We Meant Well, Afghanistan Edition: Ghost Students, Ghost Teachers, Ghost Schools, Ugh!

Posted: 1:16 am  PDT

 

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Excerpt:

Over and over, the United States has touted education — for which it has spent more than $1 billion — as one of its premier successes in Afghanistan, a signature achievement that helped win over ordinary Afghans and dissuade a future generation of Taliban recruits. As the American mission faltered, U.S. officials repeatedly trumpeted impressive statistics — the number of schools built, girls enrolled, textbooks distributed, teachers trained, and dollars spent — to help justify the 13 years and more than 2,000 Americans killed since the United States invaded.

But a BuzzFeed News investigation — the first comprehensive journalistic reckoning, based on visits to schools across the country, internal U.S. and Afghan databases and documents, and more than 150 interviews — has found those claims to be massively exaggerated, riddled with ghost schools, teachers, and students that exist only on paper. The American effort to educate Afghanistan’s children was hollowed out by corruption and by short-term political and military goals that, time and again, took precedence over building a viable school system. And the U.S. government has known for years that it has been peddling hype.
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USAID program reports obtained by BuzzFeed News indicate the agency knew as far back as 2006 that enrollment figures were inflated, but American officials continued to cite them to Congress and the American public.

As for schools it actually constructed, USAID claimed for years that it had built or refurbished more than 680, a figure Hillary Clinton cited to Congress in 2010 when she was secretary of state. By 2014, that number had dropped to “more than 605.” After months of pressing for an exact figure, the agency told BuzzFeed News the number was 563, a drop of at least 117 schools from what it had long claimed.
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Last week, we were looking for clinics.

What’s next … ghost soldiers? Oops, that’s already an old story?

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State Department Appoints 3rd Special Envoy For Guantanamo Closure in Six Years

Posted: 1:35 am  EDT

 

On June 30, Secretary Kerry announced the appointment of Lee Wolosky, as the State Department’s Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure:

Today, I am pleased to announce the appointment of Lee Wolosky, as the State Department’s Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure. Lee will lead our ongoing diplomatic engagement to make possible the closure of the Guantanamo detention facility in a timely manner, consistent with American interests and the security of our people.

Lee Wolosky is a highly-skilled and experienced attorney who served as the National Security Council’s Director for Transnational Threats under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush. He is ideally qualified to continue the hard diplomatic engagement that is required to close Guantanamo in accordance with President Obama’s directives. Lee will assume lead responsibility for arranging for the transfer of Guantanamo detainees abroad and for implementing transfer determinations, and overseeing the State Department’s participation in the periodic reviews of those detainees who are not approved for transfer.

In so doing, he will engage directly with America’s overseas friends and partners, while consulting closely with other interested U.S. agencies and with the appropriate committees of Congress.

I am very pleased at Lee’s decision to return to government service and look forward to working closely with him in his new position.

The State Department says that the incoming special envoy has not yet visited the detention facility at Guantanamo but that Mr. Wolosky, whose new appointment does not require Senate confirmation, “intends to visit the detention facility and meet with the detention facility leadership very soon.”

Mr. Wolosky is the third appointee to this position since it was created in 2009.

In January 2013, the NYT reported that Daniel Fried, the first special envoy for Gitmo closure was reassigned, his office closed, and his former responsibilities “assumed” by the office of the department’s legal adviser.   Via NYT:

Mr. Fried’s special envoy post was created in 2009, shortly after Mr. Obama took office and promised to close the prison in his first year. A career diplomat, Mr. Fried traveled the world negotiating the repatriation of some 31 low-level detainees and persuading third-party countries to resettle about 40 who were cleared for release but could not be sent home because of fears of abuse.

But the outward flow of detainees slowed almost to a halt as Congress imposed restrictions on further transfers, leaving Mr. Fried with less to do. He was eventually assigned to work on resettling a group of Iranian exiles, known as the M.E.K., who were living in a refugee camp in Iraq, in addition to his Guantánamo duties.

But in June 2013, the AP reported that President Obama had chosen a high-powered Washington lawyer Clifford Sloan to reopen the State Department’s Office of Guantanamo Closure, shuttered since January 2013 and folded into the department’s legal adviser’s office “when the administration, in the face of congressional obstacles, effectively gave up its attempt to close the prison.”

