It has been more than a year since I have posted. (Trust me, it is not that I have had nothing to say.) And in that time, you have no doubt heard about the mass exodus from the State Department.
It is true that a lot of senior people have left. You can tell it by the lines (or lack thereof) in the cafeteria. You can tell it by the empty spaces in the parking garage, especially the ones marked with green that are reserved for the highest ranking people in the Department. We are missing a lot of very senior people. I sometimes joke that it feels like all the grownups are leaving.
A fair number of more junior folks have left as well. Many are now on Facebook insisting you have to leave or be complicit with the current administration.
But I don't believe that. And so I am still here.
And there are a lot of here who feel that way. The importance of our work hasn't changed even if it feels less appreciated. Or at least less appreciated by some. Oddly, Congress, on both sides of the aisle, has been showing us MORE appreciation lately even as we stare down another potential shutdown. (I won't even get started on that one right now.)
A lot of us are still here doing the work we feel that matters. Upholding our oath to the Constitution because THAT matters. A LOT.
There is a good piece in Foreign Policy today about those who are leaving and the need for folks to stay. Suzanne Nossel writes:
"U.S. interests now and in the future depend on having a robust, experienced, and committed diplomatic corps. Embassies with experts on politics, economics, counterterrorism, human rights, arms control, drug trafficking, international development, and an array of other topics — coupled with counterparts back in Washington — give the United States unmatched capacity to mobilize support, move international opinion, and respond to crises. In an era when cyberattacks, pandemics, natural disasters, and other threats can originate anywhere and spread overnight, the breadth of this network is invaluable. To let this arm of American influence atrophy would be a grave self-inflicted wound."
I won't be a party to that wound.
So I am staying.
She goes on in the article to call on those who are concerned with foreign affairs to help make sure those of who stay aren't forced out or punished for staying.
"Diplomacy is a job you cannot learn outside of government. While there are people with related expertise in think tanks, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector, anyone who has entered government from the outside will affirm that one’s effectiveness is enormously dependent on the career officials who show you how to get things done. While a hollowing out of the diplomatic corps may feel like a well-deserved thumb in the eye for Trump, those concerned with U.S. foreign policy need to take the long view, doing everything possible to ensure that career officials hang in there and are still around when it’s time to help U.S. diplomacy rise anew."
I hope they do. Because I still believe in diplomacy. I still believe the State Department is worth fighting for. We don't need a damn military parade. We need dedicated diplomats doing everything they can to keep us out of wars in the first place. Use that money to fund diplomacy, or at least to take care of the wounded warriors we have already created.
And so I hope if you were thinking of joining the Foreign Service, you still do, even if the numbers are smaller and so getting in is harder. And if you are here, I hope you stay. You won't be alone.
I will still be here.