The Foreign Service Journal, July-August 2013

34 JULY-AUGUST 2013 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL tradeoff between freedom and security are inherently worth hearing. And our unique experiential baseline gives us standing to challenge disgraces like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib as directly harmful to the safety of the American people. Some Advice for Future Dissenters No one should dismiss resignation as a tactic because of my own limited impact. Obviously, an unknown political counselor in Athens had no hope of steering America clear of the Iraq quagmire. The State Department, however, could have done so, given suffi- cient unity, the courage of its expertise, commitment to the oath we all swore, and leaders willing to sacrifice their careers to their country’s good. A very public resignation from the Foreign Service has two goals. First, on the internal level, it dramatizes for waver- ing colleagues the stakes for American national interests and can be a catalyst for the department-wide soul-searching that inspires known, credible leaders to take a stand. And on the public level, the vote of no confidence sent by resignations of career officials increases the political cost of foolish or crimi- nal policies, potentially deterring future abuses. I had the wrong personality to pursue these attainable goals with the necessary single-mindedness. In particular, I was too squeamish to taint with my own disloyalty— the one unforgivable bureaucratic sin—colleagues who shared my analysis but had hefty mortgage and tuition obligations. All the same, I offer the following advice to future dissenters. First, when the national interest calls for resignations, it is our duty to involve as large and credible a group of colleagues as possible. In this age of social media, that task is much easier than a decade ago. Dissent cannot be kept secret from our superiors, and should not be. Indeed, rumors of a looming bureaucratic uprising might cow our political masters when the reality of one would not. Second, my resignation letter was a communications success because I struck the right emotional tone. I was not, however, as clear, explicit and quotable as I should have been on why the Iraq War would be so costly to Americans. So don’t take your main point for granted. Write, wait, reread; solicit input from loyal friends; and continue refining your mes- sage until it cannot possibly be misunderstood. Third, the impact of a resig- nation depends on perceived standing and sacrifice. An excellent reason to work hard and well in difficult assign- ments over decades is to build a résumé that validates your expertise and your sacrifice. My analysis of the folly of the impending invasion of Iraq was sound, but my standing was marginal (so my admirers routinely promoted me to ambassador). Ann Wright’s dissent, because her curriculum vitae included both a Foreign Service tour in Kabul and the rank of colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, My only regret is that I did not have the forethought and ruthlessness tomake my resignation a more effective policy tool. The post-resignation book tour: Brady Kiesling signs Diplomacy Lessons at Olsen’s in Alexandria, Va. Regina Tassitano