On July 10, the WH announced the president’s intent to nominate career diplomat David Hale to be the next Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (State/P). The WH released the following brief bio:
Ambassador David Hale, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career-Minister, is the Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, a position he has held since 2015. He previously served as the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Lebanon from 2013 to 2015 and as the United States Ambassador to Jordan from 2005 to 2008. In Washington, D.C., he has served as the Special Envoy and Deputy Special Envoy for Middle East Peace from 2009 to 2013 and as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs from 2008 to 2009. From 2001 to 2003, Ambassador Hale was Director for Israel-Palestinian Affairs. He was Executive Assistant to the Secretary of State from 1997 and 1998. Mr. Hale received a B.S.F.S. from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and he is the recipient of numerous senior State Department awards, including the Distinguished Service Award and the Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Service.
The Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (State/P) position is currently encumbered by Ambassador Steve Mull in an acting capacity. An unconfirmed second-hand source informed us that Ambassador Mull is registered for the retirement course at the end of August and will be leaving at the end of the fiscal year – that is, on or about September 30, 2018. With the Hale announcement, Mull’s retirement appears inevitable, the second hand info is likely true than not. Ambassador Mull is the last remaining career ambassador in active service. His departure will signal the first time in recent memory where the Foreign Service has no career ambassador in active service.
As of this writing, Secretary Pompeo has not released a statement about this nomination. If confirmed, Ambassador Hale would succeed Ambassador Tom Shannon as “P”. He will also become the highest ranking career Foreign Service officer at the State Department. Here are his predecessors via history.state.gov:
But even before Trump’s belligerent foreign policy positions, America had been gradually losing its dominant role in world affairs.
A power shift among the nations of the world began at the end of the Cold War and has been accelerating this century.
It is not as simple as saying “America is in decline,” since America remains a powerful country. But American global power has been eroding for some time, as I argue in the Foreign Policy Association’s “Great Decisions 2018” volume. The power of other countries has grown, giving them both the ability and the desire to effect global affairs independently of U.S. desires.
I am a foreign policy scholar and practitioner who has studied U.S. foreign policy through many administrations. I believe this global trend spells the end of the “exceptional nation” Americans imagined they were since the nation was founded and the end of the American era of global domination that began 70 years ago. We are no longer the “indispensable” nation celebrated by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the end of the last century.
American diplomacy has been essential to multinational agreements on trade, climate, regional security and arms control. Americans could and did claim to be at the center of a “rules-based international order.”
Those days are gone.
Not only do China and Russia contest America’s global role, a growing number of other countries are asserting an independent and increasingly influential role in regional economic and security developments.
Neither American political party has come to grips with this sea change. Until they do, U.S. global actions are likely to be less effective, even counterproductive.
Who’s on top?
The power shifts are increasingly visible. In the Middle East, the U.S. hoped for decades to isolate Iran as a pariah and weaken the regime until it fell.
Today, that goal is unimaginable, though national security adviser John Bolton continues to imagine it.
Turkey, a rising regional power, acts increasingly independent of the preferences of the U.S., its NATO ally, playing its own hand in the regional power game.
The U.S. helped unleash these trends with the strategically fatal invasion of Iraq in 2003 – fatal, because it permanently removed a regional leader who balanced the power of Iran. The failure to create a stable Iraq stimulated regional religious and political conflicts and rendered ineffective subsequent U.S. efforts to influence current trends in the region, as the continually ineffective policies in Syria show.
The U.S. cannot slow Chinese economic growth nor contain its power. China is changing the rules, whether the U.S. likes it or not.
Elsewhere in Asia, Japan moves toward a renewed nationalism and has removed restrictions on its defense spending and the deployment of its military in the face of growing Chinese power.
North Korea behaves more and more like a regional power, winning a direct meeting with the U.S. president while making only a general commitment to denuclearize. The prospect of a unified Korea would bring into being another major regional power center in the Northern Pacific.
President Vladimir Putin asserts Russia’s interests and role in the world, like any other great power. Russia is consciously and actively rebalancing the power of the United States, with some success.
Military power, the American global trump card, is not as useful a tool as it once was.
While the U.S. continues to have the world’s only global military capability, able to deploy anywhere, it is no longer evident that this capability effectively sustains U.S. leadership. Clear military victories are few – the Gulf War in 1991 being an exception. The endless U.S. deployment in Afghanistan carries the whiff of Vietnam in its inability to resolve that country’s civil war.
Meanwhile, the militaries of other countries, acting independently of the U.S., are proving effective, as both Turkish and Iranian operations in Syria suggest.
Abroad at home
The transition to this new era is proving difficult for American policy-makers.
The Trump “America First” foreign policy is based on the view that the U.S. needs to defend its interests by acting alone, eschewing or withdrawing from multilateral arrangements for trade, economics, diplomacy or security.
Liberals and many Democrats criticize Trump for alienating traditional allies like Canada, France and Germany while befriending dictators. Policy-makers once critical of confrontational policies now condemn Trump for failing to confront Russia and China.
