On Tuesday, word came down that Christopher Painter was pushed out of his job at the State Department. You'd be forgiven for not knowing who Painter is since his job, while critically important, was a bit too abstract for the general public to care about:
Painter, the coordinator for cyber issues at State, has been leading American delegations to international cyber meetings since 2011, negotiating joint agreements with other countries on issues like protecting critical infrastructure and developing cyber norms. “Chris has been a tireless defender of American interests in cyberspace,” Jason Healey, a senior cyber researcher at Columbia University, told MC, “flying hundreds of thousands of miles a year to push our views of freedom online, conduct countless bilateral meetings with allies and friends and [champion] international engagement in multilateral settings.”
And why was he pushed out? Because Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has decided to get rid of Painter's entire section. In other words, as the threat of cyberterrorism and cyber war escalates, Tillerson is getting rid of the people that coordinate and strengthens our defenses with allies.
To be clear, the United States literally invented the concept of a cyber diplomat and eliminating that position is a massive abdication of American power and influence:
Cyber policy experts urged Tillerson not to eliminate State’s dedicated cyber mission. Doing so “would mean the United States would be the only major country without a lead diplomat to discuss cyber norms and trying to reduce the ever-escalating cyberattacks we see around the world,” Healey said. The U.S. was the first country to create a high-level cyber diplomat role, and since then dozens of other countries have followed suit. “It is not just a shame if the U.S. were to surrender that leadership, but would mean the future internet will have more Russian and Chinese characteristics.”
But abdication of America power and influence does not appear to be the byproduct of a State Department being incompetently run but rather the explicit purpose of Tillerson's agenda. A look at how he's refused to fill the dozens of high level positions necessary to run the department and then created hundreds of more lower level vacancies just for fun is terrifyingly revealing:
While the lack of senior political appointees has gotten a lot of attention, less attention has been paid to the hollowing out of the career workforce, who actually run the department day to day. Tillerson has canceled the incoming class of foreign service officers. This as if the Navy told all of its incoming Naval Academy officers they weren’t needed. Senior officers have been unceremoniously pushed out. Many saw the writing on the wall and just retired, and many others are now awaiting buyout offers. He has dismissed State’s equivalent of an officer reserve—retired FSOs, who are often called upon to fill State’s many short-term staffing gaps, have been sent home despite no one to replace them. Office managers are now told three people must depart before they can make one hire. And now Bloomberg reports that Tillerson is blocking all lateral transfers within the department, preventing staffers from moving to another office even if it has an opening. Managers can’t fill openings; employees feel trapped.
As the former CEO of a multinational corporation, Tillerson knows full well that a globe-spanning organization like the State Department cannot be "downsized" without sacrificing literally centuries' worth of experience; experience he would need to effectively carry out any kind of agenda that includes furthering American interests. Instead, Tillerson has done the exact opposite, gutting our diplomatic power which does more to constrain ambitious countries like, for instance, Russia, than all of our military power combined.
On a surely unrelated note, here's Tillerson receiving the Order of Friendship medal, Russia's highest honor for a foreigner:
Tillerson has been working with Putin for almost twenty years and they have a very lucrative partnership. Half a trillion dollars worth of lucrative, but only if the United States would get out of the way and lift the sanctions it has on Russia. Amazingly, at the exact same time Tillerson is kneecapping America's soft power, Donald Trump is working on getting rid of those very sanctions. Again, these things are surely unrelated.
While all eyes are on Trump and his blundering White House, the real damage is being done by Tillerson in the State Department. Trump is pounding his chest and building up the military but hard power is to keep the developing world in line, not the real threats of China and Russia. By deliberately sabotaging our diplomatic advantage, Tillerson is giving Russia everything it could possibly want and he's doing it so rapidly and thoroughly it's simply impossible that it's not intentional. No one is that bad at their job. Even in the best case scenario, that Tillerson is "only" sabotaging his department to make it easier for Exxon-Mobil to run rampant across the globe, he's still aiding our enemies and hurting the country.
We are being attacked from the inside by people who do not have America's best interests at heart. The only way to expunge them is to remove a lot of Republicans from office in 2018 and the rest of them in 2020.
There are 474 days left to the 2018 elections.
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