In nearly 300 embassies, missions and consulates around the world where State Department officials work to promote and defend America’s interests, diplomats complain about not just a dearth of resources but also a lack of guidance. “I’d request instructions on action items, saying I need a decision, and I’d hear absolutely nothing,” a recently returned ambassador said. Meanwhile, foreign leaders are increasingly emboldened in their attempts to drive a wedge between America’s diplomatic corps and the president. Earlier this year, according to Foreign Policy, Trump pushed out the United States ambassador
to Jordan at the request of the country’s king. And this month, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has cultivated a close relationship with Trump, declared the American ambassador to his country persona non grata
after a visa dispute. “We do not see him as the representative of the United States in Turkey,” Erdogan said.
A result, according to the nearly two dozen current and former State Department officials with whom I spoke, is that the department’s morale has never been lower. For that, almost all of them blame Tillerson. “When we’re put up for confirmation and swearing in, we thank the president and the secretary of state for having confidence in us, but I’m not sure I can honestly say that anymore,” the 25-year veteran of the Foreign Service confessed. “It’s not even about the president for me. It’s that I am deeply, deeply anguished about the secretary of state, and I have never felt like that.”
Even if Tillerson leaves, the fear among many in the State Department is that the hangover from his tenure will be long-lasting. The Foreign Service officer recalls a recent meeting of acting assistant secretaries, where the most pressing matters discussed were the backlog of Freedom of Information Act requests and the number of typographical errors in memos to the secretary’s office. “The world is going to hell in a handbasket,” the Foreign Service officer fumed, “and the greatest minds in our diplomatic service are talking about FOIA requests and [expletive] typos.”