I don’t blame them for being a tad upset at possibly being forced to serve in Iraq, and they made those views known:
“It was an hourlong event, and for a brief period one or two speakers expressed very strongly held views,” the State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said. “It’s a pretty sensitive topic and, understandably, some people are going to have some pretty strong feelings about it.”
During the meeting, one Foreign Service officer likened the Iraq order to a “potential death sentence,” The Associated Press reported. “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,” said the officer, who identified himself as Jack Croddy and once worked as a political adviser with NATO forces, The Associated Press reported. “I’m sorry, but basically that’s a potential death sentence, and you know it.”
The comments were directed at Harry Thomas, the Foreign Service director general.
I have a solution for those at State who have a problem with this: Resign or be fired. You are in the Foreign Service. That’s what you signed up for.
I work as an adult learning specialist. I know, in general, how adults learn. My boss may decide that something is to be done a certain way – a way I may not think is appropriate. I will voice my opinion, and if she still wants me to do it her way, I do it. And if I don’t, I can expect to be disciplined in some way.
Now, I know sitting in a cushy office chair in my Atlanta office is a lot different than being in the Green Zone in Baghdad; however, we all sign on the dotted line, and we all know what we’re in for. When you work in the foreign service as a diplomat, you know that there’s always a chance you’re going somewhere dangerous. If you can’t do that job, you should find another line of employment.
And here I thought I was going to like you at Balloon Juice. The fact is, they didn’t sign up for this. As has been noted in other articles on the subject (and I think was pointed out by someone at that meeting), if this embassy were anywhere else in the world it would have been closed by now. It is not the policy of the government to keep our diplomats in harms way (it can often lead to bad things – see Iran circa 1979). We close them down and get our people out of there. Our soldiers may have signed up for it, but diplomats sign up to talk to people, not get shot at. Chances are, if the shooting has already started, then there’s a good chance diplomacy ain’t gonna do a damned bit of good.
Looks like an opportunity to extend my wrangle with EEEL down at the “Mission Accomplished, Part Deux” thread below. Summing up:
(1) The evidence is that the FSOs are not just pissed off at running some risk to life and limb, but that they’re doing so for no good reason.
(2) The fact that the FSOs will ultimately have to suck it up and go where they’re told (unless they resign) does not mean that, while (and after) going to Baghdad, they don’t have the right to say — loud and clear — that they think they’re working for a bunch of flat-out idiots who are outrageously morally irresponsible into the bargain. Indeed, I would regard it as their patriotic duty to do so, and it appears that Teddy Roosevelt would agree with me. Of course, if the State Dept. wants to fire them for thus speaking out (and continuing to speak out), it is perfectly free to do so. Then let’s see it find some replacements.
I’ll be surfing to Balloon-Juice less now. I’ve read him in the past. Michael D is a slow learner when it comes to politics, inconsistent and convenient in his views and formerly if not currently part of the sad, pathetic obtuse Dean Esmay web site.
A finger in the wind. A pretty useless commentator overall. Bad choice.
I’ll save my strong feelings about the addition for another time. …
Wow, another brave blog warrior criticizing the FSOs for resisting the painfully stupid and counterproductive Baghdad assignment.
Fire those pussies ASAP!
Andrew: My point is that this is the work the Foreign Service does. If they can’t or won’t do it, then they should find another line of work. Baghdad is a shithole. No question about it. We’re responsible for it. No question about that.
The Foreign Service is much like the military – you go where you are told to go. And if you can’t, then the FSO is not for you.
I might be “a slow learner when it comes to politics” as has been astutely (and rather rudely) pointed out above, but the fact is, when you sign up for the Foreign Service, you are basically sign up to go where you are told to go.
Sorry if my opinion offends. It’s just the way the Foreign Service works.
Michael–you are an insomniac, aren’t you? I’m glad I’m not the only one.
You forgot the third option: Get rid of your boss.
Sirkowski: In due time. In due time!!
Perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t think they sign up to be sent into war zones–they’re not like the military in that sense. I would guess that their beef with Iraq is the pretense that it’s stable enough for the Foreign Service to operate. I’ve known people who were joining the Service, but I don’t know exactly what is expected of them or what political weirdness is going on behind the scenes in this particular case, but do you really know either?
From the Foreign Service Web site:
In fact (to continue my comment above), when a country turns into a war zone, one of the first things we do is evacuate embassy personnel and FSOs–maybe not all of them, I don’t know, but generally they sign on to the program with the understanding that they won’t be abandoned if the country goes up in flames.
I agree that once people sign on the line, they should live up to their commitments, but that has to be true for both sides. When these people signed, the state dept closed bureaus in dangerous places, rather than send their people into an intractable and dangerous situation. They’ve changed their side of policy and expect the other party in the “contact” to keep their word. Well, that’s a little one-sided. In contrast to Baghdad, State are pulling people out of Baku, for example.
