The Foreign Service Journal, April 2024

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | APRIL 2024 15 Constructive Dissent Today BY DESAIX MYERS RESPONSE TO DECEMBER 2023 COVER STORY, “THE STATE DEPARTMENT DISSENT CHANNEL: HISTORY AND IMPACT” Many thanks for your December FSJ celebrating the importance of constructive dissent. e article by Sara Berndt and Holly Holzer, “ e State Department Dissent Channel: History and Impact,” and Holzer’s sidebar “Doing Dissent at State” illustrated the importance of dissent to good decision-making and appropriate ways to dissent and encourage debate. It could hardly have been more timely. It appeared just as increasing numbers of students, citizen groups, and public servants were raising questions about the administration’s policy in the Middle East. My copy of the Journal arrived just before a Jan. 12 Al-Monitor article reported U.S. government workers were planning to stay home to protest the U.S. policy in Gaza. A spokesperson for a group calling itself “Feds United for Peace” claimed employees from 22 agencies had committed to join the action. It’s unclear whether the plan was real. e spokesperson was unnamed, the employees anonymous. Jan. 16, the day of the proposed walkout, turned out to be the day of Washington’s rst snow in two years. e government shut Deeply Disillusioning The March FSJ piece on State education and training is deeply disillusioning. at starts with the policy’s 16 Core Curriculum courses. With minor tweaks these could be the common curriculum for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. With the exception of “International Negotiation Arts and Skills,” nothing in the curriculum seems to speak to what an outsider would correctly think is the central mission of the Department of State, foreign policy. It apparently can’t be found in the “Succeeding at State: Core Skills” course, described as teaching “strategic empathy” and “understanding the pressures your colleagues … experience.” BY JAMES JEFFREY e article cites as inspiration for the new policy the Belfer Center’s “A U.S. Diplomatic Service for the 21st Century.” Yet that report’s rst recommendation was to restore State’s centrality in “executing the nation’s foreign policy,” and to that end urges education “on mastery of substantive foreign policy issues, diplomatic expertise, and leadership.” So wouldn’t our core curriculum bene t from, say, a course in “Principles of Foreign Policy” or “Case Studies in Country Team Policy Planning”? If anything like that is in the new approach, why wasn’t it mentioned anywhere in the ve-page article? Learning policy work does involve much on-the-job training, but there is a place for formal training, and not just for political o cers, because everyone supports diplomacy in some way. e military gets this. It trains communications and logistics professionals along with infantry o cers in not just war ghting, the core competency, but in foreign policy, in multiple yearlong programs augmented by university training. I’ve heard much griping at State about the Department of Defense encroaching on our authorities and activities. Perhaps it’s because the military takes training seriously, not only in their tradecraft, but in ours. James F. Je rey of Alexandria, Virginia, is a Career Ambassador who served as U.S. ambassador to Albania, Turkey, and Iraq.