To The Daily Sun
"She (former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) even appointed to the National Security Board someone with no national security experience. Instead, he (securities trader Rajiv Fernando) was a donor, a recent donor to Hillary Clinton's campaign and also gave as much as $250,000 to his foundation," presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump said Friday. "They all looked, they said 'Where did this guy come from?' He made a contribution of $250,000 all of a sudden he's on this very important, vital board. This position dealt with tactical nuclear weapons and had top secret clearance and he knew nothing about it."
That's the quote — right from the horse's mouth, that of Mr. Donald J. Trump. I heard it with my own ears. Here are my conclusions, which are certainly subject to criticism as being determined on the basis of a "liberal" or "conservative" analysis. But I think, really, my thought process is pure and objective, and fact based, near as I can tell. Some will think not, but here goes. I hope it is helpful; I think it is correct.
The President of the United States is constitutionally responsible for the conduct of American foreign policy. The president relies upon the secretary of state and the diplomatic corps to assist in this regard, and represent the United States at postings around the world. Key among these positions are our ambassadors, many of whom are drawn from career diplomats — professionals who've made their career in the Department of State.
Ambassadors may also be so-called "political appointees," men and women who may or may not have any actual experience or training in foreign affairs, but who're rewarded with ambassadorships by the president based upon other considerations — not the least of which is political support, including financial contributions to the president's election campaign. This is true, regardless of political affiliation. The practice of appointing people as ambassadors of the United States based upon politics — and not practical experience and training — is as common as finding loaves of bread at the supermarket. It has been done this way since the founding of the nation.
It is highly likely — a certainty, in fact — that ambassadors will interact with other operatives from our national security apparatus, including most notably agents of the CIA, who're working closely with embassy diplomatic personnel for security and intelligence gathering purposes. As seen in Kabul in 1979, and Benghazi more recently, the job of an ambassador involves more than attending black-tie dinners and cultural affairs; Ambassadors Rudolph Dubs and Chris Stevens sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. More than ever, our diplomatic personnel — including politically appointed ambassadors with no foreign affairs, intelligence or national security training or experience, and who may have never even worked a single day in government — function in positions that are fraught with danger. Such is the risk ambassadors take, whether a skilled diplomat, or a private citizen who made a significant campaign contribution but is a neophyte in government service.
What's my first conclusion, one might ask. It is simply, that hundreds — if not thousands — of men and women with absolutely no training or experience in foreign affairs, national security or intelligence, have served as American diplomats in positions of far greater consequence than this gentleman, Rajiv Fernandez, was to undertake as a member of a State Department advisory committee — and, as nearly as I can tell, the practice of political appointment of unskilled, untested and largely unqualified people to serve our nation abroad has been ongoing without complaint for centuries, unless there is a political agenda to be served (as I believe is the case presently with Mr. Trump and the GOP, but is not limited to members of their party).
That's my sense of it mainly, but also that to say that anyone who is truly concerned over this man Fernando's appointment, ought be frantic over the extent to which individuals with absolutely no "national security experience" populate the Department of State at the highest possible levels, put there by politicians with a debt to pay.
I have a second conclusion, and it is one which is likely to raise the hackles of some. I offer it not as persuasive argument or a "gotcha" partisan attack on Mr. Trump (which is an impossibility, I suppose, given Mr. Trump and I are members of the same political party). Thankfully, it won't be expressed with the same longwindedness as the foregoing.
It is, simply, that if Mr. Trump questions the qualifications of Mr. Fernando to serve as a member of this State Department Advisory Committee, then it would logically follow that someone equally unskilled and untrained in foreign affairs, without a shred of national security experience, no military service, and no credentials whatsoever in the field of intelligence, would be dismally unqualified to be President of the United States, our nation's Commander in Chief. With apologies for my intellectual shortcomings, I'm unable to distinguish the relative merits of Mr. Fernando's lack of qualifications to be a member of a State Department committee, and those of Mr. Trump to serve as president — with Trump hoping to serve not in an advisory capacity, but rather as the person with his finger actually on the nuclear button. Likewise, lest it be thought that this is an attack on the GOP's presumptive nominee for president, it occurs to me that the vast majority of members of the House and Senate also have limited, or no, qualifications that would justify their participation in the most important decisions of our national security.
Bottom line, it strikes me as ludicrously illogical to label Mr. Fernando's appointment inappropriate and "unethical" (as Mr. Trump and others have suggested), without also finding many political appointees in the State Department and similarly situated congressional representatives, woefully ill equipped to handle their duties with the necessary gravitas to ensure our nation's security. And, maybe that's the problem.
Bruce Van Derven
- Category: Letters
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