Sixteen months later, Secretary Kerry announced the departure of Special Envoy Clifford Sloan on December 22, 2014:

I’d like to have about a hundred Cliff Sloans. He’s the real deal. He’s the model of someone very successful on the outside who comes in to the State Department and builds relationships instead of burning bridges, gets people on board with a tough assignment, masters the inter-agency process, and just keeps his head down and proves the doubters dead wrong.
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Now the results are clear. We’ve made huge progress thanks in large measure to Cliff. This guy promised me 18 months, and he delivered maximum effort for each of those 18 months. Cliff was very skillful negotiating with our foreign partners and allies, and it’s a big part of why we moved thirty-four detainees on his watch, with more on the way. Cliff also played a major role in our successful efforts to reform the Congressional restrictions on foreign transfers, and in launching the new Periodic Review Board process.

The NYT reported that the resignation of Mr. Sloan, apparently a close confidant of Secretary Kerry, came as officials at the State Department and the White House increasingly expressed frustration with the Defense Department’s slow pace of transferring approved prisoners. In an interview, Mr. Sloan denied that he was leaving because he was frustrated by foot-dragging at the Pentagon. He said he had always intended to stay a maximum of 18 months, noting that he was right on schedule.

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Washington and Havana Formally Restores Diplomatic Relations After 54 Years

Posted: 2:17 pm  EDT

 

According to history.state.gov, the United States remained in Cuba as an occupying power until the Republic of Cuba was formally installed on May 19, 1902 following the defeat of Spain in 1898.  On May 20, 1902, the United States relinquished its occupation authority over Cuba, but claimed a continuing right to intervene in Cuba. Diplomatic relations and the U.S. Legation in Havana were established on May 27, 1902, when U.S. Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary Herbert Goldsmith Squiers presented his credentials to the Government of the Republic of Cuba.  Following an act of Congress, the U.S. Legation in Havana, Cuba, was raised to Embassy status on February 10, 1923, when General Enoch H. Crowder was appointed Ambassador. The United States severed diplomatic relations with Cuba on January 3, 1961, citing unwarranted action by the Government of Cuba that placed crippling limitations on the ability of the United States Mission to carry on its normal diplomatic and consular functions.

Today, after over 50 years, a new day. For once, instead of boots on the ground, diplomatic negotiations and engagement made this day possible. It appears that we have rediscovered the non-coercive instruments of statecraft (as Ambassador Chas Freeman spoke about so eloquently), that persuaded the Cubans that they can benefit by working with us rather than against us. A big shout-out to our diplomats who labored so hard to get us here!

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SCOTUS Rules Same-Sex Marriage Is a Right, See Round-Up of US Embassies on LGBT Pride Month

Posted: 9:27 am PDT

 

SCOTUS ruled today in a 5-4 decision that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage. Justice Kennedy said gay and lesbian couples had a fundamental right to marry. Excerpt from the majority opinion written by Justice Kennedy (via NYT):

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family,” he wrote. “In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”

“It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage,” Justice Kennedy said of the couples challenging state bans on same-sex marriage. “Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

The case is Obergefell v. Hodges.  Read the SCOTUS opinion here (pdf). Sending hugs to our friends in the LGBT community this beautiful and historic summer day!

Below is a round-up of U.S. embassies marking LGBT Pride Month this year:

Nicosia, Cyprus

Wellington, New Zealand


Manila , Philippines

Ankara, Turkey

Tel Aviv, Israel

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Buenos Aires, Argentina


Luxembourg

 

Tokyo, Japan 

 

London, United Kingdom

Meanwhile, in Amman, Jordan

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Burn Bag: Fly the Friendly Skies Via Helo For 2.2 Miles Between Embassy Kabul and Kabul International Airport

Via Burn Bag:

“After nearly 14 years, $1 trillion, and more than 2,300 lives, the security situation in Kabul is such that the Embassy is using helicopters to transport its staff the 2.2 mile distance to the international airport.”

via giphy.com

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Amb. Chas W. Freeman, Jr: Militarism and the Malpractice of Diplomacy in America

Posted: 2:19 am  EDT


What if every four or so years, you administered a frontal lobotomy to yourself, excising your memories and making it impossible to learn from experience?
– Chas W. Freeman, Jr.

Ambassador Chas Freeman is a career diplomat (retired) who served as U. S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia (during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm). He was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs during the historic U.S. mediation of Namibian independence from South Africa and Cuban troop withdrawal from Angola.  Ambassador Freeman worked as Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’Affaires in the American embassies at both Bangkok (1984-1986) and Beijing (1981-1984) and was Director for Chinese Affairs at the U.S. Department of State from 1979-1981. He was the principal American interpreter during the late President Nixon’s path-breaking visit to China in 1972.  He is the author of Interesting Times: China, America, and the Shifting Balance of Prestige,at Just World BooksAmerica’s Misadventures in the Middle East,at Just World BooksArts of Power: Statecraft and Diplomacy, at US Institute of Peace bookstore and The Diplomat’s Dictionary, at US Institute of Peace bookstore. We have previously blogged about him here, here, here, and here.