Does this give the government license to wantonly toss them into the frying pan? (yum–fried wontons! time for a post-midnight snack!) The job description for police work is pretty similar, but they take every precaution to make sure the cops are not exposed to unnecessary danger. Shouldn’t the government do the same for their non-combatant diplomats?
The vast majority of FSO’s won’t either resign, or be fired. They’ll do their job.
But when meetings are arranged by the brass for them to “air their views”, as you started your post, they’re darned entitled to air their views on what they may feel may not only be hazard, but hazard to little end.
You started your post agreeing with that. That’s probably where you should have ended it. FSO’s don’t need you to tell them to do their job. By doing so you imply that they were seriously entertaining alternatives to that. As far as I can see, without any real evidence.
That’s why you were roughly handled by the commenters.
“I’m sorry, but basically that’s a potential death sentence, and you know it.”
I can’t be positive but I think I can almost hear, “You are out of your mind if you think I’m willing to die for a few Republican warmongering profiteers.”
Did they sign up for a war of aggression? For war crimes?
I do see your point Michael, and it does sound pretty outrageous for the Foreign Service to be complaining about being sent to Iraq, when enlisted men and women are put into a “potential death sentence” situation. On the other hand, what if the mission is unjustified? And if they resign, unqualified wingnuts will just take their place.
Then again, some would argue that in a democracy, the only principled thing public servants can do when faced with a rogue regime that defies the rule of law is to resign, lest they lend credibility to it.
Hey everyone, look, it’s John Cole as he was 18 months ago!
An embassy built by slaves should be manned by slaves?
Be nice to have two New Yorkers to choose from next year.
If State cannot find 48 qualified Americans who will take these jobs, I think that’s very telling. So we’re going to start forcing people to fight this war now? When they chose this career I’m sure an illegal occupation never came to mind.
This is the same sort of moronic line that people spouted when stop-loss orders first began cropping up for military personnel. Yeah, technically speaking, this is something that the government has reserved the right to do. It’s also something it hasn’t done in four decades and that most FSOs would never have any reason to suspect it would do when they signed up. Adopting a “tough shit, it’s what you signed up for” attitude is EXACTLY the sort of thing only someone sitting in a cushy chair in Atlanta could say with a straight face–nobody signs up to be forcibly sent to a hazardous posting where any sane government would have already shuttered its embassy and evacuated its personnel.
Further, the people most likely to be sent there are the ones with relevant expertise who didn’t volunteer to go willingly, correct? So we’re essentially sending FSOs who knew enough to not want to go, and likely that means FSOs who knew enough to oppose this misadventure from the beginning. So in all probability we’re forcing FSOs who opposed the war to go to Iraq against their will. Now, tell me how that doesn’t strike you as punative.
Hell, at best, it just has the glaring appearance of punishing war opponents by making them go to Iraq during the most violent year of the war to date. At worst, that’s the whole idea (and I think we’re past the point of immediately considering any notion that this administration abuses its authority in order to punish critics overly paranoid).
A different Matt
I agree with Andrew, Temple, and well, everyone else. This post sucks. It’s exactly the arrogant, black/white worldview that makes me shudder at conservative “thought.”
Good lord – you know not all labor disagreements can be boiled down to “fuck you,” right?
I didn’t think the Riverdance quip was that clever, much less this sort of thing. What a disappointment. Please reconsider his posting privilege, while I reconsider my reading options.
Informed Comment by Juan Cole – posted 11-3
The Bush administration is taking a hard line on dragooning civilian Foreign Service Officers into serving in the war zone of Iraq. The article contains a quote by Ambassador Ryan Crocker which says that the FSO’s swear an oath to serve anywhere in the world. This is not true. They swear an oath to uphold the constitution. They sign a contract that allows them to be posted anywhere. There is a difference, and the two documents may actually be in contradiction. For instance, what if the government did something unconstitutional and wanted to send you to support that action . . .?
I remember standing in line with other city employee’s to shake the mitt of murderer dick cheney, 30 years ago. He was in Haliburton’s pocket then and was also jerry fords chief of staff. The stink of sulfer was also present.
Other option are a law suit or the spawn of Ledeen – Simone Ledeen. Or Bremer could make the country a “real free market economy” again.
Hmmmm, I guess any goodwill I had coming in to this blog is now handily spent.
I am definitely open to changing my mind on any issue, including this one. Unfortunately, comments just accusing me of being a slow learner, or telling me how much I suck aren’t the way to do that.
On the other hand, the comments from sevenleagueboots, Justin, and glasnost presented me with ideas that I had not considered (although I definitely should have.) I’ll blame that partly on the fact that it was 2:00 in the morning, and on pushing the publish button on a hot-button issue when I clearly should have thought a bit more about the subject (and the audience.)
But thanks to the few who offered perspective that added to the conversation.
