Sunday May 27, 2018
America's Loss of Prestige in the Trump Era
Jon Lee Anderson has a piece in The New Yorker on John Feeley, the former ambassador to Panama, who quit his post earlier this year because of the moral failings of the Trump administration. It's about that, the diplomatic corps in general, and America's loss of prestige in the Trump era. Some excerpts:
- When Tillerson was fired, this March, eight of the ten most senior positions at State were unfilled, leaving no one in charge of arms control, human rights, trade policy, or the environment. For diplomats in the field, the consequences were clearly evident. In 2017, Dave Harden, a longtime Foreign Service officer, was assigned to provide relief to victims of the war in Yemen, one of the world's worst humanitarian disasters. The entire diplomatic staff for the country was barely a dozen people. “We worked out of a three-bedroom house,” he said. “It felt like a startup.” There was no support from State, and no policy direction, he said: “The whole system was completely broken.” Harden resigned last month.
- Privately, [former U.S. ambassador to Mexico Roberta] Jacobson was more forthcoming. “The level of coöperation we‘ve gotten is something you don’t just build overnight,” she told me. “We are still the preferred commercial and economic partner, but we have to be trustworthy. The mere fact that in some sectors, especially in agriculture, Mexican buyers are beginning to look elsewhere should be a warning to us that we may be starting to lose a clear advantage. This could prove true in security or migration as well.”
- Jorge Guajardo, the former Mexican Ambassador, told me that the loss of prestige was already evident. “In Latin America, the relationship with the U.S. has gone from aspirational to transactional,” he said. “In countries like Mexico, we used to say, when there was a case of corruption, ‘If this happened in the U.S.A. . . .’ But we don’t say that anymore. There used to be a kind of deference to the U.S. Not anymore. If something doesn’t benefit Mexico, we’ll walk away.” In the past, he said, Latin-American countries looking for business partners might select a U.S. company over one from another country, because America represented higher ethical standards. Since Trump’s election, he said, things had changed. “There’s this idea that the States is just like the rest of us. That’s the saddest thing to me.”