Video: Rep. Hunter: Diplomats should go to Baghdad

By Military analyst
msnbc.com
updated 11/5/2007 4:38:42 PM ET 2007-11-05T21:38:42
COMMENTARY

Last week, amid something of an internal revolt staged by some of our career diplomats, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice finally gathered the courage to push back and it’s about time.

With a shortfall of American diplomats volunteering for duty in the State Department’s mission in Iraq, Rice had decreed that some employees would be sent against their wishes, and quite a few of them objected loudly to the possibility of having to serve. They should be ashamed of themselves.

So far, about 1,200 State Department employees have volunteered for service in Iraq since the beginning of the war, but many of them have been young and relatively inexperienced. However, there are requirements in Iraq for senior members of the diplomatic service, and it appears that they have been reluctant to serve. And some of those who have volunteered have said that they would go but only on the condition that they would be in the heavily fortified Green Zone, replete with creature comforts and far away from any possible danger, even though they are needed in the provinces to perform their vital work. This is no way to run a nation-building mission.

From the very beginning, the burden of turning Iraq into a properly functioning national entity has fallen disproportionately on America’s armed forces, mostly because Rumsfeld’s Defense Department didn’t understand either the strengths or the limitations of the military instrument of national power and neither did a White House that was easy prey for the simplistic solutions of those with little experience in the unforgiving environment of the real world.

Establishing long-lasting security, for example, requires much more than just forcibly clearing and holding terrain. Stability and security result when all aspects of society are functioning properly, and achieving this requires that every department of the executive branch must shoulder its responsibility. That takes leadership, something that has been in short supply at many levels of our national government, and not just in the current administration, either.

There are many people in the State Department, and other departments as well, who serve enthusiastically and at relatively low pay to perform difficult tasks that are important to all of us, and we should be grateful for their dedication. But as in all institutions, there are those who become inured to, and are happy with, the inertia and safety of a bureaucracy that all too often makes few demands on people who are adept at shirking their responsibility.

Government service is not just another job, and it takes a particularly poisonous form of self-centered cowardice for diplomats to accept a position and our tax dollars and then refuse to perform the duty that is necessary. This kind of behavior is especially corrosive at a time when we are under duress. Ryan Crocker, our ambassador in Baghdad, got it right when he said that diplomats must accept that they have a responsibility to our nation, and that those who reject that notion are “in the wrong line of business.”

Jack Jacobs is an  military analyst. He is a retired U.S. Army colonel. He earned the Medal of Honor for exceptional heroism on the battlefields of Vietnam and also has three Bronze Stars and two Silver Stars.

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