In the scandal ridden Trump administration the fact that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is gutting the State Department has been largely overlooked. Tillerson believes the State Department is a bloated bureaucracy, and he’s doing something about the bloated part. People are leaving in droves, either fired or forced into retirement. Furniture is literally stacked in the hallways and words like “chaos” and “terrible” echo. New York Times:
In a letter to Mr. Tillerson last week, Democratic members of the House Foreign Relations Committee, citing what they said was “the exodus of more than 100 senior Foreign Service officers from the State Department since January,” expressed concern about “what appears to be the intentional hollowing-out of our senior diplomatic ranks.”
Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, sent a similar letter, telling Mr. Tillerson that “America’s diplomatic power is being weakened internally as complex global crises are growing externally.”
“Leadership matters,” said Nancy McEldowney, a former ambassador who retired in June after a 30-year career as a Foreign Service officer. “There’s a vacuum throughout the State Department, and the junior people now working in these top jobs lack the confidence and credibility that comes from a presidential nomination and Senate confirmation.”
Morale in the workplace is at an all time low as Tillerson has ordered diplomats to do clerical work alongside unpaid interns in order to expedite Freedom of Information requests — which are a direct result of Donald Trump’s ridiculousness.
Even more departures are expected as a result of an intense campaign that Mr. Tillerson has ordered to reduce the department’s longtime backlog of Freedom of Information Act requests. CNN reported that the task had resulted from Mr. Trump’s desire to accelerate the release of Mrs. Clinton’s remaining emails.
Every bureau in the department has been asked to contribute to the effort. That has left midlevel employees and diplomats — including some just returning from high-level or difficult overseas assignments — to spend months performing mind-numbing clerical functions beside unpaid interns.
Tillerson’s actions will have repercussions in the not too distant future and beyond Tillerson’s reign, diplomats predict.
“The United States is at the center of every crisis around the world, and you simply cannot be effective if you don’t have assistant secretaries and ambassadors in place,” said R. Nicholas Burns, a retired career diplomat who was an under secretary of state for President George W. Bush. “It shows a disdain for diplomacy.”
“These people either do not believe the U.S. should be a world leader, or they’re utterly incompetent,”[Dana Shell Smith, former Ambassador to Qatar said.] “Either way, having so many vacancies in essential places is a disaster waiting to happen.”
Donald Trump is hell bent on turning the United States into a banana Republic. This is just one more step in that direction. Don’t forget, that Trump was on Fox News recently and when asked about foreign policy said, “I’m the only one who matters.”
What is motivating Tillerson’s demolition effort is anyone’s guess. He may have been a worldly CEO at ExxonMobil, but he had precious little experience in how American diplomacy works. Perhaps Tillerson, as a D.C. and foreign policy novice, is simply being a good soldier, following through on edicts from White House ideologues like Steve Bannon. Perhaps he thinks he is running State like a business. But the problem with running the State Department like a business is that most businesses fail—and American diplomacy is too big to fail.
What is clear, however, is that there is no pressing reason for any of these cuts. America is not a country in decline. Its economy is experiencing an unprecedented period of continuous economic growth, its technology sector is the envy of the world and the American military remains unmatched. Even now, under Trump, America’s allies and enduring values amplify its power and constrain its adversaries. America is not in decline—it is choosing to decline. And Tillerson is making that choice. He is quickly becoming one of the worst and most destructive secretaries of state in the history of our country.