America by preventing America from showing up.

State’s growing policy irrelevance and Tillerson’s total aversion to the experts in his midst is prompting the department’s rising stars to search for the exits. The private sector and the Pentagon are vacuuming them up. This is inflicting long-term damage to the viability of the American diplomacy—and things were already tough. State has been operating under an austerity budget for the past six years since the 2011 Budget Control Act. Therefore, when Tillerson cuts, he is largely cutting into bone, not fat. The next administration won’t simply be able to flip a switch and reverse the damage. It takes years to recruit and develop diplomatic talent. What Vietnam did to hollow out our military, Tillerson is doing to State.”

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While Trump and his cronies fabricate security threats from refugees, Muslims, and immigrants (and, I guess we can now add “grandparents” to that list), the greatest threat to our national security is the Trump Administration itself and its toxic mix of arrogance, incompetence, ignorance, and disdain for America and all it has stood for.

PWS

06-25-17

WashPost Politics: Sen. McCain Distances Himself From President Trump’s World View!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/congress/mccain-slams-trump-in-munich-speech-without-using-his-name/2017/02/17/4f68236a-f564-11e6-9fb1-2d8f3fc9c0ed_story.html

Richard Lardner reports in the Post:

“WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. John McCain delivered a withering critique of President Donald Trump in a speech Friday that highlighted fractures within the GOP as the new administration struggles to overcome a chaotic start.

Speaking in Germany at the Munich Security Conference, McCain didn’t mention the president’s name, according to the prepared text, while he lamented a shift in the United States and Europe away from the “universal values” that forged the Western alliance seven decades ago. McCain is the chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

Trump has repeatedly questioned the value of NATO, calling the military pact obsolete, and sought instead to stoke a relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. However, Trump’s defense secretary, Jim Mattis, has accused Putin of wanting to break NATO.

McCain, who has openly quarreled with the president, said “more and more of our fellow citizens seem to be flirting with authoritarianism and romanticizing it as our moral equivalent.”

The senator lamented the “hardening resentment we see toward immigrants, and refugees, and minority groups, especially Muslims.” During the presidential campaign, Trump promised to stop Muslims from entering the U.S. and shortly after taking office issued an executive order banning travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations.”

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Read the full article at the link.

PWS

02/18/17