Consul-at-Arms has an excellent response to an offensive and biased editorial from the Washington Times. The people in the Foreign Service deserve better.
Washington Times Editorial: A few (hundred) good men (and women)
Monday, June 2, 2008
The Foreign Service has not seen great numbers of officers forced to a war zone since the Vietnam war. But the prospect of such "directed assignments" looms today for Iraq and Afghanistan. The fact is, too few Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) have volunteered for these challenging and dangerous positions. An estimated 300 vacancies remain for 2009 - and someone needs to fill them. "Soldier up." Or hit the private sector.>
The really funny thing here is that throwaway phrase "300 vacancies remain" that the writer puts out there without explaining that there are 300 vacancies every year, because they are one-year assignments, and also that they just now beginning to identify candidates to fill them. The jobs aren't even available to be bid upon, so it's hardly as if no one's stepped forward.
Every single position the Foreign Service has fielded in Iraq since 2003 has been filled by a volunteer. Given the small size of the Foreign Service, re-filling those 300 plus jobs each and every year with qualified officers is itself a non-trivial problem, but so far we've been able to pull it off.
Recall that the striped-pants folks partially revolted in November when the prospect of forced tours first emerged. Service in Iraq is "a potential death sentence," one veteran FSO famously complained to Harry K. Thomas Jr., executive secretary of the Department of State and head of the Foreign Service. "Any other embassy in the world would be closed by now."
And before the CPA was replaced by the first re-opened U.S. embassy in Baghdad, way back in 2004 and while I was still in uniform serving in Iraq, I made the exact same evaluation as another officer reportedly did last year, that at any other U.S. embassy in a security environment like Baghdad's, they'd be evacuating staff and preparing to close up the whole place. Of course, the national mission in Iraq takes precedence over that, but the point remains perfectly valid.
You can read CAA's entire post here.