I just want to echo Temple and a different Matt. Judging by what he’s written so far, Michael comes across as a boring, sanctimonious prick. If he becomes a major contributor here, I’ll be coming here far less.
Also, the whole embassy-staffing debate is already–in the blogosphere, things move fast–old and tired. If Michael can’t shed some new light on it, he should find something else to blog about.
My family is former FSO, and we’re in touch with lots of former FSOs as well. They are pretty much in agreement — when you sign up at State, you go where they send you. A lots of FSOs resigned at the beginning of the Iraq invasion in protest — because they were being asked to be the face of the U.S. government and they disagreed with what the U.S. government was doing and could not, therefore, in good conscience stay in the FS.
That is the choice before these FSOs. Can they stand up and say, “yes, I’ll support this government and represent it”, or not? If the answer is yes, then they should have no problems going to Iraq. If “no”, then they should resign.
Sorry if it hurts their careers and pensions and all, but it’s an important statement they make by staying in the government and facilitating what GWB et al are doing. If they find that GWB’s choices endanger their lives and they don’t think GWB’s choices are worth that risk, well, then.
Then they’re obviously not smart or knowledgeable enough to work at State.
And calling living in the Green Zone a “potential death sentence” is overstatement of a level somewhere between ridiculous and insane.
Is this new guy supposed to get back some credibility from the right since Mr.Cole is now a declared Democrat?
The stop-loss analogy is a good one.While you’re technically correct in citing the letter of their contract,it represents a somewhat radical departure from past practice for no good reason other than to help the administration achieve domestic political success.
The foreign service officers are correct for a couple of reasons,first and foremost the safety issue.They’re being sent to serve in the middle of an ongoing battle zone(circumstances where in the past embassy personnel would have been travelling in the opposite direction) where they will be unable to operate except within a relatively small compound which itself is the object of attack.Any attempts to mingle with the indigenous population outside of the Green Zone amounts to a death sentence for the diplomats as well as the natives.
Secondly,a substantial portion of the Iraqi ‘leadership’ spends a considerable amount of time outside of the country(for the safety of themselves and their families).For the time being,an ’embassy-in-exile’ in Jordan or Syria(yeah,I know),where there’s already a hell of a lot of Iraqi refugees,would be a better and safer solution.
I agree with everyone else sane. People who join the army know they may be ordered to jump out of a plane over enemy territory. Some danger is not the same as a war zone. At least the army guy is equipped and trained to shoot back.
Would anyone here really be surprised if the Bush administration so fucked up in protecting the embassy that the whole lot of them got massacreed?
Micheal D.- Did you read this blog before agreeing to come here? John Cole gets called fithy names here and most people here respect him. If youre going to be thin-skinned you aren’t going to work out. Best Wishes, Frank
Michael – We’re a tough crowd and I assume you’ve been reading BJ for a while, so you were aware of that when John (or Tim?) ask you to co-blog. Not to give you a harder time but I think there’s a certain irony in your getting miffed about the responses to your post. You took the assignment, so to speak, and that includes some unpleasant conditions.
One point made by the FSO’s that I agreed with:
They’re diplomats, that means interacting with people in the country where they have been assigned. They can’t do their jobs if they’re shut up in a fortress (the embassy) within a fortress (the GZ).
Some other questions I’ve had since this particular sub-fiasco began:
1. How many of these people speak Arabic? If they don’t speak Arabic, why the fuck are we sending them?
1a. If they do speak Arabic, were any booted from the military under DADT? I know SD has made a couple of low-key attempts to get such people to join up.
2. Is this a sign that Iraq is now a completely independent nation and we can start bringing the troops home?
Oh, so /now/ the self- important bastards don’t want to go to Iraq, huh? Fuck. You.
I don’t know this for sure, but I imagine that some of these foreign service officers are thinking about their loyalty to the U.S. versus their loyalty to the current, corrupt executive branch of the government. These are different things. People who signed up with idealism in mind face a tough choice, and the objections that they’re raising now are directly analogous, I think, to what we continue to hope will happen with military officers who object to the war in Iraq: Why don’t they say something while they’re still in the system rather than after they retire? It’s a third option, aside from resign or be fired (even if the last might be the result of objecting).
Michael D. wrote:
The Foreign Service is much like the military – you go where you are told to go. And if you can’t, then the FSO is not for you.
Daniel Drezner has a similar discussion going on.
This was a pretty good comment, I think.
Just the first two points:
“Actually, they are treated differently. Unlike military officers:
1. Their earnings are NOT tax-free in Iraq (that’s also unlike non-federal Americans — ONLY federal civilian employees pay tax there, military, contractors, NGO reps, business people, etc don’t).
2. They are not guarranteed health care for life like military officers. FSOs face potentially big problems if they are severely injured in Iraq.
