Career Ambassador Kristie Kenney Bids Farewell After 37 Years of Public Service

Posted: 3:19 am ET
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Ambassador Kristie Kenney announced her final day as a U.S. diplomat on April 28 via Twitter.  Ambassador Kenney is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. She was appointed as the 32nd Counselor of the Department of State in 2016 and she served in that role until she stepped down in February 2017.  She served as President George W. Bush’s Ambassador to Ecuador and the Philippines, and President Obama’s Ambassador to Thailand. She was the first female ambassador to both Thailand and the Philippines.  Her Washington, D.C assignments include service as the Executive Secretary of the Department of State, Director of the State Department Operations Center, and as a member of the National Security Council staff under President Clinton. She also served in Argentina, Switzerland and Jamaica.  She is a recipient of the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award and holds the nation’s highest diplomatic rank of Career Ambassador in the United States Foreign Service (she joined in 1980). She served as the Department of State Transition Coordinator for the 2016-17 Transition.

Looking through social media, it is notable to see that members of the foreign publics have expressed appreciation for the work of a U.S. public servant, while some members of the American public seem to have gone out of their ways to be unpleasant strangers to public servants who faithfully served this country.

We’ve covered Ambassador Kenney in this blog for quite a bit. A trip down memory lane to bid farewell.

 

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After 40 Years of Service to America, Ambassador Daniel Fried Delivers Parting Shot

Posted: 2:11 am  ET
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Ambassador Daniel Fried assumed his position as the State Department’s Coordinator for Sanctions Policy on January 28, 2013. Prior to that, he served as Special Envoy for Closure of the Guantanamo Detainee Facility starting on May 15, 2009, with the additional responsibility as the Secretary’s Special Advisor on Camp Ashraf (Iraq) from November, 2011. He also served from May 5, 2005 until May 15, 2009 as Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council from January, 2001 to May, 2005.  He was Principal Deputy Special Advisor to the Secretary of State for the New Independent States from May 2000 until January 2001. He was Ambassador to Poland from November 1997 until May 2000.

Daniel Fried joined the Foreign Service in 1977. He served in the Economic Bureau of the State Department, the U.S. Consulate General in then-Leningrad, the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade, the Office of Soviet Affairs, and as Polish Desk Officer at the State Department.  He later served as Political Counselor in the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw from 1990 to 1993.  In his service during the Administrations of the first President Bush, President Clinton, President George W. Bush, and the early months of the Obama Administration, Ambassador Fried was active in designing and implementing U.S. policy to advance freedom and security in Central and Eastern Europe, NATO enlargement, and the Russia-NATO relationship.  Last week, he retired from the Foreign Service after 40 years of service to this country.  He delivered the speech below at his retirement ceremony last Friday.  The text was shared by former Deputy Secretary Tony Blinken.

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Thank you, colleagues and friends.

And thank you to my daughters Hannah and Sophie for putting up with all that my job has required over many years. And I am so happy that my son-in-law Brian Hanley, a good guy, has joined our family.

To Olga, there is much to say, but now I will say only that I relied on your professional guidance for many years, and your analytic judgment helped me make some crucial calls early on. You know what you did, and for that, and much else, my thanks.

And to our 15-month old granddaughter Ava, in her terms, “Hi!”

My 40 years in the Foreign Service – and the careers of many of my friends – became associated with the fall of the Soviet Empire and the putting in order of what came after: the building of a Europe whole, free and at peace. It is hard to recall today how improbable victory in the Cold War appeared. For two generations, up through the mid-1980s, many thought we were losing the Cold War. Even in early 1989, few believed that Poland’s Solidarity movement could win, that the Iron Curtain would come down, that the Baltic states could be free, that the second of the 20th Century’s great evils – Communism – could be vanquished without war. But it happened, and the West’s great institutions – NATO and the EU – grew to embrace 100 million liberated Europeans. It was my honor to have done what I could to help. I learned never to underestimate the possibility of change, that values have power, and that time and patience can pay off, especially if you’re serious about your objectives. Nothing can be taken for granted, and this great achievement is now under assault by Russia, but what we did in my time is no less honorable. It is for the present generation to defend and, when the time comes again, extend freedom in Europe.

