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If being Jewish means catastrophe to the other


Children were the irrepressible vanguard of the first intifada, December 1987. Photo from World Bulletin. It lasted from 1987 to  1993

Trust Me, I Was Once a First-Year Jewish Student Too

By Robert A. H. Cohen, Writing from the Edge,
September 09, 2017

This month a new generation of Jewish students will begin their first term at University. Here’s my advice to them.

Congratulations/Mazel tov!

You’re off to university. First time away from home. First time away from your synagogue community. Or perhaps you’ve had a year out after school and have been in Israel soaking up your Jewish heritage. Maybe you’ve been on a Jewish leadership trip organised by your youth movement or a Birthright tour. But now it’s back to reality and you’re about to discover what it means to have your ideas challenged, your prejudices pointed out and your Jewish identity undermined.

But don’t worry. This is all to the good. It’s exactly what you need. Trust me, I was once a first-year Jewish university student too.

Your baggage

You may realise this already, but the baggage you’re taking with you to university is considerably more than what’s in your rucksack. It’s been accumulating throughout your life, it’s the stuff that’s made you who you are. Now you have the opportunity to unpack it, examine it, and decide if it’s still useful for the journey ahead.

Union of Jewish Students’ stall in Freshers’ week, Manchester Metropolitan University. Any UJS group is likely to support ‘the 2-state solution’ while doing nothing to bring it about.

I’m talking about that sense of being Jewish, the way you relate to your family history, the Jewish community where you grew up, what you think about Israel. In short, your Jewish identity. In an age where identity politics have become so central to our culture your Jewish identity has become almost sacrosanct, untouchable, beyond criticism. But is that how it should be? I’ll come back to this at the end.

I realise my credentials for offering advice about Jewish university life are now pretty thin. It was 1985 when my parents drove me from our home in Bromley, South London, to Manchester University in the north of England, then the institution of choice for a large slice of young Jews who’d grown up in the capital.

Before I pass on the little wisdom I’ve accumulated, let me provide some personal history and reflect on an event that set me on a path to Palestinian solidarity and Zionist dissent.

Ill at ease

Before starting at Manchester I had just come back from a long trip to Israel, my first, and I was already struggling with what the Jewish State meant to me. I didn’t have the words to articulate it at the time but something about my experience in Israel had left me confused and ill at ease.

I’d spent time on both religious and secular kibbutzim and at a project in the northern Galilee town of Safed that aimed to inspire young diaspora Jews to become modern orthodox in their religious practice and firmly Zionist in their politics.

While I could relate easily to the Jews of my age I’d met from America, South Africa and Europe, I found Israelis themselves difficult to get along with. As for the idea that I had somehow returned to my ancestral home – that feeling never kicked in. It turned out to be easier to take the boy out of Bromley than Bromley out of the boy.

Back home in the UK, two of my new flat mates in our student hall of residence had no such angst, no such dilemmas.

Phil and Andy had returned from Jewish leadership programmes in Israel ready to take up positions in the student union and advocate on behalf of Israel whenever the need was required. I recall being slightly in awe of their self-confidence and their self-belief as leaders and as advocates. It would be a long time before I found my own voice on the issue of Jews, Judaism and Israel.

During my first two years I went along to the Wednesday lunchtime political debates in the recently re-named ‘Steve Biko’ student union building. And when Israel came up I voted the way the Jewish Society (J-Soc) advised. Phil and Andy were good at their job.

Intifada


Children run from Israeli soldiers, 1st Intifada. Photo by Coutausse.

Then in my final year at Manchester (exactly thirty years ago) my understanding of Israel began to take a decisive turn.

With my exams approaching I should have been getting down to some academic work. John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, J.S. Mill and Karl Marx were all demanding my serious attention. But instead I was using the university library to follow, and attempt to fathom, the outbreak of the first Palestinian Intifada.

The uprising that began in Gaza in December 1987 quickly spread to the West Bank. It was an uprising from the streets of occupied Palestine provoked by frustration and disillusionment and it was characterised by strikes. boycotts, civil disobedience and, most notably, children and young people throwing stones at armed Israeli soldiers. The Israeli response from on high (Yitzhak Rabin, then Defence Minister) was to “break their bones”.

