31 January 2017

Radical changes of government have in the past often led to tension between the new regime and at least some of the state’s diplomatic servants at foreign posts, even on occasion resulting in two envoys claiming to be the legitimate representative, as in the case of appointees by the Crown and the Commonwealth at Constantinople during the English civil war in the mid-seventeenth century. However, the scale of what has been described as a ‘major bureaucratic uprising’ on the part of American diplomats against President Trump’s contemptible and typically impetuous executive order on refugees seems without precedent. It takes the form of a cogently argued memo demolishing the White House order and is being circulated for signature among Foreign Service Officers (FSOs); it has reportedly already received the support of almost 1,000 of them. It is to be sent to the top echelons of the State Department via the ‘dissent channel’. I gather from the press coverage that more than one version is circulating but at least one of them can be read here. No doubt the memo will fall on deaf ears, for there is no more unconquerable arrogance than the arrogance of the ignorant. Team Trump’s reaction – already foreshadowed by its so-called ‘press secretary’ –  will no doubt be to conduct a McCarthyite witch-hunt to identify and fire the courageous diplomats concerned, even though formally any users of the dissent channel are protected against reprisals.

Postscript: On the predictably low level of morale in the State Department as of early March 2017, see this much cited article in The Atlantic by Julia Ioffe.