For­eign Ser­vice of­fi­cers ad­vance their own agen­das.

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK -

Ac­cord­ing to a 2015 es­say in For­eign Pol­icy, at least some pres­i­den­tial ad­min­is­tra­tions have rea­sons to mis­trust For­eign Ser­vice of­fi­cers. “Repub­li­can ad­min­is­tra­tions,” jour­nal­ist Nicholas Kralev wrote, “. . . tend to view the diplo­matic ser­vice as lib­er­ally in­clined and ex­ces­sively in­ter­na­tion­al­ist.” In­deed, for­mer House speaker Newt Gin­grich (R-Ga.) sug­gested in For­eign Pol­icy in 2003 that Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s State De­part­ment was pur­pose­fully un­der­min­ing his ob­jec­tives abroad. But this mis­trust mis­takes spe­cial­ized knowl­edge, which may not re­flect what ad­min­is­tra­tions be­lieve, with rogue agen­das.

Like mil­i­tary of­fi­cers, For­eign Ser­vice of­fi­cers have com­mis­sions from the pres­i­dent and take an oath to pro­tect and de­fend the Con­sti­tu­tion. We serve the pres­i­dent elected by the peo­ple of the United States, as well as the of­fi­cials ap­pointed and con­firmed to help for­mu­late and ex­e­cute our coun­try’s for­eign pol­icy and in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions.

We also, how­ever, are re­spon­si­ble for ad­vis­ing the sec­re­tary of state or the pres­i­dent when we be­lieve dif­fer­ently than they do, es­pe­cially when it comes to ad­vanc­ing the na­tion’s best in­ter­ests. Af­ter 266 For­eign Ser­vice of­fi­cers re­signed in 1968 over the Viet­nam War, the State De­part­ment in 1971 es­tab­lished a for­mal “Dis­sent Chan­nel” to be used for trans­mit­ting rec­om­men­da­tions that dis­agree with of­fi­cial pol­icy. Such mes­sages might say that some of our “friends” are po­lit­i­cally cor­rupt, bleed­ing their coun­tries dry through bribery or pay­offs, or telling us what we want to hear about po­lit­i­cal democ­racy while jail­ing those seek­ing a mod­icum of po­lit­i­cal space. This is not dis­loy­alty but frank and very help­ful ad­vice — from the per­spec­tive of on-the­ground ob­servers.

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