Hire all the hacks

Meanwhile, in the entirely unimportant world of foreign policy

Lana Marks is a successful fashion designer and member of U.S. President Donald Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. Though she has no prior diplomatic experience, Marks is also Trump’s ambassador to South Africa, and last month she forced out her second in command, the veteran career foreign service officer David Young. According to multiple current and former officials familiar with the matter, the issue arose following Marks’s attempts to elevate her son to a senior role in the embassy, an apparent violation of State Department rules.

That’s great, isn’t it? Wholly unqualified rando kicks out experienced foreign service officer apparently because he didn’t applaud her corrupt effort to give her own kid a top job in the embassy.

To be fair the part about appointing random friends or donors to be ambassadors is not original to Trump. But does he do more of it? Of course.

The incident illustrated a growing trend in the Trump administration. Already, several of Trump’s political allies-turned-ambassadors—he has appointed a higher percentage than most previous presidents—have sacked their deputies amid a culture of mistrust between politically appointed and career State Department officials.

Marks has also faced other criticism within the State Department over how she manages the embassy in Pretoria. Apart from her attempts to give her son a job with elevated responsibilities at the embassy, other embassy staff have been pushed out, including officials who worked on foreign aid and health programs in a country that is a major recipient of U.S. funds to tackle HIV and AIDS, according to several State Department officials familiar with the matter.

Let me guess. Trump would prefer more people to die of AIDS? He doesn’t see why we should help other people’s health programs?

[Trump’s] politically appointed ambassadors are sacking their deputy chiefs of mission—an embassy’s second-in-command post held by foreign service officers—in unusually high numbers, officials say. 

Along with South Africa, Trump’s envoys in Canada, France, Iceland, Romania, and the United Kingdom have all removed their deputy chiefs of mission, some ambassadors doing so just shortly before or after arriving at their new posts.

I wonder if that’s out of an explicit, conscious intention to get rid of people who have expertise in foreign policy and replace them with ignorant hacks who are in it for the money.

“We are deeply concerned by the number of removals of deputy chiefs of mission overseas, which are happening at way above the normal pace,” said Eric Rubin, a senior foreign service officer currently serving as president of the American Foreign Service Association, the union that represents U.S. diplomats. “It’s generally very rare for a DCM to be removed by the ambassador. It does happen. Sometimes it happens for a good cause. But it’s rare. And it is now becoming an epidemic.” 

Which is not surprising in a Trump regime, in a way, because he is so grossly and obviously unqualified for the job he’s doing that he has to try to undermine the whole idea that qualification is necessary.

He must live in a world where nothing relates to anything. Stuff just happens. If you don’t need to know anything to do any job, then there must not be anything to know, and we’re all lost in a cartoon that has no end.

Both Democratic and Republican administrations have carried out the practice of tapping campaign donors for ambassador posts, which has sometimes—though not always—sowed mismanagement and morale issues at U.S. embassies abroad. (Indeed, several Obama administration donors-turned-ambassadors were quietly sacked over allegations of mismanagement.) The United States is one of the only countries in the world with a practice of giving ambassador posts to high-end political donors.

Not a distinction to be proud of.

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