The Daily Demarche
Their service came not as a burden but as a duty.
As we pause to remember our fallen comrades this Memorial Day, we need to take time to give thought to their families, their friends and to those who love them. We cannot measure the depth of their loss nor can we comprehend the true measure of their sorrow. They served their nation well, standing between the enemy, and us, between good and evil, between freedom and tyranny. Their service came not as a burden but as a duty.
To properly honor them, we must speak of them in real and human terms. They were more than our friends: They were our buddies, And they were closer than family in many ways because we developed a kinship with them that only those who have experienced the realities of war can understand. We honor their memory, but at the same time we mourn them. We are grateful for the privilege of knowing them and having them included in our lives. What is finest about our nation--individual freedom, justice, equality and opportunity -- has been sustained because of them. And for that every American is in their debt.
John FurgessVFW Commander-in-Chief
In 1918 Moina Michael penned “We Shall Keep the Faith” in response to John McCrae’s “In Flanders Field” (both poems can be found at the end of this post) launching the idea of wearing a poppy on the 30th of May in remembrance of our fallen warriors. While Memorial Day has existed as a federal holiday since only 1966, the practice of honoring America’s war dead dates to at least
the Civil War:Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war). It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 - 363) to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays), though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19 in Texas, April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10 in South Carolina; and June 3 (Jefferson Davis' birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee
Unfortunately Memorial Day has sadly become just another three day weekend for many Americans- and with our men and women in uniform taking casualties in the field over this long weekend it seems inappropriate to spend the day honoring their fallen comrades eating BBQ and drinking beer. I can remember, as a child, watching the parade and seeing the veterans, and the whole town gathering in Memorial Park for a speech or two and then the reading of the names of any veterans in the community who had passed away over the course of the prior year- their service honored too on that special day. I don’t know if my small hometown still does that, but I do know that shopping sales and the “official” start of the summer beach season are marked by this “holiday” more than anything else. To me, and I am sure to the families of those who have died in battle, this is not a holiday, and was never meant to be one. It is a solemn occasion for remembrance and reflection- our treatment of the day as an excuse to cut loose is not in keeping with the sacrifices made by the men and women the day is dedicated to.
Living and working in Europe, seeing the battle fields where both World Wars raged, and visiting the countries that suffered so much throughout the wars and for decades afterwards makes quite an impact. The rows of white crosses and headstones, reminiscent of Arlington National Cemetery, are powerful artifacts, especially when one pauses to consider that many of these great fields of honor mark but a single battle or engagement. I am saddened by the thought that we are losing touch with the memory of the men and women who have gone forth from the safety of their homes to try to bring freedom freedom, and safety, to others, and to keep the forces of evil from our shores. Our “holiday” needs to be restored to a National Day of Remembrance, now more so than ever. The Memorial Day History group and the VFW agree:
But what may be needed to return the solemn, and even sacred, spirit back to Memorial Day is for a return to its traditional day of observance. Many feel that when Congress made the day into a three-day weekend in with the National Holiday Act of 1971, it made it all the easier for people to be distracted from the spirit and meaning of the day. As the VFW stated in its 2002 Memorial Day address: "Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public's nonchalant observance of Memorial Day."
On January 19, 1999 Senator Inouye introduced bill S 189 to the Senate which proposes to restore the traditional day of observance of Memorial Day back to May 30th instead of "the last Monday in May". On April 19, 1999 Representative Gibbons introduced the bill to the House (H.R. 1474). The bills were referred the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Government Reform.
While I am just as fond of a three day weekend as the next person, I support the idea of moving Memorial Day back to the 30th of May. Sign the petition if it moves you, or click here to find out more about what you can do to make a difference this holiday weekend. If your town has a war memorial, and I am fairly certain all American towns do, please pay it a visit on Monday. Take your kids if you have any, or any kids you can round up from your family, and tell them what the memorial represents. Go ahead and have your BBQ, but please share a moment of silence with your friends and pay homage to those who have died so that others may live. If you have a flag in front of your home, fly it at half-mast until noon.
This day, above all others, is a day for reflection and honor. Let us never forget our fallen sons and daughters-let us never break the faith.
In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae, May 1915
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep,
though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
We Shall Keep the Faith
by Moina Michael, November 1918
Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet - to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.
We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.
And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We'll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.
I have to apologize for the light posting over the past week- we have been prepping to move. One of the joys and banes of the Foreign Service life is moving from country to country- or in the case of this move from continent to continent. Mrs. D and I are leaving the Euro zone and heading for one of the poorest parts of the globe. It will be big change, but we are excited. We leave here soon, and will be on home leave (Congressionally mandated leave spent in the U.S. to renew our ties to America- usually taken every three years) and then we will be in the most foreign of places- D.C.- for about 6 weeks of training and off to the new Post we go. I'll be blogging over the leave time and training, but am not sure with what frequency. Anyone with an idea for a guest post feel free to send it along to me or Smiley!
Since I have not had time for any lengthy posts here is a round up of things that have caught my eye (thank you to our readers who provided tips to many of these):
People throughout the Middle East continue to protest and decry
the "abuse" of the Koran which has supposedly occurred in Cuba:Following claims that the Koran was disrespected at the US Guantanamo Bay base in Cuba, Malaysia, India, and Pakistan were the scene of protests against the US.
In the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, about 300 protestors burnt US and Israeli flags.
Following the Friday Prayer, ralliest leaving the mosques chanted slogans against US and gathered in front of the US Embassy building to listen to the speeches condemning the insult to the Quran.
Among the crowd were banners reading "Stop Islamophobia Mania" and "Go to Hell US".
In India's Kashmir region capital Srinagar, schools and official buildings were closed due to the demonstrations. Women burnt US flags and the copies of the US Constitution during the protests attended by about 50 people.
They burned Old Glory and the Constitution! There is no way we can take that! I want to see mayhem in the sreets of the U.S.- the only thing that will set those insults to rights is the wanton destruction of property and perhaps a score or so of deaths of innocent people! It is time to show the world what America has learned from Islam.
In a more, ahem, loving note- at least someone in Germany understands the basics of capitalism and supply and demand
:Saying times are hard enough without men having to give up sex, a brothel madam in economically hard-hit eastern Germany is offering a 20-percent discount to the unemployed.
To qualify for the discount - which applies to snacks and beverages as well as services rendered - the patrons of the Villa Bijou club in Dresden must produce unemployment registration papers showing they have been out of work for at least two years.
The Brits, on the other hand, have completely lost their minds
:Warning: Long, pointy knives may be hazardous to your health.
The authors of an editorial in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal have called for knife reform. The editorial, "Reducing knife crime: We need to ban the sale of long, pointed kitchen knives," notes that the knives are being used to stab people as well as roasts and the odd tin of Spam.
The French continue to appear poised to block the monstrosity that is the EU constitution, but also insist that everyone else continue the exercise
of holding referendums on it:President Chirac was still insisting last night that renegotiation was out of the question if the French vote "no". British ministers believe that the only way that the French could get eventual approval would be to amend the constitution in a way that would make it unacceptable in Britain. We do not know if there is going to be a yes or a no but a no would create massive uncertainty about what we are supposed to be voting on, a ministerial source said. M Chirac went on French television last night to deliver a dramatic last-ditch appeal for a yes vote. He urged the French people not to punish his Government.
I love that last line. Jacques, amigo mio, it is not YOUR government, it is the people's. Occasionally they are going to recall that.
Closer to home, when the WaPo calls anything you have said or written "vitriolic" and you are not a Republican, it must be pretty egregious
:IT'S ALWAYS SAD when a solid, trustworthy institution loses its bearings and joins in the partisan fracas that nowadays passes for political discourse. It's particularly sad when the institution is Amnesty International, which for more than 40 years has been a tough, single-minded defender of political prisoners around the world and a scourge of left- and right-wing dictators alike. True, Amnesty continues to keep track of the world's political prisoners, as it has always done, and its reports remain a vital source of human rights information. But lately the organization has tended to save its most vitriolic condemnations not for the world's dictators but for the United States.
That's it for now- back to sorting what goes where when we leave. I hope to have longer piece up over the weekend, maybe Sunday. Remember, guest posts are welcome! Just send me your ideas.
(End of post.)
Gorgeous George Storms Capitol Hill
British Parliamentarian George Galloway (the sole representative of the Respect Party
in Westminster) recently hit Washington for a session in front of the Senate subcommittee investigating the UN Oil-For-Food scandal. Galloway, in full bluster, dressed down Senator Norm Coleman, who led the inquiry, with a number of choice nuggets, including this gem:
Now I know that standards have slipped in the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice. I am here today but last week you already found me guilty. You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever written to me or telephoned me, without any attempt to contact me whatsoever. And you call that justice.
