its demise is assisted by vampires like lisa, who don’t improve the pindo image

The Demise of Diplomacy
Vijay Prashad, Counterpunch, May 12 2017

Rex Tillerson is the leading diplomat of the Pindosi government. Tillerson, who was previously the head of Exxon, leads a department that nominally directs the country’s foreign policy. However, his tenure so far has been difficult. He serves the mercurial Donald Trump, who makes policy in the early hours of the morning on Twitter and zigzags on the basis of his “chemistry” with world leaders. Harsh words for someone today are transformed into kind words tomorrow. How Tillerson is expected to form a sustained policy on the basis of these pronouncements is hard to imagine. Even harder to imagine is how Tillerson is running a department where over 200 crucial posts remain empty. There is no movement by this administration to fill these posts, including for that of Tillerson’s deputy. For now, career officials and people nominated by Obama remain at their desks, but these people do not have the temperament to serve Trump. Their sensibility is antithetical to his. Pindo diplomacy has been a weak instrument of statecraft for many decades already. It is not merely an outgrowth of the general problems of Trump’s administrative attitude. Trump’s adviser Steve Bannon, threatened the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” However, this “deconstruction” had already been going on under previous administrations. A series of reports from 2009, in the first year of the Obama administration, shows how poorly run Pindosi diplomacy was even then. The GAO found in Jul 2009 that the office of arms control and non-proliferation (OFAC) had withered. The report quotes a document from Oct 2005, in which 11 employees wrote that morale was poor. This, the GAO found, was probably responsible for the attrition rates as highly capable people left for the private sector. Much the same problem of administrative disregard and low morale was detected by the State Dept’s inspector general in its Africa bureau.

Walking the halls of Foggy Bottom has been a depressing business for decades. There is little excitement here. Staff members routinely complain that the action is not at the State Dept but at the Pentagon. Indeed, one test of the lack of importance of the State Dept and diplomacy in general is in the budgetary allocation to both. The State Dept’s annual budget at this point is $29b. The Pentagon, on the other hand, takes away over $700b/yr. The comparison is stark. There are 23,000 employees in the Pentagon, whose workload runs from military assessment to delivery of arms contracts to diplomacy. In 2008, Joe Sixpack, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, quoted Sec Def Gates, who had said that the State Dept had been “chronically undermanned and underfunded for too long.” This was the head of the Pentagon speaking, which was why Sixpack quoted him. But then Biden suggested that there was something far more sinister going on. He warned of the “migration of functions and authorities from civilian agencies to the DoD.” The movement of diplomacy from the civilians in the State Dept to the generals in the military had been experienced in the field by career diplomats. Cables from Islamabad, Cairo and Sana’a by ambassadors complained that visiting Pentagon boxtops were setting the policy with heads of governments and with foreign militaries, including arms sales and operations in the supposed GWOT. The ambassadors suggested that they had been converted into stenographers who sat in meetings and took notes but were not privy to the intricacies of the policy. Even in arenas of diplomacy itself, the Pentagon’s overseas operations were far better funded and better organised. In Somalia, for instance, the State Dept’s public diplomacy effort in 2008 received only $30k compared with the Pentagon’s public diplomacy budget of $600k. Adverse publicity for the Pentagon is immediately responded to by its massive PR operation. The GAO found last year that the Pentagon spent more than $1b on PR. Between 2006 and 2015, the Pentagon was responsible for almost two-thirds of the total Pindo government spending on PR.

If the State Dept has been weak under previous Presidents, it is likely to be weakened further by Trump. Trump’s draft budget seeks a 28.5% cut in State Dept spending. What this means is an even smaller presence for American diplomacy. Tillerson has promised to cut 2,300 of its staff, almost 10 per cent of the total workforce of the State Dept. One of the reasons why he has not staffed the State Dept is that he anticipates a major reorganisation of it. The person tasked with the reorganisation is William Inglee, a former executive from Lockheed Martin. It is not unreasonable to assume that Inglee will keep his friends in the military happy while he “deconstructs” Pindosi diplomacy further. The military budget, meanwhile, will be increased by $54b. This increase accounts for 80% of the total Russian military budget. Chaos rules in Pindo foreign policy. One day Tillerson says that Assad will have to remain, and then a few days later he reiterates that “Assad must go.” First he said that Iran was in compliance with its obligations in the nuclear treaty, and then he said that Iran had violated the treaty. Firm policy is not evident. What one sees is a great deal of whiplash, governed largely by Trump’s erratic decisions announced on Twitter. Nikki Haley seems at odds with the kind of soberness displayed by Tillerson. When she brought USC members to the White House in late April, Trump met them and asked:

Now, does everybody like Nikki? Because if you don’t, otherwise, she can easily be replaced! No, we won’t do that! I promise! We won’t do that! She’s doing a fantastic job!

Haley and Tillerson seem to be tacking right and left, trying to anticipate Trump’s gale-force decisions. These are prompted not merely by the whims of Trump’s family, namely his daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, but also by his generals. The military continues to have a major hold on decision-making. Civilian diplomats are not in the saddle. Press conferences at the Pentagon are far more important than those at Foggy Bottom. In March, Micah Zenko of the CFR gave a book talk at the State Dept office. Later, Zenko sent out a tweet about the “unusually large audience” in the room. Why did so many people come to hear Zenko? Not because he had such interesting things to say, but because, as one State Dept official told him:

We’ve literally nothing else to do!

Others disputed this characterisation. However, on the day of Zenko’s visit, spox Mark Toner seemed flummoxed to learn that Mexico’s Foreign Minister was visiting Faschingstein. When asked about the visit, Toner said:

I was unaware that he … was in town.

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