The following piece is the speech he delivered at the Academy of Philosophy and Letters on June 13, 2015.

Too Quick on the Draw: Militarism and the Malpractice of Diplomacy in America

by Chas W. Freeman, Jr.

The late Arthur Goldberg, who served on our Supreme Court and as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, once said that “diplomats approach every question with an open . . . mouth.”  No doubt that’s often true at the U.N., where parliamentary posturing and its evil twin, declaratory diplomacy, rule.  But the essence of diplomacy is not talking but seeking common ground by listening carefully and with an open mind to what others don’t say as well as what they do, and then acting accordingly.

Diplomacy is how a nation advances its interests and resolves problems with foreigners with minimal violence.  It is the nonbelligerent champion of domestic tranquility and prosperity.  It promotes mutually acceptable varieties of modus vivendi between differing perspectives and cultures.

Diplomacy is the translation of national strategy into tactics to gain political, economic, and military advantages without the use of force.  It is the outermost sentry and guardian of national defense.  Its lapse or failure can bring war and all its pains to a nation.

But diplomacy is not just an alternative to war.  It does not end when war begins.  And when war proves necessary to adjust relations with other states or peoples, it is diplomacy that must translate the outcome of the fighting into agreed adjustments in relationships, crafting a better peace that reconciles the vanquished to their defeat and stabilizes a new status quo.  By any measure, therefore, excellence in diplomacy is vitally important to the power, wealth, and well-being of the nation.

At its deepest level, diplomacy is a subtle strategic activity.  It is about rearranging circumstances, perceptions, and the parameters of international problems so as to realign the self-interest of other nations with one’s own in ways that cause them to see that it is in their interest to do what one wants them to do, and that it’s possible for them to do it without appearing to capitulate to any foreign power or interest.  Diplomacy is about getting others to play our game.

Judging by results in the complex post-Cold War environment, diplomacy is something the United States does not now understand or know how to do.  I want to speak with you today about some of the beliefs and practices that account for America’s bungling of foreign policy in recent years.  I will end by offering a few thoughts about how we might do better.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union liberated Americans from our fear of nuclear Armageddon, the foreign policy of the United States has come to rely almost exclusively on economic sanctions, military deterrence, and the use of force.  Such measures are far from the only arrows in the traditional quiver of statecraft.  Yet Americans no longer aim at leadership by example or polite persuasion backed by national prestige, patronage, institution building, or incentives for desirable behavior.  In Washington, the threat to use force has become the first rather than the last resort in foreign policy. We Americans have embraced coercive measures as our default means of influencing other nations, whether they be allies, friends, adversaries, or enemies.

For most in our political elite, the overwhelming military and economic leverage of the United States justifies abandoning the effort to persuade rather than muscle recalcitrant foreigners into line.  We habitually respond to challenges of every kind with military posturing rather than with diplomatic initiatives directed at solving the problems that generate these challenges.  This approach has made us less – not more – secure, while burdening future generations of Americans with ruinous debt.  It has unsettled our allies without deterring our adversaries.  It has destabilized entire regions, multiplied our enemies, and estranged us from our friends.

South America no longer defers to us.  Russia is again hostile.  Europe questions our judgment, is audibly disturbed by our belligerence, and is distancing itself from our leadership.  A disintegrating Middle East seethes with vengeful contempt for the United States.  Africa ignores us.  Our lust for India remains unrequited.  China has come to see us as implacably hostile to its rise and is focused on countering our perceived efforts to hem it in.  Japan is reviewing its inner samurai.  Some say all these adversities are upon us because we are not sufficiently brutal in our approach to foreign affairs and that, to be taken seriously or to be effective, we must bomb, strafe, or use drones to assassinate those with whom we disagree and let the collateral damage fall where it may.  But what we have actually proved is that, if you are sufficiently indifferent to the interests of others and throw your weight around enough, you can turn off practically everybody.

Outside our own country, American military prowess and willingness to administer shock and awe to foreign societies are nowhere in doubt.  In Vietnam, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, and many other places, Americans have provided ample evidence of our politico-military obduracy and willingness to inflict huge casualties on foreigners we judge oppose us.  As a nation, we nonetheless seem to doubt our own prowess and to be obsessed with proving it to ourselves and others.  But there is no credibility gap about American toughness to be remedied.  That is not the issue.  The issue is whether our policies are wise and whether military campaign plans dressed up in domestically appealing rhetoric equate to strategies that can yield a world more congruent with our interests and values.

In recent years, the United States has killed untold multitudes in wars and counterterrorist drone warfare in West Asia and North Africa.  Our campaigns have spilled the blood, broken the bodies, and taken or blighted the lives of many in our armed forces, while weakening our economy by diverting necessary investment from it.  These demonstrations of American power and determination have inflicted vast amounts of pain and suffering on foreign peoples.  They have not bent our opponents to our will.  Far from yielding greater security for us or our allies, our interventions – whether on the ground or from the air — have multiplied our enemies, intensified their hatred for us, and escalated the threat to both our homeland and our citizens and friends abroad.

It is a measure of the extent to which we now see the world through military eyes that the response of much of America’s political elite to the repeated failure of the use of force to yield desired results has been to assert that we would have succeeded if only we had been more gung ho and to argue for the use of even greater force.  But what we have been doing with our armed forces has not halted dynamic change in the global and regional distribution of economic, military, and political power.  There is no reason to believe that greater belligerence could yield a better result.  Most Americans sense this and are skeptical both about the neoconservative agendas the military-industrial-congressional complex seeks to impose on our nation and the wisdom of staking our future on the preservation of a rapidly crumbling post-Cold War status quo.

Every nation’s political culture is a product of its historical experience.  The American way in national security policy, like that of other countries, is steered by unexamined preconceptions drawn from the peculiarities of our history.  In the aggregate, these convictions constitute a subliminal doctrine with the authority of dogma.  Legions of academics now make a living by exploring applications of this dogma for the United States Department of Defense.  They have produced an intellectual superstructure for the military-industrial complex in the form of an almost infinite variety of ruminations on coercion.  (No one looks to the Department of State for support for research on less overbearing approaches to international relations.  It has neither money nor a desire to vindicate its core functions by sponsoring the development of diplomatic doctrine.)

Americans are right to consider our nation exceptional.  Among other things, our experience with armed conflict and our appreciation of the relationship between the use of force and diplomacy are unique – some might say “anomalous.”  So, therefore, are our approaches to war, peace, and foreign relations.

War is the ultimate argument in relations between states and peoples.  Its purpose is sometimes the conquest and subjugation of populations.  More commonly, however, war is a means to remove perceived threats, repel aggression, restore a balance of power, compel acquiescence in a shift in borders, or alter the bad behavior of an adversary. Since war is not over until the defeated accept defeat and accommodate their new circumstances, other people’s wars usually end  in negotiations directed at translating military outcomes into mutually agreed political arrangements that will establish a  stable new order of affairs.  Not so the wars of the United States.

In our civil war, World War I, World War II, and the Cold War, the U.S. objective was not adjustments in relations with the enemy but “unconditional surrender,” that is a peace imposed on the defeated nation without its assent and entailing its subsequent moral, political, and economic reconstruction.  The smaller wars of the 20th century did not replace this idiosyncratic American rejection of models of warfare linked to limited objectives.  We fought to a draw in Korea, where to this day we have not translated the 1953 armistice into peace.  We were bested in Vietnam.  In Grenada in 1983, Panama in 1989, and Iraq in 2003, we imposed regime change on the defeated, not terms for war termination and peace.

So Americans have no recent experience of ending wars through negotiation with those we have vanquished, as has been the norm throughout human history.  Our national narrative inclines us to equate success in war with smashing up enemies enough to ensure that we can safely deny them the dignity of taking them seriously or enlisting them in building a peace.   Our wars are typically planned as military campaigns with purely military objectives, with little, if any, thought to what adjustments in foreign relations the end of the fighting might facilitate or how to exploit the political opportunities our use of force can provide.  As a rule, we do not specify war aims or plan for negotiations to obtain a defeated enemy’s acceptance of our terms for ending the fighting.

The absence of clearly stated war aims for U.S. combat operations makes it easy for our politicians to move the goal posts.  Our wars therefore almost invariably entail mission creep.  Our armed forces find themselves in pursuit of a fluid set of objectives that never solidifies. With victory undefined, our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines cannot say when they have accomplished their missions enough to stand down.

Our habit of failing to define specific political objectives for our military also means that, in our case, war is less “an extension of politics by other means” (as Clausewitz prescribed) than a brutally direct way of punishing our foes linked to no clear conception of how they might take aboard the lessons we imagine they should draw from the drubbing we give them.  Our chronic inattention to the terms of war termination means that U.S. triumphs on the battlefield are seldom, if ever, translated into terms that reward military victory with a stable peace.