(If you, like me, were wondering what "traduce" means, dictionary.com
defines it thusly: To cause humiliation or disgrace to by making malicious and false statements
I encourage readers to read the full transcript of the session, which is available here
. For some reason or another, the transcript has been pulled from the Senate website. I hope that this is only temporary, as it should be part of the record of the Senate.
Perhaps someone forgot to inform the Honorable Mr. Galloway that the subcommittee, as part of the legislative branch, is not a court (part of our judicial branch) and as such does not mete out justice. Or perhaps, Galloway, sensing the opportunity to grandstand in front of an even larger audience than usual, decided to use the event to hold forth on his pet issues and build his popularity back home. Certainly the fawning, lionizing coverage the BBC provided him did him no harm among his constituents.
The committee called Galloway to testify about his involvement with the Oil-For-Food (OFF) program, specifically his involvement with businessman Fawaz Zureikat, who, the subcommitte alleges, gave hundreds of thousands of ill-gotten OFF dollars to Galloway through the Miriam Appeal, a charity he set up. Galloway's response to this charge, derisive and defiant, was typical of his testimony before the committee.
GALLOWAY: He [Lord Goldsmith] ordered the Charity Commission to investigate the Mariam Appeal. Using their statutory powers, they recovered all money in and all money out ever received or spent by the Mariam Appeal. They found no impropriety. And I can assure you, they found no money from an oil contract from Aredio Petroleum--none whatsoever.
Further on, Galloway repeats this claim:
GALLOWAY: --Senator, you're not listening to what I am saying. They [the UK Charity Comission] did better than that. They looked at every penny in and every penny out. And they did not find, I can assure you, any trace of a donation from a company called Aredio Petroleum, or, frankly, a donation from any company other than Mr. Zureikat's company. That's a fact. [Emphasis added.]
Unfortunately, neither Senator Coleman nor Senator Levin (also in attendance) decided to challenge Galloway on this point. Because what he said there was incorrect.
Here is a statement put out by the UK's Charity Commission on this matter. (Hat tip: Harry's Place.)
The statement reads as follows:
Although we have not yet seen a transcript of Mr Galloway's evidence to the US Senate Sub-Committee today, we understand that his comments included the following:
1) The Mariam Appeal, founded by Mr Galloway, was subject to a Charity Commission investigation in which all money in and all money out of the Mariam account was looked at and no impropriety was found.
2) The Charity Commission investigation into the Mariam Appeal found no donation from any oil company.
The Charity Commission would like to restate a number of points of fact regarding its inquiry.
The Mariam Appeal was established in 1998. The Charity Commission opened an investigation into the Appeal in 2003, after we received a complaint that was presented to the Attorney General in response to a newspaper article.
By 2003, the Appeal had been closed and the books and records had been sent to Jordan in 2001 where the then Chairman of the Appeal, Mr Fawaz Zuriekat resided; the Commission was therefore unable to review them. Our inquiry therefore had to rely on details we were able to obtain from the Appeal's bank accounts.
The Appeal did not produce annual income and expenditure accounts or balance sheets. While we were able to review income and expenditure from the bank statements of the Appeal, which we had to obtain using our legal powers direct from banks, we were not able to verify all aspects of expenditure because of the lack of proper documentation. However, we found no evidence that the funds of the Appeal were misapplied (other than the payment of some unauthorised benefits to trustees which were made in good faith).
We did not undertake a detailed review of sources of income to the Appeal because the original concern prompting our inquiry was about the use to which funds had been put. Our inquiry did not find evidence of donations direct from oil companies but noted that one of the major funders of the Appeal was Fawaz Zuriekat, an individual named on 12 May 2005 by the US Senate Sub-Committee as allegedly connected with payments in relation to allocations of oil under the Iraq Oil for Food Programme. We have no evidence to show that the income received by the Fund from Mr Zuriekat came from an improper source.
But had the recent allegations been known to us at the time of our inquiry, we would have made the information available to the appropriate UK authorities for them to decide whether the Mariam Appeal had received funds from an illegal source.
Ends. [Emphasis added.]
Galloway's tactic seemed, in essence, to be to turn the inquiry into a platform from which he could shout his views on the Iraq war. It was, in effect, a sort of "this whole court is out of order" defense, and he gave a performance that Al Pacino would be proud of. It was, however, only slightly less disingenuous than the Chewbacca defense.
Let me make one thing perfectly clear: it is not Galloway's opposition to the Iraq war that gets my dander up. There are many people who opposed the Iraq war for reasons that I respect, even if I don't agree with them. Many people have advanced the argument that an invasion of Iraq was not in America's interests. I happen to disagree with this line of reasoning, but I can at least respect that the underlying interest is America's (or perhaps even that of liberal societies). To see what I mean, readers can peruse this exchange with Eric Martin of Total Information Awareness. But those who opposed the war should take note that not everyone that appears to be on their side is, in fact, on their side. When Galloway stated in his remarks words to the effect that "if only you had listened to me, you wouldn't have gotten in this mess," he tried to position himself as one who nominally had the American interest at heart. This is, just like his bluster regarding the Mariam Appeal, disingenuous.
Anyone opposed to the Iraq war who considers counting Galloway among their allies should know the truth about George Galloway. He was not, as the BBC likes to report, kicked out of the Labour Party for opposing the Iraq war: many Labour MPs opposed the war and continue to remain in the party and in Parliament. As Oliver Kamm notes, Galloway got the heave from Labour, by unanimous vote, for (among other things) exhorting foreign troops to kill British soldiers. In other words, he is not anti-war, he is merely pro-Saddam.
The sad thing is, now that Galloway has blustered and evaded his way through a Senate subcommittee hearing, he can spin his performance in order to increase his standing among people who have doubts about the Iraq war. The subcommittee was the perfect forum for him: with his adoring BBC correspondent buddy in tow, Galloway had the perfect platform to spread his deceit and mask his support for Saddam. He can now claim to have stood up to the arrogant, brutal, murderous, despotic US government and bask in the accolades as he boosts his political standing among his core constituency.
Interestingly, a few years ago Galloway had meeting with a real arrogant, brutal and murderous despot -- Saddam Hussein. Here's what brave Mr. Galloway had to say (via Oliver Kamm):
Your excellency, Mr President, I greet you in the name of the many thousands of people in Britain who stood against the tide and opposed the war and aggression against Iraq and continue to oppose the war by economic means, which is aimed to strangle the life out of the great people of Iraq ... I greet you too in the name of the Palestinian people ... I thought the president would appreciate to know that even today, three years after the war, I still meet families who are calling their newborn sons Saddam. Sir, I salute your courage, your strength your indefatigability. And I want you to know that we are with you until victory, until victory, until Jerusalem." (The Times of London, January 20 1994.) [Emphasis added.]Anyone interested in reading more about George Galloway should head over to Harry's Place or Oliver Kamm's blog.
US - Europe Cultural Parity
It has been another busy week in the Smiley household, so I don't have a whole lot of time to post. Nonetheless, I've managed to write something short and slightly irreverent. I will be back tomorrow with someting longer and much more serious.Europe - US Cultural Parity
One of the most tired and cliched critiques of the United States is that it has no culture, or that what culture it has is lowbrow, kitschy and plastic. To any of our gentle readers who may be confronted with this critique, I offer you the following excellent riposte: the Eurovision Song Contest
. The contest is sort of like Star Search, except that each country in Europe is allowed one entry, and each country casts votes for performers (they can't vote for the performer from their own country). The resulting trainwreck is broadcast live throughout Europe and Asia.
The show is, to paraphrase Ignatius J. Reilly, a violation of taste and decency (Reilly might also say that it is utterly lacking in theology and geometry, but that is another matter). Readers may be surprised to know that this contest has been going on for something like forty or fifty years. I know I was.
My first reaction to this show was incredulity. My second reaction was one of constructive criticism: the show would have been a whole lot better if the producers incorporated the Sandman
into the event. My third reaction was that, rather than harry the awful performers off the stage with a cane, the show would be improved greatly if the Sandman carried something a little more esoteric, like a baseball bat or chainsaw. My final reaction was resignation: the Sandman would need to have the stamina of a marathon runner to chase the 24 pretenders offstage.
Readers who are curious about what this travesty might have looked like have no need to fear. My main man Manolo is on the case
. Don't forget to hover your pointer over the images for extra funny commentary from "the Manolo". It just goes to show you that other cultures are capable of producing lowest-common-denominator pablum.
End of post. That's all for today, folks.
Five (not so) Easy Pieces
As the nay-sayers, blame-America crowd and general loony left continue to insist that we bring the troops home from, now, there is a dearth of ideas from that direction as to what, exactly, we should leave behind in Iraq. What will our, and the Iraqis, legacy, be now that the madman Hussein is reduced to washing his pants in his skivvies?s it time for is to leave Iraq? What do we owe Iraq and her people at this point in time?
