A striking pattern has emerged in recent years, with prominent U.S. diplomats exiting public service -- after serving under presidents from both parties -- while going out of their way to issue public warnings about Donald Trump and his administration's antics.
For example, Chuck Park, a veteran U.S. Foreign Service official, wrote an August 2019 op-ed announcing his resignation, explaining why he could not in good conscience be "complicit in the actions of this administration." A year earlier, Roberta Jacobson, who'd stepped down as the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, wrote a similar piece.
Around the same time, James Melville, another U.S. diplomat with more than three decades of experience, resigned as U.S. ambassador to Estonia, and explained in an op-ed that Trump's "America First" vision is "a sham." In March 2018, John Feeley stepped down as the U.S. ambassador to Panama, and soon after wrote an op-ed in which he accused the current president of pursuing policies that have "warped and betrayed" the "traditional core values of the United States."
But as striking as each of those op-eds were, former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch's new piece for the Washington Post is arguably the most important to date, largely as a result of the way in which she was treated by the Republican administration. Yovanovitch was, after all, ousted unceremoniously as the direct result of a pernicious scheme, because of work in combating corruption.
It's against this backdrop that the former ambassador, who retired last week, wrote a largely unrestrained op-ed.
I had always thought that our institutions would forever protect us against individual transgressors. But it turns out that our institutions need us as much as we need them; they need the American people to protect them or they will be hollowed out over time, unable to serve and protect our country. [...]
[O]ur public servants need responsible and ethical political leadership. This administration, through acts of omission and commission, has undermined our democratic institutions, making the public question the truth and leaving public servants without the support and example of ethical behavior that they need to do their jobs and advance U.S. interests.
Yovanovitch, who served nearly 34 years at the State Department, added, "These are turbulent times, perhaps the most challenging that I have witnessed."
Her op-ed went on to issue a warning of sorts, explaining, "I have seen dictatorships around the world, where blind obedience is the norm and truth-tellers are threatened with punishment or death. We must not allow the United States to become a country where standing up to our government is a dangerous act."
I'm not sure what Marie Yovanovitch has planned for the next chapter in her career, but at 61, she has plenty of options, and in the event Donald Trump loses in November, his successor would be wise to offer the former ambassador a job.
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