Morale: Please, No, Anything But That


July 1, 2009: First it was U.S. State Department personnel trying to avoid service in Iraq, now the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) is having a similar resistance to service in Afghanistan. It's mostly DEA pilots who are reluctant to fly in Afghanistan. While these pilots sign on with the understanding that they might have to serve in dangerous places (like Colombia), Afghanistan is seen as particularly dangerous. Then again, maybe not. DEA personnel complain that volunteers for Afghan duty are being turned away so that management can send people to Afghanistan as punishment. This accusation was denied by DEA management.

This is not the first time this sort of thing has happened. Back in 2007, at the height of the fighting, the State Department had 5,000 people assigned there, although only 20 percent of them were Americans. The problem, according to the State Department, is that they could not get enough qualified diplomats to work in Baghdad. As a result, they didn't have the resources to get out and do the job. Many members of Congress were 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 didn't know what they are doing (in the diplomacy department), even though they are out among the Iraqis all the time.

Congress tends to side with the troops, which caused much angst in the State Department. Everyone agrees that many of the most qualified State Department people were avoiding duty in Iraq. The reasons mainly had to do with the danger (if they got outside the Green Zone, which many avoided 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 resented how successful many of the troops had 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, and a major reason why State Department people don't like to work in areas where the Department of Defense crew has a lot of clout.


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