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End Political Ambassadorships
A Sailor, A Car Crash, and the former Mayor of Chicago
American diplomacy, as much as the international community is overly reliant on it, is critical to stability across the entire world. That diplomacy is threatened when our diplomats are not skilled members of the foreign service, or indeed, are not even qualified by any measure of their own political or personal experience. When crises or disagreements emerge abroad, ambassadors are the first on the frontline of negotiations and deal-making to resolve disputes. The hot-button issue dispute of discussion today is that of Lieutenant Ridge Alkonis of the U.S. Navy.
Lieutenant Ridge Alkonis is not an easily usable political pawn like Brittney Griner, where identity can quickly become a proxy for political points when the administration brings the issue up the priority list. He is a normal, married white man, secure in his faith as a member of the Church of Latter-Day Saints with a family. During his station abroad in Japan as an officer in the U.S. Navy, medical complications and chance collided to produce a horrible accident. As the Wall Street Journal wrote on January 8,
Lt. Ridge Alkonis, assigned to the guided-missile destroyer the USS Benfold in Yokosuka, was driving his family back from a trip to Mt. Fuji in May 2021 when he fell unconscious. Two Japanese nationals died in the resulting wreck. No one alleges drugs or alcohol were involved. Lt. Alkonis is a Mormon and doesn’t drink, and his wife and young children were in the car in broad daylight. Jonathan Franks, a spokesman for the family, says a Navy neurologist said that Lt. Alkonis had suffered acute mountain sickness.
[…] Lt. Alkonis was arrested and held in solitary confinement for more than three weeks, his family says. He wasn’t given a medical exam that might have exonerated him.
The administration’s actions? A strongly worded letter, with some twenty-odd members of Congress signing their names to it as well. Certainly nothing on the level of Brittney Griner. But despite the United States’ critical alliance with Japan in the Far East for stabilizing and maintaining its presence against China, you think we would have more leverage to pull against Japan for the release of a service member whose due process rights are currently being violated. That thought would be incorrect. Why? Because our skilled diplomat on the ground in Japan is not a long-standing member of the US-Japanese diplomatic corps, nor does he even speak Japanese, nor does he even claim any Japanese heritage or connection. As the Washington Post defended it, he is simply “connected.”
This is idiotic and embarrassing. From the United Kingdom to Germany, from Japan to China, political appointees do not fill the ranks of the foreign service — true, trained diplomats do. For all the criticisms of the foreign service and the “deep state,” the least we can do is take international diplomacy seriously by appointing people whose job is to engage in diplomacy, rather than appoint hedge fund managers.
Unfortunately, looking abroad, one notices that the last several Presidents of the United States have done nothing but appoint clowns, donors, and “big wigs” as ambassadors to countries that we should value diplomatic ties with:
Under President Biden,
The current ambassador to the United Kingdom, whom with which we maintain a “special relationship” that I have critiqued previously, Jane D. Hartley, was previously the ambassador to France under Obama and was a DNC fundraiser and operative for many years.
The current ambassador to Germany, Amy Gutmann, was previously the president of the University of Pennsylvania from 2004 to 2022. A curious coincidence, given the ongoing inquiries into the UPenn Biden center.
As mentioned above, Rahm Emanuel, general Democratic operative and sleazebag (also the former mayor of Chicago), is now the ambassador to Japan.
Under President Trump,
The ambassador to the United Kingdom, Robert Johnson IV, was the owner of the NFL’s New York Jets.
The ambassador to Japan, Bill Hagerty, was a private equity investor from Tennessee whose primary achievement was serving as the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. He is now the junior senator from Tennessee.
The ambassador to France, Jamie McCourt, was a former executive of the MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers and is currently raising hell in LA.
Under President Obama,
The trend continues all the way down.
As Senator Mike Lee, for all his effort, attempts to convince the Biden administration that advocating for Lt. Alkonis is a fight worth having, it is concerning knowing that having a worthwhile ambassador representing the United States in Japan would make the fight easier. Alas, we have Rahm Emanuel.
My only hope is that any future nominees to the office of the President of the United States would pledge to at least nominate “political appointees” who have qualifications beyond raising money for campaigns, but who am I kidding? This will continue, and America will continue acting as the dull, flailing hammer as we continue to mismanage the world stage.
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