The U.S. armed forces are highly professional and admirably effective at demolishing our enemies’ power.  But their expectation that civilian policymakers will then make something of the political vulnerabilities they create is almost always disappointed.  The relevant civilian policymakers are almost all inexperienced amateurs placed in office by the spoils system.  Their inexperience, the theories of coercive diplomacy they studied at university, the traditional disengagement of American diplomats from military operations, and our now heavily militarized political culture converge to assure that American diplomacy is missing in action when it is most needed – as the fighting ends.

Thus, our military triumph in the 1991 war to liberate Kuwait was never translated into terms to which Saddam Hussein or his regime were asked to pledge their honor.  Instead, we looked to the United Nations one-sidedly to pass an omnibus resolution imposing onerous restrictions on Iraqi sovereignty, including inspections, reparations, and the demilitarization of portions of Iraq’s territory.  Saddam assumed no explicit obligation to comply with these dictates.  To the extent he could get away with ignoring them, he did.  The war never really ended.  In our 2003 re-invasion of Iraq, U.S. planners assumed apolitically that military victory would automatically bring peace. No competent Iraqi authority was left in place to accept terms and maintain stability.  Subliminal doctrine instead prevailed.  The U.S. government devised no mechanism to translate its success on the battlefield into a legitimate new order and peace in Iraq.

In Iraq, we were guided by the historically induced, peculiarly American presumption that war naturally culminates in the unconditional surrender and moral reconstruction of the enemy.  The Department of State was excluded from all planning.  The notion that a political process might be required for war termination on terms that could reconcile the enemy to its defeat never occurred to the White House or DOD.  Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Libya offer different but analogous examples of Washington’s blindness or indifference to the utility of diplomacy in translating battlefield results into political results.  As a result, our military interventions have nowhere produced a better peace.  We Americans do not know how to conclude our wars.

American confusion about the relationship between the use of force and political order-setting extends to our approach to situations that have the potential to explode in war but have not yet done so.  Our country learned how to behave as a world power during the four-decade-long bipolar stalemate of the Cold War.  The Cold War’s strategy of containment made holding the line against our Soviet rivals the central task of U.S. diplomacy.  Americans came to view negotiated adjustments in relations as part of a great zero-sum game and as therefore, for the most part, infeasible or undesirable, or both.  After all, a misstep could trigger a nuclear war fatal to both sides.

The Cold War reduced diplomacy to the political equivalent of trench warfare, in which the absence of adjustments in position rather than advantageous maneuvering constituted success.  It taught Americans to deter conflict by threatening escalation that might lead to a mutually fatal nuclear exchange.  It conditioned us to believe that it is often wiser to stonewall – to freeze a situation so as to contain potential conflict –  than to waste time and effort exploring ways of mitigating or eliminating it.

We Americans have yet to unlearn the now largely irrelevant lessons of the Cold War.  We still respond to adverse developments with threats of escalating pressure calculated to immobilize the other side rather than with diplomatic efforts to resolve the issues that motivate it.  We impose sanctions to symbolize our displeasure and to enable our politicians to appear to be doing something tough, even if it is inherently feckless.  Sometimes we decline to speak with our adversary on the issue in question until it has agreed to end the behavior to which we object.  But, almost invariably, the core of our response is the issuance of deterrent military threats.

The ostensible purpose of sanctions is to coerce the targeted country into submission.  But, once imposed, sanctions invariably become ends in themselves.  Their success is then measured not by how they modify or fail to modify the behavior of their targets but by the degree of pain and deprivation they are seen to inflict.  There is no recorded instance in which the threat or actual imposition of sanctions not linked to negotiations about a “yes-able” proposition has induced cooperation.  Sanctions do not build bridges or foster attitudes that facilitate concessions.  They harden and entrench differences.

And, in many ways, sanctions backfire.  They impose the equivalent of a protectionist wall against imports on the target nation.  This often stimulates a drive for self-sufficiency and induces artificial prosperity in some sectors of its economy.  Sanctions hurt some U.S. domestic interest groups and benefit others.  Those who benefit develop a vested interest in perpetuating sanctions, making them hard to use as a bargaining chip.

Perversely, sanctions also tend to boost the political authority of the leaders of the countries they target.  They place decisions about the distribution of rationed goods and services in these leaders’ hands.  To the extent that sanctions immiserate populations, they unite nationalist opposition to the foreigners imposing them.  As the examples of north Korea, Mao’s China, and Cuba attest, sanctions prolong the half-life of regimes that might otherwise fall from power as a result of patriotic resistance to their misrule.  Eventually, as we now see with Cuba (and China before it), sanctions have the ironic effect of transforming the places we have walled off into exotic tourist destinations for Americans.

