The Foreign Service Journal, March 2024

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MARCH 2024 57 AFSA NEWS AFSA NEWS THE OFFICIAL RECORD OF THE AMERICAN FOREIGN SERVICE ASSOCIATION CALENDAR Please check for the most up-to-date information. March 5 12 p.m. Webinar: Focus on Retirement Portfolios March 20 12-1:30 p.m. AFSA Governing Board meeting March 21 1 p.m. Retiree Webinar: The View from Washington April 17 12-1:30 p.m. AFSA Governing Board meeting May 2 AFSA Foreign Service Day Open House May 3 Foreign Service Day May 23 AFSA Centennial Gala May 24 Centennial of the Rogers Act of 1924 Sara Berndt AFSA Webinar Constructive Dissent Today On Dec. 7, 2023, AFSA hosted a webinar on the history and importance of internal dissent in the Foreign Service. AFSA President Tom Yazdgerdi moderated this lively panel discussion. Panelists were FSO Holly Holzer, former deputy director of the policy planning staff (S/P), where she oversaw the Dissent Channel; Sara Berndt, Ph.D., a historian at the State Department Office of the Historian; and former AFSA President Ambassador Eric Rubin. Berndt and Holzer wrote the cover story for the December 2023 edition of The Foreign Service Journal, “The State Department Dissent Channel: History and Impact.” Amb. Rubin received the William R. Rivkin Dissent Award in 1994 as one of a group of FSOs advocating for alternative policy positions in the Bosnia conflict. More than 150 AFSA members listened in as the group discussed the history of dissent and the evolution of the department’s Dissent Channel against the backdrop of the current IsraelHamas conflict and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The channel was created during the tumultuous years of the Vietnam War, when many Foreign Service members joined ordinary citizens in opposition to the war. Today, the Dissent Channel offers Foreign Service and Civil Service members of the State Department and USAID a way to register their dissent internally, without fear of retribution. Since its establishment in 1971, more than 400 messages have been sent through the Dissent Channel. Holzer called the channel “emblematic of the culture of dissent that we want to nurture and encourage here at the department,” while Berndt discussed common misconceptions and four specific dissents in history that she found interesting. Amb. Rubin talked about “constructive dissent,” explaining “it’s not enough to just say ‘I think the policy is wrong.’ Constructive means you have some ideas to suggest.” “Anybody can dissent on anything,” said Rubin, “but it’s powerful if you really know your stuff.” The speakers all agreed that intentionally leaking these internal messages can be deeply damaging. Members can listen to the discussion at https://afsa. org/videos. n Holly Holzer Amb. Eric Rubin Tom Yazdgerdi