The first Intifada was a modern day re-working of David and Goliath from the bible. In fact the tale of the future Jewish king slaying the Philistine giant with just a sling and a stone was my favourite bible story, the one I’d ask my father to read to me again and again. Maybe that’s why this stone throwing rebellion caught my imagination in the first place.

But this time the Palestinian children were David and the Jewish soldiers were Goliath. It was an unsettling role reversal. After all, surely we had ‘written the book’ on what it meant to be the victims of oppressive power? How could this be happening?

Fathoming

You have to remember that in 1987 the internet, Facebook, Twitter and even email were still a long way off. To find out what was going on in Israel and the Occupied Territories I based myself in the first floor periodicals section of the John Rylands Student Library when I should have been one floor up in Politics & Philosophy.

On the shelves of the periodicals section there were current and back copies of the Guardian Weekly and the New York Review of Books, Commentary magazine and Foreign Affairs. I read articles by Americans and Israelis from the left and the right and in particular was hooked by the words of David Grossman and Amos Oz the two most well known Israeli liberal Zionists and opponents of the Israeli Occupation.

Until the first intifada I had little sense of the Palestinians as a community with a heritage and history as close to them as mine was to me. Now they were no longer just terrorists pursuing a militant cause I didn’t fully understand. My sense of unease about Israel that had begun during my first visit to the country was beginning to find its articulation. Here was a people suffering in the West Bank and Gaza because of what my people were doing.

Maybe if I’d walked up to the next floor Locke, Rousseau, Mill and Marx could have shed some light on the reasons for the Intifada too. Rights, liberty, freedom. Hadn’t I spent three years studying these things?

The first Intifada was for me the start of a long journey of reading, reflection and finally encounters and conversations with Palestinians that’s taken me to the place where I now stand.

The two-state fiction

So what’s changed between my leaving university and your arriving?

Well, for a while, the Palestinians were allowed to become a people rather than merely the creators of terror. But the ‘peace process’ that emerged directly from the first Intifada didn’t last long. Israel’s idea of Palestinian autonomy turned out to fall well short of rights, liberty and freedom. And all the time the Settlements expanded, the Jewish only roads grew longer and the checkpoints multiplied. The occupier continued to occupy.

Closer to home the Jewish leadership in the UK, including the Union of Jewish Students (UJS), adopted the two-state solution but then spent 25 years doing nothing to help bring it about.

There was never any serious public pressure on Israel from the Jewish community in Britain and never any attempt to prepare Jews here for the obvious compromises involved in making a Palestinian state, worthy of the name, a reality. Instead, our leaders, both religious and communal, did Israel’s bidding which became ever more right wing and intransigent as the years went by.

And where are we today?

When you get to your university you’ll see that UJS is keen to talk up its commitment to “peace” and “two-states for two peoples”. Through its campaign for “Bridges not Boycotts” it hopes to show itself as a liberal, compassionate defender of free speech. But in practice UJS behaves just like its elders in our Jewish leadership. It pursues tactics that define and constrict the parameters of acceptable student debate on Israel/Palestine; it dictates what antisemitism looks like; and attempts to ‘own’ the definition of modern Jewish identity by locking it into Zionism.

As for discussing one secular democratic state or some kind of federal constitution, no way folks. That’s all off limits. Because ultimately such thinking calls into question the privileged discrimination enjoyed by Jews in Israel, East Jerusalem and the West Bank and indeed for you and me as Jews with the ‘Right of Return’.

calling  for “two-states”, when it’s  clear it will never happen, becomes no more than an excuse for ethical passivity

By parroting “two-states” UJS kicks every moral consideration down the road and into the long grass.

Why worry about today’s land and water theft? Why be concerned about the pauperisation of Palestinian farmers? Or arrests without charge. Or children in prisons. All will be resolved when the moon and the stars are finally aligned and the requirements of Jewish security are satisfied beyond all possible doubt. So that means sometime never.

The truth is that the longer we cling to the fiction of two-states and the belief that Zionism is not merely an ideology but a part of our faith and identity, the longer it will take to bring anything approaching peace with justice to the land.

Making the call for “two-states”, when it’s become clear it will never happen, becomes no more than an excuse for ethical passivity. It allows you to wrap yourself in a banner with with the words “peace/shalom” painted across it and feel secure in your denial of Jewish culpability in the on-going destruction of the Palestinian people.

