Issue in Focus
Dec 08 2017
President Trump recently nominated Joseph MacManus to become the next U.S. Ambassador to Colombia. At a time when the U.S.-Colombian relationship is vital to regional security and stability, both countries deserve better.
The argument against Mr. MacManus has two parts.
First, MacManus does not appear to share the president’s belief in an America First foreign policy. If the president wants his objectives to be accomplished around the world, it is critical that his political appointees to the State Department share his commitment to the task.
What is MacManus committed to? It is hard to say for certain, but his background is cause for concern. MacManus is a career bureaucrat at the State Department who served as executive assistant to then-Secretary Hillary Clinton during the Benghazi disaster. He also worked as a top diplomat for then-Secretary John Kerry in implementing the Iran nuclear deal.
A long career in diplomacy normally would be considered a positive qualification for a job at the State Department—but not when that career is tied to some of America's most egregious foreign-policy blunders.
Second, MacManus does not have the expertise in Latin American affairs that we should demand for this sensitive position.
All but one of the past six ambassadors to Columbia had previous experience as an ambassador. The exception, outgoing Ambassador Kevin Whitaker, spent practically his entire career in Latin American diplomacy, rising to the position of deputy assistant secretary for South America before becoming an ambassador.
By contrast, MacManus’s experience in Latin America is limited to a period of time spent as a public diplomacy officer in Mexico and El Salvador.
Political unrest is increasing across Latin America. From the growing authoritarian power of Maduro in Venezuela, to contested elections in Honduras, to the fragile peace deal between the Colombian government and FARC rebels, the United States is more reliant on Colombia than ever before. The nation is a strong ally—and it is our only NATO partner in the region. We give Columbia nearly a billion dollars in foreign assistance every year.
Given the stakes, we should not roll the dice on a Foggy Bottom bureaucrat with a dubious track record.