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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

|

SEPTEMBER 2017

41

FOCUS

ON EXEMPLARY PERFORMANCE & CONSTRUCTIVE DISSENT

Members of the Foreign Service

regularly grapple with

the professional and moral

dilemma of dissent.

The State

of Dissent

in theForeignService

BY HARRY KOPP

Former FSO Harry W. Kopp was deputy assistant

secretary of State for international trade in the Carter

and Reagan administrations. He is the author of

several books on diplomacy, including (with John K.

Naland)

Career Diplomacy: Life and Work in the U.S. Foreign

Service

, published in its third edition by Georgetown University

Press in July.

I

t is hard to believe now, but there was a time, still within

living memory, when presidents talked like this: “Let

every public servant know … that this administration

recognizes the value of dissent and daring—that we greet

healthy controversy as the hallmark of healthy change.

Let the public service be a proud and lively career.”

That was President John F. Kennedy on Jan. 30, 1961,

in his first address to Congress on the State of the Union.

Then just 10 days in office, Kennedy sought to dispel the

stifling air of suspicion and conformity in which the loyalty

oaths, security investigations and anti-communist hysteria of

the previous decade had smothered the federal workforce.

For the Foreign Service and the Department of State, Ken-

nedy’s words were especially welcome. Under pressure from

Senator Joseph McCarthy and his supporters, the State Depart-

ment in the 1950s conducted a purge of employees who had

expressed nonconforming views, conveyed unwanted informa-

tion, engaged in unconventional behavior or associated with

someone who had. Hundreds of civil servants and Foreign

Service officers were fired or marginalized, their careers and

reputations destroyed.