The disastrous leadership of Donald Trump and his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, is gutting the American diplomatic corps. Ambassador Barbara Stephenson, the president of the American Foreign Service Association, is sounding the alarm:
… there is simply no denying the warning signs that point to mounting threats to our institution—and to the global leadership that depends on us.
There is no denying that our leadership ranks are being depleted at a dizzying speed, due in part to the decision to slash promotion numbers by more than half. The Foreign Service officer corps at State has lost 60 percent of its Career Ambassadors since January. Ranks of Career Ministers, our three-star equivalents, are down from 33 to 19. The ranks of our two-star Minister Counselors have fallen from 431 right after Labor Day to 369 today—and are still falling.
These numbers are hard to square with the stated agenda of making State and the Foreign Service stronger. Were the U.S. military to face such a decapitation of its leadership ranks, I would expect a public outcry. Like the military, the Foreign Service recruits officers at entry level and grows them into seasoned leaders over decades. The talent being shown the door now is not only our top talent, but also talent that cannot be replicated overnight. The rapid loss of so many senior officers has a serious, immediate, and tangible effect on the capacity of the United States to shape world events.
Congress, Stephenson notes, “rejected drastic cuts to State and USAID funding.” So, then:
Why such a focus on slashing staffing at State? Why such a focus on decapitating leadership? How do these actions serve the stated agenda of making the State Department stronger?
Because Donald Trump doesn’t value diplomacy or knowledge or expertise and he wants to make everything around him weaker in order to feel like he’s stronger. But that answer doesn’t change the danger involved.