Straying Diplomats?

by Peggy McGuinness

This is an odd item on today’s AP wires: A list of recent incidents of US diplomats who have gone off the administration talking points without permission. It includes UN Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad’s appearance at Davos on the same stage as the Iranian Foreign Minister.

I wonder, is there someone in the public affairs office at State keeping track of these things? The high profile missteps are easier to catch, I imagine, than some of the lower-level apostasy.

3 Responses

  1. The State Department, like the CIA, has been pretty openly hostile to the Administration for the duration of the last eight years.

    They’re probably just emboldened by the imminent departure of said Administration.

  2. Matthew–

    Your argument would only make sense insofar as the “unauthiorized acts” are made by career members of the State Department who can be untangled from the political appointees. (If in fact that’s what you intended by the comment about CIA and State hostility to the Administration they serve.) Khalilzad is Bush’s political appointee, as are Lefkowitz and Frazer. When Bush goes, they go. I’m not sure the idea that they are “openly hostile” to the Administration holds.

    But you may be right that their own imminent departure emboldens them to express personal, as opposed to Administration-vetted views, more openly.

  3. Two points.

    Just to give a little history – my dad was career FSO in point 4 and later USAID and he worked under 6 Presidents. As the policy changed you had to change your tune – comes with the territory. And one did not publicly dis other FSO’s, the Service, US policy, or the policies of other countries unless that was what you were tasked to do. Discipline was very important. My father created the Thursday Luncheon Group back in the 1950’s to create a space where African-American Foreign Service Officers could have a place to share their experience in an incredibly hostile environment and it became a way to create a channel to the Secretary for concerns that the hierarchy refused to address.

    The bloggers noted in the connected piece sound like the political appointee in the Civl Rights division who switched out women and minority lawyers to put in place “good Americans”. More idiots.

    One very powerful moment of “going off the reservation” was recounted by the late C. Clyde Ferguson, Jr. who was Ambassador to the UN during Ford. Asked at a SC meeting (I believe) about how the US would respond to Vietnamese claims for compensation, Ferguson responded that the United States would evaluate each of those requests on its merits. He then added two words “with compassion.” After the meeting he took a train up to Cambridge, Massachusetts where he visited with Dean Sacks at Harvard Law School. While visiting, Dean Sacks’ secretary came in to say that Secretary Kissinger was on the phone and wanted to speak to Ambassador Ferguson. They passed the phone to Ferguson and one could hear Kissinger screaming through the phone. Ferguson put his hand over the receiver, turned to Dean Sacks and asked, “Is that professorship still open here?” Dean Sacks nodded affirmatively. At which point, Ferguson to his hand away from the receiver and said, “Thank you Henry. I have become a professor at Harvard.” And hung up on the sputtering Kissinger. THAT in my view is the way to resign – the only way if to go if you have serious disagreements with the policy.



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