“Who will raise our children?

661054_pw_diplomacy The State Department has been having a tough time getting enough of its people to go and serve in Iraq.  Because of this "the department" is thinking of giving its employees the choice of accepting such assignments or losing their jobs.  Interesting.  I find it particularly interesting becasue of all the good and brave Foreign service officers whom I have known.  Interesting and sad.

The State Department has several "classes" of employees. First, there is the "Foreign Service."  These are the carefully screened and competitively selected (allowing for affirmative action) members of the career "diplomatic service." They are supposedly commissioned officers of the United States.  They are not members of the uniformed services, but nevertheless are actually something more than mere employees.  Like soldiers they are sworn to their duty when commissioned.  Evidently, that responsibility sits lightly on some of them.  These folks receive large overseas bonuses depending on the "hardship" of the post.  In Iraq, the bonuses when added together amount to something close to 100% of pay.  Then there are also benefits provided with regard to the education of children in very nice schools, sometimes in Europe, etc.

Then, there are civil servants employed by "the department."  They have a plausible case if they object to involuntary assignments.  They did not sign up for that.  They signed up to work in the States.

"Who will raise our children?"  That’s a good question.  The "grunts," horse soldiers, marines, air crew, etc., have been asking that question since time immemorial.  There are various answers, none of them good.

"Such an assignment is equivalent to a sentence of death." A long serving Foreign Service officer said this yesterday in a meeting protesting this "injustice."  Interesting.  You can take all the "fallen" of the civilian parts of the government from all the years of the republic and write all their names on a wall together and the numbers will look ridiculous when compared to the Army’s dead in one day on many, many occasions.

Ah, but these were just "common soldiers."  (irony)  pl


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67 Responses to “Who will raise our children?

  1. rjj says:

    in effect, a purge???

  2. The State Department has several “classes” of employees. First, there is the “Foreign Service.”
    I was one of these guys once. (By now, everyone’s probably wondering who I haven’t worked for at some point…that’s a long story.)
    The word “class” is correct. There are two groups in the Foreign Service: Foreign Service Officers (FSO) and Foreign Service Specialists. I was a specialist. Specialists were second-class citizens in the eyes of many FSOs regardless of how many years of training, education and experience we had.
    Many of us were not happy with that culture and left for greener pastures very quickly. There was a real high turnover rate of high-tech specialists in the late 1990s.
    The dedicated FSOs you knew Col were probably ex-military. I ran into a few of those during the hiring process. The Georgetown School of Foreign Service crowd were a different story.

  3. lina says:

    I thought diplomats were removed from war zones “since time immemorial.” What is the point of diplomats in a war zone?

  4. majkia says:

    Well, considering they would be sent there amidst a civil war and not allowed to actually do their jobs, I don’t blame them one little bit.

  5. JohnH says:

    But all the news reports say that Baghdad is becoming safer! Hmmm…

  6. jonst says:

    Neither do I Majkia, and while I would hope the ‘grunts’ would not make this a habit, I wish they did the same thing. You want to die for Bush? Cheney? Waterboarding? Extraordinary Rendition? (AKA kidnapping) Patriot Acts? Crazy, paranoid, Publicity Officers, feeding right wing blogs propaganda? Including the PO of he, who cannot be criticized? Grunts can’t, nor should, look for the perfect war, or perfect cause, to say ‘ok, that I will fight for’. Understood. But I would not die, or kill, for this cause either. I don’t blame the FSO’s.

  7. Matthew says:

    Col. Ken Burns recently said we were a different country when we won WWII. I think he’s implying we are now closer to Aeteus than Vespasian. Any thoughts?

  8. pbrownlee says:

    Hissy fits are always unbecoming but it will be mildly interesting to see how the stumbling SoS will “explain” what is purportedly the largest diplomatic call-up since Vietnam. Counting the abstract nouns might be a useful measure…
    I understood “the Service” actually liked General Powell which was doubtless seen by some as a very black mark against him.
    “Georgetown on the Tigris” should be a lot of fun — perhaps some real slight risk confronting the self-diagnosed great and good will have a salutary effect.

