Decision-Making in Times of Uncertainty

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These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country. But he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

Thomas Paine, The Crisis, Dec. 23, 1776

Though written 240 years ago, Thomas Paine’s words of resolve to American patriots attempting to throw off the yoke of English colonialism apply equally in our current uncertain times. With the State Department budget under threat, and the continued independence of the U.S. Agency for International Development under a cloud, those who are engaged in diplomacy and development have to be wondering what the future holds for their profession.

More importantly, in my opinion, they must be approaching their dayto- day jobs with a sense of trepidation; wondering how even the most routine action or decision will be interpreted by those who seem to view the profession with disdain, if not outright hostility, and who hold the fate of those professionals in their hands.

In the face of this, I’m moved to consider an issue that has so far not been a topic of public discussion: How are diplomatic professionals to conduct themselves as we inch slowly forward?

There is, of course, always the option of resignation. David Rank, chargé d’affaires at our embassy in Beijing, resigned in response to the president’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, stating that “as a parent, a patriot and a Christian” he could not in good conscience deliver a demarche to the Chinese government announcing our withdrawal from the agreement.

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