I know this is tough to hear for young Jews when you’ve been schooled on the innate goodness of all things Israeli. But now is the moment to confront the reality of the Jewish relationship with the Palestinian people – our defining Jewish relationship for the last 70 years.

Advice

So if you’re a Jewish student starting university this month here’s my advice:

Don’t confuse “peace” and “two-states” for justice and equal rights.

Don’t mistake Jewish nationalism for Jewish self-determination.

Don’t wait for the Chief Rabbi or the Board of Deputies to ever say anything remotely ethical about the treatment of Palestinians by Israel.

Don’t wait for Trump, or May, or Macron or Trudeau to say or do anything useful about this.

Don’t wait for another massacre in Gaza.

And don’t take as long as I did to work things out.

Instead, take the opportunity of being away from home to hear other voices and other opinions. Allow yourself to listen with an open mind and an open heart to Palestinian experiences. Check out the history of 1948 especially the last thirty years of Israeli academic writing including the expulsion of the Palestinians from Safed which nobody mentioned while I was living there.

And don’t allow people to tell you you should feel scared or vulnerable if other students talk about boycotts and sanctions against Israel. If you took modern history at school you should be able to work out the difference between Nazi boycotts of Jewish shops in the 1930s and a campaign for human rights in 2017. And if you hear things said that make you upset or confused or angry that doesn’t make it antisemitism.

Jewish identity has never been static and has always been questioned and challenged by Jews themselves in every age and every place where we have lived. Zionism itself is an example of just that tradition of challenging our own understanding of who we are and what our future should be.

You have the same right to challenge today’s received wisdom; to ask the difficult questions; and create a way to be proud of being Jewish that isn’t trapped in an ideology that’s long passed its sell-by date.

So be bold, be courageous and decide where you want to stand and who you want to stand with.

Finally, to return to the start, let me leave you this (exam) question to ponder:

What happens to your sacrosanct understanding of ‘being Jewish’ when it becomes another people’s catastrophe?

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Have a great first term.

Yours

Robert

 

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Ilan Pappe’s new book

Ilan Pappe talks about the Middle East: ‘Change will come’

Speaking to the Monitor about his new book ‘The Biggest Prison on Earth,’ historian Ilan Pappe says that – ultimately – he is ‘confident of a peaceful scenario.’

August 15, 2017 Historian Ilan Pappe’s new book The Biggest Prison on Earth: A History of the Occupied Territories continues his work of shining new analytical light on the seemingly intractable Israel-Palestine conflict, following up earlier books such as “Ten Myths About Israel” and the bestselling “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.” Pappe recently talked with Monitor contributor Steve Donoghue about his work.

Q: Your new book is already sparking the kind of controversy that greeted “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine” and “Ten Myths About Israel” – this must be a familiar pattern to you by now, yes? Do you find that the tenor of this conversation has changed at all over the years? Is there more receptivity to your work, for instance?

It depends where. Around the world, yes, the tenor has changed. There is more readiness to change the language that describes Israeli actions in the past and the present; there is less disbelief when a systematic abuse or dispossession is shown as a structure or strategy rather than a policy. As for Israel, the same denial and unwillingness to face the unpleasant chapters of the past persists.

Q: That assertion – that Israeli dispossession of Palestinians is an outcome of premeditated state strategy rather than a policy adapted to circumstances – contradicts the attractive notion of a fledgling state merely doing what it must to survive. It paints a far uglier picture.

This is not an attempt to demonize the Israelis or Israel. My main argument is that the Zionist movement in Palestine until 1948 and the state of Israel are a settler colonial project that is still intact today. The nature of such a project is that the settlers in this particular case study see themselves as natives who return to their home and see the natives as aliens, who at best can be tolerated if they do not challenge to the settlers’ power and ownership. So this is not a matter of planning only or strategic clarity.

Q: Settler colonialism seldom bodes well for the natives, and it certainly hasn’t for the Palestinian population now living in what you describe in the book as “the ultimate maximum security prison.” In “The Biggest Prison on Earth” you’re careful not to offer false or cheap hope for any good resolution to this problem – but do you see any such resolution as possible?

