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14

SEPTEMBER 2016

|

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

“Dissent 51” Stirs Debate

T

hrough the summer, media reports

led to commentary from all corners

on what is now known as “Dissent 51,” the

mid-June State Department Dissent Chan-

nel message submitted by 51 members

of the Foreign Service criticizing the Syria

policy of the Obama administration and

urging a stronger military response to the

crisis.

Though the message was leaked to

the press, the names of the signatories

have not been published. Coverage has

addressed the details of U.S. policy toward

Syria and the dissenters’ critique of it, as

well as the merits of official dissent.

Dissent 51 shows that the system

of checks and balances is working as it

should, Georgetown University law profes-

sor Neal Katyal writes in a July 1 op-ed in The New York Times . It shows that the pre

s-

ident is not surrounded by “yes-people.”

Katyal argues that inter- and intra-

agency debates allow for second thoughts

and new perspectives and, ultimately,

make for better decisions.

“When the loyal opposition dies, I

think the soul of America dies with it.”

Writing for The

Huffington Post on July 5,

Assistant Secretary of State for Economic

and Business Affairs Charles H. Rivkin

quotes journalist and diplomat Edward

R. Morrow in celebrating dissent in the

Foreign Service.

Ambassador Rivkin also congratulated

Jefferson Smith, winner of AFSA’s 2016

William R. Rivkin Award for Constructive

Dissent by a Mid-Level Officer. Named for

the ambassador’s late father, the award

was presented at AFSA’s annual awards

ceremony on June 23 (see coverage in

AFSA News).

Without commenting on the specif-

ics of Dissent 51, Amb. Rivkin praised

Secretary of State John Kerry’s decision to

sit down with the dissenters and give them

a careful hearing, adding that the depart-

ment’s culture of independent thought

has helped strengthen U.S. foreign policy.

Somewhat farther afield, in a column

in the

Indian daily Asian Age ,

retired

Indian Ambassador Skand Tayal discussed

State’s Dissent Channel and the possibility

that a similar institution in India’s Ministry

of External Affairs might lead to a more

serious consideration of options in foreign

policy deliberations.

—Gemma Dvorak, Associate Editor

First U.S. Ambassador

to Somalia in 25 Years

S tephen Schwartz, the first U.S. ambas- sador to Somalia in more than 25 years, took his oath on June 27 and headed

to Mogadishu in late July.

A career FSO with 24 years in the

Foreign Service, Amb. Schwartz has spent

the majority of his career in Africa. He

has served in South Africa, Cuba, Kenya,

Burundi, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Zambia and

Washington, D.C., where he was director

of the Office of West African Affairs from

2013 to 2015 and director of the Office of

Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Island

Affairs from 2015 until being named

ambassador.

The last American envoy to Somalia,

Ambassador James Keough Bishop, was

forced to leave the country in January

1991, just before the final collapse of the

Siad Barre government and the outbreak

of the Somali civil war.

After two decades of virtual lawless-

ness, a new, internationally recognized

government was established in Somalia in

2012. The country continues to face grave

economic problems and multiple security

threats, particularly from the terrorist

group al-Shabaab.

Amb. Schwartz has stated that the

United States will focus on helping the

still-young government build and solidify

political, industrial, military, economic

and service infrastructure. He will divide

his time between the embassy in Nairobi

and “The Ark,” a windowless bunker at

Mogadishu’s airport, but hopes to re-

establish a U.S. embassy in the capital in

the coming years.

Another of his stated goals is to

strengthen ties between Somalia and

members of the Somalian diaspora living

in the United States.

—Shannon Mizzi, Editorial Assistant

The Rise of Twiplomacy

T

wiplomacy—or “Twitter-diplo-

macy”—has gone from being an

afterthought to one of the first thoughts of

world leaders and governments, accord-

ing to a recent study by public relations firm Burson-Marsteller.

Twitter is the social media platform of

choice for most governments—only 20

countries do not have a presence. Presi-

dent Barack Obama, one of the earliest

adopters of Twitter (his

@BarackObama

handle went live in March 2007), is the

most followed world leader, with more

than 137 million followers from his per-

sonal and institutional accounts.

Twitter is being used to create a virtual

diplomatic network. The State Depart-

ment has 3.3 million followers and main-

tains connections with 213 missions and

heads of missions on Twitter. In fact, the

@StateDept

account re-established ties

with its Cuban counterpart two months

before official diplomatic relations

resumed in July 2015.

Twitter keeps track of the most-talked-

about or “trending” topics at all times.

Examples of “hashtag diplomacy” to draw

attention to specific issues are #bringback-

ourgirls (relating to the kidnap of Nigerian

schoolgirls by Boko Haram) and #END

Violence (a campaign to end violence

against children).

TALKING POINTS