An amoral foreign policy

Marie Yovanovitch

A responsible voice from the US foreign affairs establishment now tells: US foreign policy is amoral. Ms. Marie Yovanovitch, former US ambassador to Ukraine, has made the observation.

She was speaking on February 12, 2020 at Georgetown University on receiving an award of excellence in diplomacy from the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy. The 33-year diplomatic veteran has worked under every US president since Reagan.

The former ambassador said:

“Right now, the State Department is in trouble. Senior leaders lack policy vision, moral clarity and leadership skills. The policy process has been replaced by the decisions emanating from the top with little discussion.”

“We need to be principled, consistent and trustworthy. To be blunt, an amoral, keep-‘em-guessing foreign policy that substitutes threats, fear and confusion for trust, cannot work over the long haul. At some point, the once unthinkable will become the soon inevitable, that our allies, who have as much right to act in their own self interest as we do, will seek out more reliable partners. [….]”

She said: “Truth matters.”

Other than the possibility of alienating allies, Ms. Yovanovitch discussed some other issues that included vacancies going unfilled, officers “increasingly wondering whether it is safe to express concerns about policy even behind closed doors”, “a competitive and complex time”.

It’s not an Empire-critic’s observation. It, thus, can’t be brushed out easily by the mainstream.

It’s, actually, not only a current-situation-assessment; and, not only a single leader-centric observation. To see foreign policy as limited to current situation and centering a single leader is erroneous. Because a single person doesn’t frame foreign policy overnight. Foreign policy comes out from an economy, the interests the economy tries to secure. It grows out of detailed exercises by an elaborate establishment.

The veteran diplomat’s observation exposes a chronic disease, which is a concern for the Empire, its allies and lackeys. The Empire can’t unburden its deeds. The allies have options to realign. But, for the lackeys? It’s a hopeless situation.

The issue – amoral foreign policy – needs no elaboration or referring to examples spanning decades and countries: Threat, coercion, conspiracy, espionage, assassination, coup, interference, civil disturbance, aggression. These are much documented and cited. An imperialist economy at its mature phase in an increasingly competitive world has to tread these back streets.

A few points Ms. Yovanovitch mentioned are special: lack of vision and skill, decisions emanating with little discussion, unsafe feeling. The special questions are: When and why do these happen? What’s its source? Is it due to a person or a system?

Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka.




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