Why We Need to Clean House at the State Department

If you have to conceal substantive negotiations from your foreign policy bureaucracy, it means that it’s time to fire a bunch of people in that bureaucracy:

The December breakthrough that upended a half-century of U.S.-Cuba enmity has been portrayed as the fruit of 18 months of secret diplomacy.

But Reuters interviews with more than a dozen people with direct knowledge of the process reveal a longer, painstakingly cautious quest by U.S. President Barack Obama and veteran Cuba specialists to forge the historic rapprochement.

As now-overt U.S.-Cuban negotiations continue this month, Reuters also has uncovered new details of how talks began and how they stalled in late 2013 during secret sessions in Canada. Senior administration officials and others also revealed how both countries sidelined their foreign policy bureaucracies and how Obama sought the Vatican’s blessing to pacify opponents.


Obama at first froze out the State Department in part due to concern that “vested interests” there were bent on perpetuating a confrontational approach, said a former senior U.S. official. Secretary of State John Kerry was informed of the talks only after it appeared they might be fruitful, officials said.

Cuban President Raul Castro operated secretly too. Josefina Vidal, head of U.S. affairs at Cuba’s foreign ministry, was cut out, two Americans close to the process said. Vidal could not be reached for comment.

Sorry, but if your senior members of a bureaucracy, of any bureaucracy,  have to be kept out of the loop by elected leaders in order to avoid possible sabotage of policy, then it’s time for them not to be senior members of that bureaucracy.

Unfortunately the legacy of a competent non-partisan civil service has been undermined by decades of burrowing by Republicans.

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