November 02, 2007

Diplomats and Duffel Bags

Abu Muqawama usually avoids the Washington Times editorial page with the same Barry Sanders spin moves he uses to avoid CounterPunch. But Austin Bay has an op-ed today you might want to take a look at stressing the need for 21st-Century U.S. diplomats to roll their sleeves up and get in the fight alongside their brothers and sisters in the armed services.

Diplomats, pack your duffel bags.

And I mean duffel bags, not garment bags. While you're at it, get a pair of boots. I also recommend several pairs of work gloves and work pants with lots of pockets for cameras, extra batteries, sunglasses and your global cell phone.

Twenty-first century diplomacy isn't an office job. It is a demanding and, at times, a dangerous trade, one that requires accepting deprivation, running physical risks and hanging out in bad neighborhoods. If this echoes a field soldier's job description, it's not a coincidence.

Like it or not, the United States is engaged in a long war over the terms of modernity — will modernity be defined by tyrants, terrorists and religious extremists, or will democratic liberalism defeat them? In this war for wealth creation (economic development) and political maturation, diplomats and skilled civilian agency specialists are soldiers of a type, and to win it means "being out there" in the difficulties.

Okay, this is all well and good -- you guys all know Abu Muqawama and Charlie are 100% on board with the State Department matching the commitment that has been shown by the U.S. Marine Corps and Army -- but Abu Muqawama wishes Bay had at least paid lip service to the fact that the State Department (and the Justice and Treasury Departments, for that matter) is not as an institution set up for the expeditionary fight. They do not, for example, have the family readiness groups, the pre- and post-deployment mental health screening, and the expeditionary mindset the U.S. Army does.

This blog has been pretty harsh on the State Department in the past few days (they have deserved it), but it's not enough to just tell diplomats to get tough. You can tell them that, sure, but you also better take responsibility for giving those same diplomats the resources and institutions they're going to need to be successful. The mindset of the foreign service has to change as well. Abu Muqawama is not sure when, exactly, they began to think of wars as being outside their scope of responsibility, but incoming foreign service officers had better understand that "war" (the sharp end of diplomacy) is now part of their task list.

Abu Muqawama's take on recruiting for the State Department is that the line used should be something like, "If you wanted to join the U.S. Marine Corps but were afraid your political science degree from Cornell wasn't going to be put to good use, boy, have we got the job for you."

Update: Ryan Crocker, meanwhile, has no patience for diplomats who put personal security ahead of national security.