The delay in confirming President Biden’s nominees for positions at the State Department and USAID has already harmed our national security. That is easier to say than prove. However, there is a strong case to be made that a lack of leadership at key political levels has contributed to the harm done to our international standing.

Senators who are holding nominations under the threat of a filibuster in a futile attempt to influence policy are stymieing an unprecedented number of presidential appointments. They will fail to achieve their stated goal. They are weakening our responses to crises and impeding the administration’s efforts to conduct a viable foreign policy as they persist. That could be their intention, and if so, it is heinous.

Why, you may ask, is it so critical to have presidential appointees in place a year after a president’s inauguration? Why can’t professional foreign service officers provide the necessary leadership?

This is my perspective as a career professional and a political appointee.

Career officers are supposed to be apolitical; they aren’t always, but when they are, they are most effective. Their expertise and institutional knowledge are priceless. They serve as an important balance wheel on the ship of state. They, too, are human, and in general, they seek a political framework to which they can contribute their knowledge and ingenuity.

Political appointees to leadership positions at State and USAID bring professional knowledge to the table, sometimes from a different field, but they are usually well versed in an administration’s policy positions. During the presidential campaign, many offered advice and contributed policy ideas that were adopted by the candidate and his top advisers. They don’t need to look for a framework because they contributed to it. It is their responsibility to lead the implementation.

The administration’s top leaders, including Secretary Antony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Deputy Secretary Wendy Sherman, and Administrator Samantha Power, are experienced and tested leaders, but they are operating at a significant disadvantage. They require trusted acolytes who can amplify their influence over the thousands of dedicated individuals under their command.

As the administration moves to counter Vladimir Putin’s diabolical chess moves and the threat posed by the autocratic alliance of Putin and China’s Xi, pundits consider the ramifications of previous missteps. Our adversaries use them to undermine the administration’s efforts to reengage constructively and strengthen alliances.

In the Atlantic, George Packer describes the chaotic evacuation and “betrayal” of many of our Afghan allies with sad and colorful anecdotes. The administration is being held accountable, as it should be, but it is also true that it inherited some real poison pills, some of which could have been avoided if appointees had been chosen differently.

Another embarrassing undiplomatic moment involved the sale of nuclear submarines to Australia, an arrangement that nullified a previous agreement between France and Australia. The French government was outraged and even summoned its ambassador back to Paris to express its hurt feelings.

The career service inherited by the Biden administration was demoralized and decimated after four years of an administration that went out of its way to be undiplomatic. Many senior executives cashed out and retired. That only increased the importance of appointing a new leadership team. It would be difficult to re-engage with a skeptical world. Even a full team would have found it difficult.

We are fortunate to have outstanding people at the highest levels of the State Department and USAID. They are backed up by a strong but depleted career corps. That is insufficient. The Senate should do its job and prevent a two-vote minority from filibustering the president’s nominees. Senators who engage in the most trivial of politics endanger the United States’ national security.