Fixing the State Department – and the left-wing spin

It looks like the Augean Stables at the State Department are, at long, long last, being cleaned out . . . but you’d never know it from the mainstream media.  For example, here’s how CBS News reported it.

Much of [the] seventh-floor staff, who work for the Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources and the Counselor offices, were told today that their services were no longer needed.

These staffers in particular are often the conduit between the secretary’s office to the country bureaus, where the regional expertise is centered. Inside the State Department, some officials fear that this is a politically-minded purge that cuts out much-needed expertise from the policy-making, rather than simply reorganizing the bureaucracy.

There are clear signals being sent that many key foreign policy portfolios will be controlled directly by the White House, rather than through the professional diplomats.

. . .

… State Department officials … hope that Mr. Tillerson – who had a long career as Exxon Mobil’s CEO –  will bring his worldly experience and management to a building that has been demoralized by the Trump administration’s antipathy toward multilateralism and cavalier approach to diplomacy.

. . .

While positions are often reshuffled during transitions and those perceived as politically-oriented are moved aside, the departures leave the positions vacant at a time of global instability.

. . .

“It is irresponsible to let qualified, nonpartisan, experienced people go before you have any idea of their replacement. You can’t do foreign policy by sitting in the White House, just out of your back pocket,” explains Tom Countryman, Former Assistant Secretary for Non-Proliferation who was let go earlier this month. Countryman worries that the White House is displaying an intent [to] not rely on the State Department for foreign policy in that no one will be in place to challenge the edicts drawn up in the Oval Office.

There’s more at the link.

Wow, just look at all the negativity!  This is clearly a disaster for US foreign relations . . . or is it?  Let’s pick a few comments and respond to them.

“… some officials fear that this is a politically-minded purge that cuts out much-needed expertise from the policy-making …”.  It’s certainly a purge – and it’s long overdue!  It was senior State Department officials who referred to themselves as a ‘shadow government’, when, in fact, they are (constitutionally and legally) nothing of the sort.  I’ve heard many military officers refer to the State Department in (to put it as politely as possible) disparaging terms.  Their view may be summed up as, “We went there to win, they went there to make sure the other side won”.  I’ve heard that perspective on Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Iran nuclear deal, and a lot more.  I daresay some of my readers have more direct experience in that regard.  As for ‘expertise’, that’s debatable.  I’ve worked in many countries in Africa where I’ve had contact with representatives from US embassies, consulates and other official bodies.  I can’t say I’ve been particularly impressed by their expertise about those countries or regions . . . in fact, I often got the impression they believed all that was necessary was to improve hygiene, bring in US-style democracy, and promote abortions!

“… many key foreign policy portfolios will be controlled directly by the White House, rather than through the professional diplomats.”  How is this a problem?  The professional diplomats have screwed up rather spectacularly in the past (they’ve also had some successes, admittedly).  Who’s to say that the White House, using its own carefully selected team, can’t do as well?  I don’t see any reason.  The current Secretary of State has no diplomatic background whatsoever, but a great deal of international business experience.  Does that mean he’ll be less effective in that role than a ‘professional diplomat’ would?  (The same question might be asked about the previous Secretary of State as well.)

“… the Trump administration’s antipathy toward multilateralism and cavalier approach to diplomacy.”  Blinkered perspective, anyone?  Who says the current Administration has a ‘cavalier approach to diplomacy’?  That’s an accusation, not a news report!  Anti-Trump bias at work again . . .

“… the departures leave the positions vacant at a time of global instability.”  Ooh!  Panic stations!  Except . . . what difference would it make if those positions weren’t vacant?  Would it make the globe any less unstable?  No?  Then why is it a problem?  Instability is a fact of life in diplomacy.  Some countries, and some people, handle it better than others.  Based on the State Department’s track record, I venture to guess that it’s not among them, whether or not all its bureaucratic positions are filled.

