[NY Times] U.S. Diplomat's Letter of Resignation

Elias Sinderson FoRK <FoRK@xent.com>
Fri, 28 Feb 2003 10:36:24 -0800

  Something's very wrong when our diplomats are resigning because of an 
aversion to represent the current administration abroad...

Pinch me, I'm dreaming,

The New York Times
February 27, 2003
U.S. Diplomat's Letter of Resignation

The following is the text of John Brady Kiesling's letter of resignation 
to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. Mr. Kiesling is a career diplomat 
who has served in United States embassies from Tel Aviv to Casablanca to 

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I am writing you to submit my resignation from the Foreign Service of 
the United States and from my position as Political Counselor in U.S. 
Embassy Athens, effective March 7. I do so with a heavy heart. The 
baggage of my upbringing included a felt obligation to givesomething 
back to my country. Service as a U.S. diplomat was a dream job. I was 
paid to understand foreign languages and cultures, to seek out 
diplomats, politicians, scholars and journalists, and to persuade them 
that U.S. interests and theirs fundamentally coincided. My faith in my 
country and its values was the most powerful weapon in my diplomatic 

It is inevitable that during twenty years with the State Department I 
would become more sophisticated and cynical about the narrow and selfish 
bureaucratic motives that sometimes shaped our policies. Human nature is 
what it is, and I was rewarded and promoted for understanding human 
nature. But until this Administration it had been possible to believe 
that by upholding the policies of my president I was also upholding the 
interests of the American people and the world. I believe it no longer.

The policies we are now asked to advance are incompatible not only with 
American values but also with American interests. Our fervent pursuit of 
war with Iraq is driving us to squander the international legitimacy 
that has been America?s most potent weapon of both offense and defense 
since the days of Woodrow Wilson. We have begun to dismantle the largest 
and most effective web of international relationships the world has ever 
known. Our current course will bring instability and danger, not security.

The sacrifice of global interests to domestic politics and to 
bureaucratic self-interest is nothing new, and it is certainly not a 
uniquely American problem. Still, we have not seen such systematic 
distortion of intelligence, such systematic manipulation of American 
opinion, since the war in Vietnam. The September 11 tragedy left us 
stronger than before, rallying around us a vast international coalition 
to cooperate for the first time in a systematic way against the threat 
of terrorism. But rather than take credit for those successes and build 
on them, this Administration has chosen to make terrorism a domestic 
political tool, enlisting a scattered and largely defeated Al Qaeda as 
its bureaucratic ally. We spread disproportionate terror and confusion 
in the public mind, arbitrarily linking the unrelated problems of 
terrorism and Iraq. The result, and perhaps the motive, is to justify a 
vast misallocation of shrinking public wealth to the military and to 
weaken the safeguards that protect American citizens from the heavy hand 
of government. September 11 did not do as much damage to the fabric of 
American society as we seem determined to so to ourselves. Is the Russia 
of the late Romanovs really our model, a selfish, superstitious empire 
thrashing toward self-destruction in the name of a doomed status quo?

We should ask ourselves why we have failed to persuade more of the world 
that a war with Iraq is necessary. We have over the past two years done 
too much to assert to our world partners that narrow and mercenary U.S. 
interests override the cherished values of our partners. Even where our 
aims were not in question, our consistency is at issue. The model of 
Afghanistan is little comfort to allies wondering on what basis we plan 
to rebuild the Middle East, and in whose image and interests. Have we 
indeed become blind, as Russia is blind in Chechnya, as Israel is blind 
in the Occupied Territories, to our own advice, that overwhelming 
military power is not the answer to terrorism? After the shambles of 
post-war Iraq joins the shambles in Grozny and Ramallah, it will be a 
brave foreigner who forms ranks with Micronesia to follow where we lead.

We have a coalition still, a good one. The loyalty of many of our 
friends is impressive, a tribute to American moral capital built up over 
a century. But our closest allies are persuaded less that war is 
justified than that it would be perilous to allow the U.S. to drift into 
complete solipsism. Loyalty should be reciprocal. Why does our President 
condone the swaggering and contemptuous approach to our friends and 
allies this Administration is fostering, including among its most senior 
officials. Has 'oderint dum metuant' really become our motto?

I urge you to listen to America?s friends around the world. Even here in 
Greece, purported hotbed of European anti-Americanism, we have more and 
closer friends than the American newspaper reader can possibly imagine. 
Even when they complain about American arrogance, Greeks know that the 
world is a difficult and dangerous place, and they want a strong 
international system, with the U.S. and EU in close partnership. When 
our friends are afraid of us rather than for us, it is time to worry. 
And now they are afraid. Who will tell them convincingly that the United 
States is as it was, a beacon of liberty, security, and justice for the 

Mr. Secretary, I have enormous respect for your character and ability. 
You have preserved more international credibility for us than our policy 
deserves, and salvaged something positive from the excesses of an 
ideological and self-serving Administration. But your loyalty to the 
President goes too far. We are straining beyond its limits an 
international system we built with such toil and treasure, a web of 
laws, treaties, organizations, and shared values that sets limits on our 
foes far more effectively than it ever constrained America?s ability to 
defend its interests.

I am resigning because I have tried and failed to reconcile my 
conscience with my ability to represent the current U.S. Administration. 
I have confidence that our democratic process is ultimately 
self-correcting, and hope that in a small way I can contribute from 
outside to shaping policies that better serve the security and 
prosperity of the American people and the world we share.

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