No diplomat matches Ambassador Ryan Crocker in direct experience in today’s Middle East, Leslie H. Gelb wrote in a September 2012 article for The Daily Beast. On May 10, 2013, President Obama announced his intention to nominate Ambassador Crocker to serve on the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). He would be a Republican member on the bipartisan board in charge of U.S. international broadcasting. His nomination still has to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
“He’s been everywhere, done everything, diplomatically, time and again. As Ambassador Frank Wisner, the State Department’s Middle East expert of his day, put it: ‘Ryan is the premier U.S. diplomat of his generation.'”
A recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Ryan Crocker was the United States Ambassador to Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012 and the United States Ambassador to Iraq from 2007 to 2009. He previously served as the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan from 2004 to 2007, to Syria from 1998 to 2001, to Kuwait from 1994 to 1997, and to Lebanon from 1990 to 1993.
Leslie H. Gelb also wrote in his 2012 article that “Crocker is a person of great courage and directness—traits that should make recent presidents and many of their top aides tremble at the thought that he just might write his memoirs.”
Great courage and directness are perfect traits for a BBG member facing the failed bureaucracy of the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB)–the ever growing managerial and administrative arm of the BBG–which has made the agency “defunct” and “dysfunctional,” to use the words of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
If confirmed, Ambassador Crocker would have a strong ally in former U.S. Ambassador to Poland Victor Ashe, currently the only Republican BBG member, assuming the White House is not trying to replace Ashe for exposing waste and mismanagement at the agency. Instead of replacing Ashe, Crocker should fill one of the three existing Republican vacancies on the bipartisan board.
Two Democratic BBG members, Susan McCue and Michael Meehan, have joined forces with Ashe in trying to reform the IBB bureaucracy and to make it accountable for its many shortcomings and failures. Their job, however, is made difficult by BBG’s Interim Presiding Governor Michael Lynton who has missed every BBG meeting since January 2013. He should resign, as his prolonged and unexplained absence makes the Broadcasting Board of Governors almost ungovernable as the BBG board lacks quorum without his presence.
The U.S. Senate should act quickly on the confirmation of Jeff Shell to serve as BBG chairman and Matt Armstrong to join the board as a Republican member. By law, the board should have four Democrats and four Republicans, with Secretary of State serving as an ex officio member.
BBG Watch welcomes the nomination of Ambassador Crocker to serve on the Broadcasting Board of Governors. We hope that, once he is confirmed, he will join Victor Ashe, Susan McCue and Michael Meehan in their efforts to reform the bureaucracy of the International Broadcasting Bureau. We hope that they will re-examine IBB’s misguided and unworkable strategic plan. We hope that Jeff Shell and Matt Armstrong will also join this undertaking if they are confirmed. We hope that together they will transform U.S. international broadcasting into what it should be — a critical force for media freedom in countries and regions of strategic importance to the United States.