October 31, 2007

FSO Backlash

The State Dept may be ordering foreign service officers to Iraq, but it doesn't sound like they're going to go quietly. Charlie exerts a fair amount of effort in defending the State Dept., but comments like this make it hard:

"It is one thing if someone believes in what is going on over there and volunteers," he said, "but it is another thing to send someone over there on a forced assignment. And I'm sorry, but basically that is a potential death sentence and you know it. Who will raise our children if we are dead or wounded?"

Don't you hate it when State goes and confirms everyone's worst stereotypes? This blogger knows they're civilians and not trained to work in combat conditions. But Baghdad 2007 isn't Beirut 1983; they've clearly seen worse. And actually, most FSO's embrace the risks associated with serving in Bogotá, Jakarta, Islamabad, and Kabul. So why are they pitching a fit about these forced assignments? Charlie will go out on a limb here and suggest it has something to do with opposition to the Iraq War (which is not surprising given the way career officials at State were treated in the run up to the war). But still. This kind of behavior isn't winning them any friends.

If military officers of similar rank were as obstinate, we'd be talking about coups. Instead, we're just talking petulance.

Update: Abu Muqawama here. Charlie's about 30 seconds away from strangling the first FSO she sees (and this is isn't a good thing -- she's friends with several ), but the Washington Post's article today should be added to this post. It is slightly more sympathetic to the State Department.

But if the State Department's backlash to this policy was bad, foreign service officers should consider what the backlash toward them is going to be like after what Charlie has accurately described as their petulance. The foreign service officers note Iraq has claimed the lives of at least three diplomats and that if they serve in Iraq, they too can be killed. Well folks, welcome to the daily lives of 1.6 million U.S. servicemen and their families. 3,881 soldiers have been named or reported dead since that war began.

Yes, the State Department needs to do a better job preparing diplomats for Iraq. Yes, the State Department needs to do a better job helping the FSO who returns from a combat zone and needs treatment. And yes, the DOD is much better positioned to look after its personnel and deal with combat than State. But suck it up, folks. You've got 19-year old kids from Tennessee out there on street corners playing roulette with IED's, and you're bitching about having to spent six months in a fortified compound in Baghdad.