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01 November 2007


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Pat, apparently this is where most of your commenters and you part company. I agree with you wholeheartedly, as a former AF officer and a DoD employee who signed a worldwide mobility agreement (same as the FSOs) when I started my job. My question to the FSOs: What part of worldwide availability don't you understand? This has nothing to do with Bush or the Administration. As civil servants we serve whichever administration is in power and we try to be apolitical and professional in carrying out our official duties. Whining about your assignment is very unbecoming. If the FSOs who are sent to Baghdad don't want to go, they have the same choice as me: Shut up and do your job or resign.

Jimmy Wu


I believe that the 100% Iraq bonus applies to the civil service employees as well.

The State employees have it good in Iraq. In addition to the bonus, they also have a fantastic benefits package. For example, a fully furnished condo for each employee, 4-day workweek (Fri: Muslim, Sun: Christian, Sat: might as well), meals at the embassy dining hall (booze allowed), and a variety of R&R scheduling packages to choose from [4-6 short R&Rs or 1-2 long vacations, etc].

It is a surprise that the Defense employees have not lobbied for the same benefit package as their State brothers. The Defense employees have to settle with 2 to a can, only 30% Iraq bonus, and no booze at all.

Webley Webster

If they can resign they have one more option than most of the soldiers in Iraq. If I were them I would use it. Many folks have had to change careers for one reason or another.

Uncle Ralph

rjj wrote:

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

RTO Trainer at Signaleer has the answer at Foreign">http://signaleer.blogspot.com/2007/11/foreign-service-officers-oath.html">Foreign Service Officer's Oath


The fascinating thing is that the diplomats are being treated as if they are military volunteers, instead of civilian draftees. The reality is that there is a massive emotional and intellectual difference between joining the Army or Marines and joining the diplomatic corps. That difference is at the start of the process, never mind after the years of training.

To put this point in a nutshell: Does anyone think that when the diplomats come back from the war there will be parades for them? Lines of ramrod straight diplomats, be-suited, briefcases at attention, striding down the road as ticker-tape falls from the sky? If you don't think that this is going to happen then you understand why there is a difference between the Army and the diplomats.

The big question is what are they expected to achieve? They are hardly in a position to form a colonial administration and there aren't enough troops to do that anyway. There is no realistic political contact between Iraqis and Americans in Iraq, as most diplomacy occurs in the safety of Jordan these days. Even if the option to run diplomacy in Iraq was taken few Iraqis would be silly enough to join the queues to get into the Green Zone just to see some American diplomat.

Finally I suspect that the diplomats are bright enough to read a calendar. US troops will be withdrawing from 2008 and the diplomats are on a 2-year tour. Which means from 2009 onwards their safety belong to the Iraqis, and no-one wants to be in the next generation of hostages when the embassy gets overrun by furious Iraqis.

And for those arguing that embassies don't close in war-zones... It very much depends if you're actually at war with the nation you're in! The US Charge d'Affairs in Berlin closed in December 1941 and didn't reopen until well after the war.


I know the cultures are incompatible and this idea has the same chance of coming to fruition as an asteroid strike, but how about squaring the circle by taking some of the more experienced Army FAOs (and Navy FAOs when they FINALLY come on line) and detailing them to State as temporary FSOs? After all, isn't that what a FAO kind of is now? Many of the FAOs I have known are as sharp, or sharper than FSOs and actually have the same education level, having graduated from Columbia and, in one case I know, the Kennedy School of Government. Of course State would look at it as DoD encroaching on State, but if DoS can't get it done, someone has to...


Re: the appeals to sedition and mutiny,



Juan Cole at Informed Comment has a good post about this.


I have problems with colonial wars too (which this adventure has effectively become), however, these people took the "King's Shilling" so they knew the deal.

As has been observed, I wonder how much of this is due to State's community of Arabists adopting a pose of "internal immigration," only now exploded by this diktat from on high.

I can also observe that my civil service buddy who volunteered for a stint in Afghanistan thinks that these folks are funny as $#!+.


I'm sorry but I don't have any sympathy for these people. They don't say a damn thing against the Admin when they sent soldiers to accomplish Mission Impossible without armor and other gear, but when it's their a---- on the line, they raise a hue and cry about being handed a "death sentence." (Only 4 State Dept employees have died in the war so far, if I remember the stat right from Hardball.) When these guys do 3-4 tours, get hit with stop-loss, and continue to patrol or break down doors and get into firefights, then they'll have the right to complain.

Cold War Zoomie

Dave Of Maryland-

The highly competitive hiring process leads to an unhealthy organizational culture as far as I'm concerned. It helps produce a class system that is at odds with the modern workforce. Those of us (specialists) who had come from private industry found it elitist and profoundly unproductive. We did our minimum time and left. Those who joined straight out of the military seemed to do OK in that environment.

The DoS organizational culture is stuck in a rigid, hierarchical class system that is counterproductive.

John Moore

The same people used to look out of their castles during a peasant uprising and remark, "Serf's up!"

Abu Sinan

These people do not have to serve. I am no supporter of this war or the administration.

The way it is being handled make the FS look like crying babies. If they are so against the war and the policies of the current administration there is nothing stopping them from resigning en-masse.

Until that happens they should, and must, report to the station where they are told to go. If they do not want to do so, resign.

I worked for the DoD and went where I was sent. I was never forced to go anywhere, although I did end up visiting war zones.

