Career Diplomat Undone Doing Her Job?

What happens when the India/Pakistan tensions spill onto the professional life of Robin Raphel, a career diplomat with more than 30 years of work at State, including as Assistant Secretary of State? She faced an FBI counterintelligence investigation where materials alleging her role in revealing secrets were uncovered. The case was closed in March 2016 with no charges filed, a “misunderstanding“, but the damage was done.

Support  from Hussein Haqqani, former Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S. offers insight into the fallout:

“I hope a good American diplomat will now no longer suffer because someone who disliked her leaked the story of inquiries about her prematurely, making her look like a criminal before even filing of charges. …Good thing is, the D.O.J. did the right thing.”

Her extensive career (explored in WaPo), coupled with her candid style and willingness to defend the Pakistani point-of-view left her colleagues perplexed and concerned.  Known as  a smart, articulate and highly competent diplomat, more recently Raphel served as a senior advisor to Richard Holbrook on Af-Pak.

Dan Feldman, Raphel’s last boss at SRAP, says the case shows that other agencies need to better understand diplomacy: “I wish there had been better and more coordinated knowledge about the nature and importance of diplomatic channels, and what it entails for diplomats to be effective in pursuing critical national security priorities.”The case had a “chilling effect” on other diplomats, who feared they might be next, a half-dozen State Department officials told me. But Raphel’s colleagues stood behind her, even when the investigation was still active. Beth Jones, another former assistant secretary of state, organized a legal defense fund last summer. The fund raised nearly $90,000 from 96 colleagues and friends, many of whom, recalls Jones, voiced the fear: “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Source: When diplomats get punished for doing their jobs – The Washington Post


The Legacy of Neoconservativism, Leo Strauss and US foreign policy

How do myth making, policy, and the Univeristy of Chicago contribute to diplomacy and international affairs via the political philosopher Leo Strauss? We revisit the neoconservative legacy thanks to a new book by Robert Howse (Cambridge UP):

Since liberalism, with its ethical relativism and its glorification of public opinion, has permanently undermined the ancient truths of philosophy and religion, as Nietzsche realized, there is nothing standing between modernity and the abyss of nihilism. Thus, in order to cohere, modern societies require “noble lies” or political myths. At the very least, they demand a diabolical enemy capable of uniting citizens in a shared antipathy. As Strauss declared in The City and Man: “The good city is not possible without a fundamental falsehood; it cannot exist in the element of truth.” Also: “Untrue stories are needed not only for little children but also for the grown-up citizens of the good city [and] it is probably best if they are imbued with these stories from the earliest possible moment.”

via Leo Strauss, Peacenik? – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Strauss incorporate Machiavelli’s approach to human nature as well as “Thucydides’ ambivalence concerning the moral costs of unbridles imperial expansion” according to Richard Wolin, writing in the Chronicle Review. He also had something to say about Hugo Grotius and Immanuel Kant.

The Need to Care | Why the N.S.A. Matters

Germany is pulling back from its ally and Brazil threatens to creates its own internet.  What are you going conclude about the N.S.A. spying allegations?

Several U.S. senators suggest the following:

As members of the Intelligence Committee, we strongly disagree with this approach. We had already proposed our own, bipartisan surveillance reform legislation, the Intelligence Oversight and Surveillance Reform Act, which we have sponsored with a number of other senators. Our bill would prohibit the government from conducting warrantless “backdoor searches” of Americans’ communications — including emails, text messages and Internet use — under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. It would also create a “constitutional advocate” to present an opposing view when the F.I.S.C. is considering major questions of law or constitutional interpretation.

And this Op-Doc video makes the case.

Edward Snowden has ignited a debate, and for that I am grateful. But now that he’s done his part, it’s time for all Americans to decide how to respond to his revelations. That is to say, it is no longer his story. It is ours.

via ‘Why Care About the N.S.A.?’ –


Diplomacy on the Cheap?

Unlike James Bond, diplomats are on the ground in true conflict zones and dangerous places.  Increasingly, security for US diplomats has been maintained on the cheap. (Even military efforts appear to be lacking resources.)  Is this the real takeaway from Benghazi?

For conservatives, the Benghazi scandal is a Watergate-like presidential cover-up. For liberals, it a fabricated Republican witch-hunt. For me, Benghazi is a call to act on an enduring problem that both parties ignore.

One major overlooked cause of the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans is we have underfunded the State Department and other civilian agencies that play a vital role in our national security. Instead of building up cadres of skilled diplomatic security guards, we have bought them from the lowest bidder, trying to acquire capacity and expertise on the cheap. Benghazi showed how vulnerable that makes us.

Now, I’m not arguing that this use of contractors was the sole cause of the Benghazi tragedy, but I believe it was a primary one.

via Benghazi’s Lesson: Diplomacy Can’t Be Done on the Cheap – David Rohde – The Atlantic.

Political Repression 2.0 –

Let you think that technology has led the revolutions occurring around the Middle East, Evgeny Morozov, author of The Net Delusion explains the other side of the equation, namely Internet monitoring–and the companies that make it all happen.

Amid the cheerleading over recent events in the Middle East, it’s easy to forget the more repressive uses of technology. In addition to the rosy narrative celebrating how Facebook and Twitter have enabled freedom movements around the world, we need to confront a more sinister tale: how greedy companies, fostered by Western governments for domestic surveillance needs, have helped suppress them.

via Political Repression 2.0 –

And in the Atlantic, Rebecca Rosen writes about a piece in Technology Review that cuts deeper than the cliche about “Facebook/Twitter leading the revolution” to help us understand–in their second draft of history–how individuals and groups organized online to make the revolutions occur.

WikiLeaks Prompts New Diplomatic Uproar –

Assange returns with a new stash of docs.  Previous debates as to the value and ethics of Wikileaks tactics continue to be relevant, even as historians largely cheer (and diplomats shudder.)  In this case, however, the “named” may be in clear and present danger.

Because the newly disclosed cables reveal the names of more than 100 people in foreign countries whom diplomats had marked for special protection, the cables raised new fears over the safety of diplomats’ sources. Previous cable releases had often removed the names of vulnerable people

via WikiLeaks Prompts New Diplomatic Uproar –

Captured by Group Think – Room for Debate –

Ever wonder if there are “Jack Ryan’s” in the CIA who understand the problem but just need to be heard?  Who knows–that’s Clancy’s fictional imagination at work–but groupthink is a real phenonemon that can help explain why intel agencies miss out predicting the future.  This is also an astute career insight for future would-be diplomats, as well:

No American diplomat in Foggy Bottom’s Near East bureau can expect to rise through the ranks if he underscores the deleterious effect of the “peace process” on the Palestinian people. No analyst in — or foreign-service officer in the field — could have expected much applause if he’d unceasingly stressed the imminent democratic wave that was about to crest over the Arab world. Functionally, there is no difference in professional curiosity between a diplomat and an analyst at State: both must conform or risk oblivion.

The power of conformity is even greater elsewhere in the intelligence community, where the intellectual claustrophobia that comes with working in isolated, highly classified environments is more acute. (State is a realm of audacious libertines compared to the Central Intelligence Agency’s “campus” in suburban Virginia.) Intelligence bureaucracies ruthlessly extirpate intuition, the key ingredient that makes first-rate analysis. For wholly understandable reasons, bureaucracies can’t handle intuition: you can’t quantify it, you can’t really teach it and those who don’t have it — the vast majority of analysts — will rise in indignation against its use.

via Captured by Group Think – Room for Debate –