America put its back into this rebirth of freedom in the West, not because we sought to “impose” ourselves on unwilling nations, but because captive nations sought our aid, and we saw that our interests would advance along with our values. This was no new insight, but merely the expression in my time of what I will call America’s Grand Strategy.

From our emergence as a world power at the end of the 19th Century, the U.S. opposed spheres of influence and the closed European empires of the time. Instead, we favored an open world, ordered by rules, in which the values of our Republic and our business interests could simultaneously succeed. In our abundant self-confidence, we assumed that our Yankee ingenuity would prevail in a fair playing field and that our values would naturally follow. We would fashion the world in our own, democratic, image and get rich in the process: a vision breathtaking in its ambition. Yet our positive-sum world view, exceptional among the great powers, allowed room for others to prosper alongside the United States. In fact, the genius of the American system is that our success depended on the prosperity and security of other nations. We would lead in concert with the other great democracies of the world. George Kennan didn’t think much of what he termed America’s moralistic-legalistic tradition. But this foreign policy exceptionalism was the heart of our Grand Strategy through two World Wars, the Cold War and the post-1989 era, and it was crowned with success. Our mistakes, blunders, flaws, and shortcomings notwithstanding, the world America made after1945 and 1989 has enjoyed the longest period of general peace in the West since Roman times, and decades of prosperity.

This track record suggests that an open, rules-based world, with a united West at its core, is an asset and great achievement, and a foundation for more. Yet, some argue that this is actually a liability, that values are a luxury, that in a Hobbesian or Darwinian world we should simply take our share, the largest possible. Consider the consequences of such arguments. By abandoning our American Grand Strategy, we would diminish to being just another zero-sum great power. Spheres of influence – admired by those who don’t have to suffer the consequences — would mean our acquiescence when great powers – starting with Russia and China – dominated their neighbors through force and fear, while creating closed economic empires. Were we to recognize this, we would abandon our American sense of the potential for progress in the world; we would abandon our generations-old support for human rights, turning our backs on those who still turn to American in hope. And of course we would have to accept permanent commercial disadvantage. America would essentially retreat from whole areas of East Asia, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe. More retreat would follow as other emerging great powers carved out their own spheres, small and large.

Some so-called realists might accept such a world as making the best of a harsh world, but it is not realistic to expect that it would be peaceful or stable. Rather the reverse: a sphere of influence system would lead to cycles of rebellion and repression and, if the past 1000 years is any guide, lead to war between the great powers, because no power would be satisfied with its sphere. They never are. In 1940, Germany offered Britain a sphere of influence deal: German recognition of the British Empire in exchange for London’s recognition of Germany dominance of continental Europe. Churchill didn’t take the deal then; we should not take similar deals now.

America’s Grand Strategy did not come from nowhere: it followed from our deeper conception of ourselves and our American identity. Who are we Americans? What is our nation?

We are not an ethno-state, with identity rooted in shared blood. The option of a White Man’s Republic ended at Appomattox. On the contrary, we are “a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” We say this more often than we consider its significance. Our nation is based on an idea that, when embraced, makes us Americans. We fought a Civil War over whether that sentence – that all men are created equal – was meant literally.

Don’t take my word for it. Consider Abraham Lincoln’s speech given just after July 4, 1858. Lincoln observes that in celebrating the 4th of July, descendants of the generation of 1776 feel proud, as they should. But he goes on:

“We have besides these men—descended by blood from our ancestors – among us perhaps half our people who are not descendants at all of these men, they are men who have come from Europe…and settled here, finding themselves our equals in all things. If they look back through this history to trace their connection with those days by blood, they find they have none, they cannot carry themselves back into that glorious epoch and make themselves feel that they are part of us, but when they look through that old Declaration of Independence they find that those old men say that ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,’ and then they feel that that moral sentiment taught in that day evidences their relation to those men, that it is the father of all moral principle in them, and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration, and so they are.”

And so we are, all Americans. We opened our country to the stranger, from all lands on Earth, with the door to American identity the principle of that old Declaration, “All men are created equal.” We feel that sense of American identity to this very day. And that rough sense of equality and opportunity, embedded in us, informed the way that we brought our American power to the world, America’s Grand Strategy. We have, imperfectly, and despite detours and retreat along the way, sought to realize a better world for ourselves and for others, for we understood that our prosperity and our values at home depend on that prosperity and those values being secure as far as possible in a sometimes dark world. And we have done well.