As for Mr. Countryman‘s comments, he was appointed to his Cabinet-level position by President Obama.  As a political appointee, of course he’d be let go, and replaced by someone chosen by the current Administration, just as is normal whenever the Presidency changes hands.  He might even be expected to resent losing his job and the status it provided, and he might possibly be expected to express that resentment through the content and tone of his comments about the Administration that removed him.  However, you don’t see CBS News telling us any of that, do you?  Furthermore, Mr. Countryman was appointed to his position precisely in order to ensure that ‘edicts drawn up in the Oval Office’ (by President Obama) were implemented in and by the State Department.  If that was in order for the previous President, why isn’t it in order for the current President to do likewise?

This is yet another example of the relentless drumbeat of criticism directed by the ‘establishment’ (which includes most of the news media) against President Trump.  When you deconstruct most of the negative articles like this, it’s amazing how much bias and subjective vitriol emerges.

I suggest that reports in the mainstream media about anything to do with the current Administration should be regarded as unreliable until proven otherwise.



  1. If those career diplomats were so good at handling international relations and are the answer to global instability, then why is there global instability to begin with? Wouldn't they have prevented it, or at least solved it, by now?

  2. I would also add that, as a part of the executive branch, it is not the unelected employees of the state department's job to "challenge the edicts issued by the oval office." It is their job to carry out those edicts and do as they are told.

  3. All I've seen from the MSM since Nov has been anti-trump noise, to the exclusion of any other news. They've abandoned their primary role and made themselves irrelevant….but where else does one go now to obtain real news on current events and perhaps some deeper reporting of the background with little social or politically-biased commentary?

  4. The only thing that has impressed me about the State Department is its seemingly unending series of miss-steps. As I recall, one of the first things the Obama-Clinton team did was to marginalize long term allies. It seemed like not only did they not have a clue, they didn't care.

  5. Thank you for the amount of countermanding information you post. I am not American, but even here the antiTrump is strong. Do I like him? No, but I thought Clinton was an odd choice to run as well. But not my country, not my vote. Watching Trump actually DO what he said he would? Maybe we should elect more people and fewer politicians.

  6. Hey Peter;

    the problem with the state department is that they view themselves as "world citizens" not American citizens and their policies and beliefs reflect that. They forgot that they work for AMERICAN interest.

  7. I'll believe it's a true purge when we see spending and personnel cuts. For now, it's a reshuffle.

    All of the federal bureaucracies need a hair cut and a refocus on their core missions. That includes DoD, which seems more intent on spending a decade to pick out a pistol than they are in actually training and equipping their people to fight and win. State has been a fiefdom of careerists for longer than I've been alive, and I hope that cuts come that lead it back to what it's supposed to be doing: looking out for the best interests of the United States.

  8. "the departures leave the positions vacant at a time of global instability"…
    I'm 70 years old – cannot recall a time when the world was stable…

  9. All I can say is good. When did someone (Kissinger) become 'God' over a region of the world just because they occupy the desk for that region.

    Further comment, I know a woman that the State Dept. screwed up her visa and decided to deport her for their mistake. It took thousands of dollars and years of fighting them to get it fixed.

    So yup, it's time for the State Dept to get their $hit together.


  10. Hopefully Trump and his minions will go through the bureaucracy with fire and sword. The Appatachiks need to be trimmed heavily. A 50% decrease in the size of the bureaucracy would just be a good start.

  11. Anyone who knows the oil industry knew that Tillerson was going be a big surprise to those career diplomats. They just do not understand the focus on results and schedule that he brings to the table. And he will show them them door if they don't adapt.

  12. The last line from your quote is the reason they are gone in a nutshell:

    " …no one will be in place to challenge the edicts drawn up in the Oval Office…"

    This is specifically the opposite of the job they are supposed to be doing. They should get the boot if this is what they are trying to do instead of their actual job.

  13. It is interesting that as Trump's critics make more and more noise, his approval ratings go up.
    Law Dog's post from last summer is getting born out each day:

    Or, as I heard someone else put it, 'you've been talking down to and insulting people for years and now you expect them to support you?'

    The crazier people get, the less support they have – these are signs of desperate and marginalized people; the sooner they lose audience, the better.

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