The Foreign Service Journal - January/February 2018

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 15 TALKING POINTS The State of State: Concern Widens A s 2017 wound to a close, the chorus of prominent foreign policy profes- sionals, pundits and legislators calling for support for diplomacy and the Foreign Service, and sounding the alarm about “dismantling,” “decapitation,” “decon- struction” of the State Department had not abated. AFSA President Ambassador Barbara Stephenson’s December FSJ col- umn, “Time to Ask Why,” was still being quoted widely a month after its Nov. 7 early release. National and international media coverage prompted an outpouring of support for the Foreign Service. Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle joined forces to question the collapse in morale at the State Department and insist on the necessity of maintaining a strong, professional diplomatic service. The editorial boards of major newspa- pers also joined the fray. On Nov. 24 The New York Times wrote about the “mass exodus” of senior-level diplomats, quot- ing several who describe the long-term damage being done to the institution. The Washington Post echoed the concerns on Nov. 12 in “Tillerson’s ‘Redesign’ for State Looks a lot like a Retreat.” In a Nov. 22 article for The Cipher Brief titled “Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Just Doesn’t Get It,” Ambassador (ret.) Richard Boucher, a former assistant sec- retary of State, offered a “back to basics” explanation of how diplomacy works. He emphasized the preparation and team- work required of diplomats, who “fan out across the region and the globe to set up and build on the Secretary’s goals.” “In the long run, none of us individu- ally really matter; our institutional capabil- ity and our alliances do,” Boucher wrote. “You can lead if we lead as a nation, and if you lead a robust diplomatic campaign to advance American interests in the world. There are over 70,000 dedicated people in the State Department waiting to help you.” A Nov. 27 New York Times op-ed by Ambassadors (ret.) Nicholas Burns and Ryan Crocker warned of the crisis facing both the Foreign Service and the world at large because of the cuts being made at the State Department. “While we count on our military ultimately to defend the country, our diplomats are with it on front lines and in dangerous places around the world,” they stated. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright spoke out in a Nov. 29 Washington Post op-ed, “The National Security Emer- gency We’re Not Talking About,” concur- ring with Amb. Stephenson’s assessment. Albright stated: “This is not a story that has two sides. It is simply a fact that the United States relies on diplomacy as our first line of defense—to cement alliances, build coalitions, address global problems and find ways to protect our interests with- out resorting tomilitary force. When we must use force, as in the fight against the Islamic State, our diplomats ensure that we can do so effectively and with the coopera- tion of other countries.” The former Secretary of State also criticized the continued hiring freeze at State, noting that as a professor at George- town’s School of Foreign Service, “I see the consequences of all this firsthand.” More students are telling her they don’t see a future for themselves in government, she said, adding: “In some cases, this is because they disagree with administration policies, but more often it is because they fear that their efforts and pursuit of excel- lence would not be valued.” However, she still encourages students to serve in government, Albright said, because “The government is us, and public service is both a great privilege and a shared responsibility.” #MeToo in National Security A s the “#MeToo” movement denouncing sexual harassment and assault spreads across the United States (it has been named Time magazine’s Person of the Year), women in nation al security weighed in with their particular angle: #metoonatsec. On Nov. 28, an open letter signed by 223 women from the national security community, titled “#metoonatsec,” was released and has received major media attention, including stories in Time, Foreign Policy, NPR , Defense News, Quartz and elsewhere. In the letter, ambassadors and other members of the U.S. Foreign Service, military officers, Defense Department civilians and others write, “We, too, are survivors of sexual harassment, assault and abuse or know others who are.” Such abuses are “born of imbalance of power and environments that permit such practices,” they claim, pointing out that in the federal agencies that make up the national security community fewer than 30 percent of senior leaders are women. (On that point, the letter links to the March 2016 FSJ article, “Foreign Service Women Today: The Palmer Case and Beyond.”) The letter notes that many women are held back or driven from the field “by men who use their power to assault at one end of the spectrum and perpetu- ate—sometimes unconsciously—envi- ronments that silence, demean, belittle or neglect women at the other. Assault is the progression of the same behaviors that permit us to be denigrated, inter- rupted, shut out and shut up.” The women call on the national secu- rity community to take action to reduce the incidence of sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace. The recommendations