Ryan Crocker, the former U. S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan and Syria, deploys decades of international diplomacy insights to critique and, at times, harshly criticize both Democratic and Republican Presidents.
Crocker expresses frustration at the fact that the U.S. is not leading the world anymore and details what already is happening without that leadership. He cites the changes in directions on the part of the European Union whose nations do not believe they can fully depend on the U.S. anymore. Crocker notes how the Russians “love the cracks in” the once strong relationships we had with our allies and posits that countries adjacent to Russia now are unsure if the U.S. will back them up in the event of Russian aggression.
Similarly, he highlights how China’s “Belt & Road” strategy is a global initiative to which the world’s most populous nations does not see the U.S. pushing back in any way. Crocker further argues China’s “force projection” in the South China Sea is another example of how the U.S. is not feared in any way by China. He specifically cites President Obama and President Trump’s questioning of the value of the NATO’ alliance. He analyses the importance of welcoming refugees as part of the model the U.S. has offered the rest of the world in the past and explains why America’s retrenchment in this arena has negative ramifications.
According to Crocker, former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did more damage to the U.S. Department of State than any other Secretary of State in our country’s history. Tillerson failed to hire the junior officers he should have brought onboard as soon as possible. This left gaping holes in the Department’s ability to even perform basic functions. Tillerson also provided poor overall leadership, which caused many senior officials in the department to retire or leave.
Crocker explains the Department of Defense counts on the State Department in numerous ways, especially given the impact diplomacy has on determining the need for military involvement in almost any arena of conflict. Crocker emphasizes how the importance of this relationship is understated and highlights the dire effects that a lack of State Department funding and qualified personnel could have on the military and our ability to effectively undertake military operations, including the deployment of troops.
The former Ambassador uses his depth of knowledge and insight on the Middle East to expose, in detail, the failures we’ve experienced as well as to highlight our successes. He explains why he was never in favor of going into Iraq because there was no pre-planned exit strategy and provides his reasoning why he believed the Iraq War was a mistake. Then, because we did invade Iraq, he believes that we’ve also made severe mistakes in our ultimate exit strategy as well, commenting, “You don’t end a war by withdrawing your troops.”
Crocker still believes the future of Afghanistan depends on the United States and contrasts the current situation, in terms of seeking peace, with the Paris Peace Talks during the Viet Nam War. He uses Afghanistan and America’s growing weariness as another illustration of how our allies no longer believe they can count on the U.S. to maintain its commitments and stay the course.
Crocker also is critical of the hubris displayed by the United States when seeking regime and institutional change around the globe, arguing, “Democracy cannot be downloaded; rather, it must be uploaded. He articulates an approach for success in the field of international relations by showing “strategic patience,” including staying with a game plan rather than changing it moment to moment. He believes a greater effort needs to be made on an ongoing basis to explain strategies and plans to the American people as the only path to securing the long-term political support needed for success.
In some closing thoughts, Crocker paints a complex picture of the work of an Ambassador, “There are only bad and worse choices in diplomacy.”