The Trump administration suffered another avoidable, self-inflicted foreign policy wound when Tillerson reneged on an invitation to meet with the African Union chairman:
“African Union officials were incensed,” said Reuben Brigety, former U.S. Ambassador to the African Union who was privy to Faki’s botched visit. Brigety said the notion of a secretary inviting a top foreign dignitary to Washington, then canceling the meeting and not informing the dignitary until the last minute “is just the dumbest thing in the world.”
Trump has been in office just over three months, and he and his officials have nonetheless managed to quarrel with and/or snub foreign leaders at a rapid rate. Part of the problem in this case is the ongoing severe understaffing of the State Department, but another is the administration’s evident lack of interest in any of the things that the department is supposed to do. Hence the absurdly deep cuts in the administration’s proposed budget. One would think that Tillerson would at least grasp the importance of meeting with foreign dignitaries that he invited to visit and make sure to keep the appointment, but it seems that is not the case. By itself, this episode would not be embarrassing but not all that significant, but taken together with the administration’s pattern of diplomatic malpractice and dysfunction it is another warning sign that U.S. foreign policy is suffering from erratic leadership and oftentimes seems to be completely rudderless. Then again, this is what we can expect when neither the president nor the Secretary of State has any meaningful foreign policy experience and when the administration as a whole seems to regard diplomacy with disdain or indifference.