The pernicious effects of sanctions are magnified by the American habit of combining them with diplomatic ostracism.  Refusal to talk is a tactic that can gain time for active improvement of one’s bargaining position.  But meeting with another party is not a favor to it.  Insisting on substantive concessions as the price for a meeting is self-defeating.  Diplomatic contact is not a concession to an adversary but a means of gaining intelligence about its thinking and intentions, understanding and seeking to reshape how it sees its interests, looking for openings in its policy positions that can be exploited, conveying accurate messages and explanations of one’s own reasoning, manipulating its appreciation of its circumstances, and facilitating concessions by it.

Efforts at deterrence invite counterescalation by their target.  Controlling this risk necessitates reassuring one’s adversary about the limits of one’s objectives.  Reassurance requires accurate messaging.  That cannot be assured without direct communication with the other side.  This underscores the importance of the diplomatic relations and contacts we sometimes unwisely suspend.  It is a sound rule that one should never lose contact with an enemy on either the battlefield or in the diplomatic arena.

Our frequent violation of this rule is a special problem for our practice of deterrence, now virtually the only technique of statecraft in our kit other than sanctions and military assault.  To avert perceived challenges to our interests or those of the nations we have undertaken to protect, we declare that attempts by another country to seek unilateral advantage will invoke retaliation to  impose unacceptable levels of loss.  The penalties we promise can be political and economic.  But, in the case of the contemporary United States, they are almost invariably military.

Deterrence substitutes military confrontation designed to freeze risk for diplomacy directed at eliminating its underlying causes.  It sets off a test of will between the two sides’ armed forces as each considers how best to demonstrate its resolve while causing the other to back down.  Deterrence can, of course, be the starting point for a diplomatic effort to resolve conflicts of interest.  But, if deterrence is not paired with diplomacy, such conflicts are likely to fester or intensify.  Then, too, with the end of the Cold War, the danger of escalation to the nuclear level has lessened.  The threats of escalation inherent in deterrence are now less intimidating and more likely to face challenge.

In our attempts to limit uncertainty through deterrence alone, without diplomatic efforts to resolve the underlying crises that generate the uncertainty, Americans preserve the status quo, even when it is disadvantageous or evolving to our disadvantage.  But by assuming that the immensity of our power makes deterrence in itself an adequate response to threats to our interests as we see them, we inadvertently perpetuate the danger of armed conflict, store up trouble for the future, and give potential adversaries time to increase their power relative to ours.  This is the approach we are currently applying to China in the East and South China Seas and to Russia on its western borders.  It is no more likely to succeed now than on the multiple occasions in the past in which it failed.  The same is true of our latest attempt to apply military technical solutions to the political problems of a disintegrated Iraq.

This brings me to the question of whether and how we can learn from our mistakes.  George Santayana famously warned that “those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  He was right.

But what if every four or so years, you administered a frontal lobotomy to yourself, excising your memories and making it impossible to learn from experience?  What if most aspects of your job were always new to you?  What if you didn’t know whether something you propose to do has been tried before and, if so, whether it succeeded or failed?  To one degree or another, this is what is entailed in staffing the national security functions of our government (other than those assigned to our military) with short-term political appointees selected to reward not their knowledge, experience, or skill but campaign contributions, political sycophancy, affiliation with domestic interest groups, academic achievements, success in fields unrelated to diplomacy, or social prominence.

Alone among major powers, the United States has not professionalized its diplomacy.  Professions are composed of individuals who profess a unique combination of specialized knowledge, experience, and technique.  Their expertise reflects the distillation into doctrine – constantly refreshed – of what can be learned from experience.  Their skills are inculcated through case studies, periodic training, and on-the-job mentoring.  They are constantly improved by the critical introspection inherent in after-action reviews.

By contrast, Americans appear to believe that the formulation and conduct of foreign relations are best entrusted to self-promoting amateurs, ideologues, and dilettantes unburdened by apprenticeship, training, or prior experience.  The lower ranks of our diplomatic service are highly regarded abroad for their intellectual competence and cross-cultural communication skills.  With some notable exceptions, our ambassadors and the senior officials atop the Washington foreign affairs bureaucracies are not similarly admired.  The contrast with the superbly professional leadership of the U.S. armed forces could not be greater.  It should surprise no one that our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines often wait in vain for guidance and support from the civilian side of the U.S. government’s national security establishment.  Current trends suggest they may have to wait a long time for their civilian counterparts to shape up.

