Why the ‘Resistance’ in the State Department is a Gift to Trump

President Trump’s diplomacy will continue to make America safe and strong, as long as he relies upon his own experience in negotiation and does not follow State Department guidance.

The majority of our 75,382 State Department employees do not support our president. Many are openly scornful. Several ambassadors, ready to retire anyway and with full pensions locked in, have resigned dramatically.

But because State Department protocols and diplomacy have failed us for decades – in Libya, Syria, with the creation of ISIS, Russian expansion, and North Korean belligerence – their “Resistance” has given President Trump the opportunity to do an end-run around them.

State Department Headquarters, aka Foggy Bottom (photo credit: Loren)

I admit bias; my relationship with diplomacy has been peculiar. During my last year in the Marine Corps, I thought it might be fun to be a diplomat, so I took a test, and went to an interview. There were five of us candidates, and two former ambassadors were in charge. I expected standard interview questions, but there were none. Instead, from 7AM, the ambassadors talked about themselves – their health, feelings, opinions, and vignettes from their pasts. At noon, someone brought in sandwiches. The ambassadors kept talking.

At 4PM, the ambassadors dumped boxes of paper on our desks: notes, scribbles, messages, appointments, schedules, letters, and office supplies. It was as if they’d swept off the desk of a lazy bureaucrat. It turned out to be a test, and the goal was to organize the mess. 

At 6PM, the ambassadors collected the results of our work, and then they talked more about themselves until releasing us at 7:30PM.

A couple of weeks later I got a letter saying I’d been rejected. “Lack of sensitivity,” it said. Because my lack of sensitivity was so apparent, the ambassadors advised they had no need to bother grading my performance on the Lazy Bureaucrat Test.

I realized later that the interview was “a day in the life” of the State Department. The ambassadors were right about me - I wouldn’t have fit in. My perkiness wore off after about an hour, and then my face took on an expression that said, “For the love of all that is holy, will you please stop talking.” The other candidates had feigned interest all day long. If I didn’t have the stamina to put up with nonsense for one day, how would I have done it for 30 years?

Sometime later, I joined the CIA, and although most of my service was under deep cover, a few times I was assigned to an embassy.

And lo and behold, there I was, swanning about the embassy as a State Department diplomat.

I made lots of diplomat friends. They are fierce opponents of this president. Their hatred is deep and it infects their waking moments, with religious fervor. Of course we all have friends like this, but our diplomats are official representatives of our government, and should not be communicating their hatred, even unconsciously and involuntarily, to our enemies. It hurts our nation, and it makes these individuals vulnerable to recruitment attempts by foreign powers.

On Facebook and on other social media after the election, many diplomats complained bitterly about the new president. Then about six months after the election, they toned it down a bit. Someone must have circulated a memo. A few of them changed their names on social media to aliases in order to keep attacking the President and hopefully not get caught.

94% of diplomats’ political contributions go to Democrats. They live in a no-conservatives cocoon.  State Department employees see Donald Trump as an enemy and they’re not going to support him.  Even if they wanted to support him, they don’t have the fire that it takes to negotiate with rogue states. When it’s time to fight, their training makes them weak. Unlike a Manhattan real estate developer, they’ve never had skin in the game. They lack negotiating skills.

And so their opposition to the President is a gift. They do not wish to support him, and he can simply ignore them. 

The current era of State Department dysfunction began in 1990 when we sent senior diplomat April Glaspie to talk to Saddam Hussein. She spoke softly and respectfully to him. Saddam smelled weakness and was emboldened. It led to decades of tragedy that might have been avoided.

April should have instead spoken the blunt truth: “Saddam, you will do as we order. If you disobey us, the deadliest army in the history of the world will arrive. We will destroy your air force on the ground and neutralize your communications. Then we will destroy your static armies at will. We will take your power and your wealth. We will kill your sons. You will flee and hide in a hole in the ground, but we will find you and we will kill you.”

As extreme as that sounds, that is of course what happened. Unfortunately, no State Department diplomat would have spoken these words. Their protocols and sensitivities forbid it. Even after all that has happened, my diplomat friends continue to defend April’s statements to Saddam.

We now have a man in the White House who knows how to negotiate from strength. He’s going to keep on winning until we’re sick of all the winning. He can solve conflicts with North Korea, Iran, ISIS, Russia, and China. He can solve the Arab/Israeli conflict. But he must rely on his own strength and experience, and he must not rely upon the State Department.

Ishmael Jones is the pen name of a former CIA case officer, and the author of The Human Factor: Inside the CIA's Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture

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