Even worse, a regular federal employee (say, a DoD or Dept of Education civil servant) has to fall back on just a worker’s comp claim if they lose a leg to an IED while working in Iraq. After initial evacuation back to the US they have no access to the special trauma / rehab care the military does. Better hope your primary care physician knows to treat life-threatening war wounds as well as varicose veins. Likewise, better hope you have many months of sick leave built up.”
*snort* Yeah, sure. Let me tell you something – there used to be a brief time (…somewhere around tea- time someday in the autumn of 1997, probably, but let’s not ruin the narrative by facts or logic) that the American foreign department had a sense of proportion. It collectively knew where it’s loyalties were, no doubt about it, and it certainly did not even entertain the idea that the US should in any event ever back off from “pursuing their interests”, of course. But nevertheless, they all knew that the reason they were serving was to uphold the system, and justify the system in place.
Never did it occur to anyone (at that moment in the autumn I mentioned, but let’s not go into that since it ruins the narrative), that they should instead use their position to uncritically justify their leadership’s intentions and commands. All- right. Maybe not. But they still knew it was wrong to fabricate scenarios to help further their master’s policies.
That, thanks to you boneheads who vote, or the boneheads who do not vote, has changed. Until everyone working in the civil service has been recruited, consciously, from the sort of people who will not have second thoughts about lying their ass off for no other reason than to nurse the possibility that their master’s policies are workable. And they do so in the knowledge that as long as they continue to do this, their boss will award them with graces, and give them warm fuzzy feelings in their tummy.
Now, the only thing that these creatures fear is threats to their own safety. That’s their one single unifying property, apart from their fealty to their leader. And at this point, boneheads, the fear for their own safety barely.. barely.. triumphs over the fear of not receiving graces from their leader and be one of his favoured helpers.
And frankly, if you think there are – at this point, now, so fucking long into the entire disaster – that /suddenly/ discover they have either a conscience, or morals, or fucking ethics – then you should be legally precluded from voting by law.
Just to stick in my two cents. I would have to agree with those who pointed out that we evacuate embassies when the host countries have conditions like we see in Iraq. Granted some staff might stay but mostly they are pulled out because their job description does not include serving in a war zone. This administration is trying to put lipstick on the pig that is Iraq by saying “see we have our embassy *cough*fortress*cough* staffed, freedom is on the march!”. Just as with out military, foreign service officers are beind used by this administration as political footballs.
as far as having Michael around, it’s good to have someone you can debate with, unlike having the usual flock of trolls who you just want to beat senseless. Obviously Michael is willing to discuss things and even change his mind. On the other hand, yeah we’re a tough crowd LOL.
I enjoy the blog.
I have a question for those in this thread who use the “signed on the dotted line” means they can send you anywhere. How many of you say that pharmacists have the right to refuse to dispense drugs against their beliefs? It seems to me that a great many who are quick to say that birth control dispensing is exempt from contractual obligation, but not wanting to get shot isn’t.
It seems the local rowdy bar just got a sensitive, blue-blood bartender.
It is amusing that someone taking the “Resign or be fired. You are a member of ‘x’. That’s what you signed up for.” and “we all sign on the dotted line, and we all know what we’re in for. When you work…, you know that there’s always a chance you’re going somewhere dangerous. If you can’t do that job, you should find another line of employment” (the new barkeep’s own words) line is now whining after only 2 days of blogging outside his own comfy confines.
I also disagree with the post. FSO have long served in dangerous and unstable situations, without complaint. This one is different. It’s a war zone, there’s no possibility of serious diplomacy, and (as was observed) in any other country the embassy would long since have been shut down.
Michael D. is entitled to his opinion, offered safely and from a distance and with no danger or inconvenience to himself. However, he’s not in the situation that the FSOs are in, nor does he have the experience that they have. The post seems like a cheap shot to me.
I actually agree with Michael on this one, and am not sure why this is such a controversy. They have two choices, andf that is to resign or get fired.
That doesn’t mean that they don’t have completely legitimate complaint about the state of affairs in Iraq, and that this is more evidence how screwed up things are, but they clearly have a choice. And I don’t blame em if they do quit.
BTW- Phil Carter addressed this the other day.
Since the war started over four years ago, State has had three employees killed in Baghdad, two of whom were security employees (not Blackwater contractors) charged with protecting the other State employees. While clearly no picnic compared with, say Paris, an assignment to the embassy in Baghdad is hardly a “death sentence.”
Naw, not really. It may take a bit for the folks to just get used to a different style. LOL, besides, John can tell you how many times he got knocked around on his own blog.
As to your post, I can see the merit in what you say, however, I haven’t heard that the FSOs are refusing to go, just that they aired their belief that Condi’s condo is an insane asylum. You never know. By the career FSOs airing their displeasure, it might wake up some of the unthinking lumps of citizenry to the actual conditions in Iraq. It’s damned hard to be an effective face for the US when you can’t stick your head out of the rabbit hole.
