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The Duty of Diplomatic Dissent

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The poor outcome of the Iraq War has highlighted the usefulness of 'reality-based' foreign policy. Yet the personal and professional consequences of dissent remain high in the US (and every other) diplomatic service. The Dissent Channel, currently underutilized, was designed to protect both the US State Department and its employees from bureaucratic retaliation for unwelcome real-world expertise. It should be reinvigorated. However, the unimpressive policy impact of dissent, whether through institutional channels or public resignations, makes it clear that effective dissent requires mobilizing the domestic political process as a force multiplier. Good dissent raises the political price of foreign policy blunders, and only through turning a bureaucratic system painfully against itself can blunders actually be prevented.


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