In 1983, I went to a recruiting event at Brandeis sponsored by the State Department. The spokesman for the department had his standard spiel about what foreign service officers did, and why they were important. He explained that our foreign relations were really a series of balances, and that in the world at that time there was always going to come a time when the United States was going to want something, even just to talk, with just about every country in the world. He also emphasized that the role of the State Department was to be the honest face of American policy, sort of hinting that the governments had spies for the dirty stuff, but the State Department had to be above reproach. Which is why, of course, he was there speaking to such fine upstanding folk as my class at Brandeis.
I’m not sure when it happened, but our State Department is clearly not above approach any longer. I can barely recall a time when our State Department or Secretary has so widely been held in contempt around the world as it is today, in which our government is treated with distrust and disrespect, and I have to believe that it has much to do with the hubris of the last two American presidents and their belief that they have the right to commit war crimes to protect the American homeland.
We are starting to see that blowback–twice in one weekend. First, groups like the Pakistani Taliban are now killing foreign nationals from countries not traditionally friendly to American interests, and blaming those attacks on American abrogation of the rule of law. Second, not many countries seem willing to help Obama bring Edward Snowden back to the United States “to answer questions.” This is coming at a time when the Regime needs the cooperation of Russia, China and other states to cooperate on ongoing problems with Syria, Iran, North Korea and elsewhere. The message is clear–no one is going to cooperate with the Regime while the Regime has gone rogue, and the countries we need to help us aren’t going to help us until the Regime modulates its hubristic terrorism abroad. One of the things that we also need these countries for is assistance with legitimate anti terrorism intelligence, once the Regime stops declaring Snowden to be the new bin laden.
The Regime seems to be responding to international isolation by becoming more obstinate, by increasingly surrounding itself in the bunker with an echo chamber of sincophants. The cause is obvious-the Regime has destroyed the centuries old fire wall between State and the Pentagon, or maybe State and Homeland Security, and no one can look at Kerry, Rice or Powers and not see a Gestapo uniform. The problem shouldn’t be hard to fix. But first the Regime needs to admit the problem. And if it doesn’t, the United States will just keep finding itself more and more isolated, frustrated and vulnerable.