To be honest not in the short run. However, I do believe that in the long run the basic features of the project will diminish and hopefully disappear. I am confident of a peaceful scenario: not in a big bang but in bottom-up evolution. Change will come first and foremost due to Palestinian steadfastness and popular resistance, the intensification of the international pressure on Israel, and it will be cemented by joint Palestinian and Jewish effort to reformulate the relationship between them on the basis of equality, democracy, and respect for human and civil rights.

Joint life on equal footing is possible – the main obstacle is the state’s ideology that dehumanizes the Palestinians and refuses to allow them equal and normal life for the sake of what is deemed “Jewish Security” – namely an ethnic Jewish state that forever has a Jewish majority by all means possible and provides privileges and exclusivity for the Jewish people in it. This is an obsolete ideology and world view which will not hold water for too long in a world that wishes and struggles to ensure that more and more people would be liberated from tyranny, bigotism, religious fanaticism, and racism.

When I Filmed Sheriff Joe Arpaio, He Was Cooperative and Horrifying

Beyond belief

Salt Lake’s Dem Mayor Goes Undercover As A Homeless Man For Three Days. Pledges Vital Assistance.

 This story has a ‘Brubaker’ feel to it.

It happened over four months ago, and until recently, was known by only a small handful of people.

Last March, Democratic Mayor Ben McAdams put into play something he long felt compelled to do. Due to a state law, he had to select possible sites for three new homeless centers/shelters. Two for men and one for women and children. Regardless of the choices, it would prove highly unpopular in the neighborhoods. Each perspective area arose in fury at the idea. But it had to be done. He needed a more personal perspective. And it was this catalyst that solidified his decision.

McAdams left work on a Friday with Patrick Reimherr, the Director of Government Affairs. They both wore three-day growth. No wallets, money, or I.D.’s  They were dressed in their oldest jeans, sneakers, sweatshirts and hoodies.

Each had a small bag with some clothes, a blue tarp and cheap disposable phones.

And they walked the miles from City Hall to Salt Lake City’s most troubled neighborhood, Rio Grande. They disappeared amongst the thousands of homeless persons in the city. And they immersed themselves with that population.

The first night, they slept in the street. They found a spot amongst hundreds in the area against a building. They wrapped themselves with their tarps.

Salt-Lake-Homeless-Shelters-1.jpg

 “I didn’t feel safe,” he said. “I absolutely did not feel safe. It was a very chaotic environment. I wanted to understand why some people would choose not to go into shelter. It was cold. Below 40’s. And it was raining. You wonder why people would choose to do that, knowing that there were beds available in the shelter.” Fights broke out and their was yelling all night.

“Some of the folks i talked to said it’s better to be outside and get some space from the drug trade and shooting gallery that inundates the area immediately in front of shelter doors.”

After a fitful 4 hours of sleep, they headed to the shelter, named The Road Home. The closer they got to the shelter, the more drug dealers plied their wares…mostly heroin, meth, coke and spice.

 “The primary buyers are not homeless people. If you take the hundreds of people who are staying at the shelter and empty all of their pockets, there’s not going to be a whole lot of money to buy drugs.”

As bad as the night on the street was, the shelter was a nightmare. It housed over 1000 men. Though rules are in place, and employees and volunteers were present, it was riddled with violence and drugs. Reimherr was assigned a different dorm. McAdams’s bunkmate injected a needle into his arm in front of him. He saw similar in the dorm. The smell of the drugs was prevalent. He witnessed violence. He saw a man pulled from his bunk and heard the loud smack as his head hit the pavement.

shelterAZPEZWQRWFF43PGGIE7JQZC2NY.jpg

The first thing he was told when he entered was to not take off your shoes, use your bag as your pillow and never, ever go to use the bathroom at night.

He now saw why being outside in the rain and cold was preferable.  “At least it was warmer inside.”

The director of The Road Home, Matt Minkevitch, notes that though the area around the shelter is full of drug use, “…instances of people using drugs in the shelter aren’t incredibly common and don’t represent most of the clientele. For 80 percent of the 8,000 people who visited the shelter last year, it was a one-time, brief episode of homelessness before a quick return to stable housing. It’s hard to see that when you’re seeing this repetitive cycle of despair and desperation and the suffering that’s going on with the people who are living on the streets. Who are filthy dirty and confused.”