  9. Steve says:

    I thought the State Department’s main function was to lobby governments for US corporations. Is not this their main function?

  10. jon says:

    Coupla ways at looking at this.
    Some may truly worry about the safety of the postings. Probably not a guaranteed death sentence, though. Besides, you’ve got all that dedicated security.
    Some folks may be trying to make a political point about the probability of success in this venture or posting. In future years it may not be the E ticket to career advancement.
    This could also be a way to cycle in some of those neocon true believers, and pick up some more wet behind the ears resumes in the Heritage Foundations slush pile.
    Some people may be being asked to go in order to provoke their resignations.
    I have heard it said that in years past similar situations developed for other postings, and it came to diplomats being directly ordered to those postings.
    Personally, now that Karen Hughes’ mission is fulfilled, I don’t see what anyone could be objecting to…
    BTW Col., my condolences on the dashing of your presidential hopes.

  11. meletius says:

    I question whether there is anything of actual value for the FSOs to do imprisoned in the Emerald Kingdom of the Green Zone, other than duck “incoming” and send out-of-touch memos to each other.
    They’re basically just civilians sitting in a war zone being asked to play-act as though political and diplomatic “progress” is being made in Cheney’s oil colony.
    Seems unfair and futile to me, and not what they signed up for. They didn’t enlist to be (unarmed) combat troops.

  12. Sgt.York says:

    As Lina (above) points out, in all previous conflicts diplomats have always been removed from war zones and the embassy closed. Bush is trying to force these people to serve not as diplomats but as the colonial administration for the military occupation of Iraq. That’s not what they signed up for.

  13. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I am surprised at the level of ignorance I see in some of these comments. A US embassy conducts all the government’s non-military business.
    No diplomats in a war zone? There was an embassy in London throughout the blitz. There was an embassy in Saigon throughout the war and Foreign Service officers manned that embassy. There was an American embassy in the USSR throughout WW2.
    Some of you let your animus toward the Bush Administration interfere with your thinking.
    If you think that FS reluctance to serve in Iraq is based on principle you are wroneg. They don’t want to go becasue they are frightened children. This, in spite of their privileged life in the Green Zone where their “hardships” consist of worry over re-supplies of ice cream and lobster.
    The FS officers in Iraq are mainly the equivalent of the “Fobbits” who are the butt of military humor.
    Those civilians who serve on Provincial Reconstruction Teams are a different matter although I wonder how many regular FS officers are among them. pl

  14. Mad Dogs says:

    I wonder if Condi has considered this as a new opportunity for Blackwater?
    Hmmm…yep, sure she has and wouldn’t you know, just when it was looking up to “privatize” the DoS entirely, Blackwater shoots their hosts.
    Poor Condi. Boo hoo! Oh well, they’ll just have to repeat Kindergarten of Foreign Service school.

  15. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I am also appalled by the appeals to sedition and mutiny that I see in some of these comments. pl

  16. Jose says:

    This is a neo-con plot to force all the Georgetown personnel to quit and be replaced by neo-friendly SAIS personnel.
    Just joking but layoff my Hoyas..lol

  17. Mad Dogs says:

    I do agree with your statement of:
    “If you think that FS reluctance to serve in Iraq is based on principle you are wrong. They don’t want to go because they are frightened children.”
    And isn’t that a very telling point about the war as well as about ourselves?

  18. jonst says:

    I am appalled by colonial wars. I am appalled by repeated violations of the constitution. I am appalled by the great,corrupt, waste of money, and profiteering I see going on . I am appalled by strafing of civilian populations. I am appalled by the casual wrecking of the US Army. I am appalled by the fact that tax cuts were granted to the richest Americans at a time of war. I am appalled that there is no draft and the bulk of this is falling on professional military and their families. I am most appalled by my visit yesterday to the Togus VA in Maine and the conditions I encountered. And the stories I heard.

