Trump’s Foreign Policy and My Career
When Newt Gingrich and the Republicans took over the House, they made many changes in US foreign policy that affected me personally in an adverse way. Of course, Clinton and his Democratic administration had to accept these changes, but the main responsibility lay with the Republican Congress. First, the Republicans refused to continue to fund the joint science cooperation program that I oversaw as Science Counselor at Embassy Warsaw, the Maria Sklodowska-Curie Fund II. The US signed a five year agreement to fund the program jointly with the Poles, but refused to pay after three years. Second, on the day that I was scheduled to leave Warsaw for a new position at the American Embassy in Rome, the Republicans shut the government down in 1995. While I was saying good-byes around 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon with the car packed with all of our belongings, including two dogs. Embassy Rome called and said not to travel because of the government shutdown. Third, after I got to Rome, the US Congress refused to appropriate money to fund the US share of the US- North Korean agreement that limited North Korea’s nuclear program, the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO). Fourth, a US law barred issuing visas to children of employees of the Italian phone company. When a phone company executive complained to me about it, I couldn’t believe it, but I confirmed with the head of the consular section that it was true.
I probably would not have quit in protest, but I was old enough and had enough years of service to retire. So, I did.
I sympathize with the Foreign Service officers who are unhappy with the new Trump policies, but I think that you can disagree with policies and yet carry them out. So far, Trump’s edicts mainly affect consular officers who issue visas. Other edicts on trade and national security will affect economic and political officers. I don’t believe that any of Trump’s orders so far are so out of the mainstream that they risk asking diplomats to do anything unlawful. No one who is not a citizen or permanent resident has any “right” to enter the US, constitutional or otherwise. US immigration policy over the years has incorporated all kinds of discrimination. It may be questionable on human rights grounds, but it is not illegal. In fact, the US has probably engaged in more illegal conduct by not enforcing immigration laws on the books over the years, resulting in millions of “illegal” residents of the US. Illegality has been the US policy towards immigration for decades.
While I retired rather than enforce policies that I did not agree with, I don’t blame officers for whatever decision they make: to enforce policy they do not agree with, as long as they are not illegal, or to resign or retire rather than enforce them. If they don’t leave the service, I don’t think they would criticize the policies publicly, although internal criticism is acceptable. It is really a part of the normal policy-making process. Almost every policy is the result of discussion among people who did not completely agree. In my experience more decisions than most people would expect go to the President for decision, because the various agencies under him cannot agree on a course of action.