Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Miranda Memo

I've been debating for a few days whether to respond to the Miranda Memo, a scathing attack on the State Department and Foreign Service officers who serve in Iraq, first began appearing on some of the blogs.

Miranda, for those who don't know, is Manuel Miranda, has been serving for the past year as the Director of the Office of Leglistative Statecraft in the Embassy in Baghdad. The memo in question was one he wrote to Ambassador Crocker. That is ended up in the press is of little surprise, since he is the same Manuel Miranda who gained access to the emails of Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee and leaked them to the Washington Times.

According to the New Yorker:
"Early in the George W. Bush Presidency, Miranda came to public notice as a fiercely partisan aide to the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee. He moved to the staff of Bill Frist, who was Senate Majority Leader at the time, and orchestrated a series of noisy attempts—including an all-night Senate session—to win confirmation for Bush’s judicial nominations. In November, 2003, after internal documents belonging to Democrats on the committee were leaked, the Senate opened an investigation that revealed that Miranda, through a quirk in the computer system, had been reading his adversaries’ e-mails and sharing them with right-leaning news outlets like the Washington Times. Senator Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republican, called Miranda’s actions “improper, unethical, and simply unacceptable.” Miranda resigned, and a criminal investigation of him was initiated."

In the memo, Miranda says that:
"That civilian progress, and the Pax Americana, will not be achieved with the Foreign Service and the State Department's bureaucracy at the helm of America's number one policy consideration. You are simply not up to the task, and many of you will readily and honestly admit it. I believe that a better job can be done. It is simply that we have brought to Iraq the worst of America – our bureaucrats – and failed to apply, as President Roosevelt once did, the high-caliber leadership class and intellectual talent, whose rallying has defined all of America's finest hours..."

"Foreign Service officers, with ludicrously little management experience by any standard other than your own, are not equipped to manage programs, hundreds of millions in funds, and expert human capital assets needed to assist the Government of Iraq to stand up. It is apparent that, other than diplomacy, your only expertise is your own bureaucracy, which inherently makes State Department personnel unable to think outside the box or beyond the paths they have previously taken. "

The truth is that the State Department has far more experience than Miranda in managing multi-million dollar programs throughout the world. But Miranda seems to think highly-paid contractors rather than dedicated government servants who have experience throughout the world would be better at this mission. How offensive to those of us who have dedicated our lives to serving the country.

The Embassy is also severely encumbered by the Foreign Service's built-in attention deficit disorder, with personnel and new leaders rotating out within a year or less.

I find it ironic that he is criticizing Foreign Service Officers for rotating out after a year when he is also leaving after a year.

"Most notable, there is a near complete lack of strategic forethought or synchronization between Embassy staffing and program initiatives and funding. This is also true of PRTs. Only the military takes seriously the Joint Campaign and its metrics of achievement, while State Department leaders use it only when advantageous."

I seem to recall that it was the State Department that argued for a plan for rebuilding Iraq BEFORE we started the war, and the Secertary Rumsfeld dismissed us as feet draggers. We are now seeing the results of the lack of planning but it has somehow become the State Department's fault.

"This past year, the State Department and the Embassy has been led by two misguided premises: first, the obsessive aim that the Embassy be turned into a "normal embassy" and, second, that the State Department cannot be faulted for things that the GOI is not doing, i.e. "the Iraqis need to do this themselves.""

Again, if memory serves, we were told before this war that the U.S. was not in the business of "nation-building." Then we trumpeted the Iraqi election of a government of their own. And now the State Department is criticized for conducting the business of government-to-government relations rather than governing Iraq ourselves. The Department is not the Government of Iraq, nor should we be.

Overall, I found the memo to be pompous, partisan and, as someone who has very good friends serving in Iraq and who will no doubt serve there myself in the not so distant future, deeply offensive. It is full of the same old rhetoric about how the military is Iraq is perfect and the State Department is really just an impediment to the progress the military could make. The truth is we are part of the same team. Even Defense Secretary Gates recognizes the need for both soft power and hard power. No one blames the pitcher for not being a catcher and everyone recognizes that a baseball team needs both.


Anonymous said...

I read Miranda's memo in another forum, and am not at all surprised to learn, from your post here, of his previous shenanigans. Thanks for the insight.

Anonymous said...

The problem with the memo is his own delusion about the Iraq effort and what can get done.

I should point out that I support America's mission in Iraq, while fully recognizing our many errors over time. I support the President's policy that ignores the historic stereotypes of the Middle East and offers the region a culture of liberty protected by responsible government and the rule of law.

And later he says

The purpose of the surge, now a year old, was to pacify Iraq to allow the GOI to stand up.

What really irritated me was when he wrote The second mantra, that political success in Iraq depends entirely on Iraqis, amount to little more than excuse-making by people who cannot imagine alternative paths and who are limited by their own limited experience in government and economic development

What is seems is that Miranda has basically ignored the Historical reality of Iraq and assumed that we could easily create a functioning strong central government in Iraq. This policy is flawed, and even Joe Biden, the head of the Senate foreign relations committee, guarantees that such a government will not exist no matter what.

So, then, because he assumes something unrealistic, when it doesn't happen, he has to blame the State Department instead of examining his out of touch ideology. And because the FS has experience dealing with a variety of cultures and environments, they know that we can't just impose our values on others. Instead of acknowledging this, Miranda says the FS is not willing to think out of the box.

And if he thinks private contractors are so great, then what about the Black water incident?

I wish that the Miranda memo was isolated, but I fear that too many in this administration are still subscribing to the same ideology.

Consul-At-Arms said...

Thanks for covering this.

I've quoted you and linked to you here:

Shane said...

I've offered a rebuttal to your criticisms of the Miranda assessment. You can find it at

I've linked to your post and included your written opinions.


Anonymous said...

What was his job at the Embassy? Has he ever written about what he did to promote US aims in Iraq? Notice his slippery way of explaining why he didn't re-up after blasting people who only stay a year.