  19. Lurch says:

    I would wonder whether the fear that has been expressed in the media has something to do with either a general perception that getting to, or leaving, the Embassy is perilous. To my knowledge, no planes have been shot down on the Embassy run.
    The again, being insiders, perhaps they’re more aware of all the problems with Embassy construction, than we rabble. Or maybe they’re afraid of the Iranian business.
    All considered, it’s probably far safer than a Saigon posting in the 60s-70s.
    They’re professionals. This is their career and if they don’t want to be diplomats I’ll bet they could switch careers very easily.

  20. Cieran says:

    As a former national security officer employed by NNSA, I was indoctrinated with the institutional culture that asserted that a civil service professional served where U.S. national policy required our best efforts, including the deserts of Nevada or the nuclear cities in the former USSR.
    We learned that when you cashed your paycheck from Uncle Sam, you renewed an implicit contract that required you to do what the nation needed, now matter how misguided that policy might seem at the time.
    And we realized that ours was a far better shake than what U.S. military personnel were offered, because if we didn’t like our terms of service, there was always the option of leaving government employment any time we liked.
    Which in my case, I did, in large part because of Bush administration policies towards underfunding counterterrorism initiatives and generally failing to protect the homeland.

  21. frank durkee says:

    I assumed,perhaps incorrectly,that many of the FSO’s would be attached to the PRTs’ mentioned above by Col. Lang. I also assumed that some,perhaps all, of those assignments would have a greater degree of risk than the Green Zone. I find myself wondering if this isn’t in part at least the form that a professional rejection of this administrations policies is taking. I’m not sure I like it at all. It seems part aand parcel of trying to do this on the cheap with no real engagement in terms of service or sacrifice for most of us and much of the government.

  22. It looks like my 15 months working there makes me an expert as far as us commenters are concerned.
    So…I’ll comment on this:
    “Bush is trying to force these people to serve not as diplomats but as the colonial administration for the military occupation of Iraq. That’s not what they signed up for.”
    They signed up to promote the policies of the United States abroad. If they disagree with those policies, then they are supposed to resign as far as I know. Some have. More power to them.
    The DoS worked like the military to a certain degree – you went where they needed you. There was some wiggle room, but they did have the option to say “go or resign” back then even though there was no war on. At least that’s how they managed the specialists. The FSOs may have been treated a little differently.
    My impression of most FSOs was not positive. I wish I could remember my buddy’s name for them – he had been a Marine security guard and we hit it off right away when we met in orientation.
    May have had the term suckup in there somewhere. Limpdick rings a bell, too.
    That place drove us both crazy.

  23. Fobbit…
    Hey, that sounds like my service!

  24. Dave of Maryland says:

    I remember getting hired by the Army. The 1A notice came in the mail unsolicited.
    I remember trying to get hired by the State Department. I sat the written exam four times. Passed it the first three. Took the orals only once, and flunked. The other three times I was out of the country. The only reason for the exams were to eliminate 97 or 98 percent of the applicants. The famous Kennan had it much easier.
    Dare I say it? How disappointed I have become with this site?

  25. rjj says:

    What is the oath people take when they enter this service?

  26. Pan says:

    Pat, apparently this is where most of your commenters and you part company. I agree with you wholeheartedly, as a former AF officer and a DoD employee who signed a worldwide mobility agreement (same as the FSOs) when I started my job. My question to the FSOs: What part of worldwide availability don’t you understand? This has nothing to do with Bush or the Administration. As civil servants we serve whichever administration is in power and we try to be apolitical and professional in carrying out our official duties. Whining about your assignment is very unbecoming. If the FSOs who are sent to Baghdad don’t want to go, they have the same choice as me: Shut up and do your job or resign.

