To the Editor:
“Dissent on Travel Ban Spreads From One Embassy to Another” (front page, Feb. 1), about a State Department cable that “traveled like a chain letter — or a viral video” through American embassies around the world, quotes a diplomat as saying policy dissent is part of the department’s culture to the point that “we even have awards for it.”
Acknowledgment of the value of policy dissent at the department began in 1967 when the American Foreign Service Association and my mother, Enid Hammerman Rivkin, established the William R. Rivkin Award in honor of my father, an ambassador, to encourage Foreign Service officers to tell truth to power, recognizing the best for their initiative, integrity, courage and constructive dissent. In 1971, the State Department established a formal “dissent channel” to ensure that its senior officials would consider differing views in formulating policy.
So when 1,000 or so department employees explained through the established dissent channel that President Trump’s executive order suspending visas for citizens of seven Muslim countries would not make our country safer, and why it would in fact sour relations with these countries, deprive us of intelligence and other resources needed to fight terror abroad, increase anti-American sentiment, thwart humanitarian efforts and hurt our economy, one would have expected senior officials to give them a careful hearing.
That is what Secretary of State John Kerry did last year after a group of midlevel Foreign Service officers wrote a dissent cable criticizing Obama administration policy in Syria.
Instead, the White House press secretary warned that dissenters “should either get with the program or they can go.”
One need not agree with the dissenters to recognize that thoughtful dissent is not disloyalty but a patriotic duty.
ROBERT S. RIVKIN
Continue reading the main story