Foreign Policy magazine asked those questions of five experts, and received five divergent opinions, naturally enough (free registration required to read the full articles). The pieces are by:
-Lawrence F. Kaplan- senior editor at The New Republic and senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.
-George A. Lopez - senior fellow at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.
-Kenneth R. Himes- chair of the theology department at Boston College.
-Jean Bethke Elshtain- professor of social and political ethics at the University of Chicago·s Divinity School.
-Sohail H. Hashmi - associate professor of international relations at Mount Holyoke College
Kaplan turns the questions on their side and asks how practical it would be for the US to withdraw from Iraq immediately. His answer: not very. To quote:
The result would be a strategic catastrophe. Preventing Iraq from coming apart at the seams means preventing the country from becoming what Afghanistan was until recently—a vacuum filled by terrorist organizations, which is what one National Intelligence Council report suggested Iraq is now fast becoming. Only an Iraqi government that possesses a relative monopoly on the means of violence can prevent this outcome. Alas, Iraq’s security forces are nowhere near their goal of fielding sufficient numbers of police, national guard, and soldiers. In the meantime, then, either the U.S. military will fill the gap or no one will.
The rest of the world has already proven that it is willing to let Iraq go up in flames, to ignore the jihadists and Islamofascists who seek civil war in Iraq so they can look down their elitist, European noses and smugly say “we told you Bush the cowboy was wrong.”
Nevertheless, Lopez argues for a scheduled withdrawal from Iraq- with a deadline of about a year, made public and scrupulously adhered to:
The fear that aggressive withdrawal will signal U.S. weakness misses the point. Iraq’s desire to be rid of the occupiers is clear. A January 2005 Zogby opinion poll found that 82 percent of Sunnis and 69 percent of Shiites favor U.S. withdrawal “either immediately or after an elected government is in place.” Withdrawing in the face of such strong national consensus is not a policy of weakness but one of appropriate deference to the wishes of the Iraqi people. And through its subsequent actions, the United States ultimately will be able to determine how that withdrawal is judged. A continued commitment to economic aid an d to the political choices Iraqis make for themselves will provide ample positive data for history. A U.S. withdrawal would be a victory of good sense over exaggerated fears.
While I fully support the will of the Iraqi people and am loathe to ever imply that a government, any government, knows more than the people it governs, there is no Iraqi government in place. It is that simple. They are working, to be sure, to establish such a government, and should soon have one. Until then it is reprehensible to abandon the people of Iraq to the not so tender mercies of the thugs who are blowing up the people, on a near daily basis.
As Himes says:
Accordingly, the United States and its allies must not depart until basic social institutions are in place or until it is clear that occupying forces are either unwanted or unable to contribute to the creation of those institutions. For those Americans eager for their country to get out of Iraq, it is tempting to argue that the U.S. presence is the cause of the insurgency and that withdrawal is already ethically proper. But that is only half correct: The insurgents will oppose any non-Sunni-dominated government, and the present Iraqi security forces are still unable to maintain order.
Many would argue that our forces are already clearly not wanted there- and they are correct. The powers in the region that oppose democracy, equal rights and the opportunity for the Iraqi people to have a better life do not want our troops there. They want chaos, and a primitive society ruled over by warlords and religious zealots.
Elshtain charts a proper path for the future of the allied forces in Iraq:
The countries responsible for the postwar situation bear a major burden in repairing infrastructural and environmental harm that is the direct result of military operations. Civilian affairs teams should first concentrate on the basic necessities of life—water and electricity, and then schools, hospitals, and other basic institutions of civic order. Repairing the political infrastructure is just as essential to creating a just peace. That means leaving the people in the invaded country, as well as the wider international environment, in better shape than before the intervention. Installing legitimate authority in Iraq is a delicate balancing act.
Iraq was “broken” before we toppled Saddam, but that is no excuse for us to withdraw and leave the country a war-ruptured shambles. We have a responsibility to the Iraqi people and the region at this juncture. Elshtain again:
The occupying powers must also provide defense and security. If a country has been disarmed, the occupying power has taken on responsibility for its security and protection from external and internal enemies. How long this provision will be, and how extensive, will depend on the threats it faces and the speed with which Iraq can rebuild its own defense and internal security capability.
Finally, the occupying powers must react if yet another Saddam-type regime of fear begins to emerge. Even as the United States protected postwar Western Europe—including a new democratic state in West Germany—throughout the Cold War and decades of bipolarity, so the United States must remain tightly tied to a new Iraq.
Iraq clearly still faces threats- perhaps external but violently manifested internally. Can there be any doubt that al-Zaraqwi would establish a rule as heinous as that of Saddam and sons? What then, is the solution? Inevitably we will withdraw from Iraq, at least the preponderance of our forces. Who and what will replace them? In the most compelling of the five pieces Hashmi offers this:
As the United States struggles for the best way to get out of Iraq, the Muslim world should contemplate how to get in.
Muslim troops approved by the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference should replace American, British, and other European forces as interim peacekeepers until Iraqi security forces are properly trained. This force cannot come from countries neighboring Iraq, which might have their own designs on its territory, but it could draw on troops from Morocco, Egypt, Pakistan, or Bangladesh.
Muslim leaders have an obligation to avoid the mistakes they committed in the lead-up to the U.S. intervention in Iraq, not just in 2003 but in 1991 as well. They had an obligation to isolate and to remove the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein when he attacked Iran, terrorized his own people, and invaded Kuwait. Yet for decades, Arab leaders either did nothing or actively supported Saddam. Their action and inaction made U.S. intervention all too easy.
More than making it easy, I would argue that they made it necessary, and are continuing to make it pointless for the U.S. and our allies to think of “getting out” of Iraq. I want our troops home, and I am more than certain that they want to come home. But they are there today because the job was not finished the first time. We failed to uphold our promise to the people of Iraq under the President’s father, and the situation degenerated. Is there anyone out there today who thinks that leaving Iraq tomorrow will result in a better future for the Iraqis, the Middle East or America? I would love for them to tell me how that can come to be.
Until that time we owe it to the people of Iraq and the ME to see the job through. I would welcome, right now, the assistance of the Muslim world in stabilizing the country and hunting down the invading terrorists, but I will not hold my breath waiting for them to arrive. In the meantime we must continue to hunt down and kill those who would slaughter women and children and the men who would become policemen and guardsmen. That was the promise that we made after the first Gulf War, and after Saddam fell. America, my America, keeps its promise. For too long we allowed the forces of darkness free reign, as long as it was in their own yard. We have since learned that what grows in another’s yard will eventually cross the fence, and it can be lethal. The answer is never a better fence- it is always to assist in the destruction of that which is a threat to everyone. Even if some of us refuse to recognize it as a threat.
Boxers or Briefs? The world wants to know.
When I saw Saddam Hussein on CNN, being checked for lice, I thought I had seen everything. Obviously, I was wrong. I had yet to see the man in his underwear. Now, I have. But this time I am not even going to begin to assume I have seen it all. In a region where the rumor of the desecration of a book can lead to rioting and the loss of life, where women are beaten for showing their ankles in public and where tribalism is the name of the game, these photos could have garnered any conceivable reaction, and many that are inconceivable, I am sure.
In the West, of course, there is only one reaction; sensationalistic glee that the photos were leaked. No one really cares what Saddam looks like in his drawers, but the photos are themselves proof that the President does not have full control over his administration. As a result we will see, I am sure, a “full investigation” into the leak. Read that as a waste of resources that could be better spent elsewhere. Regardless of the outcome of any investigation the anti-Bush folks will find fault.
The reaction of the Iraqi people, by all accounts, has been mixed. A few comments
, however, have left me wondering about the state of the body politic in America, as compared to Iraq:Thirty-five year-old Sattar Jabbar says it is a shameful that these photos were published because Saddam Hussein was president of Iraq once, and it’s a humiliation for the government and the people…Maithan Shehab Ahmad says he hates Saddam after the 12 years he spent in the military fighting in the Iran-Iraq war. But he says he was disgusted to see the photos. "Saddam Hussein stole my life from me," he said. "I spent 12 years of my life in the military and he took everything. But that does not mean we accept the humiliation of our president."
I have to wonder: if any embarrassing photos of President Bush made it into the press would the anti-Bush forces in America have the same respect for the office of the President that these two Iraqis seem to have? I doubt it.