  27. Jimmy Wu says:

    I believe that the 100% Iraq bonus applies to the civil service employees as well.
    The State employees have it good in Iraq. In addition to the bonus, they also have a fantastic benefits package. For example, a fully furnished condo for each employee, 4-day workweek (Fri: Muslim, Sun: Christian, Sat: might as well), meals at the embassy dining hall (booze allowed), and a variety of R&R scheduling packages to choose from [4-6 short R&Rs or 1-2 long vacations, etc].
    It is a surprise that the Defense employees have not lobbied for the same benefit package as their State brothers. The Defense employees have to settle with 2 to a can, only 30% Iraq bonus, and no booze at all.

  28. Webley Webster says:

    If they can resign they have one more option than most of the soldiers in Iraq. If I were them I would use it. Many folks have had to change careers for one reason or another.

  29. Uncle Ralph says:

    rjj wrote:

    What is the oath people take when they enter this service?

    RTO Trainer at Signaleer has the answer at Foreign Service Officer’s Oath

  30. Adam says:

    The fascinating thing is that the diplomats are being treated as if they are military volunteers, instead of civilian draftees. The reality is that there is a massive emotional and intellectual difference between joining the Army or Marines and joining the diplomatic corps. That difference is at the start of the process, never mind after the years of training.
    To put this point in a nutshell: Does anyone think that when the diplomats come back from the war there will be parades for them? Lines of ramrod straight diplomats, be-suited, briefcases at attention, striding down the road as ticker-tape falls from the sky? If you don’t think that this is going to happen then you understand why there is a difference between the Army and the diplomats.
    The big question is what are they expected to achieve? They are hardly in a position to form a colonial administration and there aren’t enough troops to do that anyway. There is no realistic political contact between Iraqis and Americans in Iraq, as most diplomacy occurs in the safety of Jordan these days. Even if the option to run diplomacy in Iraq was taken few Iraqis would be silly enough to join the queues to get into the Green Zone just to see some American diplomat.
    Finally I suspect that the diplomats are bright enough to read a calendar. US troops will be withdrawing from 2008 and the diplomats are on a 2-year tour. Which means from 2009 onwards their safety belong to the Iraqis, and no-one wants to be in the next generation of hostages when the embassy gets overrun by furious Iraqis.
    And for those arguing that embassies don’t close in war-zones… It very much depends if you’re actually at war with the nation you’re in! The US Charge d’Affairs in Berlin closed in December 1941 and didn’t reopen until well after the war.

  31. calipygian says:

    I know the cultures are incompatible and this idea has the same chance of coming to fruition as an asteroid strike, but how about squaring the circle by taking some of the more experienced Army FAOs (and Navy FAOs when they FINALLY come on line) and detailing them to State as temporary FSOs? After all, isn’t that what a FAO kind of is now? Many of the FAOs I have known are as sharp, or sharper than FSOs and actually have the same education level, having graduated from Columbia and, in one case I know, the Kennedy School of Government. Of course State would look at it as DoD encroaching on State, but if DoS can’t get it done, someone has to…

  32. chowderhead says:

    Juan Cole at Informed Comment has a good post about this.

  33. Shrike58 says:

    I have problems with colonial wars too (which this adventure has effectively become), however, these people took the “King’s Shilling” so they knew the deal.
    As has been observed, I wonder how much of this is due to State’s community of Arabists adopting a pose of “internal immigration,” only now exploded by this diktat from on high.
    I can also observe that my civil service buddy who volunteered for a stint in Afghanistan thinks that these folks are funny as $#!+.

  34. Binh says:

    I’m sorry but I don’t have any sympathy for these people. They don’t say a damn thing against the Admin when they sent soldiers to accomplish Mission Impossible without armor and other gear, but when it’s their a—- on the line, they raise a hue and cry about being handed a “death sentence.” (Only 4 State Dept employees have died in the war so far, if I remember the stat right from Hardball.) When these guys do 3-4 tours, get hit with stop-loss, and continue to patrol or break down doors and get into firefights, then they’ll have the right to complain.