Just to note, the FS employees are not being asked “just” to serve at the Green Zone embassy, but also in the foreward reconstruction zones.
I’d agree in general on the contractual issue. You sign up for State and there’s no guarantee you won’t be sent to a dangerous posting. But I think in this case, before anyone blithely says you signed on the line so do the time, it would be useful to know how the pool was selected.
When Bremer was in charge and passing out truckloads of our money to all and sundry, the White House was sending in flocks of Young Repubs freshly graduated from Regents U with no experience or expertise to qualify for the posting. If they are now targeting State employees who were critical of the occupation to go face the bombs and mop up the mess these kids left behind, then I’d say they have a legitimate gripe.
That being said, I’m not sure they have much of choice between quitting and being fired but if I was giving advice, I’d advise them to get fired. I think if this is being used as a payback for the non-Bush loyalists, they stand a good chance of winning a wrongful termination suit and the evidence at trial could be very enlightening indeed.
What worries me about the most about it is this ploy seems like a very handy way to force out the career diplomats who would be effective and stack State with GOP cronies whose loyalty is to party, not country.
fleinn hit the nail on the head. Partisans suddenly find a backbone when personal safety instincts override “the decider is always correct” rhetoric.
All I can do now is:
Libby Spencer says it best.
The Bremer/Hweritage Foundation regime set the occupation back in untold ways…and now State has to go in and try to fix what Bremer broke.
And yeah, to those who huffily say they won’t be back because Michael is posting..don’t let the door hit you in the ass.
I disagree with him, but it’s nice ot have a dissenting voice to call scurrilous names and point out his mistake…because that’s what makes this blog..in the comment section anyway.
capelza: And if it isn’t clear, I’m totally open to getting torn to shreds. Contrary to a couple people who are judging my comments on one post, I actually DO have a pretty thick skin and had to get totally torn to shreds before I rightly changed my position on the war and a few other things. My only issue is that I would rather debate people who disagree with me than be called, say, a sanctimonious prick! :-)
You will also find that I don’t disagree too much with a lot of what the commenters say and, to the extent I do, it’s the reason I have been coming here a couple times a day for the past two years. I enjoy the site, and it’s an education almost every time I come here.
Michael, that’s good to know..I just get sick of the “Well I won’t be reading this blog much anymore” types…
If they had been reading this blog for long they would know that it wasn’t that long ago that John posted very similar things…
But I have a very serious question…John Barrowman…I am totally crushing on that guy…(we don’t grow up, we just get old.)
John Barrowman – never heard of him, till now. And I agree with you! ;-) Yum!
Watch Torchwood if you can get BBCAmerica…it’s a great show (spoken as a scifi/Brit geek) but he steals it.
Oh did you have to go through the super secret swearing allegiance to Josh Wheldon to get ot post here? Even when John really pissed me off, his love of “Firefly” kept me coming back.
Kudos Michael D.!!! Spoken like a true stay at home tough guy. That kind of chickenhawk talk is the same bullshit that demands we don’t squawk about the troops because, after all, they knew what they were getting into when they signed up. How convenient. How craven. The members of the diplomatic corps, like our military, embarked on careers of civil service as a patriotic duty. They did not sign up for suicide missions. This is the flip side of the arrangemnet that braying twits alawys overlook – the fact that the government has the duty and moral obligation to never place them uneccessarily in harm’s way.
I disagree. Sure, there is always a risk of being hurt or killed in that line of work but if the State Department doesn’t provide adequate safety and security measures, you can’t really blame the foreign service officers for being reluctant to serve in Iraq.
I signed up for the Army but I didn’t sign up to be mis-used and treated like cannon fodder.
OMG, tell me you don’t mean Joss Whedon…
I’m just guessing here, but are you over 40, perchance? ;)
JR, yeah that guy…you know I even googled it..and JOSH WELDON also shows up.
So I’m not the only one…but hey..that’s just how secret the allegiance swearing is..you can’t say his REAL name… :)
I am over 40, but this is more of a ditzy blonde thing…
I watched all the shows, Buffy, Angel, Firefly (own it and the movie)…but do google the guy..I am certainly not alone..though humbled!
It amazes me that people who’ve been looking for a diplomatic solution for years get their panties in a wad when we, you know, try to send DIPLOMATS to Iraq.
Sigh. This is really quite stupid. Glenn-Reynolds-wannabe-snark level stupid. I’m not sure what else to say.
Michael…this reminded me of Joe Wilson, who certainly had big brass ones in Baghdad..
Kind of off-topic…but kind of amusing to me that some (and not you neccessarily) are chweing out the diplomats, yet many of the same hate Joe Wilson with a passion because he showed the same sisu about this present war.
Rambling on a Sunday morning…
The Foreign Service pretty much only accepts college grads from the top of the class – and then only those who are great with languages. Then there are the exams and the final call. It is an elite agency within quite an elite Department. FSO might not be the proverbial “Ph.D.s’ who can win street fights” but they’re not too far behind.
