Cool Dude Blogging on the Job

So David Miliband is traveling in India and blogging his trip there. His Foreign Office is also on Twitter but the tweets look timely. I only mention that because Scott Lucas of Enduring America was not happy with State’s Twitter-diplomacy: “Time to upset my good friends working on State Department Twitter-diplomacy: DipNote has just Twittered that I can ‘watch what the U.S. Department of State is saying about the Middle East today’. So I click the link, and it’s the Daily Press Briefing…from three days ago.”

His tweet is telling me that he’ll be meeting 16-17 January with President Zardari and other influential figures in Pakistan. Yesterday, Mr. Miliband did his second update from India:

Micro-blog:

We stopped at an internet café in the middle of nowhere – I wanted to do a blog but the dial-up was not fast enough. But the mobile phone revolution is reaching here – the shop was selling 5 – 10 mobile phones a day, and although there are 850 million people on less than $2 a day, 8.5 million new subscriptions per month is eating in to the backlog.

Smart Power

Hilary Clinton spoke on Tuesday about smart power – diplomatic, economic, political, legal, and cultural as well as military. That is exactly what my speech is about.

The day after the UN Security Council hammered out that Gaza resolution this was posted by the official State Department blog, Dipnote:

“Yesterday, the United Nations Security Council reached a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza. Secretary Rice said, “It is obviously a very serious situation in Gaza. And while our goal must be the stabilization and normalization of Gaza through the implementation of a durable and fully respected cease-fire and an end to all terrorist activities, I think that this resolution shows that the Council and the United Nations is indeed seized of the matter. This resolution is a step toward our goals. It reflects the international community’s concern about the circumstances in Gaza and its desire for a sustainable peace in Gaza. You may read the Secretary’s full statement here.”

Mr. Miliband posted Three Days in New York in his blog a couple of days later:

I arrived arguing for a focus on substance not process – read my opening speech to the Security Council here. The key seemed to be in real attention to Israeli security needs and Palestinian humanitarian needs. And I was convinced that a vetoed resolution or a divided council offered nothing. That is why we spent 36 hours seeking consensus. I left sponsoring a Security Council Resolution, with fourteen votes in favour and a US abstention; more than most people expected at the beginning of the week, but less than seemed likely a couple of hours before the vote. And within 12 hours the resolution’s call for a ceasefire had been rejected by Hamas and then by Israel. So what’s it all for?

The UN for all its flaws is a global conscience as well as a global policeman. Parading your conscience is not pretty; but not having one is worse. Countries far away from the scene of a conflict sit in discussion if not in judgment. But the UN sets standards for itself and for its members – and needs to live up to the injunctions of its Charter. So in patrolling regional and international peace and security any conflict in the Middle East belongs in the Security Council.

Which one makes for a better reading?

I write some long posts myself but for a busy man like David Miliband, this is how a blog should be. You can read his speech on the link he posted above, and you can see the difference in tenor and style. His blog posts on the other hand are brief but personal. It gives you a sense of the person behind the blog. I think I’ll write a bit more about Mr. Miliband and his global conversations at FCO later.

I’m hoping that Hillary would do some blogging herself. No, not the “R” folks doing it for her, as they’re doing it now at DipNote. She certainly won’t be the first cabinet secretary to do some blogging. HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt has been blogging for some time now as a way to foster public discussion. At some point, I was following his blog when he visited Indonesia and dealt with the NAMRU issue. The last series of entries he did were from his trips to Pakistan and Iraq.

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In Praise of Our Greatness

Yes We Did!
Photo from The White House

Most folks have no idea how much we like awards. Linda Ingalls, an Office Management Specialist at our Embassy in Pretoria writes in the recent issue of the Foreign Service Journal │January 2009:

“The list of performance-pay recipients (announced in 08 State 110778) has swollen to over 270 members of the Senior Foreign Service. These bonuses total an estimated $3million […]

There was probably a time when performance pay meant something special, a time when the list was shorter and could almost be justified. Today, however, when embassies worldwide must identify painful cuts and freeze real jobs — threatening our ability to meet mission goals — ladling out millions of dollars in bonuses to our highest paid employees feels irresponsible and, frankly, grotesque.”