  35. Dave Of Maryland-
    The highly competitive hiring process leads to an unhealthy organizational culture as far as I’m concerned. It helps produce a class system that is at odds with the modern workforce. Those of us (specialists) who had come from private industry found it elitist and profoundly unproductive. We did our minimum time and left. Those who joined straight out of the military seemed to do OK in that environment.
    The DoS organizational culture is stuck in a rigid, hierarchical class system that is counterproductive.

  36. John Moore says:

    The same people used to look out of their castles during a peasant uprising and remark, “Serf’s up!”

  37. Abu Sinan says:

    These people do not have to serve. I am no supporter of this war or the administration.
    The way it is being handled make the FS look like crying babies. If they are so against the war and the policies of the current administration there is nothing stopping them from resigning en-masse.
    Until that happens they should, and must, report to the station where they are told to go. If they do not want to do so, resign.
    I worked for the DoD and went where I was sent. I was never forced to go anywhere, although I did end up visiting war zones.
    In 2001, when I no longer believed in what I was doing, I resigned. I didnt like the Bush administration and didnt like what his policies meant for my job, so I quit.
    If you keep the job you do what you are told, but no one is forcing these people to stay.
    Sorry. I dont think you could find someone who disagrees with the Bush administration on foreign policy any more than I do, but it doesnt change the facts here.

  38. jamzo says:

    it seems to me the “fso baghdad problem” can be looked at in two ways
    on one hnad the fso’s are shirking duty (the glass is half empty)
    on the other hand the fso’s are resisting foolish policy (the glass is half full)
    i think the glass is both half empty and half full
    the fso’s are not being loyal, they are resisting policy
    i think the surprise is that it has taken this long for a group of “on the payroll” government workers to take a public stand against the administration

  39. VietnamVet says:

    Colonel; of course, you are correct.
    Object to the assignment, resign. Since most government employees are not independently wealthy, find another job. Old enough, retire and pray that Shock Therapy doesn’t wipe out the Civil Service Retirement System. This is what happens when the moral authority of the state lapses and outsourcing has limited good jobs to multi-nationals or war profiteers.
    No doubt, not much different than London a hundred years ago, but the obviously British Public Schools did a much better job of preparing one to serve God and Country.

  40. Martin K says:

    I do not understand what they are whining about. If they are under command, what part of the term “under command” is it they dont understand?
    BTW, for us foreigners: What role did State play in the preparation of the invasion?

  41. frank durkee says:

    I agree with Pan and the Col. As an old southern comment puts it “If you take the mans money , you must do the mans work”. Unlike the blacks, from whom this statement comes the FSOs’ can resign and move on with some comfort.

  42. Martin K says:

    As an aside, what exactly are you feeding your ambassadors these days? The current one over here in Norway is living in a reality all of his own. He wrote a public letter asking for Norwegian Special Forces down south, and managed to portray Taliban as “conducting a last desperate struggle” three times in the same letter. The day after Taliban reached the outskirts of Kandahar. He also continously uses the term “the Afghan People”, wich in norwegian is “Det Afghanske Folk”, wich smells very much of german terminology from the old days. And never mind that pesky difference between pashtuns and usbeks and hazari and… No, its a fight to the death with the soon exterminated evil Taleban for the sake of the Afghan People.
    Also, he keeps on threatening an allied nation if we do not bow our heads. In his three messages to the Norwegian public, he always mentions that “The US notices who is a friend and who is an enemy”, etc. What is this tradition of sending over amateur diplomats who just insult everybody?

  43. DaveGood says:

    In the end, it boils down to this
    There’s a difference between a Patriot who “Serves the Nation” …. and someone who aids and abets the criminals who run it.
    The second will always claim to be the first, and may indeed have been a Patriot, once.

  44. Charles I says:

    I(from the sidelines) agree entirely. Serve or resign are the choices. Not that there’s been many principled resignations over Iraq to serve as an example to date. The people doing the real heavy lifting – soldiers subjected to stop-loss tour extensions – are not afforded the luxury of choice.

