We have heard a great deal from the media and the bureaucracy about the "hollowing out of the State Department." To give an idea of my thoughts on that, I direct my six readers to the blurb next to "my" photo at the side of this blog:
W. Lewis Amselem, long time US Foreign Service Officer; now retired; served all over the world and under all sorts of conditions. Convinced the State Department needs to be drastically slashed and reformed so that it will no longer pose a threat to the national interests of the United States.Maybe President Trump read that? Judging from that long-ago written blurb, you could correctly conclude that I do not find it at all alarming to have the State Department asked to do with less. That, friends, is a good thing. We, of course, see moaning about those "deep cuts" to the State Department budget that will "gut" our diplomacy. Rubbish. Even with "deep cuts" the budget for State/AID remains in the $40 billion ballpark, which is a pretty big ballpark. The U.S. Foreign Service consists of over 8,000 diplomats, another over 7,500 "specialists," e.g., support personnel, plus AID officers, and a smattering of people from other agencies, such as the Departments of Agriculture and Commerce. In addition, 11-12,000 Civil Service employees work for State, most but not all in Washington, DC. So State has some 28,000 or more full-time employees, plus contractors, interns, and so on. That's a well-staffed Army division. That's a lot of people. That's too many people.
I long have held that you could cut this workforce by about one-third in a flash, and nobody would notice--well, except for those getting cut, and their landlords and real estate agents. With a little planning you could cut the whole thing in half, and have a much more nimble and productive organization. I, therefore, was not aghast, or in shock with horror, because a few positions got left vacant under the Trump Administration, or when the budget proposals were not as grand as in the past. No great foreign policy calamity will befall the Republic because a few "professionals" get their noses out of joint, or some useless programs get cut back. Cut! And cut some more! I've got lots of ideas of where to cut.
In a post written long, long ago (March 12, 2012), I noted that under the late and unlamented Obama/Clinton foreign affairs team, "there is no foreign policy coming from the White House, except a default position of apology, appeasement, and accommodation." It was all just show, what now would be called "virtue signaling." Not all of that, of course, was the fault of Obama or Clinton or her even more despicable successor, John "Christmas in Cambodia" Kerry. There is a culture at State which I described as revolving,
around public displays of affection for the Secretary; more than that, it is based upon open adoration of the Secretary, who quickly becomes an almost mythical figure possessed of unbounded wisdom and insight. What we have, in other words, is a diluted version of North Korea. You go to staff meetings, and they ring with statements, such as "the Secretary has said," "the Secretary wants," and "the Secretary was right on point this morning." You have not seen grown people--mostly men--try to outdo themselves praising the Dear Leader until you have gone to a morning meeting at State chaired by somebody who just attended a prior staff meeting chaired by the Secretary. As the kids say, "OMG!" People you thought reasonable, lose all reason, all critical faculties as they rush to appear the Most Loyal Servant of the Secretary. These are supposed to be Americans, defenders of the Great Republic, but you expect them to break into Anna's song, absent the irony,
"Yes, Your Majesty;No, Your Majesty.Tell us how low to go, Your Majesty;Make some more decrees, Your Majesty,Don't let us up off our knees, Your Majesty.Give us a kick, if you please, Your MajestyGive us a kick, if you would, Your Majesty Oh, That was good, Your Majesty!"I haven't walked through the doorway at 2201 C St., NW, in quite some time, but I doubt things have gotten better. In fact, from all I hear sure they've gotten worse; I detect a sense of abandonment by the bureaucracy since the Trump Administration doesn't seem to worry too much about what the bureaucrats at Foggy Bottom have to say about foreign policy.
Folks, that's a good thing--unless you think foreign policy and diplomacy consist of doing what we always have done and getting the same results over and over. I remember, for example, the consternation at State when Reagan & Co. told us that we would have as our objective to roll-back the USSR. Horrors! "You can't do that! What about the UN? What about the Europeans? The World Order of the past 40 years? That's not how it's done!" I remember horrifying some arms control officials when I expressed that the best way to get Soviet disarmament was to increase ours and drive home to Moscow the futility of competing with the world's biggest economy. Lots of anger, especially from folks who made a very nice living conducting these seemingly endless disarmament negotiations in nice places such as Geneva and Helsinki with generous per diems. Innovation and questioning are not hallmarks of the State Department.
This President, perhaps more so than any other we've had, approaches foreign affairs with the cool detachment of an experienced businessman and negotiator concerned about the end result, not just the inputs. He asks, "Why? Why are we doing that when the USA doesn't benefit?" He is the exact opposite of the State Department belief in--irritating word--"deliverables." Prior to a top-level meeting with a senior foreigner, Department staff try to find a "deliverable," some sort of goody for our leadership to hand the alien potentate as a sign of our willingness to give more in the future. This President has the opposite approach: "I know what they're getting from us, what do we get from them? What's their 'deliverable' to us?" Shocking. He has no problem questioning the way things are--something not, as noted above, a strong point at State, or for that matter, of the usual international elites who get easily shocked by things such as Brexit, labelling Mad Kim as "Rocketman," threatening tariffs, backing out of the destructive Paris Climate Accord, etc.
Trump's approach, with or without the involvement of State, seems to be working. NATO is in better shape than it has been in years. There is a glimmer of hope of meaningful progress on the Korean peninsula. The Middle East is doing much better now that ISIS has been virtually annihilated. We are moving our Embassy to Jerusalem with barely a peep out of the Arab world. The Saudis and Israelis (as predicted by this humble blog some years ago) are getting together in their opposition to Iran. Iranian boats have stopped harassing our fleet (wonder why?) The Chinese seem to be backing down from their threat of a trade war. Russian influence is on the wane. We have good relations with many African nations in the fight against the jihadis. These and others out there are good signs. A lot of this can be reversed, of course, but, for now, the Trump Caravan moves on even as the assorted prog dogs grow hoarse from barking.