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01 November 2007


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in effect, a purge???

Cold War Zoomie

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.


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


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.


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


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.


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?


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.



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


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.


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.


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.

W. Patrick Lang


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

Mad Dogs

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.

W. Patrick Lang


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


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

Mad Dogs


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?


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.


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.


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.

frank durkee

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.

Cold War Zoomie

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.

Cold War Zoomie


Hey, that sounds like my service!

Dave of Maryland

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?


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

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