Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is purging his department of high-level diplomats. Unsurprisingly in the Trump era, many of those pushed out are minority voices.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson seems to have a zealous desire to shrink the size of the State Department. Typical of the Trump administration, this means firing or pushing out talented and experienced women, Latinos, and African-Americans.
Before even taking the helm, Tillerson was determined to slash the State Department’s budget by almost one third. And once confirmed, Tillerson set about “reorganizing” the department, although “many in the department have always seen the reorganization as a smoke screen for drastic cuts,” according to a report from The New York Times.
In typical Trump style, women and minorities faced disproportional adverse impacts of Trump administration decisions (emphasis added):
[Tillerson’s] small cadre of aides have fired some diplomats and gotten others to resign by refusing them the assignments they wanted or taking away their duties altogether. Among those fired or sidelined were most of the top African-American and Latino diplomats, as well as many women, difficult losses in a department that has long struggled with diversity.
Experts have been aware of Tillerson’s plot to destroy State Department from the inside for months. According to an August 2017 article in the Los Angeles Times, “Current and former State Department officials say it appears that one goal in the current reorganization is to reduce staff by attrition, what one critic called ‘death by a thousand cuts.'”
We now know that those cuts are disproportionately felt by women, Latinos, and African-Americans.
The vacancies are not only appalling because of who they hurt, but because of the impact they have on the mission and security of the United States.
“All the expertise has frittered away,” said Ira N. Forman, who served as the U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism under President Obama.
Even diplomats who served under other Republican administrations, are speaking on the record.
“The United States is at the center of every crisis around the world, and you simply cannot be effective if you don’t have assistant secretaries and ambassadors in place,” said R. Nicholas Burns, a retired career diplomat who was an under secretary of state for President George W. Bush.
“It shows a disdain for diplomacy,” he added.
The harshest critique comes from recently retired ambassador to Qatar, Dana Shell Smith. While she was initially excited about the prospect of Tillerson leading the department, his leadership, or lack thereof, has changed her mind.
“These people either do not believe the U.S. should be a world leader, or they’re utterly incompetent,” Smith said. “Either way, having so many vacancies in essential places is a disaster waiting to happen.”
Unfortunately, their backwards-looking attitudes have real-world consequences both at home and abroad.
Gutting key diplomatic positions, and especially targeting women and minorities, makes American less safe and less secure, and shows a total disregard for the value of voices and experience from anyone who isn’t a white man.
In other words, par for the course for the Trump era.