Folks who join the Foreign Service, by my understanding, LIVE for being sent to exotic hot spots. They have it even better than the CIA: FSO’s don’t have to be covert, for starters. You get to be an expat, you hobnob with other diplomats and get to be genuinely “important.” Most of all, you get all the benefits of being an American without having to spend your career in the midst of Americans – eh?
I was pretty surprised when I heard of this “mutiny.” They should know better: they might not be air traffic controllers, but they’re closer than they think. I’m also surprised that some of them are publicly LYING about not being trained for intense environments. FSOs are good kidnapping or assassination targets, and they receive training in accordance with the situation. I am also surprised at the helplessness these people seem to preach. …boy that’s an open can of worms… Flame away!
I do not believe that everything the US touches, regardless of who is in office, is or turns into dogshit. The FSO’s should GO to Iraq and do their best to make things better: that is their job.
Yeah, right. As long as you believe that diplomacy happens in a vacuum, that Condi Rice is a competent judge of what kind of support American diplomats require in Iraq, and that 48 diplomats (it’s a diplomatic surge!) will make a real difference.
This whole story is overblown. I agree with the folks that said that we’re not talking about actual resignations, just the fact that these FSOs don’t want to go. The only reason you don’t see stuff like this with the military is because there’s an oath to the service, and they can’t quit. I suspect if you took a bunch of reservists or IRR callups and told them to let the brass know what they thought, you’d hear the same sort of grousing. I doubt many people WANT to be there.
If all the redirected assignment candidates quit, then let’s talk about it. until then, this seems like what you’d expect at a town hall meeting when opinions are aired.
When a general gets tagged even with security as intense as it is in Iraq, what happens to unarmed diplomats? When the military leaves, what happens to the diplomats, and will they be left behind in a country that doesn’t want them and has not use for them except for hostages? And indeed hostages is what they could become-bargaining chips for whatever faction gains control over Baghdad.
And what can diplomats do over there anyway? The people who could use embassy help have already fled to Jordan or Syria or a hundred other nations: the politicians who are trying to carve out fiefdoms out of Iraq are not willing to sit around any bargaining table: and the “government” is in danger of falling anyday. Who is there to negotiate anything with?
Although when we reflect on the fact that there was no need for a “diplomatic solution” because the problem (WMDs) was non-existent and our presence in Iraq has touched off a civil war and all the fun that entails, saying there’s a diplomatic solution to this fucking mess melts my WTF?-o-Meter.
Which reminds me: No one can have forgotten that Blackwater scandal has come about because of their arrangement with the State Department. What does that say about the latter’s view of diplomacy in Iraq?
Person of Choler
The Bush Administration wants these Foreign Service Personnel to go to Iraq.
The Bush Administration is evil.
Therefore, the Foreign Service Personnel should not have to go to Iraq.
Did it take you all day to think of that zinger, Person?
So the choice is potential death from Iraqis or joining the serried ranks of the unemployed and potentially dying in debt?
Is this really the America we want?
Your analysis points in one direction and your conclusions in another. As you say, these are highly trained, dedicated experts who are determined to be in the thick of things and regularly make huge sacrifices for the work they love. If they’re saying an Iraq posting is a bridge too far, why can’t we give them the benefit of the doubt long enough to hear why? Do you really think this is a position they’ve taken lightly? Like calling in sick with the Irish Flu? I don’t get this knee-jerk reaction to every professional who has stood up to question this administration’s policies. Haven’t they been proved right again and again? Who has more credibility at this point? Why be so insistently dismissive?
This is as revolting as “hey, you guys in the Army signed up for 36-month tours, now go get your heads blown off and shut the fuck up.”
The “embassy” is a fortress. Ambassadors aren’t supposed to be guarding it.
Yes. It’s a mission that has no chance of success, that is nothing but a political stunt (and/or has no real purpose), and will eventually lead into terrible concessions about the wisdom of ‘serving the nation’.
What do you think it is? An attack of healthy skepticism? A wish to err on the side of caution?
Jesus, how childish.
A well-informed professional assessment of potential costs and benefits?
“The Foreign Service pretty much only accepts college grads from the top of the class – and then only those who are great with languages. Then there are the exams and the final call. It is an elite agency within quite an elite Department.”
Well, yes and no.
The typical FSO starts as a middle class kid with good-but-not-fantastic grades. Emphasis on middle class; there are very few poor kids in the FSO, and very few rich ones. “Great with languages” is not an issue; the Foreign Service is very good at turning ordinary Joes and Janes into fluent speakers of Urdu.
— Why good grades but not fantastic? Because while the FSO is an attractive career, it’s not *that* attractive.
Starting wages are not high. A 25 year old fresh out of law school will make two or three times more money than a 25 year old in the Foreign Service. A straight-A student from Yale who wants to see the world can get a job with McKinsey and travel business class.
