The Exodus from the State Department Continues

The near-total destruction of the U.S. State Department under Trump and Rex Tillerson is well on its way to completion. The latest high-level diplomat to leave the department, Elizabeth Schackelford, resigned with an open letter to Tillerson that spelled out the problem in stark detail.

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Elizabeth Shackelford, who served as a political officer based in Nairobi for the U.S. mission to Somalia, lamented in a Nov. 7 letter obtained by Foreign Policy the “stinging disrespect” President Donald Trump’s administration had shown the diplomatic corps and how it was “driving” the department’s most experienced staff away in growing numbers.

“The cost of this is visible every day in Mission Somalia, my current post, where State’s diplomatic influence, on the country and within our own interagency, is waning,” Shackelford wrote.

She said she was “shocked” when Tillerson, who stepped down as ExxonMobil CEO to serve as Trump’s secretary of state, told department employees that advancing human rights across the globe “creates obstacles to our ability to advance our national security interests.“

If Tillerson is unable to “stem the bleeding” and preserve the department’s mission, she added, “I would humbly recommend you follow me out the door.”

Let me agree in part and disagree in part. You’ll pardon me if I don’t quite buy the feigned outrage over the lack of support for human rights here. The truth is that the United States has always been staggeringly hypocritical on the question of human rights. We speak about it with the most impassioned and flowery rhetoric, but support the idea in practice only when it suits our purposes. When we need a loyal lapdog to do our bidding, both military and economic, we will happily ignore the most barbaric human rights abuses. The list of such dictators we have supported is very long and includes dozens of third world thugs and tyrants. So while we should be outraged by that, it’s not as if Trump has changed anything in that regard. We’re the same lying hypocrites we’ve always been.

But that doesn’t mean the State Department doesn’t do a great deal of good in resolving and avoiding conflict. Diplomacy is incredibly important, especially when in a nuclear world beset with upheaval, terrorism, mounting refugee crises and much more. But Trump doesn’t believe in diplomacy, he only believes in bullying and intimidation. Diplomacy requires thoughtfulness, discretion and patience, all things that Trump is imply incapable of.

This may be the lasting legacy of the Trump administration, the wholesale gutting of multiple federal agencies. It’s most obvious at the State Department and the EPA, but it’s going on in other agencies too.

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