American security and prosperity depend on robust diplomacy. Our diplomats are the front line of our engagement with the world. They serve in over 270 posts worldwide, many in difficult or dangerous locations. They communicate our goals in more than 70 languages. They manage conflict, help U.S. companies compete, and assist Americans abroad. Most importantly, they reflect our values on the world stage. But a diplomacy-first strategy to meet the challenges of the 21st century means that we need world-class diplomats. And after the Trump Administration, that’s going to take a whole lot of work.
Through a toxic combination of malice and neglect, Donald Trump has declared war on the State Department. In one of his first acts, he attempted to cut the State Department’s budget by a third. Some senior career officials were pushed out, while others resigned in protest. The State Department has lost 60% of its career ambassadors and 20% of its most experienced civil servants. And too often, these skilled diplomats have been replaced with totally unqualified campaign donors and other Trump cronies.
But while Trump may have accelerated the exodus from the State Department, he didn’t start it. Years of hiring freezes and spending cuts have caused many talented diplomats to head for the doors. China’s spending on diplomacy has doubled under President Xi Jinping — while America’s spending on core diplomatic capability has declined over the last decade.
To take a meaningful leadership position in the world, to protect American interests, and to avoid conflicts around the globe, we need to reverse this trend. [Continue reading…]