The post-Cold War period has seen major expansion in the numbers of political appointees and their placement in ever lower foreign policy positions along with huge bloat in the National Security Council staff.  This has progressively deprofessionalized U.S. diplomacy from the top down in both Washington and the field, while thinning out the American diplomatic bench.  Increasingly, the U.S. military is being thrust into diplomatic roles it is not trained or equipped to handle, further militarizing U.S. foreign relations.

In the absence of major curtailment of the spoils system, the prospects for improved U.S. diplomatic performance are poor.  Amateur ambassadors and senior officials cannot provide professional mentoring, yet the United States invests little in training its career personnel in either the lore or core skills of diplomacy.  No case studies of diplomatic advocacy, negotiation, reporting and analysis, or protection of overseas Americans have been compiled.  There is no professional framework for after-action reviews in American diplomacy and they seldom occur.  (To the extent examining what went right or wrong and why might reflect adversely on ambitious political appointees or the administration itself, it is actually discouraged.)  This ensures that nothing is learned from experience even if there were career diplomats in senior positions to learn it.

Diplomacy, as such, is not part of civic education in the United States.  A large percentage of our political elite has no idea what diplomats do, can do, or ought to do.  Not for nothing is it said that if you speak three or more languages, you are multilingual.  If you speak two languages, you are bilingual.  If you speak only one language, you are American.  And if you speak only one language, have never studied geography, and do not have a passport, you are probably a member of Congress.

It is also said that, if we can’t get our act together at home, there is little reason to hope that we will get it together abroad.  But we cannot afford not to.  We are entering an era of strategic fluidity in which there are no fixed lines for Cold War-style diplomacy to defend, there is declining deference to our leadership, and there are ever more challenges that cannot be solved by military means.  We need to raise the level of our international game.

It is time to rediscover the deep diplomacy that creates circumstances in which others become inclined out of self-interest to make choices and do things that serve our interests and that advance those interests without war.  It is time to rediscover non-coercive instruments of statecraft that can persuade others that they can benefit by working with us rather than against us.  It is time to exempt the foreign affairs elements of our national security policy apparatus from the venality and incompetence that the spoils system has come to exemplify.  It is time to staff our diplomacy, as we have staffed our military, with well-trained professionals and to demand from them the best they can give to their country.   Our country.

The original material is located at http://chasfreeman.net/too-quick-on-the-draw-militarism-and-the-malpractice-of-diplomacy-in-america/. Republished here with Ambassador Freeman’s permission.

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US Embassy N’Djamena Imposes Travel Restrictions on Embassy Staff After Suicide Bombings in Chad

Posted: 2:40 am  EDT

 

On June 15, the U.S. Embassy in Chad temporarily closed to the public due to reported explosions in the capital city.  All American citizens and their families were advised to shelter in place and not to travel around town.

 

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Late Monday, Embassy  N’Djamena released the following security message informing American citizens in the country of travel restrictions imposed on embassy personnel following the suicide attacks in the capital city:

Security Message for U.S. Citizens: U.S. Embassy Travel Restrictions and Security Review – June 15, 2015

Due to the bombings in N’Djamena on Monday, June 15, U.S. Embassy personnel are required to travel in armored vehicles and are restricted from traveling after dark to public places such as bars, restaurants, and markets. U.S. citizens are encouraged to review the Travel Warning for Chad, and to remain alert for potentially dangerous situations. U.S. citizens should avoid locations frequented by foreigners, including shops, restaurants, bars, and places of worship.

U.S. citizens are reminded to exercise caution throughout the country, and maintain vigilance in daily affairs, even when visiting familiar locations.

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Supreme Court Throws Out 2002 ‘Born in Jerusalem’ Passport Law

Posted: 12:04 pm EDT

Excerpt from the SCOTUS  6-3 decision from ZIVOTOFSKY, BY HIS PARENTS AND GUARDIANS, ZIVOTOFSKY ET UX. v. KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE (pdf):

Petitioner Zivotofsky was born to United States citizens living in Jerusalem. Pursuant to §214(d) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 2003, his mother asked American Embassy officials to list his place of birth as “Israel” on, inter alia, his passport. Section 214(d) states for “purposes of the registration of birth, certification of nationality, or issuance of a passport of a United States citizen born in the city of Jerusalem, the Secretary shall, upon the request of the citizen or the citizen’s legal guardian, record the place of birth as Israel.” The Embassy officials refused to list Zivotofsky’s place of birth as “Israel” on his passport, citing the Executive Branch’s longstanding position that the United States does not recognize any country as having sovereignty over Jerusalem. Zivotofsky’s parents brought suit on his behalf in federal court, seeking to enforce §214(d). Ultimately, the D. C. Circuit held the statute unconstitutional, con- cluding that it contradicts the Executive Branch’s exclusive power to recognize foreign sovereigns.

