Releasing a signed letter denouncing President Bush on the same day that the 9/11 Commission issued its much-publicized interim report last week, 26 former diplomats and retired military brass gained very little traction in their bid to knock the President.
What people missed is a bunch of disgruntled ex-diplomats who amply demonstrate the deeply ingrained biases of the Foreign Service?or more to the point, the people who comprise the vast majority of Bush?s current foreign policy team.
Common sense would dictate that the President of the United States would have the ability to shape his entire administration, including his foreign policy team.
But when it comes to the State Department, common sense doesn?t apply. Even most senior positions are filled by careerists, people who do not change from one administration to the next. And because of union rules that even Jimmy Hoffa never would have had the guts to demand, State?s career Foreign Service employees can?t be fired by the Secretary of State?even for a felony conviction.
Sounds crazy, yet it is sadly true. Clinton?s Secretary of State Warren Christopher ignored personnel policy and fired a woman who had plea-bargained to a felony count?of defrauding the State Department. She sued, she won, she got her job back, and got back pay. Why? Because, the court ruled, the Secretary of State can?t fire even a convicted felon.
To add one more level of institutionalized insanity, the Secretary of State does not even have any authority over personnel decisions, except for the small percent that are considered politically-appointable. All hiring, firing, transferring, and promoting is done by a panel of senior Foreign Service Officers (FSOs).
This presents very real political problems, especially when current FSOs harbor as much contempt for Bush as the 26 signers of the letter explicitly endorsing the defeat of the President come November.
On people?s desks and doors throughout the State Department are political cartoons mocking and pillorying the President. The openness of it suggests that lambasting their ultimate boss is not simply tolerated, but encouraged. Could you imagine a Fortune 500 company with that sort of flagrant insubordination?
Yet as tempting as it would be to point a partisan finger at the Foreign Service, many of the ones who loathe President Bush are, in fact, Republicans. What they all have in common, though, is a worldview entirely antithetical to that of the commander-in-chief.
State Department diplomats view the Holy Grail of foreign policy as ?stability.? Stability is great for people living in free societies, such as the United States or the United Kingdom. But for those under the thumb of oppressive despots such as North Korea?s Kim Jong-Il or the Iranian mullahs, stability is simply a promise of continued tyranny.
Though stability may sound appealing from a security standpoint?the devil you know is not necessarily better, but it is more predictable, as the logic goes?it doesn?t work in the long-term. Today?s strongman ally can easily become tomorrow?s Taliban or Saddam Hussein.
President Bush fundamentally understands that the only true, reliable long-term allies are free societies. Yet on the same day he made his speech last spring presenting his ambitious goals for a free Middle East, State published?and conveniently leaked to the Los Angeles Times?a report called ?Democracy Domino Theory: Not Credible.?
History does not support State?s belief in tyrants. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the State Department only pressed for closer relations with Saddam after he gassed and killed some 100,000 Kurds in August 1988.
It was in early 1989 that State wrote a then-top secret memo urging stronger ties with Saddam, arguing that he was a bastion of ?stability.? Less than two years later, Saddam?s tanks rolled into Kuwait.
Not learning from its past mistakes, State adopted a tilted neutrality policy toward the Taliban?which effectively supported a regime recognized by only three governments around the world?despite clear evidence from the beginning of gross human rights abuses, including actions that could be described as war crimes in capturing the country.
Because of President Bush, neither former State Department ally is still in power. But if the former State Department officials?and their prot?s still there?have their way, Bush won?t be for much longer, either.