The Fraying of State

The freak out by some FSOs at State is impressive and less than an indictment of the corps than most make it out to be. True, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is trying to fill only 48 posts, but releasing the announcement Friday night like a bit of bad news is no way to treat trusted and valued employees and patriots and a good way to rile the entire Department. But this bad form is not entirely surprising given her leadership over the last several years at Foggy Bottom, or in the years before as National Security Advisor. Her Cold War thinking is out of touch with the requirements of the post-Cold War world.

I understand and in some way agree with the FSO's complaints. To them, neither the personnel system nor the bureaucracy as a whole really incentivizes going into a war zone. To really get attention, you should be a standout elsewhere, as Patricia highlights with the award to the Deputy Chief of Mission in Rome. It makes sense not to single out the outstanding State personnel working on PRT's and outside the walls, you wouldn't want to discriminate, would you Ms. Rice?

I'll answer that for you, Ms. Rice. If you don't put your Department on a war footing, funnel (and otherwise lobby for more) resources to support and develop critical areas, you can pretend business as usual and things are going swimmingly. Except now you've realized the seas are choppy and too few people brought their gear to take a dip.

Rice's Transformational Diplomacy did not result in the great restructuring promised, arguably because of her limited world view. Reducing U.S. activities in Europe because guns aren't going off there doesn't prevent the bombs that are or the bomb plans being hatched.

Has Rice been in standing firm for more money to rightsize her Department to conform to modern requirements? That would have been the real transformation.

No, instead she releases a memo Friday night for assignment to a country where the embassy (the old one, not the brand new one that's still not online) is apparently not in a safe, as Rice admitted in her testimony to the House Oversight committee two weeks ago when she argued the International Zone isn't safe. I know soldiers and Marines were smirking at that, as well as Rice's own people.

In truth, it doesn't matter if Rice is right or not about the safety of the IZ (although on the new embassy, I like this cite this quote: it's like Fort Apache in the middle of Indian country, except this time the Indians have mortars.), the rebellion in State today is more an indictment of her leadership at State.

In short, Rice has not prepared her department for the mission she's suddenly demanded. We're now four years into Iraq, six years into Afghanistan, and her Department still hasn't mobilized her Department for war to the extent that even a few months ago Crocker had to go public with staffing problems. State / DynCorp have messed up policing. State permitted (some, like me, might say encouraged) their security escorts to take an overly aggressive posture because of screwed up priorities. And State hasn't intervened when American reconstruction contractors screw the Iraqi Government. I could go on but I'm bored with the list already. Apparently, Rice figured most of State didn't have to deal with the little people. Perhaps that was Karen Hughes' job, who, um, reports to Rice. (Great "job well done" speech by Rice, by the way. Not what I'd want from my tenure.)

No, Rice frames the "GWOT" (I prefer my superior acronym) in convenient post-detente Cold War terms, but she doesn't grasp the need to conduct public diplomacy today that was so deep and integral to the pre-1960's Cold War. Instead shielding herself, her people, and her processes (I won't get started on Karen Hughes, except to ask will leaving position vacant make us better off or worse of than today?) Rice sits back. Rice has let DOD take the bulk of the mission and upsize to fill the holes left by her missing leadership. Rice, who ran away rather than announce the policy and take questions herself, is apparently now looking to whip State into shape as her department gets all sort of attention.

Yes, this whole thing speaks more to her leadership than to the panic of some FSOs who are just realizing they are part of a war. As for Rice, she's terrified of being over there. Here's a question: How often has Rice been to Iraq? How often was Rumsfeld and Gates? Those are numbers I want to see.

Update, what others are saying: