Monday, May 30, 2011

Remembering The Diplomats, Too

Ten days ago, two State Department employees barely avoided being killed in a roadside bomb ambush in Peshawar, Pakistan. Seven days ago the U.S. ambassador to Yemen had to be rescued from a mob that was besieging the Emirati embassy in Sanaa. And today, U.S. diplomats in Afghanistan are surviving an attack on the NATO Provincial Reconstruction Team headquarters in Herat.

I hereby follow the fine example set by Life After Jerusalem and Consul-at-Arms by posting the Dallas News commentary by Clayton McCleskey, This Memorial Day, remember the diplomats, too:

WASHINGTON — They are the proud, the few and the unarmed. They dodge bullets in the mountains of Afghanistan and brave the deserts of Iraq. They serve as America’s face to the world, from violence-ridden Mexico to the financial hubs of Asia to the capitals of Europe. They promote American business and protect American citizens abroad. They are the men and women of the U.S. Foreign Service.

On Memorial Day, we rightly pause to remember those who serve our nation in military uniform. But we should also recognize the more than 12,000 members of the American diplomatic corps who serve in Washington and in 271 missions across the globe.

“They are the ones out there on the front lines trying to advocate and explain [American] policies, regardless of which administration they are serving,” said Karen Hughes, former Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy under President George W. Bush.

She praised the Foreign Service as “a very dedicated group of public servants” who “work and make sacrifices around the world in some very difficult assignments.”

You may think of diplomats as tuxedo-wearing statesmen sipping cocktails at summits in Switzerland, but American diplomats are deployed in places like war-torn Africa and Afghanistan, where they often face the same dangers as members of the military. One diplomat I spoke to said he has been shot at five times in the line of duty.

Yet, even as America’s engagement with the world is growing more crucial, budget hawks are circling over the State Department. Speaking to the National Conference of Editorial Writers this month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned, “There’s a huge gap between perception and reality … and people think that we can balance our budget on the back of our foreign operations.”

The continuing resolution passed to fund the government cut $8 billion for the State Department and USAID — while increasing the Defense Department’s budget by $5 billion. The demands on the State Department are growing, but the budget isn’t. “It is so out of whack with what we have to be doing,” Clinton lamented.

Part of the problem is that many Americans misunderstand diplomats’ role. Diplomacy isn’t about throwing money at the world. Yes, foreign aid — which accounts for only about 1 percent of the total federal budget — is a useful diplomatic tool. But too often diplomacy is dismissed as wasteful global charity or useless hemmin’ and hawin’ at the United Nations. Whether working to secure access to natural resources (like oil), leading reconstruction in Afghanistan or screening hundreds of thousands of visa applicants, diplomats are producing concrete results. They are the facilitators of globalization.

In an interconnected world, diplomacy is becoming ever more relevant to the daily lives of Americans, especially when it comes to the economy. Diplomats pave the way for American businesses to make profits at home by expanding overseas.

“If companies want to grow, if we want to grow our GDP, if we want to be competitive on a global basis in the 21st century, people really have to step up to export and export more, because that’s where the growth opportunities are,” said Lorraine Hariton, U.S. Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs.

Texas definitely enjoys the dividends of diplomacy. According to the latest figures from the International Trade Administration and Bureau of the Census, in 2009 the Dallas-Fort Worth area exported $19.9 billion worth of merchandise. And because of the Open Skies agreements liberalizing international air travel, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport will see “billions of dollars in new business,” Clinton said this month.

Members of the Foreign Service play a crucial role in making that kind of lucrative international agreement possible, part of a government-wide campaign to help American businesses increase exports.

“We need to set up partnerships and relationships all around the world so we can understand the market needs in Kenya as well as the market needs in Fort Worth,” Hariton said. Indeed, to maintain America’s global competitiveness and to capitalize on the opportunities globalization creates, we need a well-funded diplomatic corps.

“Diplomacy used to be thought of as the quiet, behind-the-scenes, government-to-government communications,” Hughes told me.

It’s now so much more than that. “In order for America to enact the kinds of policies we want to enact around the world,” Hughes explained, “we have got to build a public case for those policies, for our values and for our interests.”

Our diplomats are out in the trenches doing just that, often at great personal danger — remember the Iranian hostage crisis? Foreign Service officers have also been the targets of drug violence, insurgent attacks and kidnappings. Yet they man their posts, safeguarding American interests and protecting U.S. citizens overseas.

This weekend, as we salute our military, we also owe a tribute to America’s diplomats, many of whom are in conflict zones riding in the same Humvees as the troops. The only difference is that they can’t shoot back.


Anonymous said...

Another great post for Memorial Day TSB! I came across Shauqat Qadir who seems to have detected the essence of the Ray Davis mess almost immediately. (He's a retired Pak Army infantryman, writer and explains Pakistan real well.) His view seems to be that the US is likely to bring about what it most fears in Pakistan,
an islamist takeover.

Consul-At-Arms said...

Thanks for the mention.

Anonymous said...
Secretary of State Clinton and close friend Lanny Davis, who is working as a powerful lobbyist for the coup regime, have pushed hard for the legitimization of the current Lobo government, despite Clinton’s own State Department cable titled “Open and Shut: The Case of the Honduran Coup,” released by WikiLeaks, that the coup was clearly illegal.gwb

TSB said...


Lanny Davis is one of my least favorite Beltway types, but I think he's on the right side (i.e., working for the right employer) in this case. That 'military coup' followed a vote by the Honduran Congress to remove the President after he violated the law by trying to succeed himself, and his arrest by the army was ordered by the Honduran Supreme Court. Even Zalaya's own party voted to remove him, IIRC. If that's a military coup, it's a very unusual one.

The U.S. Congressional Research Service reported on the legality of Zalaya's removal.

Of all the coups and quasi-coups and just plan political changes that go on all over the world [like the one in Egypt that no one will call a military coup], the removal of Zalaya seems completely unobjectionable. Hillary and the administration went totally nuts about Zalaya's ouster back then, but I assume that was because they liked Zalaya so they disliked the piolitical result, and not really because of any actual illegality.

Anonymous said...

TSB: Thanks! That is an excellent legal review which you provided me before. (So thanks again!) What we now evidently know is that the US clearly enabled/facilitated his illegal expatriation rather than encouraging Honduras to follow the law and try him. gwb

TSB said...

I'm not sure what we facilitated. We were opposed to anything other than him staying in power past the end of his term, so we didn't get what we wanted there.

But I'm not surprised he was exiled. There is a long, hallowed, tradition of exile and asylum in Latin American politics. All politicians support it because they never knows when they might need it themselves.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't there a few years ago an FSO who was leading the charge against deploying to dangerous work assignments? I have never heard of such organized cowardice in the military. I think that issue needs to be addressed before you toot the horn of FSOs.

Anonymous said...

This is shameful:

Organized cowardice and insubordination.

TSB said...

The famous townhall meeting of 2007, yes. One guy made an overwrought silly statement. But I don't know of anyone who ever refused to go to Iraq, and all the positions there have always been filled. Same thing in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and so on.

I don't see the cowardice you refer to. I do see people who are spending most of their civilian careers in places much more dangerous than any that I was sent to in the - pre-Iraq - Army.

Anonymous said...

TSB: You are absolutely correct. After doing my homework and actually reading the wikileaked cable I don't see evidence that we facilitated the expatriation. Additionally it states that the military did "what it knows how to do". I would submit though that the legal opinion offered by the Ambassador is much more compelling than the one from CRS. The military
legal advisor even admitted it was illegal. Thanks Again! gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB: That WAPO article from 07 was why I was asking you how things are going these days at the Iraq Embassy.
It's amazing the posts state dept people are manning these days. Is anyone blogging from Iraq? gwb

TSB said...

There were some bloggers in Iraq, usually from PRTs. Let me see if any are still there.

You would like this guy, even though he's in Afghanistan:

Anonymous said...

Thanks TSB! gwb

Anonymous said...

Read the article, the FSO specifically states that she, and others, are afraid to go to Iraq. She says it is too dangerous.

Obviously it was just a political statement by partisan Democrat hacks at Foggy Bottom, but it is still public cowardice.

TSB said...


I read the article, and I also remember when that townhall meeting happened back then. But I still don't know of a single FSO who ever refused to go to Iraq. Or to Afgahistan, Pakistan, or Yemen, which are all much more dangerous than Iraq has been for the last few years.

Anonymous said...

The subject of the article did, and the whole issue revolved around numberous FSOs who refused to deploy. Yes, other FSOs took up the slack, but that still leaves a group center around this FSO who did refuse.

TSB said...


I re-read the article, and I still don't see who refused to go. The woman who was quoted had returned from a year in Basra ("Amid the anger expressed, the woman who was stationed in Basra said she had "absolutely no regrets" about serving in Iraq. "I wanted to go to a place where I knew it was important for my country to be," she said, "even though I had a lot of questions about the origins of the war to begin with.") and the 46-yer veteran who got most of the attention with his "death sentence" remark wasn't being assigned there.

If there was any organized resistance to serving in Iraq or anyplace else, I haven't seen it.

Anonymous said...

Great Post TSB! gwb