So we give bonuses despite the budget cuts, eh? That’s what I’d call the C+ Street bailout. Yay! As you may have seen from a previous post, there are also awards for foreign policy achievements, despite whatever. Except wait — one FSO got a well-deserved medal and the CINC was the receiver (of two awards), not the giver of the achievement awards. I’m kinda dizzy here — shouldn’t the CINC be the one giving out awards instead of receiving awards? Whose management brainchild is this inverse reward pyramid, anyway?

For some reason this reminds me of the 1990’s when there were hundreds of unfilled positions worldwide. Folks kept harping about it, so finally, somebody up decided to eliminate all the unfilled positions down. And voilà! No more unfilled problems, see? So I actually did not fell off my chair when I saw that big ceremony at the Ben Franklin Room. As one seasoned diplomat once counseled a younger charge, “Never be the one who says that an idea is bad.” Not bad advice, just a very pragmatic one if you don’t want to be banished from the upper floors.

But poor Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, of course he had no idea – and actually wondered if a “a prankster had hacked his way into the White House e-mail system” (Friday, January 16, 2009; Page A03) when he saw this advisory from the White House Office of Presidential Advance.


“Ceremony to Commemorate Foreign Policy Achievements

He thought, “Two wars, the brink of global depression, and violence from Mumbai to Gaza? Par-tee!” Here is an excerpt of Milbank’s biting account of people celebrating people:

With fanfare, they walked into the gilded Benjamin Franklin Room of the State Department yesterday: President Bush, the first lady, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Rice’s deputy, John Negroponte. They had come to praise great people. Namely, themselves.

Rice presented Laura Bush with a framed “Certificate of Appreciation.” Then she presented Bush with a “commemorative plaque.” And another commemorative plaque, which, like the first, was sheathed in a gold curtain. Finally, she had an honor guard present her boss with five flags in nifty triangular boxes.

“Mr. President, we’ve been through a lot together,” Rice told Bush.

“We’ve been through a lot together,” Bush told Rice.

“Mr. President, history’s judgment is rarely the same as today’s headlines,” Rice assured Bush.

“History will say that Condi Rice was one of the great secretaries of state our country has ever had,” Bush assured Rice.

Dana Milbank also reports that Bush has released two legacy-burnishing booklets, the 40-page “100 Things Americans May Not Know About the Bush Administration Record” and the 50-page “Highlights of Accomplishments and Results of the Administration of George W. Bush.” I have to add that there is a third tome – a 134-page document called A Charge Kept: The Record of the Bush Presidency 2001-2009. Milbank admitted that however laudatory these may be, “pamphlets can’t touch the grandeur of a ceremony at the State Department — and Rice put on a show for her boss yesterday with all the fixings: the crystal light fixtures, the presentation of the colors, the framed medals and flags. With a flourish, the military aide pulled back curtain No. 1 to reveal the first plaque, and curtain No. 2 to reveal the second plaque. “This one shows what you have done to expand the circle of human freedom in the world,” Rice announced.”

Bush had no awards for Rice, but he did come with praise for her (“She’s like my sister”) and for himself. “In short, we’ve made our alliances stronger, we’ve made our nation safer, and we have made the world freer,” he said.

Hmmn…. hmmn…

In December 2004, President Bush awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to L. Paul Bremer III, Tommy R. Franks, and George J. Tenet at the White House.

How come no medals for “Ponte” and Condi? The West Wing will turn into a ghost town at 9 p.m. today. We don’t award medals on weekends, do we?

Ambassador Crocker Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

Photo from The White House

There was a big do at the State Department yesterday. Secretary Rice led the ceremony to commemorate the outgoing administration’s Foreign Policy Achievements (2001-2009) in the Benjamin Franklin Room and gave a nice speech. I find it interesting that Secretary Powell was not invited to participate in the ceremony considering that he “owned” the first half of what was commemorated at the event.

Mrs. Bush got a State Department’s Certificate of Recognition and President Bush got a couple of commemorative plaques with shiny things on them. Click here to view a 35-minute video of the ceremony. But I must warn you — the video clip contains explicit articulation from members of a mutual appreciation club. We don’t want to give anyone a heart attack. Also, if you want to know what nickname President Bush has assigned to Secretary Negroponte, this is a “must-see” video.

At the later part of the same event, Ambassador Ryan Crocker received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian award. President Bush gave a brief speech prior to bestowing the award (starts at 26:00 in the video). Brief excerpt below:

As President, I have entrusted the Foreign Service with our nation’s most critical diplomatic missions. I have relied on your expertise, your advice, and your good judgment. I will always be grateful for your valor and your professionalism.