My time in the Foreign Service is ending. I am grateful for the opportunity it has given me to witness history and, sometimes, to try to bend history’s arc.

For those of you remaining in government service, I say this: serve your nation and this Administration as you serve all Administrations: with loyalty, dedication and courage. Help Secretary TIllerson. He deserves it. And he needs it. And help the President as well, putting your backs in it.

And as you serve, you will, as I did, always remember your oath to the Constitution, and to that principle behind the Constitution: our nation is dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Have faith in our nation, in our Constitution and in that proposition. Have faith in yourselves, thus inspired, and in each other.

And therefore, as Lincoln said, “LET US HAVE FAITH THAT RIGHT MAKES MIGHT, AND IN THAT FAITH, LET US, TO THE END, DARE TO DO OUR DUTY AS WE UNDERSTAND IT.”

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Tom Countryman’s Farewell: A Diplomat’s Love Letter to America

Posted: 2:27  am ET
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Among the senior officials who were asked to leave the State Department this past week was career diplomat Tom Countryman. Below is the touching and inspiring farewell remarks he delivered (as prepared) at his retirement ceremony.


Thomas Countryman |

January 31, 2017

 

Thank You! When I entered the State Department, I never intended to rise high enough to merit a retirement ceremony.  And when it occurred to me that I had, I pictured instead an off-campus bacchanalia.  But now we’re here, and it is altogether fitting and proper, and I thank you.

Some of you have asked if recent events have left me disgruntled.  The answer is No; I am probably the most gruntled person in the room.

When Ambassador Robert Pelletreau retired 20 years ago, he said “The State Department doesn’t owe me anything.  It has given me everything”.  It is the same for me.  In my very first tour, the Department gave me more than I could ask for in a lifetime.  It sent me to Belgrade, where in 1984 I met my wife, Dubravka Trklja, the greatest thing ever to happen to me.  She reminds me often that she could have had a better husband, but I suspect she feels what I feel so strongly: that I could never have had a better friend.  And as a result, I have something else, the only thing for which you should envy me: Stefan and Andrew, the two best sons and the two most remarkable young men anyone could have.

The Department gave me and my family the opportunity to see the world, and not just as tourists.  It allowed me to see the reunification of families divided by the Iron Curtain, and to see Israelis and Palestinians negotiate face to face.  I saw – and contributed a little to – the restoration of democracy in Serbia.  And for the last few years, it’s given me the chance to speak for the United States about a priority shared by eleven successive Presidents: reducing the risk of a nuclear holocaust.

This career gave me a constant resurgence or energy in the form of bright young officers with brilliant careers ahead of them, people like Rafik Mansour, Patrick Connell, Daniela Helfet, Seth Maddox, Lizzie Martin and David Kim.  It allowed me to work for Ambassadors legendary in the Foreign Service (some of them here today), like David Anderson, Dick Miles, Barbara Bodine, Emil Skodon, Patrick Theros, Skip Gnehm, Frank Wisner, Bob Pelletreau, Marc Grossman and Charlie Ries.  From them I learned the four words central to diplomatic success: “High Road, Hard Ball”.  And it gave me the great honor to stand beside exemplary Secretaries of State like Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.

The Department gave me the chance to be part of, and to lead, amazing interagency teams at Embassies abroad, in the European Bureau and at the White House.  These were great organizations, but it was only when I spent a year and a half in the PM Bureau, and five years in the ISN Bureau, that I came to fully value the true strength of the Department, a Civil Service cadre every bit as talented as the Foreign Service.  It was perhaps my highest honor to learn from, to guide, and to take credit for the accomplishments of the deepest bench of experts in any agency.

The State Department owes me nothing.  But we still owe America a lot.  We still have a duty – you have a duty – to stay and give your best professional guidance, with loyalty, to the new Administration.  Because a foreign policy without professionals is – by definition – an amateur foreign policy.  You will help to frame and make the choices.  

Because that is WHAT we do.

Our work is little understood by our fellow Americans, a fact that is sometimes exploited for political purpose.  When I have the opportunity to speak to audiences across this amazing land, I explain “We do not have a Department of State – we do not have a foreign policy – because we love foreigners.  We do it because we love Americans”.

We want Americans to prosper, to sell the world’s best food and the world’s best products everywhere in the world.  We want Americans to be protected and safe when they are abroad, whether they are missionaries, tourists, students, businessmen or (for those you have done consular work) the occasional false Messiah.

