The rapid deterioration of the State Department since President Trump installed former Exxon/Mobile CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State has been much noted and well documented. With an exodus of skilled professional diplomats who have served the country under multiple administrations of both parties and a large number of vacant positions still unfilled, the decimation of our nation’s diplomatic capacities at such a turbulent time in the world has been a major concern to those both inside and outside diplomatic circles.
Now a formerly rising star in the U.S. diplomatic corps has tendered her resignation with a scathing farewell letter that has left foreign service officers the world over with their mouths agape.
Elizabeth Shackelford most recently served as a political officer for the U.S. mission to Somalia based in Nairobi, Kenya. Her decision to leave what had been a flourishing career in the State Department comes because she was forced to conclude from the actions and policies of both President Trump and Secretary Tillerson that the U.S. has abandoned human rights as a priority and shown disdain for the State Department’s diplomatic work, damaging America’s ability to influence the course of world events.
Her resignation letter, as published in Foreign Policy, demonstrates the vehemence with which she is willing to stand up for principle.
“I have deep respect for the career Foreign and Civil Service staff who, despite the stinging disrespect this Administration has shown our profession, continue the struggle to keep our foreign policy on the positive trajectory necessary to avert global disaster in increasingly dangerous times,” Shackelford wrote in her November 7th letter.
“With each passing day, however, this task grows more futile, driving the Department’s experienced and talented staff away in ever greater numbers,” she added as she joined that exodus.
Shackelford’s frustration is palpable as she enumerates the positive results that the department’s diplomacy has achieved around the globe and the barriers that have since been erected to prevent that same level of diplomacy to continue.
Besides citing the abandonment of human rights as a driving principle of U.S. foreign policy, Shackelford points to the ceding of authority from the State Department to the U.S. military in driving global affairs as a primary inspiration for her departure.
While she expresses confidence in the ability of the State Department to “endure and ultimately overcome this period of marginalization”, Shackelford fears the effects that the consequences of the current policies will have on America’s global leadership and status in the world for years to come.
Shackelford’s final sentences in her resignation are the real kicker here. Addressing Tillerson directly she says:
“I would urge you to stem the bleeding by showing leadership and a committment to our prople, our mission, and our mandate as the foreign policy arm of the United States. If you are unable to do so effectively within this Administration, I would humbly recommend that you follow me out the door.”
One has to wonder how truly devastating it must be to work at the State Department these days for a successful and promising career diplomat to give up her future in the department and burn her bridges with such an audacious suggestion.
One can only hope that Tillerson heeds her advice and returns to the world of destroying the planet with fossil fuels rather than through incompetent diplomacy. Or better yet, simply retire and enjoy the millions of dollars he earned while enabling climate change.
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