This is a multi-national world. That is, there are currently 195 countries officially recognized by the United Nations, each with its own government, economy, domestic issues and international interests. In order to enjoy relative peace and the opportunities for prosperity, each country must engage in regular negotiations, debate, mediations, etc., also called diplomacy. The latter is the art and skill of engaging with neighboring countries and the world in discussions aimed at non-confrontation and achieving one’s national interests to the degree realizable within the circumstances of the time.

Each U.S.A. president is partially evaluated by whether American interests have been maintained, expanded or lessened during his tenure. Paraphrasing an important quote from former President John Kennedy, “domestic policy may frustrate, irritate and defeat us, but foreign policy (international relations) can kill us.”

Certainly, America has a well-worn and copious portfolio of diplomatic achievements viz-a-viz other countries that have maintained and expanded this country’s interests. These achievements are all part of what is meant by ‘American exceptionalism.’ Although experts still disagree on the overall grade to assign to former President Barack Obama’s diplomatic achievements in foreign policy (based on how much did he maintain or advance America’s interests, and how safe were we during his tenure?) it is certain that overall Mr. Obama’s efforts and those of his State Department under first Hillary Clinton, then John Kerry, were much more positive than negative.

In summary, during Mr. Obama’s presidency: (1) Both Osama bin Laden, and Aliyah al-Rahman, the number one and number two top leaders of the terrorist organization al-Qaida, were found by U.S. forces and killed. Bin Laden was considered the mastermind of 9/11 and was seen by most Americans as the top priority international killer who had to be caught. (2) He pulled more than 90,000 troops out of Iraq and officially ended that war, as he had promised. (3) He got a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) between the United States and the Russian Federation negotiated and signed, then approved by Congress. This reduced the number of strategic nuclear missile launchers allowable for each country by half and established a new inspection and verification protocol for nuclear non-proliferation. (4) Provided more than $1 billion dollars in humanitarian aid to Haiti in response to the 2010 massive earthquake in that country. (5) Negotiated and got multinational agreement on the Iran nuclear deal which halted Iran’s aggressive march towards obtaining a nuclear bomb which would have destabilized the Middle East. (6) He helped get the rest of the world to agree on the Climate Change Treaty in Paris. (7) He obtained agreement on the Trans Pacific Trade Partnership Treaty (although not ratified by the U.S. Senate) which greatly benefitted American food exporters. And there were several more outstanding successes of that same ilk to his administration’s credit.

In order to achieve such diplomatic substance, Mr. Obama had to have a viable, well-oiled State Department with a full team of veteran professional diplomats. The current administration of Donald Trump fired virtually all those State Department officials, who collectively represented more than 800-years of accumulated diplomatic knowledge, and has not yet replaced the vast majority of them. In fact, Mr. Trump instituted a still-standing hiring freeze for such employees.

At last count, of the six permanent undersecretaries of state usually in place, or at least nominated, to help run the State Department (for political affairs; economic, energy, and agricultural affairs; arms control and international security; civilian security, democracy, and human rights; management; and public diplomacy and public Affairs.), only two are currently aboard—political affairs and public diplomacy. In fact, of the top 130 staff posts in the State Department which require U.S. Senate confirmation, only 44 have even been nominated by the Trump administration, and only 23 confirmed as of this week. This compares to 95 nominated and 48 confirmed at this same point in Mr. Obama’s administration, and 100 and 77 in the George W. Bush administration.

Veteran state department staffers have put the word out that the Trump administration, with Secretary Rex Tillerson’s support, seems to be ‘hollowing out’ the diplomatic wing of the U.S. government. You cannot negotiate without skilled negotiators, and you cannot practice diplomacy without skilled diplomats, so this is indeed very troubling.

If there is a path outside of a mutual bombing campaign between North Korea and the U.S., which is very much on the front burner these days, where are those professional diplomats to try and get to such a path?

This administration may indeed get us all vaporized for lack of not only a coherent strategy to avoid it, but for lack of personnel to even develop and implement one.

Where, oh where, is our diplomatic common sense when it is needed?

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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