Tag Archives: State Department dissent

The Last Line of Defense

According to reports, hundreds of U.S. State Department employees are signing a “dissent” cable.” This dissent cable is a communication to the acting head of the State Department indicating disapproval of the recently signed order by President Trump halting the processing of refugees into the United States.

Many of these signers have worked overseas with refugees and immigrants to the U.S. They are aware of our honored place in the world as guardians of the unwanted (“wretched refuse” as the Statue of Liberty proclaims) from other nations, including the grandfather of President Trump.

A dissent cable allows the expression of views differing from the official one of any political administration, not just the present one. One of the more recent ones dissented from President Obama’s decisions on Syria. It supports the discussion and frankness that a democracy, at its best, encourages.

White House spokesperson Sean Spicer said dissenters should “get with the program or they should go.” In reaction, the Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives, has pointed out in a letter (January 31, 2017) to President Trump: “The State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual prohibits reprisal or disciplinary action against anyone who uses the Dissent Channel.”

Laura Rosenberger, a retired State Department officer penned a plea to career officials in the U.S. government to stay in their jobs. (“Career Officials: You Are the Last Line of Defense Against Trump,” January 30, 2017, Foreign Policy)

Many State Department officers have the experience and education to find jobs with higher salaries and less hassle. Please don’t, Rosenberger says: “Your jobs have never been more important. You are patriots who work for the American people, largely out of sight and with little recognition or glory—and your job remains to keep them safe and secure, as you have always worked to do.”

It’s Okay to Disagree

Fifty-one diplomats within the U.S. State Department recently signed a document dissenting from the current U.S. policy on Syria. They wish a more activist policy against Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s leader. They believe the U.S. should do more to stop Assad’s brutal treatment of his civilian population by barrel bombs and other atrocities.

The dissent channel of the State Department allows any diplomat to disagree with a current U.S. foreign policy. Retaliation to the dissenter’s career is forbidden.

The dissent channel was established in the 1970’s during the Vietnamese conflict to allow challenges to official policy. The idea is that dissent is not a weakness in a democracy but a strength: all views should be aired. No one person has all knowledge or wisdom. We benefit when different opinions can be expressed, whether we agree or disagree with the dissenter.

In the midst of all our self-criticism, we can be proud that underlings are encouraged to speak their views and not suffer retaliation.