You have to pay a lot of dues. Everybody starts with a kinda crappy entry-level job, usually sitting in a cubicle reviewing visa applications. The cubicle may be in Fiji or Kazakhstan but it’s still a cubicle, and you don’t get out of it until some years have passed.
The Foreign Service is very hierarchical. It’s not the military, quite, but it’s not far off. There’s a strong corporate culture of deference, respect for tradition, following the rules and not rocking the boat. If you’re a wild free spirit, the Foreign Service is not for you, world travel notwithstanding.
That last is what makes this incident interesting. This sort of public outburst is very rare; the Foreign Service does not generally air its laundry in public.
Finally, note that while the Service /can/ force its employees to serve anywhere, it usually doesn’t have to — there’s normally no shortage of volunteers to go to Beirut or the Congo. In fact, a couple of years in a tough posting is seen as a feather in the cap. FSOs don’t normally balk at going to scary places.
No lie: the last time they had to resort to a draft was in 1969, for the embassy in Saigon.
We send diplomats in before the shooting starts and after the shooting stops.
Not into the middle of the live fire zone.
The Iraqi ’embassy’ is a deathtrap waiting to happen.
Hard to get into, but equally hard to escape from.
And should at any point in time the supply line get cut…
Don’t be ridiculous. The official, and completely supported lines about how Iraq should be transformed from a barbarian wasteland to a vibrant christian free- state.. sorry, a “democracy” – has failed.
And the steps forward cannot involve the same plan for a unified democracy in Bagdad, isolated from the other countries in the region. And within a year, the situation on the ground must change, either because the military is expended, or because another war has already been started.
And those who supported that initial plan – to fly in and sprinkle democracy- dust around in Iraq – now don’t know what the fuck they’re doing. And those who did not support the democracy- dust sprinkling plan, you see, just do not work in the near- east asia department anymore.
Of course, could this be a sign that some of these diplomats are sensing how things are falling apart? And that they expect things are going to blow up in the near future? Yes. It could be that. But it’s based on the idea that when their plan fails, then chaos will erupt across the barbarian lands, and nothing stands in the way of horrible horrors and Ahmadinejad with a nuke.
And that, you see, is why the US has made itself immaterial in the region, unless it can put overwhelming military force behind it’s political “initiatives”. Which, I might add, an astounding amount of you boneheads seem to support (if with “reservations”).
But you don’t care about things like that, of course. Hell, the US can always resort to force, hm? Isn’t that right? Just go in there with overwhelming force, and everything will work out – because it’s the US of fucking A putting it’s weight behind it.
Until it’s time to face the consequences, at any rate.
Michael D. Says:
“Hmmmm, I guess any goodwill I had coming in to this blog is now handily spent.
I am definitely open to changing my mind on any issue, including this one. Unfortunately, comments just accusing me of being a slow learner, or telling me how much I suck aren’t the way to do that.”
Way back up in the original post: “I have a solution for those at State who have a problem with this: Resign or be fired. You are in the Foreign Service. That’s what you signed up for.”
With that statement, you insulted a bunch of people who’ve risked their lives for this country a lot more than you have.
Another Michael D piece of wisdom: “It amazes me that people who’ve been looking for a diplomatic solution for years get their panties in a wad when we, you know, try to send DIPLOMATS to Iraq.”
Piling on – as has been noted, diplomats are sent in *before* or *after* the shooting, not in the midst of the shooting. How many other US embassies in countries this messed up are still operating?
“How many other US embassies in countries this messed up are still operating?”
Afghanistan, North Korea, Congo.
The problem is not so much that Iraq isn’t safe. It’s that for your average FSO, a tour in Baghdad is an exercise in futility and frustration. The small possibility of mutilation or death is just gravy.
Note that the State Departemnt has suffered relatively few deaths in Iraq — just three in almost five years. Since attackers have repeatedly shown that they can penetrate the Green Zone if they really want to (recall the bombing of Parliament a little while back), a reasonable conclusion is that they’re not attacking the diplomats because they know the diplomats aren’t important enough to kill.
That’s what’s really making the FSOs crazy: not that it’s dangerous, but that it’s a complete waste of time.
I wonder if they’re thinking that Bush and Cheney will attack Iran, and that they’d really be in a tough spot then, and likely to end up hostages or worse.
The song “you know what you are?” from the nin album with teeth seems especially poignant now.
As others have noted, it isn’t just the diplomats themselves who have responsibilities here. The Federal Government and the State Department also have responsibilities. They have an obligation to not waste our good people and their dedicated service for the sake of a political game.
This looks like little more than a nakedly partisan attempt by the Bush regime to make Iraq look like it has achieved stability and is close to creating a democratic government. They aren’t going to order those folks to Iraq to do their job, they’re ordering them there to become political props for Dubya’s agenda. I’m sure they know that they are often asked to risk their lives for their country, but they have a right to expect that risk to be for a good reason.