  45. Prof Cole tries to “save” US diplomats

    And as far as I have seen, the US Department of State is one of the most bloated and wasteful branches of government. Maybe I haven’t seen their efficient side yet – but I’m not holding my breath. This latest dust-up over Baghdad assignments does not…

  46. Grimgrin says:

    Pan: “Lisa, If you don’t like your job you don’t strike. You just go in every day and do it really half-assed… that’s the American way!” – Homer Simpson.
    If you cannot perform the duties of a post in good conscience you resign. If you’re not allowed to resign you wait until you’re back home and you desert, and take your chances. What you don’t do is try and refuse the unpleasant bits of a job while keeping the benefits and expect anyone to look at you as anything other than a self serving weasel.

  47. sheerahkahn says:

    I have to disagree with you here. Diplomats (further known as Dip’s) are useful when there is something to work with, in a hot enviroment, as in not temperature but conflict, they are particulary…oh whats the word I want to use here…ah, there we go, that’s it…useless!
    So, there comes a time when a particular individual is either a part of the solution or contributes to the ongoing problem…so, PL, with intellectual honesty in full play, how useful is a Dip in a hot enviroment?

  48. rjj says:

    “If you cannot perform the duties of a post in good conscience you resign.”
    You can’t possibly resign in good conscience when you know your position will be filled by regime loyalists — Bob Jones and Liberty University trained specialists.

  49. pbrownlee says:

    Does the apparent confusion about diplomats in war zones arise from the fudging of what were reasonably clear distinction between allies and enemies, at least among nation states? Following an official declaration of war (remember them?) embassies were closed, passports returned and dips withdrawn from the capital/s of the declared enemy/ies; diplomats worked harder (usually) in the embassies in allied or key neutral capitals (though consular staff often had a bit of a break – fewer trade shows and visa applications). Civil wars were tougher — as Lord Copper in Waugh’s “Scoop” had it (I think) we support “the patriots ” and oppose “the rebels”. The problem was working out who was who.
    The old “Treason never prospers…” verse may now usefully be revised to read “Terrorism never prospers…” — http://books.google.com/books?id=k6sDAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA125&lpg=PA125&dq=%22treason+never+prospers+what's+the+reason%22&source=web&ots=TJ55ay8OPm&sig=bpGjJhlkYDdkX7Ia0fqN0aZUuYw
    or as Robt Burton has it: “Prosperum et felix scelus, virtus vocatur — We measure all as Turks do, by the event, and most part, as Cyprian notes, in all ages, countries, places, saevitiae magnitudo impunitatem sceleris acquirit; the foulness of the fact vindicates the offender. [330]One is crowned for that which another is tormented: Ille crucem sceleris precium tulit, hic diadema; made a knight, a lord, an earl, a great duke, (as [331]Agrippa notes) for that which another should have hung in gibbets, as a terror to the rest” — http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/burton/robert/melancholy/preface4.html

  50. rjj says:

    Whatever they have sworn to,** whatever their contractual obligations, I think they have a duty to hold that line. {this refers to my previous post}.
    ** thank you for that link to the oath which I will now go and read.

  51. Webley Webster says:

    On the other hand a DoS filled with only Bush appointments is another locus of disaster.

  52. FDR_Democrat says:

    The snide comments about the FSO are uncalled for. The entire diplomatic corps is small numbers wise. Over the decades, they have taken their share of suffering. Ask the families of the East African embassy bombings. Ask the widow of the USAID official gunned down in Jordan. Talk with the people held hostage in Teheran in 1979-1980.
    As for their being some supposed difference in courage and devotion between FSO of a military background and those of a non-military background, wherein lies the proof of this? There are heroes and cowards among both I warrant.

