In her first public comments since the impeachment hearings, retired Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch told students at Georgetown University Wednesday that her former employer is currently in a shambles. “Right now, the State Department is in trouble,” she said in an acceptance speech for the Trainor Award, celebrating her decades-long work as a U.S. diplomat. “Senior leaders lack policy vision, moral clarity and leadership.”
Yovanovitch suggested the department’s current emphasis on sizing up monetary contributions country by country is both shortsighted and counterproductive to the nation’s long-term foreign policy goals. “It’s not about a handout for foreign friends; it’s about enlightened self-interest,” she explained. “For example, it’s hard to see how cutting funds to the World Health Organization in the middle of the coronavirus crisis keeps Americans safer.” Unfortunately, this is the type of concept that requires an explanation under the Trump-era leadership of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Yovanovitch also said some of the current shortcomings were an outgrowth of the “hollowing out” of the department internally, in terms of expertise, institutional knowledge, and personnel. “The policy process has been replaced by the decisions emanating from the top with little discussion,” Yovanovitch observed. “Vacancies at all levels go unfilled and officers are increasingly wondering whether it is safe to express concerns about policy, even behind closed doors.”
The veteran diplomat also warned that America’s current trajectory could leave us isolated as our allies find “more reliable partners.”
“To be blunt: An amoral, keep-’em-guessing foreign policy that substitutes threats, fear and confusion for trust cannot work over the long haul, especially in our social media-savvy, interconnected world,” Yovanovitch said. “At some point, the once-unthinkable will become the soon-inevitable: that our allies, who have as much right to act in their own self-interest as we do, will seek out more reliable partners, partners whose interests might not align well with ours.”
As dire as her prognosis was, she still chooses to be positive about the future of U.S. diplomacy. “Some people say I’m too optimistic, and that may be, but throwing up our hands is a self-fulfilling prophecy,” she said. “In these trying times, optimism is no longer a default setting for many of us—it’s a choice.”
What a testament to Yovanovitch’s strength of character after what Donald Trump and his henchmen put her through. Brava!