Saturday, November 03, 2007


Affairs of State

This past week witnessed a staged media event, on Halloween no less, covering what really scares a self-selected group of disgruntled US State Department Foreign Service Officers (FSO).

As reported by MSNBC, FSO’s were invited to a media circus, for the apparent purpose of eliciting sound-bite worthy objections to a new State Dept. policy, requiring a small number of mandatory FSO assignments to Iraq to cover shortfalls in volunteers for posting.

The shortfall started at around 48, is now down to 33 thanks to 15 recent volunteers. Otherwise, the media framed event surely musty have achieved the organizer’s implicit intent, evidenced by this quote heard ‘round the blogosphere:
"It's one thing if someone believes in what's going on over there and volunteers, but it's another thing to send someone over there on a forced assignment," [Senior FSO Jack] Crotty said. "I'm sorry, but basically that's a potential death sentence and you know it. Who will raise our children if we are dead or seriously wounded?"
One online community reacted predictably, with calls by latex spittle and others of the pajama-clad to call for US diplomats to be withdrawn from Iraq. (Would it be impolite to suggest that the anti-war opposition grows ever more desperate to find any tattered shred of despair, with which to cloak the obvious, emerging success of our efforts in Iraq?)

Another online community reacts with experience of a different kind of foreign service, yet with a good appreciation of the role of the FSO, resulting in excellent discussion at MILBLOGS here, here, and here.

All in all, I'm not sure an assignment in Iraq is really that much more dangerous than one to Columbia, Peru, almost anywhere in the Middle East, Thailand, Burma, or large parts of Africa.

Fact is, this event signifies nothing more than politicizing by FSOs who are democrat leaning or otherwise against the war. Yet another example of the internal war against the war against this Administration, waged by bureaucracies in CIA and State.

Being a US diplomat ANYWHERE automatically makes you a target for kidnapping, assassination, not to consider any other of a number of risk factors, health and disease wise.

I remember when the UK equivalent of NSA trying to unionize in the 80's (I have the coffee mug). Margaret Thatcher put it in these terms. Go ahead and organize. We'll toss your sorry arses out the gates.

I think that's what the FS needs a good dose of. Who and what are you serving? If you aren’t for the US National Interest -- however that gets defined by those authorized to define it -- go find somewhere else to work.

There’s more mad press for the Foreign Service.

George Packer, writing at The New Yorker, chronicles the inadequacy of the State Dept. response to urgent appeals to expedite emigration of translators and other Iraqi supporters of coalition efforts. Packer describes the heroic efforts of Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Steven Miska, coming to the end of a 15 month tour in Iraq and determined to do everything in his power to help local staff get to the US.

Noting the recent FSO media event, Packer observes:
Yesterday, a group of department officials complained about mandatory assignments to Iraq. If I were a foreign-service officer, I’d wonder instead how I could continue to work for an organization that is obstructing the effort to save our Iraqi allies from death. A few of those officers who served in Iraq and left behind friends might be asking themselves the same question.
I may disagree with much of the rest of Packer’s assessment, both as to the reason for State Dept. apathy, or the level of desperation or threat posed to Iraqi supporters of the coalition. But I find it impossible to argue with his advocacy to open the gates to those who have joined us in the sacrifices required to get us to Democracy adolescence in Iraq.

Many Iraqis – and many Americans for that matter – have shirked any sacrifice and rejected calls to help us make Iraq a success. All the more reason to make sure that those who have put the most on the line get the benefit of our continued protection, if they want it.

Sounds to me like we need to attract a different kind of person for Foreign Service. Go here for more information about the current FSO recruitment process.

(Via Real Clear Politics)

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