WASHINGTON – Ask members of the Washington diplomatic corps about the cables that Sir Kim Darroch, the British ambassador who resigned Wednesday, wrote to London describing the dysfunction and chaos of the Trump administration, and their response is uniform: We wrote the same stuff.
“Yes, yes, everyone does,” Gérard Araud, who retired this spring as the French ambassador, said Wednesday morning of his own missives from Washington. “But fortunately I knew that nothing would remain secret, so I sent them in a most confidential manner.”
So did Darroch, who alone and with Araud, tried to navigate the minefield of serving as the chief representative of longtime U.S. allies to a president who does not think much of the value of alliances.
Until Darroch’s confidential cables appeared in the Daily Mail last weekend, none of the major ambassadors in Washington had been denounced by President Donald Trump as “wacky” and a “very stupid guy” — a description that the envoy’s friends are quick to say hardly applies to one of Britain’s most sophisticated diplomats and a former national security adviser.
But as one ambassador, who is still serving and therefore spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Wednesday, “it could have been any of us.”
With a few exceptions — including the ambassadors from Israel and the United Arab Emirates, who have supported Trump’s every move — foreign diplomats in Washington these days describe living in something of a black hole.
Decisions that directly affect their nations’ trade relationships or troops are delivered with no notice. Their contacts inside the State Department, the Treasury and Congress freely tell them they have little idea what decisions Trump may make, or what he may reverse.
And the Trump administration has almost reveled in keeping foreign diplomats in the dark. While Darroch, following in the tradition of his predecessors, hosted receptions in the British Embassy’s grand ballroom and weekend cocktail parties under tents on the lawn overlooking Embassy Row, few administration officials have attended.
There were occasional appearances by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the president’s elder daughter and son-in-law, who also serve as the president’s senior advisers and live just a few blocks from the embassy with their children. A few other officials, like Kellyanne Conway, the counselor to the president, showed up at Darroch’s famous New Year’s parties, held amid the embassy’s stunning art collection.
But those were rare occasions. Trump’s secretaries of state, Rex Tillerson and Mike Pompeo, did not appear to nurture the “special relationship.” Nor did Vice President Mike Pence, who lives next door to the British Embassy.
While Darroch often tried to reach out to the White House and the National Security Council, like most of the ambassadors from NATO nations, he never quite felt that he broke into the inner circle.
There will be a new British ambassador, presumably appointed after Parliament selects a new prime minister to replace the departing Theresa May, and seats a new government. But under current conditions it is unclear whether that diplomat’s access will be much better.
A comment from the State Department about Darroch’s departure on Wednesday blandly repeated its commitment to the “special relationship” between the United States and Britain.