A different president in Washington, D.C., will not restore the “rules-based” international order. The underlying changes in global power relations have already undermined that order.
A neo-conservative foreign policy, featuring unilateral American military intervention, as favored by John Bolton, will only accelerate the global shift. Liberal internationalists like Hillary Clinton would fail as well, because the rest of the world rejects the assumption that the U.S. is “indispensable” and “exceptional.” Barack Obama appeared to recognize the changing reality, but continued to argue that only the U.S. could lead the international system.
America will need to learn new rules and play differently in the new balance-of-power world, where others have assets and policies the U.S. does not and cannot control.
On June 7, the community editor of Malnutrition Deeply’s Amruta Byatnal reported about the attempt of the United Staes Government to derail a nonbinding resolution on breastfeeding at the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva.
Last week, I wrote about the politics of policy-making at the World Health Assembly in Geneva. The United States attempted to derail a resolution on breastfeeding from being passed, thus favoring private sector interests over health: https://t.co/pVXjINdodN#breastfeeding#WHA71
What should have been a non-controversial discussion on breastfeeding turned rancorous at the recent World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva.Advocates at the event have accused the U.S. delegation of trying to stop a resolution on infant and young child feeding from being introduced. The U.S. representatives later pushed for diluted text that removes references to regulating aggressive marketing of breast milk substitutes.
The first draft was originally supported by Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, Cambodia and Nepal, and contained several references to the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, which outlines what levels of marketing are acceptable while seeking to protect the health of infants and young children.
This opposition made its way to the WHA, where the U.S. delegation allegedly threatened countries with trade retaliation if they introduced the resolution, according to civil society advocates. Ecuador, which had led the drafting of the resolution, actually pulled out from introducing it.
The United States also attempted to stall this passage, advocates say, by suggesting an alternative text that omitted any reference to the WHO code or any of the text relating to specific guidance around inappropriate marketing of infants foods.
Reports say that the U.S. delegation was led by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar who reportedly declined requests to provide on-the-record comments to news deeply. Remember this is the same guy who told Congress that he could find separated kids with basic keystrokes.
“There is no reason why any parent would not know where their child is located,” said Azar during a Senate hearing Tuesday. “I sat on the ORR portal, with just basic key strokes and within seconds could find any child in our care for any parent available.”
Juliette, I'm young enough to remember when HHS Secretary Alex Azar testified that he could find the children "within seconds." https://t.co/iM2nhIsZAu
On July 8, NYT also reported the threats against Ecuador:
The Americans were blunt: If Ecuador refused to drop the resolution, Washington would unleash punishing trade measures and withdraw crucial military aid. The Ecuadorean government quickly acquiesced.
In the end, the Americans’ efforts were mostly unsuccessful. It was the Russians who ultimately stepped in to introduce the measure — and the Americans did not threaten them.
An anonymous HHS spox (not a blogger) provided a statement to the NYT:
“The resolution as originally drafted placed unnecessary hurdles for mothers seeking to provide nutrition to their children,” an H.H.S. spokesman said in an email. “We recognize not all women are able to breast-feed for a variety of reasons. These women should have the choice and access to alternatives for the health of their babies, and not be stigmatized for the ways in which they are able to do so.” The spokesman asked to remain anonymous in order to speak more freely.
So, it looks like there’s a growing list of cabinet secretaries and others who go on national TV, or speak from the podium to eternal, historical embarrassment … pray tell, who taped them to those lying microphones?
The IRS has now posted a notice on its website indicating that it has began sending certifications of unpaid tax debt to the State Department in February 2018. Americans with seriously delinquent tax debt (totaling more than $51,000 (including interest and penalties) , per IRC § 7345 will be certified as such to the State Department for action. The State Department reportedly will not issue passports to to individuals after receipt of certification from the IRS.
Back in December 2015, we first reported in this blog about the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act,” or “FAST Act” which includes Section 7345 that provides for the revocation or denial of U.S. passports to applicants with certain tax delinquencies considered ‘seriously delinquent tax debt’ –that is, a tax liability that has been assessed, which is greater than $50,000 and a notice of lien has been filed. That law was passed and the IRS was supposed to start certifying in early 2017 but that did not happen.
According to the recent IRS notice, upon receiving certification, the State Department shall deny the tax delinquent individual’s passport application and/or may revoke his/her current passport. If the passport application is denied or the passport is revoked while said individual is overseas, the State Department may issue a limited validity passport but only for direct return to the United States. Read more here via IRS.gov
Note that the guidance also says that the State Department is held harmless in these matters and cannot be sued for any erroneous notification or failed decertification under IRC § 7345. Affected individuals can file suit in the U.S. Tax Court or a U.S. District Court to have the court determine whether the certification is erroneous or the IRS failed to reverse the certification when it was required to do so. “If the court determines the certification is erroneous or should be reversed, it can order the IRS to notify the State Department that the certification was in error.”
The State Department’s statement on this issue is available here with IRS contact details.