Leadership: Diplomats Avoid Combat Duty

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June 22, 2007: The U.S. State Department and Department of Defense usually have tense relationships in combat zones. This goes back to Vietnam, and even earlier, and now the disease is showing up in Iraq. Congress got involved, when they began receiving an increasing number of State Department requests for more money and people for the Baghdad embassy. Currently the State Department has 5,000 people assigned there, although only 20 percent of them are Americans. The problem, according to the State Department, is that they cannot get enough qualified diplomats to work in Baghdad. As a result, they don't have the resources to get out and do the job. Many members of Congress are incredulous. Moreover, military people who have had contact with the embassy staff found the diplomatic personnel to be inept whiners who didn't seem to have a clue. The State Department respond that the troops are a bunch of oafish brutes who don't know what they are doing, even though they are out among the Iraqis all the time. Congress tends to side with the troops, which is causing much angst in the State Department. Everyone agrees that many of the most qualified State Department people are avoiding duty in Iraq. The reasons mainly have to do with the danger (if they get outside the Green Zone, which many avoid doing), and the frustration of dealing with the corruption and hatreds found in Iraq (and typical of the entire Arab world, but submerged under hospitality and good manners in most places.) The State Department people also resent how successful many of the troops have been at doing their jobs (working with Iraqis and getting things done.) It's a culture clash that goes way back. No solution is in sight.

 


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