  53. Leila says:

    I didn’t know it was Karen Hughes who was responsible for sending semi-critics of the Administration out to the Mid-East to represent America. While I was in Grad School for creative writing last spring, one of my teachers (young, lauded, raised in the US but born in a 3d world country, Ivy League-trained and Rhodes Scholar) was sent to Syria, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Turkey and Greece on a writers’ junket. I was staggered – Syria? State is sending folks to Syria? Maybe they’re not going to bomb Syria after all? I spent some energy trying to figure this out. Recently I heard a lefty poetess in SF at a reading talk about that same trip – she had been on it. She is very publicly against the Iraq war.
    The info on Hughes’ activities in the Slate article adds a bit of information to the puzzle. I had known of the CIA-sponsored tours in the 50s and 60s (and alerted my young teacher to them). well it seems like a better use of my taxpayer dollars than funding mercenaries or dropping depleted uranium ordinance.

  54. TRStone says:

    How many researchers resigned over Vioxx, how many HMO employees leave their employer over refusing to pay for treatments, when was the last time a elected offical turned down a paycheck due to favoring certain developers versus the will of the people, how about the Congress doing what the electors desire! MY best guess, based on observation, is NONE -(Democrats/Republicans who knows the difference and at this point who cares).
    The concept of doing what is right cannot compete with the almighty dollar.
    Everyone in their career has encountered that situation—how many stood on principle and how many rationalized that their family needed the cash more.
    We all will do what is right NEXT TIME.

  55. adam says:

    Never mind the US ambassadors, what are the Israeli ones on?
    Back in 2006 the Israeli ambassador in El Salvador was found drunk, bound, gagged and naked, except for the sado-masochistic bondage gear in which he was attired. As the ferro-roche advert had it: “I think the Ambassador is spoiling us.”
    Needless to say, the appearance of a bound, naked, sweating man on the streets caused a certain amount of comment. As well as a certain amount of confusion, until the police popped the ball gag out of his mouth, and the whole story came tumbling out.
    Mind you, compared to some Israeli ambassadors he’s a piker. Classics have included dying in Paris hotels whilst having sex with someone that he wasn’t married to (legend has it a professional, nastier legend has it to be male).
    Other Israeli ambassadors have merely run porno businesses on the side.
    By comparison the Americans have it easy with their Ambassadors. They merely don’t want to get killed. As noted 4 state department people have died so far in Iraq, a very high death rate when the tiny numbers of State people and their non-combat nature are considered. In Vietnam I cannot find any records of State Department combat deaths.
    One fascinating question is of course why the need to conscript diplomats? The US Embassy in Iraq website jobs page makes a special point of saying that it has hundreds of applications for every post!

  56. searp says:

    COL Lang mischaracterizes the IZ. It is not luxury, and it is wrong to imply that it is luxury. It is a dangerous place where diplomats live in trailers. Further, his cranky post here addresses the wrong question.
    The question of whether to go or not ought properly to be subsumed into the question of whether there is any point to having the world’s LARGEST embassy in Iraq.
    — we have very few diplomats who speak arabic
    — we have very limited opportunities to “interact” with the locals, we are essentially shut-ins
    — the soi-disant “government” of Iraq hardly requires liaison from an army of American diplomats
    Nope, the right policy choice is to size the embassy appropriately, then we wouldn’t be debating sending FSOs involuntarily.

  57. jonst says:

    In the face of a tyranny that is acting unlawfully, and capriciously, that has gutted the opposistion (or, more correctly stated perhaps: watched the opposition gut itself) all peaceful (at this point) resistance, however hypocritical, and self serving it MIGHT, or might not be, should be welcomed. I said before and will say it again if the Col posts this comment: saying no to the boy emperor is good.

  58. Martin K says:

    corection: The last letter to the public was not signed by ambassador Withney himself, but his state department aide Bruce something, I re-checked.

  59. Martin K says:

    If y`all excuse a small nationalistic comment: I believe mrs. Clinton should hire a lot of Norwegian, Finnish and Swedish diplomats and soldiers to educate US key-personel in soft profile. We are not amazing, but I think we have the right idea in a long term transitional development point of view.

