A scathing resignation letter from a talented U.S. diplomat to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson shows the extent of frustration and anger felt by many career diplomats at the State Department who are being marginalized and forced out by the Trump administration.
Elizabeth Shackelford’s letter, published Saturday by Foreign Policy, laments Trump and Tillerson’s recent pivot away from global diplomacy and their abandoning of human rights protections across the world.
While Tillerson has claimed efforts to downsize the agency aim to make it more efficient, the result, Shackelford notes, has been a troubling weakening of U.S. diplomatic capabilities.
Shackelford, 38, whose last post was in Nairobi with the U.S. mission to Somalia, wrote:
Over the past 10 months, our government has failed to demonstrate a commitment to promoting and defending human rights and democracy. President Trump’s dismissive attitude toward human rights was no surprise following his campaign, but your May 3 remarks to Department staff shocked many as you called into question the utility of advancing human rights when it proves inconvenient. As a foreign policy professional, I understand better than most that we must balance competing interests, but human rights and democracy are fundamental elements of a safer world for our people.
The letter adds that the U.S. diplomatic corps has sadly ceded influence to the Pentagon “at the behest of the White House but to our detriment as a nation.”
Top career leadership in the Department has been gutted, leaving few empowered to make hard foreign policy decisions. With dozens of vacant positions and so many officials in acting capacities it is little wonder we lack direction. The cost of this is visible every day in Mission Somalia, my current post, where State’s diplomatic influence, on the country and within our own interagency, is waning.
A senior official told Foreign Policy that Shackelford “was one of the most promising officers” in the Foreign Service. Other colleagues said her departure is reflective of a lack of confidence at the State Department and its related agencies in both Tillerson and Trump.
In closing, the letter urged Tillerson to fill long–term vacancies of important posts and reverse budget cuts. She added a kicker, too (emphasis mine):
I would urge you to stem the bleeding by showing leadership and a commitment to our people, our mission, and our mandate as the foreign policy arm of the United States. If you are unable to do so effectively within this Administration, I would humbly recommend you follow me out the door.
Shackelford’s last day on the job was Friday.