Members of the Foreign Service bring this valor and professionalism to their work every single day. And there is one man who embodies these qualities above all: Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Over the years, Ryan has earned many honors, including the Presidential Meritorious Service Award and the rank of Career Ambassador. Today I have the privilege of honoring Ambassador Crocker with the highest civil award I can bestow — the Presidential Medal of Freedom. (Applause.) It has not been bestowed yet. (Laughter.)

The son of an Air Force officer, Ryan Crocker has never been your typical diplomat. For social engagements, he likes to tell guests, “no socks required.” (Laughter.) For language training, he once spent time herding sheep with a desert tribe in Jordan. For sport, he has jogged through war zones, and run marathons on four continents. And for assignments, his preference has always been anywhere but Washington. (Laughter.)

During his nearly four decades in the Foreign Service, Ryan Crocker has become known as America’s Lawrence of Arabia. His career has taken him to every corner of the Middle East. His understanding of the region is unmatched. His exploits are legendary. He has served as ambassador to five countries. He has repeatedly taken on the most challenging assignments.

The man has never run from danger. As a young officer during the late 1970s, Ryan catalogued Saddam Hussein’s murderous rise to power. In 1983, he survived the terrorist attack on the American embassy in Lebanon. In 1998, as the Ambassador to Syria, he witnessed an angry mob plunder his residence.

After any one of these brushes with danger, most people would have lost their appetite for adventure — not Ryan Crocker. In the years since September the 11th, 2001, I have asked Ryan to hold numerous posts on the front lines of the war on terror, and he has stepped forward enthusiastically every time.

When the American embassy in Kabul reopened in the beginning of 2002, Ryan Crocker was our first envoy. When we liberated Iraq and removed the thug Saddam Hussein from power in 2003, I sent Ryan to help lead the reconstruction efforts. When the American embassy in Pakistan needed new leadership, Ryan Crocker was put in charge. In 2007, I asked Ryan to return for a final mission to Iraq as America’s ambassador.

Two years later, Iraq is becoming a rising democracy, an ally in the war on terror, an inspiring model of freedom for people across the Middle East. When the story of this transformation is written, historians will note the extraordinary partnership between two exceptional men: General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. As the General carried out a surge of military forces to improve security, the Ambassador led a civilian surge to improve everyday life. In December, after months of intense negotiations, the world saw the culmination of Ambassador Crocker’s masterful diplomacy — two historic agreements for long-term cooperation between the United States and Iraq.

This is not the first time that Ambassador Crocker has executed a brilliant diplomatic maneuver in Baghdad. During a rotation at the American embassy nearly 30 years ago, he persuaded a young Foreign Service Officer named Christine Barnes to be his wife. (Laughter.) They have traveled the world together, and as Ryan prepares to retire from the Foreign Service, we wish the two of them many years of happiness. (Applause.)

General Petraeus recently said this about his retiring colleague: “It was a great honor for me to be his military wingman.” And today it is my great honor to present the Presidential Medal of Freedom to one of the finest Foreign Service Officers in American history — Ryan Clark Crocker. And now the military aide will read the citation. (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE: Ryan C. Crocker. For nearly four decades, Ryan Crocker has advanced our nation’s interests and ideals around the world. Embodying the highest principles of the United States Foreign Service, he has cultivated and enhanced our relations with pivotal nations. Following the attacks of September 11th, 2001, he worked to build a worldwide coalition to combat terrorism and help millions of oppressed people travel the path to liberty and democracy.

The United States honors Ryan C. Crocker for his courage, his integrity, and his unwavering commitment to strengthening our nation and building a freer and more peaceful world.

(The medal is presented.) (Applause.)

I think the speech writers forgot something here. Insert somewhere in paragraph #7: In 2002, Ryan Crocker co-wrote a secret memo examining the risks associated with a U.S. invasion of Iraq. The six-page memo, titled “The Perfect Storm”, stated that toppling Saddam Hussein could unleash long-repressed sectarian and ethnic tensions, that the Sunni minority would not easily relinquish power, and that powerful neighbors such as Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia would try to move in to influence events. It also cautioned that the United States would have to start from scratch building a political and economic system because Iraq’s infrastructure was in tatters. The secret memo was deep-sixed and he did the best he could in dealing with the aftermath.

Related Post:
In Defense of Ryan Crocker

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Ryan Crocker’s Truth Telling