The Foreign Service Journal, July-August 2013

36 JULY-AUGUST 2013 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL SOME THOUGHTS ONDISSENT All government employees should be free to speak their minds as openly as possible without endangering national security—a term regrettably all too often used as an excuse to shut them up. BY JOHN H . BROWN T hough dissent is sometimes thought of as un-American, it dates back to the very founding of our country. As President Dwight Eisenhower observed, “Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels—men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.” Indeed, throughout our history dissent has been seen as an expression of the best of the “American mind,” the term used by Jefferson regarding the Declaration of Independence. Still, not everybody agrees that challenging government policy is laudable. Richard Perle, a cheerleader for the war in Iraq, once warned: “We may be so eager to protect the right to dissent that we lose sight of the difference between dissent and subversion.” Because dissent is essentially a matter of individual choice and conscience, formulating detailed standards for its applica- tion within a hierarchical bureaucracy like the State Depart- ment is an inherently challenging task. Make Love, Not War Dissent tends to reflect unique personal experiences. In my own case, the influence of my father, John L. Brown, a diplo- mat and poet during the anti-establishment spirit of the 1960s, shaped my eventual decision to leave the Foreign Service in 2003. His career with the U.S. Information Agency (1950-1968) molded how I saw the Foreign Service: as a way to share ideas about America with the best and brightest in other countries and to learn more about their own language, culture and poli- tics. My father made it clear that his most important work took place outside the embassy’s walls, as he met people who were John H. Brown, a public diplomacy officer, joined the Foreign Service in 1981 and was promoted into the Senior Foreign Service in 1997. He served in London, Prague, Krakow, Kiev, Belgrade, Moscow and Washington, D.C., before resigning in protest of the Iraq War in 2003. In addition to publishing John Brown’s Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review, he teaches a graduate-level course at Georgetown Uni- versity, “Propaganda and U.S. Foreign Policy: A Historical Overview,” and is a consultant to the Open World Leadership Center Trust Fund program. FOCUS PROFESSIONAL ETHICS