We want Americans to sleep the sleep of the righteous, knowing that the smallest fraction of their tax dollar goes to ease poverty and reduce injustice.  We want them to know that our consular officers are the first of many lines of defense against those who would come to the US with evil purpose.  We want the families of America’s heroes – our servicemen – to know that their loved ones are not put into danger simply because of a failure to pursue non-military solutions.

And we want Americans to know that the torch borne by the Statue of Liberty is not just a magnet for immigrants, it is a projector, shining the promise of democracy around the world.  The United States is the world’s greatest economic power, the world’s greatest military power, and with your vigilance, it always will be.  But the greatest power we project is hope, the promise that people can establish liberty in their own country without leaving it.

I’ve seen it in the country second dearest to my heart: Serbia.  I saw democracy born in Serbia.  I saw it stolen.  I saw – and played a minor role in – its restoration.   And I know this: that if a generation stands up and insists upon defending the rights of the people, they will succeed.  And if the next generation stands up and resists every corrosive attack on democracy, they will triumph.

If we wall ourselves off from the world, we will extinguish Liberty’s projection, as surely as if, as the Gospel says, we hid our lamp under a bushel basket.  If we do not respect other nations and their citizens, we can not demand respect for our citizens.   If our public statements become indistinguishable from disinformation and propaganda, we will lose our credibility.  If we choose to play our cards that way, we will lose that game to the masters in Moscow.  If our interaction with other countries is only a business transaction, rather than a partnership with Allies and friends, we will lose that game too.  China practically invented transactional diplomacy, and if we choose to play their game, Beijing will run the table.

Business made America great, as it always has been, and business leaders are among our most important partners.  But let’s be clear, despite the similarities.  A dog is not a cat.  Baseball is not football.  And diplomacy is not a business.  Human rights are not a business.  And democracy is, most assuredly, not a business.

Each of us came to this work with our identities – more or less – fully formed, and have preserved our values – with greater or lesser success – against the professional deformation caused by any bureaucracy.  Just for myself, I came here with my identity framed: as a Christian, as an Eagle Scout, as a taxpayer.  These didn’t require me to go into the State Department, but they define my obligations as a citizen: to spend tax dollars wisely; to look out for the best interests of the US and its people; to share the best of America with the world; and to be not only optimistic, but also – to use a word so suddenly fallen from favor – altruistic.

I line up with Steven Pinker.  In his book, “The Better Angels of our Nature”, he describes the ‘escalator of reason’: “…an intensifying application of knowledge and rationality to human affairs”.

That is HOW we do it.

“…an intensifying application of knowledge and rationality to human affairs”.

That’s the very definition of the work I’ve been privileged to do, that I will pursue now in different clothes, and that I leave to you.

That’s the sermon, and in a moment I will let you go in peace.  First, I want to thank you for so many messages of support and appreciation.  One of you here compared the situation to the scene in Star Wars, when Obi-Wan Kenobi is struck down, and I found that touching.  Another compared it to the scene when Princess Leia strangles Jabba the Hutt, and I found that confusing.   

The most meaningful came from my son Stefan, a future Nobel laureate in physics, who wrote: “I am proud of your decades of service to this country and the world…You gave everything you could for the people of this world in a slow and painful line of work…You have given more than your share…The values you upheld in your career are part of what makes me who I am.”

And that is WHY we do it.

Even if you don’t have your own children, what you do in this building tomorrow can mean another generation will live in a habitable world, can enjoy peace and liberty. If we are firm in our principles, steadfast in our ideals, and tireless in our determination to uphold our oath – to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic” – then for many generations, another American will stand in this spot with the same satisfaction and hope I feel today.

I leave you with one last thought, from one of my favorite philosophers.  If you’ve never read him, or not for many years, I urge you to take the time now.   His name is: ….Winnie the Pooh.

And he said:

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Thank You and God Bless You!  

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Some clips:

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Photo of the Day: Foggy Bottom Bids Farewell to Wendy Sherman

Posted: 12:02 am EDT
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Via state.gov

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presents a Distinguished Service Award to Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman during a farewell ceremony in her honor at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on September 21, 2015. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presents a Distinguished Service Award to Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman during a farewell ceremony in her honor at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on September 21, 2015. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]