Quick background of this long-standing practice: Place of birth was first added to the U.S. passport designed in 1917. An October 4, 1963 staff study by the Passport Office on “Place of Birth” information in the United States Passport reflects “the passport used during World War I was the first in which including the place of birth of the passport holder was mandatory as part of the identification of the bearer, probably was a wartime travel control measure. The item was included in all subsequent revisions of the passport format, down to and including the present issuances.”

For United States passport purposes, the Department of State has defined the term “bearer’s origin” to be the bearer’s place of birth as it is presently recognized. That entry is included to assist in identifying the individual, not the individual’s nationality. The passport very clearly states that the bearer is a United States national or citizen.

7 FAM 1360: Birthplace in Jerusalem (pdf):

For a person born in Jerusalem, write JERUSALEM as the place of birth in the passport. Do not write Israel, Jordan or West Bank for a person born within the current municipal borders of Jerusalem. For applicants born before May 14, 1948 in a place that was within the municipal borders of Jerusalem, enter JERUSALEM as their place of birth. For persons born before May 14, 1948 in a location that was outside Jerusalem’s municipal limits and later was annexed by the city, enter either PALESTINE or the name of the location (area/city) as it was known prior to annexation. For persons born after May 14, 1948 in a location that was outside Jerusalem’s municipal limits and later was annexed by the city, it is acceptable to enter the name of the location (area/city) as it was known prior to annexation.

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Burn Bag: Coca Jeopardy — Where is the most economic refining point for coca?

Via Burn Bag:

“State is commenting with blinders on regarding coca being imported from other Andean Ridge countries. Even if no coca was planted in Colombia or all of it was successfully eradicted, enough leaf would find its way there to satisfy the industry’s annual raw material requirement.  Colombia is a trafficking point and the most economic refining point.  It’s that simple.”

aerial fumigation

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Howard W. French on Gayle Smith’s Appointment as USAID Administrator

Posted: 1:29 am EDT

 

We’ve previously posted about the nomination of Gayle Smith as the next USAID administrator on May 5 (see Gayle Smith: From National Security Council to USAID Administrator.  What if every nominee gets a thorough treatment like this?

Excerpt from Mr. French’s piece over at FP:

When President Obama recently nominated Gayle Smith to be the next administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, many members of the country’s small Africa-related foreign policy community howled.
[…]

Smith’s critics, myself included, have objected to the fact that over the years, this former journalist has been a conspicuous backer of authoritarian regimes in places like Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Rwanda. When I first made this point publicly, a former White House staffer offered a disconcertingly ambivalent response: “I’m not sure if there were more compelling candidates out there,” he said.

He may well be right – and the reason for the lack of qualified personnel is a direct consequence of Washington’s long failure to devise a coherent policy toward Africa.
[…]
Gayle Smith should certainly not stand alone to answer for this horrible record, for which the American foreign policy establishment has never given anything like a proper reckoning. One of the reasons for that, though, is the persistence of people like Smith, and her patron, Susan Rice, in positions of high authority. Another, equally pernicious, is the general disinterest that Africa receives from the foreign policy thinkers.

As a region of the world, Africa is virtually alone in being consigned to people with thin expertise and little policy background or clout to shape and guide American diplomacy. Top Africa jobs have often become a kind of sop for African Americans within the bureaucracy. Celebrities like Bono, George Clooney, and Ben Affleck are looked to help set priorities and galvanize public interest. That this should be necessary must be seen as a failure of the policy establishment itself to think more creatively and with more ambition about such a large part of the world.

Read in full via FP, From Quarantine to Appeasement (registration may be required).

Ms. Smith’s nomination requires Senate confirmation. It is currently pending at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Howard W. French journalist, author, and photographer, as well as an associate professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He was previously a Senior Writer for The New York Times, where he spent most of a nearly 23 year career as a foreign correspondent, working in and traveling to over 100 countries on five continents.  From 1979 to 1986, he lived in West Africa, where he worked as a translator, taught English literature at the University of Ivory Coast, and lived as a freelance reporter for The Washington Post and other publications. From 1994 to 1998, he covered West and Central Africa for the NYT, reporting on wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Central Africa, with particular attention to the fall of the longtime dictator of Zaire Mobutu Sese Seko.

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