While the people of Iraq face daily threats from murderous jihadists (“insurgents” for some inexplicable reason to the NY Times) and attempt to form a new government, we in the West are eating up pictures of the hirsute former dictator. While Americans turned away from long lines of voters, their franchise unpracticed, in order to park in front of the TV in time for whatever drivel is our favorite, the Iraqis turned out in number despite the threat of terror. While college kids and the Hollywood effete equate the President with Hitler, Iraqis still take pride in the office of their leader, despite the monster who was so recently deposed.
There is a lesson to be learned in all of this, but I doubt that anyone really cares. Maybe tomorrow there will be a picture of Saddam brushing his teeth. If not, I think Desperate Housewives is on.
A Wanted Poster I'd Like to See (updated 5/18)
It would go something like this:
for 16 counts of wrongful death,
reckless endangerment, incitement to riot,
Where is the responsibility and accountability of the press? I'm not talking censorship- I mean good old fashioned integrity.
The White House called on Newsweek magazine on Tuesday to help repair damage to the U.S. image in the Muslim world by its false report that U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay desecrated the Koran.
I have a proposal. Newsweek can help to begin to repair the damage by producing a special issue detailing all of the U.S. development projects that have been completed in Iraq, Afghanistan and every other Muslim nation in the world. I want to see pictures of every school built, every hospital, charts detailing medical services provided and interviews with people freed from tyranny- just a glimpse of the good news- published in all of the major dialects of those regions. That would be a nice start. If the folks at Newsweek aren't sure what good news is they can refresh their memories at Good News Hound
(mug tip to Kevin).
And fire the editors who approved that piece, putting sensationalism over fact and the safety of countless people. That would go a long way too.
Now, I have to go flush my Newsweek renewal notice down the toilet.
Begin Update- click the link below.
This post generated a lot of good comments and e-mail, most of it supportive of the idea, some of it less so, and some of it indicating that there is no use in even trying to repair the damage. What follows is the result if an exchange of e-mails between myself and Australian reader who lived in the U.S. for nearly two decades. He makes several good points, but the most teling to me is the disparity between the treatment of the leader of the group responsible for the Bali bombing, sentenced to 30 months, and the possible death penalty faced by an Austrialian girl for smuggling drugs into Indonesia. As usual with a guest post- we do not edit for content and do not necessarily agree with the post, but we find it interesting and think you might too.
The recent Newsweek debacle has got me thinking about the way the West interacts and behaves in its relations with the Islamic world. More and more it seems to me that the west has got its strategy wrong and we seem to be inadvertently following a policy of appeasement rather than confronting the real core of the issue. The real problem as I see it is that the Islamic world simply despises everything thing about the West, and simple acts of kindness and good actions are seen as a sign of weakness.
Reasonable people should be asking several questions that arise out of the Newsweek debacle. In addition to hanging Newsweek out to dry we should be asking: how is it possible a story which even if true (and it isn't) about throwing a book in a toilet bowl could cause the death of 17 people with hundreds wounded during anti- American riots in Islamic countries? What kind of a culture or religion could cause people to behave in this way? Quite frankly, I find the double standards and hypocrisy emanating from the Islamic world to be shocking in the extreme. Never a day goes by in which a Muslim Government paper is not publishing stories about Jews, plagiarized from Nazi writings.
Not too long ago, on a certain day: September 11, 2001 to be exact, 19 lowlifes professing to act for Allah and Islam crashed planes into buildings in American cities causing the death of 4,000 innocents. I can vividly recall that day, seeing Muslims dancing in the streets- happy this event had occurred. What I can't recall are any lynch mobs going after Muslims in America. I also can't recall influential Muslims anywhere apologising for lowlifes going into a pizza parlours in Israel blowing themselves up along with a score of Israeli kids, hoping to pick up 72 virgins for the effort.
I love the United States, and after living in the US for 18 years before returning home to Australia, I miss and love it even more. But as in Australia, I see our leaders making some terrible mistakes when dealing with Islamic countries. Even though both countries have conservative leaders who are attempting to do the right thing, I believe we are conducting relations with Islamic countries that resemble appeasement. The truth is Muslims don't like us, in fact theyvhate everything about us. Acts of kindness are, more often than not, not seen for what they are- a generosity of spirit to our fellow man- but rather they are interpreted as acts of weakness.
Australian relations with Indonesia are a case in point. The Bali bombing saw 98 decent, young Aussies charred to death. While the ring leader of the group responsible for the bombing (the dirt bag Bashir) will be out of jail in 2 1/2 years, Schapelle Corby, who was allegedly caught smuggling drugs into Bali is facing death by firing squad or life in prison if found guilty. I don't know enough to comment on whether Corby is guilty or innocent, but I do know something is drastically wrong here when a rat responsible for killing approximately 200 people and injuring many more gets a couple of years in the slammer while an Australian woman is facing possible death for drug trafficking.
No matter how much kindness we show Muslims, the assistance after the tsunami being a good example, we will never persuade them to like us.
Joe, in Australia
The French: Will They Ever Learn?
Good evening (morning, afternoon) everybody. I’m going to post today on a subject that I am generally loath to touch: France. It is not that I am particularly afraid to discuss this subject, or that I have some kind of hidden sympathy for the French (although Paris is a beautiful city). It is merely that my sense of fair play usually overrules my desire to deconstruct whatever lunacy the French are up to. It is simply too easy, like going after fish in a barrel – with a hand grenade. Posts dissing France practically write themselves. Nonetheless, occasionally something emanating from France catches my attention and feeds my fancy (like this post
from the country des droits de l’homme
is the news that there is great unrest at the plan to remove a holiday from the French calendar in favor of a “Day of Solidarity.” This whole “Day of Solidarity” concept is a novel one: its origins stem from the horrible heat wave that killed roughly 15,000 elderly French citizens in August 2003 while their children decamped to the beaches of Biaritz and the mountains of Chamonix. Unfortunately, the avatar for the European “dream” of expansive social welfare, socialized medicine, and a human face to temper all that raw Anglo-Saxon capitalism was unable to keep its senior citizens from perishing in numbers not seen since the Normandy landings.
The French government, in a well-intentioned move, decided that rather than celebrate the traditional first Monday after Pentecost via a holiday, the French would return to work and employers would pay into a special fund designed to provide healthcare for the aged and infirm. French officials speculate that they would raise roughly $2.5 billion this year from “Solidarity Day.” Unfortunately, this windfall ends up well short of the $7.5 billion per year necessary to fix the French health system.
But that isn’t even the wacky part. What really blows my mind is that an estimated 55% percent of French workers, angered that the government has taken away one of their holidays, will not show up for work. Now, perhaps they have a point. Two other holidays, one on May 1 and another on May 8, happen to fall on weekends, so French workers will have no holidays at all in the first half of May. One can understand how aggrieved they must feel. The cruelness of it all – it is just so... unfair. How could the government expect its people to work in these conditions? So, in a fit of pique, most of France will now turn their back on a day designed as a reminder of the loss of so many of their society’s elder members. You can’t make this stuff up.
This, of course, assumes that having France's employers donate to a special fund for its elderly on one day every year will solve the country’s health care problems. Naturally, this is at best a short term solution. The system will continue to hemorrhage money and fail to provide the health care its citizens require until the government undertakes substantial reform in the health care sector. This would, of course, require some kind of liberalization or privatization. It goes without saying that none is forthcoming any time soon: France’s powerful unions will use any opportunity to lock the country up in strikes and industrial actions. The mere notion of privatization will provoke them into mad frenzy, freezing the country and forcing the government to back down. The sad irony, then, is that the unions, in a selfish spasm of righteous indignation on behalf of their coddled membership, will perpetuate a system that will be unable to prevent a recurrence of such a catastrophe should another heat wave descend upon France. No doubt they will blame global warming (and we all know who is behind that).
In the least, I cannot fault the French government’s intention in trying to show respect for the deceased elderly, even if their efforts are misguided and fall short. One must ask, however, if the country that presents itself to the world as the “humane” alternative to the harshness of Anglo-Saxon capitalism is possessed of more humanity than those greedy, capitalistic Anglo-Saxons. It seems to me that, if a heat wave had taken 15,000 American, British, or Australian lives, there would be, in addition to groundswell of self-righteousness (and concomitant hyperventilating on the blessings of socialized medicine) from the left-leaning members of the commentariat, a true effort to address the systemic failures that led to such a catastrophe, to say nothing of the societal ones. But the French can’t even bring themselves to like the half-assed solution they’ve come up with. Which is something to think about when someone pontificates on how “humane” the French model is.
Creative Writing Season at the State Dept.
Last week I alluded to the fact that the annual employee evaluation review (EER) season is upon us- well, it is officially over (May 15th is the due date for the reports) but in reality will linger on for another week or so as last minute reports filter in. A number of commenters and e-mails asked for a more in depth description of the process, so here it is- all you ever wanted to know about EERs and probably a whole lot more!
