To be derided as a “pompous fool” and “very stupid” in public is demoralising, to say the least, and that is how Sir Kim Darroch, British Ambassador to the USA found himself addressed by none less than Mr Donald Trump.
All envoys are supposed to give an honest assessment of the powers in a host country, which also means a character assessment, their likes and dislikes and how best to approach them on sensitive issues. Whatever Sir Kim Darroch conveyed about Mr. Trump was obviously unflattering, and such assessments are “very sensitive” in nature and are sent across to their foreign affairs department through established secure channels. The very fact that a cable of this level of sensitivity (about a sitting President) has been leaked to the press is a testament to the fact that Sir Kim Darroch has rubbed someone on the wrong side either at the Embassy or at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London or worse at the political level; and whoever that offended party was wanted to teach Sir Kim Darroch a lesson which would stay with him for the rest of his life. And there is no better way to do it than to leak something of this nature to the press and then sit back and watch the drama unfold in the press and social media.
The moment Mr. Trump stated “We will not deal with Mr. Kim Darroch anymore” it was clear that Sir Kim Darroch was automatically Persona Non-Grata (an unacceptable/unwelcome person) and he would not be effective as an envoy to the USA and he would achieve next to nothing by continuing as an Ambassador. That is the worst possible situation for a serving Ambassador to be in.
An Ambassador’s primary job is to convey his government’s views and concerns to the host country, but when the host country does not want to deal with the Ambassador, then it is conveyed through the next Officer at the Embassy and that would be the Deputy Chief of Mission or DCM. But the DCM, by virtue of his rank, will not have access to the highest levels of the host country’s foreign establishment like the Secretary of State but officers lower down the rank. So this, in effect, means that issues of crucial importance will not receive the priority they deserve with the host government and, even worse, DCM cannot seek an appointment either with the Secretary of State or the President of the USA on matters of urgent importance.
Highest levels of the US State Department like Secretary of State, Deputy Secretary of State and Assistant Secretary of State will not deal with the serving British Ambassador as he is considered a “pompous fool” and “very stupid“. They will not deal with the DCM either, as he is a junior, but instead, will choose the route of conveying its urgent request through the United States Ambassador stationed in London, or if the matter is so urgent, the Secretary of State will fly down to London in his own special aircraft. This, in effect, would render the entire British Embassy in Washington a mere showpiece with no role to play.
The USA and the UK are mature democracies and Permanent Members of the Security Council, and for such nations to indulge in a public spat over a leaked cable is unbecoming of both. In my opinion, the best course of action would have been to call Sir Kim Darroch to the State Department to inform him that he is not welcome anymore and it is best if he left by a certain date, failing which he may be declared ‘Persona Non-Grata’.
The same could be conveyed to the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office by the serving US Ambassador in London. I believe issues involving Ambassadors should be dealt with discreetly and not through social media and name calling. Of course the sudden recall would surely be noticed by the diplomatic community in Washington, but nevertheless, it would remain as speculation with little or no evidence to go by, but it would stay out of public discourse.
The resignation of Sir Kim Darroch is a saving grace in this sordid affair, as his continuing to be the British Ambassador would serve no purpose. And worse in any diplomatic gathering all eyes would be on him out of curiosity – “So that is Sir Kim Darroch, is it, sitting there?”