SELF-ABSORBED DIPLOMAT RESIGNS

A bit ago I received by e-mail the text of the resignation letter of former diplomat John Brady Kiesling published in the February 27 NYT. While I’ve resisted the urge to go back and blog on old news, this one is still pertinent enough to give it a go. I’ll simply Fisk selected excerpts:

It is inevitable that during twenty years with the State Department I would become more sophisticated and cynical about the narrow and selfish bureaucratic motives that sometimes shaped our policies. Human nature is what it is, and I was rewarded and promoted for understanding human nature. But until this Administration it had been possible to believe that by upholding the policies of my president I was also upholding the interests of the American people and the world. I believe it no longer.

The policies we are now asked to advance are incompatible not only with American values but also with American interests. Our fervent pursuit of war with Iraq is driving us to squander the international legitimacy that has been America̢۪s most potent weapon of both offense and defense since the days of Woodrow Wilson. We have begun to dismantle the largest and most effective web of international relationships the world has ever known. Our current course will bring instability and danger, not security.

First, it is not the function of diplomats to determine what the best policies of the nation are; that is for the elected officials. Second, our Iraq policy, right or wrong, is not just the policy of the Bush Administration but of the Congress as well, given that they passed a joint resolution supporting him right before the fall 2002 elections (296-133 in the House, 77-23 in the Senate). This was subsequently validated by the electorate, as many of the Democrats who voted against the resolution were subsequently defeated in the elections. Third, our policies prior to 9/11 didn’t achieve much security, either. We’ve never had much support from Russia or China, and the support of France has been unsteady at best. Really, only Germany among our strong allies has opposed our policy. Fourth, it strikes me as highly unlikely that there will be a permanent chill in our relations with Europe, other than that which would have occurred absent this confrontation. The factors that caused the post-Wilsonian relationship to prosper are still there–commonality of interest, similar views on economics, human rights, democracy, etc. States don’t act contrary to their interests in a snit over past disagreements. Finally, spare me the blather about how sophisticated you are.

The sacrifice of global interests to domestic politics and to bureaucratic self-interest is nothing new, and it is certainly not a uniquely American problem. Still, we have not seen such systematic distortion of intelligence, such systematic manipulation of American opinion, since the war in Vietnam. . . . . this Administration has chosen to make terrorism a domestic political tool, enlisting a scattered and largely defeated Al Qaeda as its bureaucratic ally. We spread disproportionate terror and confusion in the public mind, arbitrarily linking the unrelated problems of terrorism and Iraq. The result, and perhaps the motive, is to justify a vast misallocation of shrinking public wealth to the military and to weaken the safeguards that protect American citizens from the heavy hand of government

This is simply idiotic. Yes, war with Iraq will temporarily yield a vast increase in defense spending. This will come almost entirely in the way of expending of resources. The military will have less after the war than it does now. Surely, had the clever fiends of the Administration wanted to use 9/11 to justify an increase in defense spending, they would have used it to procure expensive now weapons to gild the coffers of their evil cronies in the evil military-industrial complex? Instead, Rumsfeld and Co. have cut many of the weapons programs that were on the drawing board without ordering much in the way of new ones. The only significant non-mobilization resources I’m aware of are the increased budget for SDI (which I’m dubious of but which were underway pre-9/11 and were part of the debate in the 2000 campaign) and the conversion of the Army to Stryker brigades (and that was going to happen under a Gore Administration or absent 9/11, as Shinseki already had that on the drawing board).

We have a coalition still, a good one. The loyalty of many of our friends is impressive, a tribute to American moral capital built up over a century. But our closest allies are persuaded less that war is justified than that it would be perilous to allow the U.S. to drift into complete solipsism.

Of course, that’s the explanation. Tony Blair is risking his political career and bucking the instincts of his party, not to mention risking the blood of brave soldiers of the United Kingdom, not because he thinks it’s the right thing to do, but because he is trying to help the US solve it’s existential crisis.

Am I at all worried that this clash with France, et. al. will foreshadow a longstanding clash of interests? Yes. But I’m not sure what the alternative was. Bush went to the UN. Powell went to the UN. Clearly, they have postponed war with Iraq far longer than they’d have preferred. But if they genuinely believe Saddam is a threat to the security of the US, then they have to act regardless of the diplomatic fall-out.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, World Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.