EER season is a high stress time of year- the normal workload does not decrease, many folks are planning for their upcoming transfer season, and except for the entry-level staff everyone is busy trying to finish the reports for the people they supervise while making sure that their own report is finished on time as well. The reporting process is governed by the Foreign Affairs Manual, specifically 3 FAH-1 H-2800
and 3 FAM 2800
:3 FAM 2811.2 Objectives
The objectives of the personnel evaluation program are to enhance member efficiency and to provide a just and equitable basis for career tenure, promotions, within-class salary increases, performance pay, assignments, training, separations, and disciplinary action by:
(1) Providing for a periodic written evaluation of each member’s performance and potential;
(2) Assuring that each member participates in the formulation of and understands the work requirements, goals, and priorities established at the beginning of the rating period; and
(3) Establishing a constructive dialogue between supervisors and subordinates to continue throughout the rating period.
The process revolves around two forms, the DS-1829 (six pages) for all Foreign Service Officers and Specialists below the rank of FS-01 and the DS-5055 (five pages) for all Officers and Specialists holding a rank of FS-01 or higher (the Senior Foreign Service). I have so far been unable to find the forms on the Web to provide links- if anyone knows of any please let me know.
The report consists of: the rating statement- prepared (in theory) by the supervisor for employees at or below the rank of 02 and by the rated employee at 01 and above, the review statement- prepared by the next level of management, the dreaded “room for improvement” box and the rated employees final statement, affectionately known as the “suicide box.” Each report has to address issues such as leadership, management, communication skills, intellectual skills, job knowledge and of course EEO.
The process of writing the report is intended to be collaborative and transparent, with the rated employee, the rater (immediate supervisor) and the reviewer (usually next step up the chain of command) working together to produce a report that places the rated employee within the organization and measures his or her performance against the work requirements of the position.
In reality, for all but the most junior of officers and the total screw-ups, the employee writes at least the first draft of his or her own rating statement-it is a simple matter of time and wanting to have the best report possible. Combine this with the unwritten policy of “damn by faint praise” for the screw-ups and it becomes extremely difficult to tell who is actually a standout employee. It is only with slight exaggeration they I say some reports use phrases like “when Dick is not walking on water he is busy turning it into wine.” Smiley wrote a bout visits recently- when the Secretary of State visits your post everyone of any elevated rank ends up with credit for the success of the visit- whether the visit was indeed a success or not. Much like grade inflation in our colleges, relative worth of an employee’s contribution is inflated to help that person stand out among a group of peers who all have basically the same job.
Once the report is done it goes to a review panel, generally three officers or specialist who do not work in the employees section, for proofing. These panels are supposed to look for technical problems- i.e. a signature missing, a box left unchecked, and “inadmissible comments” of which there are many. For the most part these comments are the type of thing that would get the Department sued- “Miss Jones uses her perkiness to sway host country officials” or “Mr. Smith looks like a native of Upper Ickystan and so is able to bond with his interlocutors.” You get the idea. Of course since we all think we are the smartest people in the room, a lot of stylistic editing is done too- panels like to change words from “happy” to “glad” and “that” to “which.” Bear in mind that at least three people have already worked on this report- the employee, the rater and the reviewer, and now three more have seen it too. After review by the panel it goes back to the employee for corrections, then to panel again. If it is o.k. the panel chair signs the report and it goes to Washington.
A colleague has suggested that we do away with the review panels and make the report the work of the three people who have signed it. Let is be submitted to DC warts and all- and let those three be dinged for whatever might be wrong. I think this is a great idea- the panels simply tie up more resources. If three FSOs can’t get it right I don’t see how six make it any better.
The now glossed over report is sent to the Department to go into your personnel file. When an employee is eligible for promotion the file is sent to a board of examiners, who on average will spend eight minutes with each file. Bear in mind that each file will generally have at least three evaluations since the last promotion (most grades have a three year wait for promotion eligibility), and may have many more if you have languished in a grade for a few extra years. It is imperative, than, that each report give the impression of infallibility- you just better hope that your rater and or reviewer are good writers.
The process of evaluating employees is of course necessary. The present method, however, designed to protect the Department and to ensure that no one has their feelings hurt is unworkable. Poor performers are rarely identified as such, and criticism is so rare as to be non-existent. Managers are not asked to rank their employees for promotion, and staff are nor measured against their peers as well as their work requirements. The average person, asked to read ten EERs, would be very hard pressed to identify who was the star of the bunch- and oddly enough a member of the public sits on every promotion panel. Subordinate staff and local hires staff have no input into the rating of their supervisor (the Department is flirting with 360 degree review, but it does not seem likely to happen soon). Unfortunately the current EER process in firmly entrenched. As long as the PC police and the lawyers who fear blowback from calling a spade a spade control the process we will continue to have “screamers” in the upper ranks. Policy wonks who may be economic geniuses will continue to be placed in charge of our missions with disastrous effect on the staff. Potential leaders and excellent managers who labor under supervisors who write poorly, or are on the verge of retirement and just don’t care, will continue to suffer for it. The process needs a good hard look, the sooner the better.
Now if you will excuse me, I have to get to work on building a file for my next EER-we are almost out of wine around here.
Brad Lena responds-
Earlier this week we posted a guest piece by Brad Lena- Unilateral Magnanimity- that generated a spirited round of comments and more than a few e-mails to the author. Brad responds with this post:
Let me begin by thanking all those who took the time to offer their thoughts and engage in spirited commentary. As one can imagine, reactions to my audacious post “Unilateral Magnanimity” have ranged from Brad Lena is the world’s biggest idiot, to those who were intrigued by my tactical suggestion. My response is directed at no particular individual. I must remark, however, that some of the comments exhibited an obtuseness on steroids.
It should be noted by those, especially those suffering from congenital literalism, that not all geopolitical tactics are undertaken with its face value as the sole or even the true objective. In fact, the objective may be to initiate a reaction or series of reactions that will have ramifications at a later date and are advantageous to the initiating government. Not wishing to take unfair advantage of Dr. D’s kind invitation to post on his blog by writing too lengthy of a piece, this underlying motivation was only implied in my original post.
There are some set assumptions underlying my suggested tactic. One is that Kim Jong-Il may be the most predictable player in this scenario. You can probably set your watch by what this guy will do. There will be no on the road to Damascus conversion and he will suddenly make nice. Such delusions were a distinguishing feature of the Clinton State Department. As much as I would like to see the suffering of the North Korean people ameliorated, I doubt it will not come at the hands of US magnanimity.
If Kim Jong-Il’s cooperation is discounted from the beginning, what then is the objective? The focus of the tactic is really the nations of Asia, the UN, NGO’s and post-cold war dynamics. From many quarters comes the assertion that the aforementioned transnational organizations are to adjudicate, mitigate, and regulate international relations. These organizations claim the moral high ground on many issues while routinely criticizing the US for many of its actions especially in an age of unilateral and preemptive military action. If the proposed tactic was initiated and accompanied by US demands that these organizations press North Korea to accommodate a humanitarian gesture it sets the stage for a spectacular failure. And that is an important fact; for this initiative will receive significant media attention as in the whole world is watching. The situation is now this, the humanitarian approach has failed, North Korea refuses to join other communist nations of Asia in a rapprochement with global politics and economics, it still has nuclear weapons and the UN, transnational organizations and the NGO’s are demonstrably impotent and/or inept.
What of Asia? So far they have been getting by on the cheap. South Korea, Japan and now China and India have formidable economies, an insatiable US consumer demand for their goods and services and access to the West’s financial systems. With North Korea now intransigent on all fronts, pressure to act will undoubtedly build. Kim Jong-Il has the potential to upset the trajectory of Asian affluence and influence. The Asian goal is to constrain American influence and military presence in their sphere. North Korea threatens that as well, adding impetus to the need for their action. If Asia fails to act, that too is a useful piece of information for the US.
Some comments considered the tactic an act of appeasement. Appeasement is an admission of weakness. A massive nuclear force targeting North Korea, a dozen or so aircraft carrier battle groups, pre-positioned nuclear submarines, a ground and air force presence in Japan and S. Korea and a military budget second to none, precludes the tactic as an act of appeasement. In fact, it is a provocation using a passive act. A nation that can, at will, either destroy you or provide your people with material goods that are markedly beyond the ability of your governing philosophy to supply is an act of mockery.
Other commentators thought my statement that Kim Jong –Il was ill prepared to confront unilateral magnanimity, silly as he has withstood economic, political, technological isolation and will continue to do so as long as China, his main benefactor, wishes it. My point was that he indeed has plenty of experience in this sort of resistance. He lacks, however, experience, policies and propaganda in resisting the world community badgering him to accept magnanimity for his people. Others thought he would simply steal the goods. He’s welcome to do it with the whole world watching or at least our pin point satellite reconnaissance watching.
