“The motivation for their backchannel diplomacy was that the bureauracy in the State Department was actively trying to thwart their efforts. “
I suspect this is a recurring phenomenon, regardless of the era or agency/initiative/jurisdiction. Granted, there is a tendency in many human endeavours to respond to requests with “But it’s soooooo hard!” [insert adolescent whining here], deferring to protocol, or an indignant “That’s not how WE do things!”. But one can imagine that there can also be strong substantive differences of opinion between those within the bureaucracy and those at the political level, wherein the one side can perceive the other as trying to subvert them.
The bureaucracy IS sworn to serve the government of the day, but not at the cost of the public interest. The legislative side is accountable to the electorate to follow through on platforms and promises made, but also not at the cost of the public interest.
So how do we get these folks on the same page? Why on earth should one side be attempting an end run around the other? Even if the end-run is in attempting to serve the public interest, seems to me the need for an end-run is not serving that same public interest.
That’s a big part of why I ask “What is it that they DO trust us for/on?”. For me, the public interest is served by building on those areas where trust already does exist. And, lest the point be lost in the mélée, that trust should be bidirectional, not just the responsibility of the political side OR the bureaucracy.