David Rank, senior U.S. diplomat to China, recently resigned because he said he could not, in good conscience, represent President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord to the Chinese government. Walking out the door was a diplomat with twenty-seven years of foreign policy experience and one reported to be fluent in the language of the country where he supported U.S. foreign policy.
Rank said the withdrawal from the Paris accord broke three barriers for him. It was a mistake from a foreign policy perspective. It bothered him as a parent. And it conflicted with his Christian faith.
When we talk blithely about cleaning the government’s house, we should remember the sacrifices some of those supposed “swamp dwellers” have endured. In an interview with Robert Siegel on NPR (June 28 2017), Rank alluded to career duties that caused him to be absent during family milestones: the birth of one of his children and also the deaths of his parents.
Others have given more. Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed by a mob in Libya as he attempted to carry out U.S. foreign policy in that country. Anne Smedinghoff, a young political diplomacy officer, was killed by a roadside bomb while on the way to deliver books to Afghan school children.
We so often win militarily but neglect the harder issues that follow. The needs remaining after the end of a war require day to day contact with shattered populations trying to rebuild.
The hard work of building a functioning society will be done, if it is done, by the local governments. This is when we need American diplomats to work with them to push again and again for a society that serves its people, not a few warlords, their corruption tempting the re-emergence of radicals. The work needs to be targeted and appropriate. It takes time and it requires a trained, focused diplomatic effort.
Will enough people remain for those efforts after we drain the swamp?