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32
JULY-AUGUST 2013
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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
MY RESIGNATION
INRETROSPECT
Those of us in the Foreign Service
must keep our moral and professional
compass calibrated to that point
where integrity and love of country
declare, “No further.”
BY JOHN BRADY K I ES L I NG
I
n the process of justifying to foreigners the policies
of a moralizing, occasionally overbearing super-
power, U.S. diplomats develop formidable powers
of rationalization. Our understanding of our For-
eign Service oath harmonizes elegantly with our
professional ambitions and personal convenience.
But what happens when suddenly it doesn’t—
when we can no longer rationalize away some fun-
damental analytical or moral intuition we have?
Ten we confront the fundamental career decision of whether
to carry out a bad policy, obstruct it from within or resign.
My moral intuition tells me that I did not violate my oath as
a Foreign Service ofcer by abandoning the modestly impor-
tant post of political counselor at Embassy Athens at a critical
time for U.S. global interests. My wife can confrm that I still
fagellate myself, decades after, for other things I said and did,
or failed to say and do, as an FSO. But I have never fagellated
myself over my decision to resign in February 2003 as the Iraq
War loomed.
Ten years later, I am still proud of the resignation letter I
leaked to the
New York Times
. I am ashamed only that I did not
have the forethought and ruthlessness to make my resignation
a more efective policy tool.
John Brady Kiesling entered the Foreign Service in 1983, serving in
Tel Aviv, Casablanca, Washington, Yerevan and Athens (twice, the
second time as political counselor). He resigned from the Service in
February 2003 in protest of the impending war with Iraq. Now a
writer and lecturer, he is the author of
Diplomacy Lessons: Realism
for an Unloved Superpower
(Potomac Books, 2007).
FOCUS
PROFESSIONAL ETHICS