  60. Steve says:

    I agree they should serve or resign.
    A principled resignation over the conduct of this war would be a service itself.

  61. Duncan Kinder says:

    Those looking for an historical precedent for the concerns of the diplomatic corps with the prospect of serving in Iraq might want to read The Boxer Rebellion: The Dramatic Story of China’s War on Foreigners that Shook the World in the Summer of 1900

  62. There’s an awful lot of smoke and noise over the remarks on one guy (out of total FS generalist corps of 6,500) at a Town Hall meeting called to announce a change in assignments policy.
    Town Hall meetings are intended for people to voice their concerns and fears, so they can be addressed.
    Unfortunately, the media has seized on the opportunity push the idea that the State Dept. doesn’t support the administration’s Iraq policy.
    Also regretably, a lot of bloggers have fallen for this hook, line and sinker. Isn’t it wonderful when dissention and backbiting can be encouraged between the uniformed and diplomatic services?
    Sixty percent of the Foreign Service is deployed at any given time, and of the 2,000 or so in the U.S., only 300 (max.) were at this meeting.
    Out of 252 jobs opening in Iraq, at the embassy and on Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT), 204 had already been filled with qualified volunteers at the FS-03 thru OC (equiv. to majors thru brigadier generals) ranks. Bear in mind that every single FSO position through the current year has been filled by a volunteer who stepped forward specifically for Iraq, totalling more than 2,000 officers out of a corps of 6,500.
    Only 48 positions were identified as needing to be filled by “directed assignment.” Since that was announced (as of yesterday morning), 15 new qualified volunteer officers had stepped forward, leaving only 33 (and counting) unfilled positions.
    Nobody has resigned. Nobody has refused an assignment in Iraq. This isn’t nearly as big a story as you have been led to believe.
    It almost makes one suspect that someone has an agenda to further by pushing the idea that the nation’s professional diplomats were “rebelling” over the administration’s Iraq policy.
    Nah, I’m sure that’s not it.

  63. pbrownlee says:

    Perhaps those FSOs who did not want to serve in Baghdad could try Islamabad and test their diplomatic skills on a dictatorship which really does have WMDs — http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7076670.stm

  64. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    I’ll go.
    With a few provisos, of course — all of which are intended to represent a way to liberate from oppression people like Flynt Leverett. Number one, no working or hanging out with private security contractors. Only USM. Number two, one is allowed to construct an analytical methodology based upon some of the assumptions derived from the work of Walt and Mearsheimer. No more of this gibberish entitled “Leo Strauss and the World of Intelligence”. Number three, one is allowed to research whether or not the Wurmser option is treason, de facto if not de jure, as it places at great risk the USM in Iraq. And finally, no USG censorship of any conclusions that one draws from analyzing open sources.
    Other than that, I am a quiet team player.
    In any event, the debate continues among those who call themselves “FSO”.

  65. former diplomat says:

    I used to work there the personnel system was a nightmare. They are obsessed with status. There is a notorious labor union trying to create a caste system within the diplomatic service. They have even gone so far as to claim that foreign service members are exempted from the civil service rules. Actually, the FS is part of the Civil Service, (Excepted Service), and there is nothing special about its members. Increasingly, the State Department is sending diplomats overseas under non FS labels, to save money and get around legal restrictions. But AFSA is blocking efforts to fill positions based on merit – they fight to have unqualified members get assignments to posts where they do not even speak the language, then give them 2 years of training at govt expense, and a bonus if they pass the test. The non FS diplomats are excluded from consideration, even though many of them are already qualified and speak “critical need”
    languages like Korean and Arabic. THis is a very very sensitive issue at State and the source of many conflicts, grievances and terminations.

  66. former diplomat says:

    Yes there is a hierarchy:
    FSO (FS officer)
    FSS (FS specialist)
    FSN (FS national)
    GS General Service (civil servant)

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