Another U.S. Diplomat Resigns in Protest Over Trump By James Bruno
A second U.S. diplomat has resigned in protest over Trump's policies this month. Bethany Milton writes in a New York Times op-ed:
“ I...watched the administration lurch even further these past two years toward a worldview characterized by bigotry, fear and small-minded chauvinism. Eventually, you circle back to that second, shorter presentation: What of the administration’s policies is there left to defend to foreign audiences, other than a promise that we’re a democracy and that there are future elections to come?”
And she clearly wrestled with her decision for some time:
“I publicly supported this administration longer than some and for less time than others, and there are no easy answers to these questions. Every individual has his or her own commitments, own beliefs and own red lines; there is no inherent shame or honor in choosing to work for this administration or not, so long as it is a conscious choice. Some of the most noble work is being done by those who have chosen to stay in the State Department, advocating sensible policies or simply keeping the important bureaucracy of our lead foreign affairs agency running.”
Ms. Milton's bold move to end her career midway rather than serve a malevolent president and carry out his miscreant policies comes just over two weeks after her colleague Chuck Park turned in his resignation papers for the same reasons, as he also explained in a NYT front page op-ed.
What these individuals did is no mean act. They quit midway in their careers. To get where they did, they had to pass high thresholds, including one of the most competitive entrance procedures in the U.S. government.
Traditionally, out of some 20,000 takers of the rigorous Foreign Service Officer Test, some 100 to 400 are hired (since Trump, the number of applicants has plummeted by two-thirds). They also served their country in challenging places and situations.
In other words, Ms. Milton and Mr. Park invested their heart and soul with the aim of serving for two-to-three, or more, decades. They sacrificed a well-earned pension and benefits once having completed their careers. Instead, they pulled the plug over principle and now throw themselves on the tender mercies of the job market to start all over again.
And the nation loses as well. The State Department invested many thousands of taxpayers' dollars in training these diplomats in foreign languages and job-related skills. Moreover, when they leave the department's diplomatic entrance for the last time, they are taking with them years of hard-earned and specialized experience which benefits our country.
Both articulately explain what finally pushed them over the line. In the case of Ms. Milton:
“When President Trump’s supporters chanted, ‘Send her back!,’ I took that as a charge for me as well. I asked the Trump administration to send me back from my overseas posting, shipping home the family, foreign language textbooks and various tchotchkes from “shithole countries” that I’ve collected in my years as a United States diplomat. I am joining a growing list of Foreign Service officers who refuse to serve this administration any longer.”
And as with Mr. Park, Ms. Milton hints of unrest in the Foreign Service ranks:
“No one knows exactly how many employees have left the State Department because of this administration’s policies and mismanagement; for every high-profile or well-publicized resignation, there are other officers who quietly decided it was time to retire, go back to school or find a new line of work. A private Facebook group for Foreign Service officers contemplating a career change has moved in the past year from a place for hushed and agonized conversations to a bustling job board with new members joining daily.”
“No one seems to be paying much attention to the growing exodus of entry-level and mid-level officers, who take with us ground-level expertise that is difficult to replace.”
I've commented in recent weeks on the dilemma American diplomats face of serving this president or their consciences. We've had diplomats resign in previous years over a number of controversial U.S. policies, ranging from the Vietnam War to our Cuba policy to the conflict in Iraq.
But, I've noted, we are now in an extreme period, a first for this country: a president who is malevolent and dangerous, if not also insane, whose policies are degrading our national security as well as our image in the world. I described the under-told story of German diplomats who detested Hitler and sacrificed their lives opposing him, acting on their sense of moral conscience.
Ms. Milton, however, isn't leaving quietly. She has a plan:
“Today I have a new challenge: putting my time and energy into helping elect new leadership that serves the true interests of all Americans, regardless of where they were born.”
Sounds like a good one.
James Bruno (@JamesLBruno) served as a diplomat with the U.S. State Department for 23 years and is currently a member of the Diplomatic Readiness Reserve. An author and journalist, Bruno has been featured on CNN, NBC’s Today Show, Fox News, Sirius XM Radio, The Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Huffington Post, and other national and international media.