The Foreign Service Journal - November 2017

10 NOVEMBER 2017 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL LETTERS The Dissent Channel Harry Kopp necessarily painted with broad strokes in his good survey of dissent in the September Foreign Service Journal . I was one of the FSOs who signed the 1970 petition to the Secretary of State opposing the invasion of Cambodia. In those antediluvian times, social media and the internet were not even on the horizon. Paper copies of the petition passed from hand to hand for signature. I was naïve enough to believe that it would not be leaked to the press. Several years later, I became the first full-time chairman of the Secretary’s Open Forum Panel. My predecessor, Sandy Vogelgesang, had kept her day job while forming and running the panel in her spare time. She also worked withWin- ston Lord, director of the Policy Planning Staff, to establish a position within S/P so that someone could focus entirely on the panel’s mission. That mission, in brief, was to stimulate discussion within the State Department of alternative foreign policy ideas. We carried out that mission in three ways: a speak- ers’ series, primarily drawn from outside critics of aspects of U.S. policy; a classified in-house journal of opinion; and oversight of the Dissent Channel, particularly with a view to ensuring that dissent messages were reviewed and given a considered response. I considered myself to be on the right track when learning that Larry Eagle- burger, then under secretary for manage- ment, was not happy that so many of our speakers opposed administration policy. While it is true that few dissent mes- sages have changed major policies, I think that is a misplaced criticism of the Dissent Channel. First, major policies are rarely changed by front-channel messages either. Second, the existence of a dissent channel does sev- eral things: (1) it helps to establish an environment of tolerance for dissent; (2) it is a bargaining tool that can be used to get alterna- tive views into front-channel messages; (3) it provides individuals an alternative other than resignation or leaking to attempt to change policy; and (4) it can point out what Thomas Kuhn, author of The Struc- ture of Scientific Revolutions (University of Chicago Press, 1962), called “anomalies” in the ruling paradigm. It is the accumula- tion of such anomalies that produces a crisis in the ruling paradigm or policy. Dissent by resignation is, as Kopp points out, rare. Dissent by leaking is prob- ably more common but, except in extreme circumstances, less justifiable. I addressed the circumstances that might make it justifiable in a long-ago FSJ article (“Deep Throat or the Ethics of Discretion,” May 1975, see . Basically, in a democratic system, if you accept the process, then you should accept the outcome. For the Foreign Service, that means carrying out the policies of the elected leadership—except, as I said, in extreme circumstances. DeepThroat faced an extreme circumstance because Watergate was a subversion of fundamen- tal elements of the democratic process. Finally, I agree with Harry Kopp that it is a misuse of the Dissent Channel to turn it into a means of mass protest, protest that will inevitably become public. A thousand individual dissent messages on a policy would have a much greater impact than a single message with a thousand signers. Ray Smith FSO, retired Thornton, Pennsylvania A Hole in the Climate Article I just sat down to read the July-August edition of The Foreign Service Journal and was excited to see climate change as the cover story for this edition. However, after reading the lead story, I was extremely dis- appointed to see a large gap in the article by Tim Lattimer, “An Existential Threat That Demands Greater FS Engagement. ” USAID has significant funding for climate change and other environmental issues (biodiversity conservation, wildlife trafficking, energy security, renewable energy deployment, policy reforms). Yet little was said in the article about USAID’s abundant expertise, financial support and efforts on this issue. Even the sidebar, “An ESTHOfficer’s Tricks of the Trade,” recommends calling on economic, Foreign Commercial Service and Foreign Agricultural Service col- leagues. Great suggestions, but what about USAID? And why is the message directed only to State ESTH [environment, science, technology and health] officers? As a USAID For- eign Service environment officer, I find these tips helpful, too, and would have appreciated being included. Our country team in Lima works closely to align our various foreign policy priorities to advance the entire U.S. government portfolio. Concerning climate change and environment specifically, the U.S.