The Battle of Foggy Bottom
An aide quits the State Department because it is supporting Israel, awakening the old ghosts, who are planning a dissent cable and setting the stage for what could be Secretary Blinken’s finest hour.
Reports of a mutiny brewing at the State Department over the Biden administration’s support for Israel’s battle against Hamas suggest that the Jewish state could have to contend with one more hostile front — Foggy Bottom. The Huffington Post relates “widespread internal frustration” with the president and Secretary Blinken over policy statements supporting Israel. Diplomats are depressed and “in tears” — of the crocodile sort, we have no doubt.
The most public defector has been a functionary at the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Joshua Paul. In a resignation letter posted on LinkedIn, he called President Biden’s support “an impulsive reaction built on confirmation bias, political convenience, intellectual bankruptcy, and bureaucratic inertia.” So Mr. Paul is calling it quits “due to a policy disagreement concerning our continued lethal assistance to Israel.”
Let us just say that’s some gesture coming in the wake of the slaughter of Israeli civilians — including cutting off the heads of babies — perpetrated by Hamas. Yet Mr. Paul suggests that he is but the tip of an iceberg. He represents that he has received “really encouraging words of support and a lot of people saying they feel the same way and it’s very difficult for them.” They bravely have declined to step forward publicly.
The Huffington Post, citing an official it doesn’t name, indicates that a “dissent cable” is in the works. That is the State Department’s mechanism for expressing what it calls “dissenting or alternative views on substantive issues of policy.” We do not recall hearing mention of mutiny when President Obama failed to maintain his red lines in Syria after President Assad gassed his own long-suffering people.
Nor is there mention of any objection to “continued lethal assistance” to, say, Egypt, which superintends one of Gaza’s borders. It is difficult to find evidence of plans for a walkout over Mr. Blinken’s cozying up to Qatar, which hosts Hamas’s brass. Nor does the State Department — or Mr. Paul himself — show any curiosity about up in whose hands ends such funding as supposedly goes to, say, the UN Relief and Works Agency.
These malcontents are hardly out of step with the State Department’s institutional aversion to the Jewish people and their state. In 1948, Secretary Marshall, albeit a great man, and the then director of the Office of Near Eastern Affairs in 1948, Loy Henderson, opposed Israel’s creation. It was President Truman himself, with a nudge from an old friend, who threw America’s lot in with Zion.
In his memoirs, Truman writes that the “Department of State’s specialists on the Near East were almost without exception unfriendly to the idea of a Jewish state.” Some believed that the Arabs “should be appeased” on account of “their number and because of the fact that they controlled such immense oil resources.” Others, though, were simply “inclined to be antisemitic.”
In an article from 1971, in the New York Times, Joseph Kraft observed that at the State Department, the “influence of the Arabists is asserted in obscure ways. They work as cogs in the vast apparatus of departments, agencies and offices that make American foreign policy.” In matters “affecting the Arab‐Israeli dispute,” Kraft, a longtime habitue of Washington circles, observes, “they come down only very rarely on the Israeli side.”
There is a constitutional point to mark, too. In relating how he overcame State Department resistance to Israel, Truman writes that he “wanted to make plain that the President of the United States, and not the State Department, is responsible for making foreign policy.” That responsibility flows from Article 2 of the Constitution, which ordains that “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.”
As Justice Antonin Scalia observed, that means that “all of the executive power” rests with the president. Not with the secretary of state, or with the Department of State. A “mutiny” for Hamas and against Mr. Blinken and the commander in chief he serves is also a blow struck against the Constitution. It behooves the White House to keep a close eye on Foggy Bottom. It could be Mr. Blinken’s finest hour.