Some thought the whole exercise misconceived. Misconceived compared to what? A foreign policy and State Department that trusted Kim Jong-Il to live up to his treaty promises? Or, how about selling cutting edge technology with ready military applications to his main benefactor China? And that’s just the “A” list of misconceived policies. At least unilateral magnanimity is neither delusional nor detrimental. A by-product of the rejection by North Korea is the ensuing debate over who gets the spurned goods. There are places on earth that endure unimaginable suffering that are ignored because they lack destabilizing weapons and/or their resources are meager or difficult to exploit. And so they suffer. Perhaps the world’s attention on them for at least a little while will be helpful.
In employing unilateral magnanimity, even as a doomed policy, the US has engineered a number of useful reevaluations of the extant geopolitical order with relatively little effort or risk to existing geopolitical arrangements. This is a good thing as we already have two “new arrangement” programs underway in Afghanistan and Iraq. A dozen or so super-freighters parked off the coast in international waters makes for a bully pulpit of that is hard to ignore. Everybody in this scenario looks bad except the US. We’ve implored a tyrant to join the rest of Asia in building a prosperous future, shown compassion for his people, demanded transnational organizations be held accountable and enforce their mandate and put pressure on Asia to effectively act in its own interest.
Those put off by my preposterous and idiotic suggestion in the original post would probably go apoplectic over my suggestion to carpet bomb Cuba with pictures of the insides of grocery stores that state “This is how Cubans shop in free societies. How’s shopping under Fidel?” At any rate, they can rest easy, as there’s always the old stand bys; Foreign Affairs Quarterly, Security Council resolutions, economic sanctions, new treaties and of course, war.
Can Condi Come Over For Coffee... And Bilateral Talks?
We’ve blogged in the past on various aspects of life and work in the Foreign Service. Today we’re going to continue in that vein and discuss a matter near to every FSO’s heart: visits.
We’re not talking about Aunt Petunia or that girl you met at Madam's Organ
three weeks before you left for post. We’re talking about US government visits; when government officials come to town, FSOs often do much of the heavy lifting, to use a Foreign Service cliche.
There are essentially three main types of visit that a post can have. It is a virtual certainty that an FSO will encounter some, if not all, of these in their career. I’ll list them in order, from least ulcer-causing to most.
1. Codels (pronounced co-dells): Congressional delegations. This includes Senators, Congressmen (collectively referred to as "members") and associated staff- occassionally the staff comes alone- called a Staffdel or No-del.
2. SecState: The Secretary of State, also known as "S."
3. POTUS: President of the United States of America. The big cheese. Could also include the VP, or FLOTUS, the First Lady of the United States.
The amount of stress, effort and exhilaration one experiences varies greatly depending on the visit, but typically an FSO (and whoever else is pressed into service to work on the visit) will feel a mixture of all three of these emotions, and then some. Depending on the size of the post, a codel may be an all-hands-on-deck affair, to say nothing of an S or POTUS visit. A large post, however, could get codels on a monthly basis, and may have a cadre of local staff who do much of the logistical work.
S and POTUS visits, on the other hand, are generally much more involved affairs, POTUS exponentially more so than S. These visits have an advance team that decamps to your post prior to the arrival date. In the case of POTUS, there are often several advance teams, each advancing one another, prior to the big day. In the case of S, there may only be one advance team, although often there is a security advance team as well. POTUS advances on the other hand, tend to come in waves... Pre-pre-advance, pre-advance, advance.
These visits are hard work, and by nature, often ruffle feathers, both in the Embassy and in the host government- not to mention the entire host nation from time to time. Just like in university faculty disputes, feathers are often the most ruffled over the most mundane things: who gets to open the door to the limousine, where the van containing the myriad extra staff ("strap hangers") gets parked, who stands where, etc. Relationships you’ve spent months building are often strained, if not broken, over the silliest things.
And that’s when everything goes as planned.
Sometimes you work your tail off, call in all kinds of favors, and a crisis takes place on the other side of the world, a truce needs signing somewhere, or something else happens, and, for reasons completely beyond your control, the visit on which you’ve been working 75 hours a week for the last three weeks gets cancelled. In the worst cases there is a catastrophre at home- Secretary Powell was on the road on Septembr 11th in Latin America (I forget which country). For this reason even the shortest of high level visits demand exquisite attention to detail.
Sometimes, it is the other way around you are in the crisis area, or the prime minister of your host country just died, and the "principals" rearrange their schedules to visit you. That weekend fishing trip you were planning? Sorry, POTUS is on his way -- time to change plans- picture Rome when the Pope passed away. You might have 48 hours (or less) to get something together. Visits like that aren’t actually that bad, because, even though you might not sleep for 48 hours or so, the period of maximum effort is actually quite brief. Ifo you are lucky there might be a "meet and greet" or "rope line" opportunity for pictures.
So, are there any positives to these visits? In a word, yes. For one thing, the visit of a President or Secretary of State to any country can have a profound impact on bilateral relations between the US and that country, particularly if the country is one that POTUS or S hasn’t visited in a while. It gives the country’s leaders a chance to develop a relationship with American leaders, and it gives them a chance to voice their opinions on bilateral issues, as it affords us the same opportunity. (An aside pertaining to previous posts: unless that country is part of the Visa Waiver Program, visas are likely to be on the list of bilateral issues their side wants to discuss.)
Additionally, your mission [that's another name for an embassy and consulate or group of cinsulates in a country. - ed] has a chance to highlight to the top levels of American government what it believes. Is the security situation at your embassy not acceptable? Is the chancery (main embassy building) in need of serious upgrades? A high level visit can generate momentum to fix it. Is there some crucial part of the two countries' bilateral relationship that your post feels is overlooked by Washington? If you have your act together, a POTUS or S visit could be the time to get it on the principal's agenda.
Then there are the stories, which are of no consequence to the foreign policy of the United States, but are nonetheless an inevitable function of Foreign Service life. An FSO may be able to dine out on some of the madcap tales of POTUS or S visits – the ones that you can tell your friends who don’t have a security clearance. Sooner or later, every FSO, Specialist and DS agent accrues a raft of stories relating to these visits. Stories of near misses, of last second saves, of the truly random things that crop up in these visits, and of memorable quotes, are all commonplace. Sometimes, FSOs sit in on meetings between the principals and their counterparts, and see high diplomacy as it is made, before it hits CNN. You can see what really happened, as opposed to what the media reports or how both sides try to spin the event. You can see the true relationship between the players: do they like each other? Respect one another? Hate each other? Trust one another?
I once worked on a SecState visit which was so demanding that I lost ten pounds (and I’m not exactly overweight to begin with). The local government was obstinate and officious, the meetings ran late (as they often do), and there were all kinds of small headaches. Nonetheless, the staff of the embassy (a relatively small post, which doesn’t see very many official visitors) pulled together and worked day and night to organize the visit, and in the end, things worked very well (with one or two minor hitches). The Secretary was pleased with the visit and was able to make significant progress in several key areas, including a major initiative pertaining to one of the big issues of the day. The sense of teamwork and camaraderie developed by the embassy staff gave a significant boost to the previously poor morale at post. This is the kind of effect, both wide- and small scale, that a big visit can have on an embassy, on the host country, and on our foreign policy.
I want my Crash and Bang.
Earlier this week the Government Accounting Office released report GAO-05-642- Overseas Security
. This report, which deals with the efforts to protect U.S. government personnel assigned abroad carries the reassuring subtitle of State Department Has Not Fully Implemented Key Measures to Protect U.S. Officials from Terrorist Attacks Outside of Embassies.
The report primarily addresses so-called soft targets abroad (homes, schools, routes to work, etc) as opposed to "hardened" targets, such as Embassies and Consulates, but it also reviews what USG staff overseas can be expected to know and do to protect themselves. That is my main concern tonight.
Here is the short version of the report:U.S. government officials working overseas are at risk from terrorist threats. Since 1968, 32 embassy officials have been attacked-23 fatally-by terrorists outside the embassy. s the State Department continues to improve security at U.S. embassies, terrorist groups are likely to focus on "soft" targets such as homes, schools, and places of worship. We are recommending that the Secretary of State develop a soft targets strategy; develop counterterrorism training for officials; and fully implement its personal security accountability system for embassy officials. State generally agreed with our recommendations.
Now, I want to start by saying that there is no way the U.S. government can protect every person in its employ twenty-four hours a day at a level equal to what can be expected in a hardened facility. Having said that, their are some valid points in the report. Thirty-two State officials have been attacked with twenty-three killed outside of an embassy in the last thirty-five years. While the report addresses a number of issues one item comes to the fore- we do not receive counter-terrorism training.
