The Foreign Service Journal, March 2023

10 MARCH 2023 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL LETTERS Resigning in Protest Thanks for the excellent article about the ethics of dissent and FSO Stephen Walker’s difficult but honorable decision to resign in protest ( “When Is It Ethical to Resign in Protest?” by Steve Walker, December 2022). His action was espe- cially admirable because as an FS-3, he knew he would be giving up his diplomatic career with- out having accumulated the financial assets that in another decade would have ensured him and his family a decent pension. This article reminded me of the many hours I spent with members of my 1979 junior officer class discussing the morality of dissent and the integrity of: remain- ing silent; dissenting in-house; leaking; requesting a transfer to another part of the world; resigning quietly or making our departure public. I forgot about those discussions until I returned to Washington, D.C., after serving a tour (2004-2005) in northern Afghanistan with a British infantry unit at Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) Mazar-e-Sharif. Although I had many questions about America’s long-term goals in that war-torn country, it did appear during the year I was there that we were making incremental progress help- ing the women and girls of Afghanistan and attempting (although often failing) to root out corruption. Our faltering efforts at training the Afghan military and police, and our haphazard rebuilding of Afghanistan’s crumbling infrastructure to demonstrate “quick wins,” were another matter. As we now know, America’s longest war ended in the overnight collapse of everything we had done in that country over two decades. I’m happy that my interpreter, his family, and several other Afghans with whom I worked made it out of the country safely, but sad knowing that so many more of our Afghan colleagues are now trapped, with their lives in danger and no way out. Although I had been promoted to the Senior Foreign Service less than a year before I went to Afghanistan and received a Supe- rior Honor Award for my work there, I dreaded returning to the department. Nomatter what my next assignment might be, as a public diplomacy officer I would be expected to defend what I considered to be America’s unjustified invasion and overthrow of the Iraqi government. Unlike Mr. Walker’s, my pension would be more than adequate. I had 27 years of government service as a diplomat to which I could add two years in the Peace Corps and four years as a naval officer. I knew I would be giving up a job I loved, and many colleagues encouraged me to stay, but I couldn’t. Sending thousands of American soldiers into Iraq based on the lies that SaddamHussein (a Sunni) had weapons of mass destruction, posed a direct threat to the U.S., and was somehow complicit in the 9/11 attacks (carried out by 15 Saudis and four citizens of other Arab nations but not a single Iraqi) was a policy I could neither defend nor ignore. My continued diplomatic service would have no effect on this indefensible, disas- trous (and, inmy opinion, illegal) decision by the George W. Bush administration to launch a war that former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan wrote in his 2007 autobiography was “largely about oil.” Although I did not have the courage of State Department colleagues who have publicly resigned in protest, we all must weigh our choices, including the impact they may have on our families. I am at peace with my decision. Patricia McArdle Senior FSO, retired Oceanside, California The Decision to Resign Steve Walker’s very interesting article in the December 2022 Journal ( “When Is It Ethical to Resign in Protest?” ) struck a chord with me over the issue of resigning from the Foreign Service. I was serving, before a Dissent Channel existed, as an FS-6 political officer in Embassy Pakistan in 1968 when the issue of resuming arms aid to Pakistan came up for discussion and recommendation to the State Department. State opposed the resumption because Pakistan had used our arms in two wars with India. CIA supported resumption because it would reopen their access to their listening station in Peshawar. The military was in favor in order to have something to do, overseeing the program, besides the fact that it would bring in money. The ambassador, a political appointee, opted in favor of resumption. I felt he was enamored of epaulets and the mystique of intelligence activity. As a junior officer, I did not play much of a role in the decision-making except weighing in to support the political coun- selor in his opposition to a resumption. And I was so proud of himwhen on home leave he took his views to higher levels, and the ambassador’s recommenda- tion was denied, although later arms aid resumed. I don’t know if my ultimate decision to resign from the Foreign Service can be called ethical or unethical. But I knew that I could no longer serve and support