Wednesday, February 27, 2008

State Department Memo on Iraq

Last post today. Just had to recommend Barnett's latest on State Dept and SSTR:
I've been hearing a lot about this memo from various political appointees and senior bureaucrats recently, with everyone saying it would be a big deal when it hit the Net. Well, now it's here and while it is truly damning, to me it's just another nail in the coffin of the idea, promoted by the HELP Commission, that somehow a better or bigger State can handle this sort of operation in the future. Nothing could be further from the truth and this memo speaks to that reality. (...)

The problem is, of course, that our State Department and U.S. foreign policy in general (meaning Bush and Cheney) are largely missing from the scene. Yes, lotsa trips and many talking points delivered, and certainly there's been a vast shuffling of paper in the Green Zone, but where is the diplomacy? The security space created by the Surge was designed to create a political space that remains unexploited and even largely unaddressed. Nowhere is this lack of effort more apparent than in the diplomatic trenches of our State Department presence on the ground in Iraq, which this memo addresses.

Iraq and Afghanistan are transforming our military, with that transformation starting to penetrate the Pentagon itself. But no such transformation is brewing within the State Department, either on the ground or in Foggy Bottom. In the end, I don't expect one to ever brew inside State and, truth be told, I'm not sure one should brew, because I don't see the logic of trying to get this institution to add on such capacity in what will inevitably be a "lesser included" manner. It didn't work at Defense and it won't work at State, even as each department is a key player in this process.

We either create a legitimate bureaucratic center of gravity for such efforts, or we'll continue to underperform.

This seems to be a widespread problem in all of the Western foreign offices. But the diplomats are not the ones who are operative, traditionally. That role befalls the state aid agencies (USAID etc): But does the DFIDs, DANIDAs and NORADs of the world accept that they are in war with the Taliban in Afghanistan?

Regarding Iraq in particular, the memo comes at the same time as Global Guerilla's reflections on the Rosen article in Rolling Stone. Discomforting. For a 100 years?

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