State has not fully implemented one of the most important safeguards against terrorist attacks while traveling to and from work- counterterrorism training. Three State-initiated investigations into terrorist attacks against U.S. officials found that, among other things, the officials lacked the necessary hands-on training to help counter the attack. In response, the investigations recommended that State provide hands-on counterterrorism training and implement accountability measures to ensure compliance with personal security procedures. However, State has not fully implemented these recommendations. It does not require counterterrorism training for U.S. officials and their families at high-or critical-threat posts.
I am not talking about commando, Jack Bauer in 24, type training. I am talking about a program that already exists in the Department- it is called the Diplomatic Security Antiterrorism Course (DSAC). This is an elective course if you are going to a "high threat" post (Saudi comes to mind), but even then it is not mandatory. This course covers things such as surveillance detection training, counterterrorism driving (commonly called "Crash and Bang"), and emergency medical training. Add basic weapons training and you have a really good course -not that State will ever advocate for its officers to learn to fire a weapon.
Many of the other agencies that send folks abroad (especially in law enforcement) require this type of training. State, in its perpetual condition of budgetary crunches for training, short staffing and general aversion to anything that appears to be aggressive, leaves this course as an elective. This might be a good time to point out that the Embassies bombed in Africa were NOT high threat posts- it is very unlikely then, that any State personnel at those posts had this training.
Equally disturbing to me is this line from the report:
Moreover, State has not been training its ambassadors, deputy chiefs of mission, and regional security officers on ways to effectively promote the use of the personal security procedures.
If our Ambassadors and DCMs are not lobbying the Department for more security training it is simply not going to happen. Unfortunately that does not seem likely to occur. Political appointee ambassadors are concerned with the political role they play (understandably) and DCMs who want to make Ambassador generally don't rock the boat. Everyone seems to just sort of hunker down and hope nothing bad happens on their watch. The African bombings are history- and the only lesson that seems to have been learned is that we need to turn our Missions into fortresses. The GAO made several excellent recommendations- and I may revisit this report here in the coming days- but this to me is the most relevant:
Mandate counterterrorism training and prioritize which posts, officials, and family members should receive counterterrorism training first; track attendance to determine compliance with this new training requirement; and add a "soft target protection" training module to the ambassadorial, deputy chief of mission, and RSO training to promote the security of U.S. officials and their families outside the embassy.
Those of us serving abroad need at least the basic skills to protect ourselves, our families and our colleagues. Would an employee with basic counter-terrorism skills have been able to help prevent the African embassy attacks? We'll never know- but I am certain that without any training we are all at even greater risk.
Bush: They Love Him in Texas, Alabama...
End of Post.
Occasionally we receive e-mails that are too good to resist sharing, and we invite the author to do a guest piece, or re-publish something he or she has posted elsewhere. This is one of those e-mails that evolved into a guest piece. The text below is un-edited by The Daily Demarche. - Dr. D [As promised the oil bit below has also been updated today]
“War is not an independent phenomenon, but the continuation of politics by different means. “ – Clausewitz
For the purposes of considering policy options regarding North Korea, it is the second half of Clausewitz’s quote, “… the continuation of politics by different means” that will be explored. With political options decidedly constrained, some think war with Kim Jong-Il's North Korea inevitable. Secretary Rice has taken to sternly warning the North Koreans as to the scope and depth of American military resources. Various political prods and threats have yielded bitter fruit. Continued belligerence on the part of the North Korean government, as well as the reshuffling of the geopolitical/economic deck in Asia makes for furrowed brows in an administration whose attention and resources are engaged elsewhere. Frankly, war with North Korea is a fool’s errand. It serves neither the interests of Asia or the United States. It may be time to inject this situation with a radical policy innovation. Let us begin by identifying the general objective; the destabilization, modification or the end of the rogue regime of Kim Jong-Il. Let us also acknowledge that his extant nuclear capabilities threaten North Korea’s Asian neighbors much more than they do the continental US. Nonetheless, war in Asia would dampen the enthusiasm of Asian nations for financing the debt of a profligate America. The ensuing refugee/humanitarian crisis would compound the economic fallout. It’s a grim scenario all the way around. The North Koreans know it and exploit it. It makes little sense to play into their only strength. The one thing this failed and paranoid dictatorship can do is buy/build weapons and raise armies. The one thing they cannot do is feed their people or provide them with the material wherewithal for an adequate living standard. In contrast, the United States can do both. In fact, it’s being reported that its military budget will soon equal the rest of the world’s expenditures combined. The US can also buy or manufacture more of everything than just about anybody else. The latter suggests a potential tactic that is aggressive, non-lethal and is indeed the continuation of policy by different means.“To win a hundred victories in a hundred battles is not the highest excellence; the highest excellence is to subdue the enemy’s army without fighting at all.” - SUN-TZU
The strategy of Kim Jong-Il is simple; stay in power. Sun-Tzu said that when planning the attack “the best military policy is to attack strategies.” He also said, “the worst is to assault walled cities.” Attacking North Korea is the walled city option. Assaulting the Kim’s strategy is worth some consideration. As it clearly could not prevail in an outright military confrontation with the US, the cornerstone of the North Korean policy is the deterrent effect afforded it by the global recognition that war in Asia is not desirable. Furthermore, it can claim, with some justification that the only way it could protect itself from the US was to acquire nuclear weapons.
As mentioned, this it not to threaten the US but to unsettle its Asian neighbors enough to counsel constraint to the US. The North Korean Communists have had a half a century to instill a high level of paranoia in the populace regarding the US. In attacking them we will legitimize the government and probably unleash North Korean nationalism. As hard as it is for us to imagine North Koreans being nationalistic about such a failed and miserable state, it is not a justification to discount the possibility. If, under these conditions, attacking North Korea is the walled city option, what then would be the preferred policy? Attack the strategy of North Korea. If adopted, this tactic requires not only assaulting Kim Jong-Il with something he is not prepared to confront, it also requires changing the calculus employed by nations and transnational organizations in “managing” the “crisis” in which his strategy rests, in other words, the diplomatic status-quo. An argument could be made that cold war political calculations and the accompanying diplomatic machinations have become so predictable and transparent that everybody and his brother can game the system. NGO’s recognize this and are attempting to exploit this diplomatic exhaustion in service to the imagined post-sovereign utopia. If the status-quo is exhausted, what then would be the policy initiative that would circumvent or perturb the existing geopolitical dynamic? It is the aggressive use of magnanimity.
“One change always leaves the way open for the establishment of others.” -Niccolo Machiavelli
The US can literally bury North Korea under an avalanche of manufactured goods and agricultural products. Does anyone doubt that the US could not fill a dozen super cargo ships with say a million or two each of blankets, eyeglasses, shoes, doses of aspirin, tooth paste and brushes, basic antibiotics, shirts, pants, jackets, hats, gloves, dresses, skirts sweaters, pens, pencils, paper, watches, books, pots, pans, bottled water and mountains of grain, etc.? Unleashing the productivity, ingenuity and wealth of a free people against the regime of Kim Jong-Il is a tactic he is ill-prepared to confront. Imagine President Bush, on behalf of the American people and in solidarity with the long suffering and actually starving people of North Korea, makes this mass of goods and foodstuffs a gift to ameliorate the deprivation of the North Korean populace and to give evidence of what is available outside of North Korea. There is precedent for such an initiative; the marshalling of resources and logistics by the US in response to the devastation of the recent Tsunami. Our relief efforts graphically projected American resources and might in the form of magnanimity. The impact of this act on the region instigated, in some cases, a certain reexamination of the region’s engagement with America which had previously been one of suspicion if not hostility. In some instances it has led to a higher level of communication and cooperation.
“You will not find it difficult to prove that battles, campaigns, and even wars have been won or lost primarily because of logistics.” - General Dwight D. Eisenhower
If aggressive magnanimity is employed, what are the logistical issues? In the case of war, it is both expensive, cumbersome and in the modern area is held subject to the cooperation of other nations. Not so with aggressive magnanimity. The preponderance of existing commercial logistical networks and infrastructures dwarfs anything the military could possibly replicate. The volume of goods and agricultural products that are shipped around the US on a daily basis makes the domestic logistical issue mute. Ocean transport may be somewhat more complicated but again, commercial shipping is an everyday event, massive military transport is not. Considering the staggering expenses of the Iraq war, the capital outlays for aggressive magnanimity are miniscule in comparison. Commercial enterprises are in the business of cheap. Not so weaponry. The manufacturers for all the goods previous mentioned could bid for the contract to fulfill the orders. As these goods are everyday commodities and the competition fierce, costs are contained. Since the government is already propping up the prices for agricultural products due to over capacity, theoretically a bargain could be struck to likewise deliver low cost. The political benefits of these federal outlays are that they support the common business environment. By nature, military expenditures are confined to a few highly specialized producers. The efficiencies of the market place make the acquisition/logistic phase manageable. But, what are the obstacles of implementation and the accompanying political tsunami?
