The Foreign Service Journal - April 2017
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APRIL 2017


“The Problem Is Not…”


urtis Cutter has written a valu-

able critique of the



which is published in this issue.While

we do not agree entirely with him,

we are in complete accord with his

appeal for the publication in the



of more articles on major foreign

policy questions. …The


is also

prepared to publish commentary on

current foreign policy. .

In fact, our policy toward China

was recently critically appraised

in the pages of the


. To our

disappointment, we could not find

in the department or even among

retired officers, including some of the

most vocal champions of the policy,

anyone willing to write a countering


In regard to professionalism, a

subject which Mr. Cutter is quite right

to suggest is not sufficiently treated

in our pages, we did recently pub-

lish a very deft surgical job on some

aspects of the conduct of American

foreign relations in the Dominican

Republic. This piece, written by one of

our most distin-

guished retired

officers, went to

the very heart of

the professional

problems faced

by an American


…To date, no

other officer in our profession has

written any amplification or rebuttal

for our pages. …

The problem is not with the inten-

tions of the members of the


Board. The problem is with the

membership which rarely ventures

to write anything particularly serious

about foreign policy or on the more

controversial aspects of the conduct

of diplomacy abroad.

—Excerpted from the lead editorial

of the same title in the April 1967,



50 Years Ago

rules everything, and the Ministry of

Foreign Affairs knows nothing.”

Others argue that the “chaos” at the

department is already affecting foreign

policy, making it more difficult to remain

tough on Iran, for example, and advance

religious freedom around the globe,


Daily Caller


Carol Morello and Anne Gearan of The Washington Post suggested that State has

been sidelined. After the White House

reportedly vetoed Tillerson’s choice of

Elliott Abrams for deputy secretary (D),

this number two position at State has yet

to be filled (and the second D position has

been eliminated).

Including ambassadorial posts, there

are more than 200 vacancies at the depart-

ment, according to staffers for Senator Ben

Cardin (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the

Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Concern has been echoed in the

media across the country. “As we write,

there is no deputy secretary of state and

only one of the six under secretaries of

state is in place,” retired FSO John M.

Koenig and former State Department

official Carol Kessler wrote in The Seattle Times . “To have a coherent and effective

foreign policy, senior positions, including

assistant secretaries and ambassadors,

should be filled as soon as possible.

Appointees should be selected on the

basis of their qualifications, not their

political connections.”

As for Tillerson, himself, some say

the Secretary of State’s low profile is

deliberate: “Tillerson may be playing a

long game,” wrote Politico ’s Nahal Toosi on March 6. “Considering how erratic

the president himself can be on certain

foreign policy topics, Tillerson may deem

it safer not to say things in public that

might end up contradicting his boss

and further confusing foreign capitals

carefully watching for infighting in the


“I’m rooting for him,” one State Depart-

ment official told Toosi, noting that the

people who remain the most zen about

the situation are those who have served in

multiple administrations. “Colleagues who

have briefed him are impressed. They find

him thoughtful, inquisitive and profes-

sional,” the official added.

Toosi said that while many State staffers

expected a restructuring—indeed, in his

welcome address at the department Sec.

Tillerson had promised change: “we can’t

sustain ineffective traditions over optimal

outcomes”—the size of the proposed cuts

was “a gut punch.”

Tillerson has agreed in principle to the

cuts, the Associated Press reported, but

wants to spread themout over three years

to soften the impact and, according to

State’s press division, has beenmaking his

influence felt behind the scenes.

What all of this means for U.S. foreign

policy and national security remains to

be seen. “There’s no question this is the

slowest transition in decades,” R. Nicho-

las Burns, a retired FSO and former State

Department official told The New York Times onMarch 12. Burns added: “It is


very, very big mistake. The world contin-

ues—it doesn’t respect transitions.”

—The Editors