In 2001, when I no longer believed in what I was doing, I resigned. I didnt like the Bush administration and didnt like what his policies meant for my job, so I quit.

If you keep the job you do what you are told, but no one is forcing these people to stay.

Sorry. I dont think you could find someone who disagrees with the Bush administration on foreign policy any more than I do, but it doesnt change the facts here.


it seems to me the "fso baghdad problem" can be looked at in two ways

on one hnad the fso's are shirking duty (the glass is half empty)

on the other hand the fso's are resisting foolish policy (the glass is half full)

i think the glass is both half empty and half full

the fso's are not being loyal, they are resisting policy

i think the surprise is that it has taken this long for a group of "on the payroll" government workers to take a public stand against the administration


Colonel; of course, you are correct.

Object to the assignment, resign. Since most government employees are not independently wealthy, find another job. Old enough, retire and pray that Shock Therapy doesn’t wipe out the Civil Service Retirement System. This is what happens when the moral authority of the state lapses and outsourcing has limited good jobs to multi-nationals or war profiteers.

No doubt, not much different than London a hundred years ago, but the obviously British Public Schools did a much better job of preparing one to serve God and Country.

Martin K

I do not understand what they are whining about. If they are under command, what part of the term "under command" is it they dont understand?

BTW, for us foreigners: What role did State play in the preparation of the invasion?

frank durkee

I agree with Pan and the Col. As an old southern comment puts it "If you take the mans money , you must do the mans work". Unlike the blacks, from whom this statement comes the FSOs' can resign and move on with some comfort.

Martin K

As an aside, what exactly are you feeding your ambassadors these days? The current one over here in Norway is living in a reality all of his own. He wrote a public letter asking for Norwegian Special Forces down south, and managed to portray Taliban as "conducting a last desperate struggle" three times in the same letter. The day after Taliban reached the outskirts of Kandahar. He also continously uses the term "the Afghan People", wich in norwegian is "Det Afghanske Folk", wich smells very much of german terminology from the old days. And never mind that pesky difference between pashtuns and usbeks and hazari and... No, its a fight to the death with the soon exterminated evil Taleban for the sake of the Afghan People.

Also, he keeps on threatening an allied nation if we do not bow our heads. In his three messages to the Norwegian public, he always mentions that "The US notices who is a friend and who is an enemy", etc. What is this tradition of sending over amateur diplomats who just insult everybody?


In the end, it boils down to this

There's a difference between a Patriot who "Serves the Nation" .... and someone who aids and abets the criminals who run it.

The second will always claim to be the first, and may indeed have been a Patriot, once.


Charles I

I(from the sidelines) agree entirely. Serve or resign are the choices. Not that there's been many principled resignations over Iraq to serve as an example to date. The people doing the real heavy lifting - soldiers subjected to stop-loss tour extensions - are not afforded the luxury of choice.


Pan: "Lisa, If you don't like your job you don't strike. You just go in every day and do it really half-assed... that's the American way!" - Homer Simpson.

If you cannot perform the duties of a post in good conscience you resign. If you're not allowed to resign you wait until you're back home and you desert, and take your chances. What you don't do is try and refuse the unpleasant bits of a job while keeping the benefits and expect anyone to look at you as anything other than a self serving weasel.


I have to disagree with you here. Diplomats (further known as Dip's) are useful when there is something to work with, in a hot enviroment, as in not temperature but conflict, they are particulary...oh whats the word I want to use here...ah, there we go, that's it...useless!
So, there comes a time when a particular individual is either a part of the solution or contributes to the ongoing problem...so, PL, with intellectual honesty in full play, how useful is a Dip in a hot enviroment?


"If you cannot perform the duties of a post in good conscience you resign."

You can't possibly resign in good conscience when you know your position will be filled by regime loyalists -- Bob Jones and Liberty University trained specialists.


Does the apparent confusion about diplomats in war zones arise from the fudging of what were reasonably clear distinction between allies and enemies, at least among nation states? Following an official declaration of war (remember them?) embassies were closed, passports returned and dips withdrawn from the capital/s of the declared enemy/ies; diplomats worked harder (usually) in the embassies in allied or key neutral capitals (though consular staff often had a bit of a break - fewer trade shows and visa applications). Civil wars were tougher -- as Lord Copper in Waugh's "Scoop" had it (I think) we support "the patriots " and oppose "the rebels". The problem was working out who was who.

The old "Treason never prospers..." verse may now usefully be revised to read "Terrorism never prospers..." -- http://books.google.com/books?id=k6sDAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA125&lpg=PA125&dq=%22treason+never+prospers+what's+the+reason%22&source=web&ots=TJ55ay8OPm&sig=bpGjJhlkYDdkX7Ia0fqN0aZUuYw
or as Robt Burton has it: "Prosperum et felix scelus, virtus vocatur — We measure all as Turks do, by the event, and most part, as Cyprian notes, in all ages, countries, places, saevitiae magnitudo impunitatem sceleris acquirit; the foulness of the fact vindicates the offender. [330]One is crowned for that which another is tormented: Ille crucem sceleris precium tulit, hic diadema; made a knight, a lord, an earl, a great duke, (as [331]Agrippa notes) for that which another should have hung in gibbets, as a terror to the rest" -- http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/burton/robert/melancholy/preface4.html


Whatever they have sworn to,** whatever their contractual obligations, I think they have a duty to hold that line. {this refers to my previous post}.

** thank you for that link to the oath which I will now go and read.

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