Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Diplomatic Surge in Iraq is Overdue

I have argued with lawmakers since September, given the undeniable success of the military Surge in Iraq, that what was now needed was a Diplomatic Surge. The military had succeeded, but the Iraqi government was struggling to move forward at an acceptable pace.

It’s not that we’d left the Iraqi government all alone through the process of standing up their own democracy, or so it seemed. Our country had given them what was supposed to be the advantage of hundreds, if not thousands, of State Department officials and contractors to guide them through the process. Yet despite all the expertise in diplomacy and nuance of such delicate matters so many members of the State Department claim to have, it was apparent that they were failing to assist Iraq’s legislative efforts.

Their obvious lack of progress became the cornerstone to the calls for a Diplomatic Surge.

Now, a 10 page memo to Ambassador Crocker from a recently resigned contract employee, Manuel Miranda, would confirm the need for a Diplomatic Surge. Mr. Miranda served with the State Department as the Senior Advisor for Legislative Framework in the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office.

Mr. Miranda criticizes the State Department and Foreign Service throughout his memo, highlighting many areas where they are not only inefficient, but also completely ineffective, incapable of assisting the Iraqi’s with their government – the very mission which defines their presence and purpose in Iraq.

Mr. Miranda describes incredible shortcomings in several key areas and points out where the culture and incompetence of the State Department and Foreign Service are causing further failures. He provides detailed analysis of the State Department’s inadequate management profile, the false premises under which they operate, trouble with information flow and management, excuses on legislative benchmarks, and the rule of law. Most notable among his criticisms were:

“…we have brought to Iraq the worst of America – our bureaucrats…”

“…the State Department and the Foreign Service are not competent to do the job that they have undertaken in Iraq.”

“The State Department bureaucracy is not equipped to handle the urgency of America’s Iraq investment in blood and taxpayer funds.”

“Foreign Service Officers…are not equipped to manage programs, hundreds of millions in funds, and expert human capital assets…other than diplomacy, your only expertise is in your own bureaucracy…”

“…they do not have the leadership profiles or management experience called for by the nation’s high sacrifice of blood and treasure.”

“The embassy is also severely encumbered by the Foreign Service’s built-in attention deficit disorder…”

“At the keystone moment that America’s leaders and people were pained over the debate of our continued national sacrifice, the Baghdad Embassy was doing a bureaucratic imitation of the Keystone Cops…”

“Any American graduate school study group could do better.”

“…the State Department has been an albatross around the neck of the Coalition command...”

Mr. Miranda also provides his assessment of what he calls one of the State Department and Foreign Service’s mantras, “that political success in Iraq depends entirely on Iraqis.”

He says it “amounts to little more than excuse-making by people who cannot imagine alternative paths and who are limited by their own limited experience in government and economic development,” and “is over-used as an excuse by bureaucrats who simply do not have the ability of conceiving or executing scenarios of institution-building assistance that does not comport with their past experience and over-cautious diplomatic instincts.”

He adds that “the excuse-making tendency of the Foreign Service is most evident in the areas of meeting Legislative Benchmarks and Rule of Law objectives.”

Interestingly, those comments not only have implications for the State Department and Foreign Service, but also apply to the politicians here at home who are obsessed with the Legislative Benchmarks and use the same mantra about the Iraqis as an excuse when they try to justify a precipitous withdrawal or a change in mission.

Ultimately, our military has performed superbly, providing the necessary security conditions for Iraq to move forward. The Iraqis are competent to move their governmental affairs forward. But they need assistance. After a lifetime of dictatorial oppression by Saddam Hussein, they need someone to provide leadership in showing them the way to their own democracy. That leadership has obviously not come, nor is it likely to come from our State Department. It is past the time for a Diplomatic Surge in Iraq under and with plenty of new embedded leadership that comes from outside the State Department and Foreign Service.

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