 His time was consumed by solving two pressing needs. “Where am I going to sleep? And where am I going to get food? You have to plan your day around that. It leaves little energy left to search for jobs or housing.”

They ate at Missions and had church sponsored meals. A group outside the shelter handed out sack lunches. A mystery-meat sandwich and a bag of Funyuns.

He met a family with a nine year old autistic child.  “She’s the age of one of my kids,” the mayor said. “It’s heartbreaking to see a young child who’s growing up in those circumstances. What psychological trauma is probably inflicted on a child who doesn’t know where he’s going to sleep or where his next meal is going to come from?”

mayor2NULC22TI5BNZHKKQQ56O43WNE.jpg
Mayor Benjamin McAdams. First elected in 2013. Re-elected in 2016. A good man.

McAdams ended his experience with one understanding. That “doing nothing is not an option, even if it’s the end of me politically.”

“I knew when I accepted this task that it would come with consequences for me personally. But this work isn’t about me personally. It’s about doing the right thing for people who are in crisis. If I have to pay a personal price for moving this work forward, it’s a price I’m willing to pay.”

 ”I ran for office to make a difference. Not to have a job.”

By mid-July of 2019, the three new shelters will open, and The Road Home will close. He vows to assist in every aspect of “the shelter experience” into one “focused on rehabilitation and recovery.”

In the meantime, The Road Home is having the area in front on Rio Grande Street made into a courtyard with a fence to help protect the homeless from predatory behavior. That meals will be nutritious with more fruits and vegetables. And he is trying to work out a deal for the local area’s state-run liquor store to move to a different location, away from it’s proximity to the shelter.

“I know that my three days and two nights is nothing. It was a helpful insight. But i knew that if something happened, i have health insurance. I have a family. I have a home. My backstop was a phone call away. I am very, very fortunate.”

Salt Lake, both the county and city, have been models for helping the homeless, compared to most other large cities and counties in the country. Mayor McAdams aims to raise the bar that much higher. In his years at the helm, he has already done so much to tackle this problem. Starting with having local law enforcement not unduly harass the homeless, but to help and assist. This has been something he has been passionate about since he became mayor in 2013. And it’s making a tangible difference. As the following clip shows….

Sorry I Drowned

The world has catastrophically failed millions of people fleeing war, persecution, and despair. Calculating politics won out over moral and legal obligations to offer protection and assistance to those in need. Like a contagious disease, walls, fences, and restrictive border measures rampantly spread causing countless thousands of people to die on land or at sea.

This 7-minute animated film is inspired by a letter allegedly found on the body of someone who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea due to the prevailing cynical politics of our day.

While we may not know the truth behind who wrote the letter, we do know that what it depicts is real. This reality cannot continue.

DEEP DARK WEB

Mike Leigh slams Radiohead for ignoring Palestinians

Source : Mike Leigh slams Radiohead for ignoring Palestinians

Video: How will Israel control Palestinians in 2048?

Present at the Destruction: How Rex Tillerson Is Wrecking the State Department

Getty Images

I worked in Foggy Bottom for 6 years. I’ve never seen anything like this.

The deconstruction of the State Department is well underway.

I recently returned to Foggy Bottom for the first time since January 20 to attend the departure of a former colleague and career midlevel official—something that had sadly become routine. In my six years at State as a political appointee, under the Obama administration, I had gone to countless of these events. They usually followed a similar pattern: slightly awkward, but endearing formalities, a sense of melancholy at the loss of a valued teammate. But, in the end, a rather jovial celebration of a colleague’s work. These events usually petered out quickly, since there is work to do. At the State Department, the unspoken mantra is: The mission goes on, and no one is irreplaceable. But this event did not follow that pattern. It felt more like a funeral, not for the departing colleague, but for the dying organization they were leaving behind

As I made the rounds and spoke with usually buttoned-up career officials, some who I knew well, some who I didn’t, from a cross section of offices covering various regions and functions, no one held back. To a person, I heard that the State Department was in “chaos,” “a disaster,” “terrible,” the leadership “totally incompetent.” This reflected what I had been hearing the past few months from friends still inside the department, but hearing it in rapid fire made my stomach churn. As I walked through the halls once stalked by diplomatic giants like Dean Acheson and James Baker, the deconstruction was literally visible. Furniture from now-closed offices crowded the hallways. Dropping in on one of my old offices, I expected to see a former colleague—a career senior foreign service officer—but was stunned to find out she had been abruptly forced into retirement and had departed the previous week. This office, once bustling, had just one person present, keeping on the lights.

