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ment Dissent Channel is basically a fraud. As she states, “Te
mechanism does more to pacify than empower dissenters.”
Dissent as Steam Valve
Gurman cites a group of reformers during the 1980s, known
as “the Sages,” who declared that the channel was “merely a
management tool for letting the system vent bottled-up pres-
sures...without afording these dissenting voices a real impact
on policy.”
“Te metaphor of a steam valve,” Gurman adds, “is apt. Te
system will allow internal dissenters to let of steam, provided
that it doesn’t seep out of Foggy Bottom.”
I thought that resignation, rather than going through the
Dissent Channel, was the most efective way to publicize my
dissent and give it an impact—not only within State but, more
importantly, throughout the world. Ten years on, I still think
that leaving the Foreign Service was the best way to express my
dissent in a signifcant way.
I’d like to close with two thoughts. First, let me express my
admiration for former FSO Peter Van Buren, whose blog—
named for his 2011 book,
We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose
the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People
ments his struggle with the State Department over his use of
the Internet to express his personal opinions. Unlike me, he
did not resign from the Service, but instead challenged the
department’s procedures for dealing with social media. He
deserves praise for this.
Second, I would note that deciding how “free” diplomats
should be in sharing their personal views on foreign policy
questions in cyberspace is a thorny issue (which the must-read
deals with superbly). Tough it has legal
implications that exceed my competence to evaluate profes-
sionally, I think all government employees should be allowed
to speak their minds as openly as possible without endanger-
ing national security—a term regrettably all too often used as
an excuse to shut them up.
I was sad to abandon
a profession I loved,
but relieved no longer to
be part of a military adventure
that was a catastrophe for the
U.S. and its public diplomacy.
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