"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." -Sir Winston Churchill
The geopolitical ramifications represent the area of greatest dynamism. This strategy, as one can imagine, upsets most of the apple carts. North Korea has two options, neither desirable. If the gesture is spurned, it allows the US question the legitimacy of a government that so spurns the interests of its own people and sets up the “we tried” argument if the military option is eventually exercised. If the gesture is accepted, the regime in addition to the distribution problems, must explain to a wondering populace where this material abundance came from. Questions among the populace and perhaps the military will undoubtedly arise even if whispered. Furthermore, the spectacle of the UN, EU and various NGO’s protestations and moral outrage over America’s “unilateral” magnanimity allows the US to say “we’re damned if we do and we’re damned if we don’t.” Actually, a fierce US demand that all these entities engage the North Koreans on this issue is a required component. The US should also demand that the UN manage the distribution process. The end result is the positioning these entities in circumstance that, in the past, they could pontificate about while avoiding action. It places their moral authority, effectiveness and competence on the line.
"There are but two powers in the world, the sword and the mind. In the long run the sword is always beaten by the mind." - Napoleon Bonaparte
What if the policy fails? Give the goods to the UN. Let them distribute it to whatever nation is in most need. What if North Korea accepts and then returns to intransigence? The heat is substantially turned up on North Korea’s Asian neighbors to act, leaving the US free to hold its own council for the time being. While to some, maybe most, this initiative is a fantastical flight of imagination and naiveté. Perhaps, but the one indisputable fact is that the geopolitical shake up continues unabated with ensuing confusion and crisis. There is an old saying; perhaps it was Confucius that said there is opportunity in crisis. In any case, this initiative requires no blood, little sweat and tears and modest expense in comparison the attack the walled city option. With apologies to Barry Goldwater, the aggressive use of magnanimity in the promotion of liberty is no vice.
Brad Lena is a freelance writer living in Asheville, North Carolina. He can be reached at email@example.com
The Diplomacy of Energy- Updated 10 May!
Click the link below the original post to read the update!
Allow me to apologize in advance for what might be a week of light posting- the Foreign Service annual evaluation cycle peaks this week and everyone in the FS is going nuts with the evalutaion process on top of the normal work. Writing an EER (the eval doc) is a lot less fun than writing this blog- and then there are the second level reviews and the proofing of all those reports. Long story short- I am tired. As Smiley might say, please turn on the violin music and pass me an Appletini.
Luckily plenty of other good bloggers are pounding away at the keyboard-and I am going to pick up some threads they have started. The first is a series of posts at Big Cat Chronicles on oil, the future, and U.S. oil dependency. I am going to examine the followign posts on that blog and then tie them in as best I can to the practice of diplomacy. Here are the posts for background reading:
1. Are we running out of oil?
2. Oil reserves -- why we should care about the Middle East
3. Proven versus probable oil reserves -- impacts on reported reserves
I hope to return to this topic tonight but in case I get bogged down in EERs here is a loose outline of my ideas:
I will examine U.S. policy towards foreign oil producers in the Middle East, Latin America and Eurasia. I am intersted in the amount of aid and development we have poured into the regions in addition to the number of dollars invested. What are the politics of those regions and how do they compare to our stated foreign policy goals? What alternatives might exist to our current policies, and why are we not pursuing them?
I invite all of our readers to send us e-mail related to this topic, or to offer your opinions in the comments section. Don't be shy- tell us what you think. Should we just take the oil in Iraq and call it "Oil for Freedom"? Should we divert some of the foreign aid dollars we spend towards research on alternative energy? How about trade water to Mexico for oil?
I am going to try to address all of this and more over the next few days- it might be in dribs and drabs, though, so any contributions you can make to help keep me and Smiley going will be greatfully appreciated.(Update begins after this marker.)
Yesterday I posted a piece referring to the Big Cat Chronicles recent oil trilogy (see above). Roaring Tiger opened with the question: Are we running out of oil? Tiger’s answer: it depends on who you talk to. While that is a true enough answer in the short term, in the not so long term the answer is simply YES. Oil is a non-renewable resource (not withstanding a recent comment), and we will eventually run out. Will we run out in the next decade or two? Of course not. But in the next five, or seven? In that range the possibility becomes much more real- Tiger cites a U.S. geological study that gives the most recent estimate as the year 2056 when global reserves are depleted.
Granted Tiger also cites and discredits several older studies that predicted the end of oil various times over the last century plus. He also speaks to the technological advances that have enabled us to suck ever more black gold from the earth. It is here that I find a flaw- if we are increasingly better able to procure more oil have we not also refined our techniques to estimate how much oil remains? Four decades worth or seven, however, is irrelevant. We are indeed running out. We are addicted to oil- and worse yet, we are addicted to foreign oil. The U.S. is the single largest consumer of oil on the planet, and the bulk of the oil we use is imported.
Consider the sources of oil available to us. Let’s start with OPEC- The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. We can, for the time being at least, ignore the fact that OPEC exists to fix prices. Let’s examine the membership, in order of import as ranked by gross production:
-United Arab Emirates
How many friends do you count on that list? Me neither. Let’s take a brief recount: Saudi Arabia- we saved their bacon (figuratively) from Saddam. They repaid us with September 11th. Iraq- see Saddam Hussein and continued attacks. Iran- the Embassy there is no longer on my bid lists, as you may recall. Kuwait- inoffensive, but not much of a booster. Venezuela- President Chavez, you are judged by the company you keep. UAE- one good golf tournament a year does not an ally make. Libya- do you trust Quaddafi? Qatar- financiers of al Jazeera. Do I even have to address the last three? We are, as a nation, simply too dependent on foreign oil.
Not a single one of the OPEC countries can be called (with a straight face) a free society. Iraq is on its way, but we have been doing business with them for many, many years. The UN “Oil for Food” scandal, as much as I love to pick at it, would not have occurred if we were not bent on having oil from the Saddam regime.
So where does this leave us? Currently it appears as if we are staring down a dead end. Alternative fuels are not taken seriously, at least in the U.S. I am no tree-hugging electro-car driving Ed Begly type- I am a realist. I know that producing energy always has a cost. Our dependence on foreign oil, however, puts us at risk. Not political risk as the price at the pump goes up (that too of course) but real risk. We need oil- and we need it too badly.
I plan to continue this thread throughout the week, thanks for all the great comments so far- keep ‘em coming!
What were the French Doing on VE Day?
. I wonder how the MSM missed this yesterday, the entire article is pasted in below:Algerians mark 1945 massacre by French forces
SETIF, Algeria, May 8 (AFP) - Thousands of Algerians marched in the eastern town of Setif on Sunday to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the massacre of thousands of pro-independence demonstrators by French forces there.
The cortege followed the same route that the ill-fated protesters took on May 8, 1945, calling for an end to French rule in Algeria. That same day, across the Mediterranean, Europe feted the Allied victory over Nazi Germany.
French forces quickly stepped in to crack down on the Setif demonstration, leaving 45,000 people dead, according to Algerian historians. Western researchers put the death toll at between 15,000 and 20,000.
"We wanted to pay tribute to the martyrs of May 8, 1945, by taking the same route," said Abdelhamid Salakdji, local representative of the May 8 Foundation, created in a bid to force France to admit its responsibility for the killings.
"We want to send a message to (French President) Jacques Chirac. Germany asked for France's forgiveness. Why doesn't France do the same thing in Algeria?" Salakdji asked.
In France, hundreds of Algerian and Moroccan immigrants demonstrated in Paris to mark the anniversary, holding signs that read "Chirac is killing hope in Africa" and "May 8, 1945: day of celebration, day of mourning".
French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier earlier called on Paris and Algiers to work to overcome the most painful chapters in their shared history.
"To build a common future, we need to look together at the past, in order to overcome the chapters most painful for our two peoples," Barnier said in an interview published Sunday in the Algerian daily El Watan.
Barnier also said researchers from both countries, who now have access to most of the archives from the period when Algeria was a French territory, are trying to clear up the disputed history.
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika also marked the anniversary with a call for an objective historical review of the events.
But he added in a statement that the Algerian people were still waiting for France to take "more definite action" in recognizing its responsibility for the tragedy in Setif.
Unfortunately the Algerians will be waiting a long, long, time. Much longer than say, the French had to wait for the allied forces to liberate their "open city." Everytime I think my respect for France in the WWII era could not sink any lower, it slips another notch. And that is saying nothing of my opnion of France today.
Thanks to Ron for the e-mail tip.
(End of post.)