Diplomatic Security Situation Report 1/25/2018
It seems as though it is an undisputed truth that U.S. soldiers are the bravest members of society. After all, they risk their own lives to defend the nation from foreign threats. There is also another group of people who do this work, but with the intention of avoiding violence: diplomats.
It is nearly impossible to estimate the number of lives that diplomats have saved by doing their jobs. Without their tireless efforts, landmark peace agreements would never have been reached and tense conflicts could have ended with violence. It is their duty to find a non-violent solution to conflicts, and though they get little credit, as demonstrated by criticism of agreements such as the Iran Nuclear Deal and the Strategic Arms Limitations Treaty, it is reasonable to assume that their work has prevented a great deal of bloodshed.
Unfortunately, for all they do to try to avoid violence, there comes a certain amount of danger. The State Department published a report in 2017 of notable attacks on U.S. diplomatic personnel and facilities from 2007 to 2016. In 2016 alone, there were 30 reported attacks, ranging from spray-painting anti-U.S. graffiti outside the consulate in France to two U.S. consulate personnel being killed by an explosion in Pakistan. Currently, the State Department is investigating sonic attacks on the U.S. embassy in Havana.
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Perhaps the most widely known attack on U.S. diplomats is the raid of the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi. Two U.S. diplomats were killed, including the ambassador to Libya, as well as two military personnel. While this attack has become incredibly politicized due to the ridiculous number of committees that were formed to investigate if the U.S. government had been at all negligent, it is worth mentioning that this was not the first attack on the U.S. Special Mission that year. In June of 2012, the mission was hit with an explosion, putting a hole in the outer wall. The year before, there had been two other attacks on the U.S. embassy in Tripoli. Despite the obvious danger, diplomats representing the U.S. believed peace negotiations to be worth risking their lives for.
“Seasoned diplomats are leaving the State Department in droves, with dire warnings about the future of American diplomacy.”
Now, it appears as though times have changed. Seasoned diplomats are leaving the State Department in droves, with dire warnings about the future of American diplomacy. The Trump administration seems intent on undermining any attempts at using peaceful negotiations to solve conflicts. In 2017, the White House proposed a budget for the State Department that would cut into its ability to function as usual, with a decrease in funding by over 30 percent.
President Trump and his associates have described this as an “America First” budget, but domestic programs are being cut in favor of increased military spending. Even fellow Republicans expressed dismay over the proposal, with Sen. Bob Corker not even reading the entirety of the plan and Sen. Lindsey Graham saying, “It’s going to put lives at risk.”
The Trump administration does not seem to value the important work done by the State Department, and this may prove to be disastrous. President Trump has constantly expressed his support for the work that the military does in defending the country, but he has remained relatively silent on the important work that it does to avoid resorting to military force. For somebody who has said that he loves the troops, one would think that the president would do anything within his power to protect said, troops.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis has said:
“If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition ultimately.”
To make this even worse, it seems as though the current Secretary of State has little regard for maintaining his department. Since Rex Tillerson took the reins at the State Department, there has been a mass exodus of seasoned diplomats, with Tillerson seeking advice from a closed group of advisers with little to no practical experience.
There could not be a worse time for this sort of debacle, as the U.S. and North Korea inch closer to war and the Trump administration has made the decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. To make matters even worse, some critical positions have not been filled, such as ambassador to South Korea, and the State Department is operating under a partial hiring freeze.
Also, the State Department must have a reliable Secretary of State to perform its duties. Secretary Tillerson’s role is to act as an intermediary between foreign leaders and President Trump, but his credibility has taken a beating recently as rumors of his possibly imminent firing continue to persist months after it was reported that he called the president a “f—ing moron.” Without a functional working relationship, countries will not be able to rely on the Secretary of State, as he may not truly represent the current positions or beliefs of the administration, rendering the Secretary useless in any sort of negotiations.
It is clear that this president and his administration have little respect for the courageous and hardworking diplomats who sometimes even put their lives at risk for the sake of their country. The Trump administration, however inept its actions may be, does reflect the common lack of understanding of the important duties of the State Department that society holds. If there is to be any change in how the State Department and its workers are treated, then society must finally give diplomats not only the credit, but also the respect that they are due.
Sally Dukes, opinions columnist