This is how diplomacy dies. Not with a bang, but with a whimper. With empty offices on a midweek afternoon.

When Rex Tillerson was announced as secretary of state, there was a general feeling of excitement and relief in the department. After eight years of high-profile, jet-setting secretaries, the building was genuinely looking forward to having someone experienced in corporate management. Like all large, sprawling organizations, the State Department’s structure is in perpetual need of an organizational rethink. That was what was hoped for, but that is not what is happening. Tillerson is not reorganizing, he’s downsizing.

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.

Despite all this, career foreign and civil service officers are all still working incredibly hard representing the United States internationally. They’re still doing us proud. But how do you manage multimillion-dollar programs with no people? Who do you send to international meetings and summits? Maybe, my former colleagues are discovering, you just can’t implement that program or show up to that meeting. Tillerson’s actions amount to a geostrategic own-goal, weakening America by preventing America from showing up.

State’s growing policy irrelevance and Tillerson’s total aversion to the experts in his midst is prompting the department’s rising stars to search for the exits. The private sector and the Pentagon are vacuuming them up. This is inflicting long-term damage to the viability of the American diplomacy—and things were already tough. State has been operating under an austerity budget for the past six years since the 2011 Budget Control Act. Therefore, when Tillerson cuts, he is largely cutting into bone, not fat. The next administration won’t simply be able to flip a switch and reverse the damage. It takes years to recruit and develop diplomatic talent. What Vietnam did to hollow out our military, Tillerson is doing to State.

What we now know is that the building is being run by a tiny clique of ideologues who know nothing about the department but have insulated themselves from the people who do. Tillerson and his isolated and inexperienced cadres are going about reorganizing the department based on little more than gut feeling. They are going about it with vigor. And there is little Congress can seemingly do—though lawmakers control the purse strings, it’s hard to stop an agency from destroying itself.

At the root of the problem is the inherent distrust of the State Department and career officers. I can sympathize with this—I, too, was once a naive political appointee, like many of the Trump people. During the 2000s, when I was in my 20s, I couldn’t imagine anyone working for George W. Bush. I often interpreted every action from the Bush administration in the most nefarious way possible. Almost immediately after entering government, I realized how foolish I had been.

For most of Foggy Bottom, the politics of Washington might as well have been the politics of Timbuktu—a distant concern, with little relevance to most people’s work. I found that State’s career officials generally were more hawkish than most Democrats, but believe very much in American leadership in international organizations and in forging international agreements, putting them to the left of many Republicans. Politically, most supported politicians that they thought would best protect and strengthen American interests and global leadership. Many career officials were often exasperated by the Obama administration and agreed with much of the conservative critique of his policies—hence the initial enthusiasm for Tillerson. By the end of my tenure, many of my closest and most trusted colleagues were registered Republicans, had worked in the Bush White House or were retired military officers. I would have strongly considered staying on in a normal Republican administration if asked.

I don’t believe my experience is unique: When you see a lot of Bush-era veterans attacking the Trump administration, it’s likely because they had a similar experience. In government—and especially in the foreign policy and national security realms—you work for your country, not a party.

What is motivating Tillerson’s demolition effort is anyone’s guess. He may have been a worldly CEO at ExxonMobil, but he had precious little experience in how American diplomacy works. Perhaps Tillerson, as a D.C. and foreign policy novice, is simply being a good soldier, following through on edicts from White House ideologues like Steve Bannon. Perhaps he thinks he is running State like a business. But the problem with running the State Department like a business is that most businesses fail—and American diplomacy is too big to fail.

What is clear, however, is that there is no pressing reason for any of these cuts. America is not a country in decline. Its economy is experiencing an unprecedented period of continuous economic growth, its technology sector is the envy of the world and the American military remains unmatched. Even now, under Trump, America’s allies and enduring values amplify its power and constrain its adversaries. America is not in decline—it is choosing to decline. And Tillerson is making that choice. He is quickly becoming one of the worst and most destructive secretaries of state in the history of our country.

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