The FSO are like the soldiers of our armed forces who are also ordered to do their duties? Well, most of us want our soldiers out of Iraq, for the exact same reason. They shouldn’t be dishonored by the Federal Government by having their service and lives wasted for a useless political game. But that’s all Iraq is now: a useless political game.
Dubya dragged us into this illegal occupation for the sake of his extremist agenda, and he’s going to keep on lying and claiming that this is something important for America’s national security. That’s why the State Department is preparing to order these people to Iraq: to maintain the lie that things are going well.
I think we’re confused about each other’s positions; we seem to agree that the Iraq war is a disaster, and I was speaking of the FSO’s assessment of the situation and whether what little they could achieve would be worth risking their lives for.
I am sure that the troops who are in Iraq right now didn’t jump for joy when they heard they were off to fight a war. No one gets excited about it, except a few sickos, and they get to look after war prisons! They have the right to voice complains about their assignment and they cansay that Condi Rice, Bush, Cheney and the whole lt of them are retards, but in the end, they will have to choose to remain an employee of the foreign service or quit/get fired if they absolutely refuse to go to Iraq. The question should probably be, does the US Government have the right to demand employees go to places like Iraq during a war? I’m not sure, but if the government can tap your phonelines without warrants, refuse to allow you to fly for unexplained reasons and refuse to recognize states rights to allow citizens to access medicines they need, this is a pretty easy thing for them to require.
Sorry about that. But I guess it was the “professional assessment” I had a bit of trouble with. It just doesn’t come into it – that’s just not how this mission is thought of, or how it’s dealt with at the moment. It hasn’t been since the beginning. So why should it change now? Why should we even assume it’s a possibility?
Because the sad fact of the matter is that lack of will in the foreign service to work in Iraq now, is not connected to misgivings about the overall strategy.
And even if it was, that’s easily fixed with a transfer or a resignation. Also, read the quote from the article on top: it’s all right if the people who believe in the mission volunteers – but.. And that’s the kind of person left. So please don’t fantasise about how the officials now suddenly are seeing the light, and turning against State and the President’s almost uniform theories on engagement in the greater middle east.
It just doesn’t happen that way.
I can’t feel too sorry for these folks. Did they think it would be all champagne receptions in Paris?
They have the option to resign, something the armed services folks do not. Put up or shut up, folks.
It’s so heartwarming for a group of people at no risk of going to Iraq to snipe career diplomats for not wanting wear a bullseye in a warzone for which they have no training. Given that the vast majority of the “coalition of the willing” have removed their armed forces due to the danger of being in Iraq I’m a little flumoxed that diplomats are expected to march to the front line in support of George Bush’s pride. I rather doubt Condi will be spending much quality time in the green zone with them, if the leadership is too terrified to stay then why should they go? Do FSO’s get extensive combat training? Is there a FSO boot camp where they get to try out using M-16’s and 9 mils? God forbid they speak out instead of allowing themselves to be marched off to the green zone while the US spends another friedman unit watching dancing with the stars. Nancy Irving btw you’re a fucking idiot. The career FSOs have likely done their stints in dangerous embassies in the past. Serving in an active warzone is a place for the armed forces, nothing more and less. Volunteering to go is one thing, but being forced to go or being fired for something not appropriate to your training is something else. I just left the military over the ongoing train wreck in the middle east. I trained 2 army captains to replace me who’d each served two tours in Iraq. One made near constant uneasy jokes about abusing detainees in Iraq and that it took him 6 months after getting home to not scream at his family over stupid shit. The other captain is a west point grad who I thought was a lifer for sure. I found out he dropped his paperwork to seperate about 2 weeks after I punched out. These are not what I would call “soft” men. If multi-toured combat vets are either semi-offbalance or getting the fuck out then what are non-combat trained FSO’s going to bring to the table? Aside from being target practice for insurgents on the highways? It makes me ill to hear people with no personal stake in Iraq to give the “well they signed up for it speech” especially for people who didn’t fucking sign up for it like the FSOs. Never fear, recruitment is bad enough that if the next president doesnt pull our forces out then the draft is going to have to be back on the table to keep troop levels up. I’ll laugh my ass off when patriot Nancy gets to do a bag drag and Michael gets to fill out his will prior to shipping off. Think the draft can’t happen? Most of my peers are getting the fuck out, the only ones I know staying in are the kool-aide drinkers and the ones with too many bills and debts to leave or who still have years on the contract to go.
C’mon Nancy, lets hear your tough talk and jive. You’d better have actually served in the military yourself if you’re going to try and sentence others to death in a failed war for which they have no training. If you’re just another civilian with an attitude that’s not willing to go yourself then STFU.
I’ve quoted you and linked to you here: http://consul-at-arms.blogspot.com/2007/11/re-revolt-at-foreign-service.html