Insider Quote: Replacing the Culture of Equity

The organizational structure, incentives, cultures, and cadres which characterized State 25 years ago are little changed and must be modernized. Operational modes and standards need to reflect the realities of twenty-first century global competition. For that to occur, an across the board “culture of excellence” will need to replace the “culture of equity” that has, among other things, allowed functional illiteracy and poor performance to become too broadly accepted as a norm among many categories of State’s employees.


Stephanie Kinney

Needed: A Unitary Diplomatic Service of the United States of America
American Diplomacy │ January 2009

This is not pretty but I think it’s a “must-read.” Kinney is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer with extensive service at embassies in Europe and Latin America and was Deputy Coordinator for Counterterrorism in the State Department. Since retirement, she has worked as a consultant on change management. She holds MA degrees from the National Defense University and Harvard, and a BA from Vassar. She also authored Developing Diplomats for 2010: If Not Now, When?


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Quickie: An FSO’s Dad Pitches for Diplomacy

On Friday, Joe Klein posted Diplomacy First at Swampland.

I don’t think enough has been said about the importance of Barack Obama’s appearance at the State Department yesterday–the message it sent to the world and also to our foreign service. It was wonderful to see the President at Foggy Bottom on his first full day in office: such appearances are rare, especially compared to the frequency of presidential visits to the Pentagon. The symbolic message was clear: diplomacy will take precedence over the use of force in this administration (although the judicious use of force will continue, as evidenced by the Predator strike in northwest Pakistan yesterday).

[…]

Another word about Holbrooke: I thought his personal memories of first arriving at the State Department as a junior foreign service officer in the 1960s were quite moving, as was his acknowledgment of his old Saigon roomate, the departing Deputy Secretary John Negroponte. He was also right to note the importance of the President’s presence to the oft-neglected career foreign service.

Then Joe admits to a conflict of interest:

I have something of a conflict of interest here: my son is a foreign service officer. As a father and as a citizen, it’s good to see America’s diplomats given the opportunity to take their rightful place, front and center in our foreign policy once again.

In the comment portion, somebody named hickoryduck says: “Seeing State employees basically cheering was sort of bizarre. Jeez, it’s like they’ve been locked in a basement for 8 years.”

Speaking of that State reception last week, Scott Horton of Harpers writes that “the reaction of State Department employees as Hillary Clinton arrived this morning apparently bears comparison to the liberation of Paris at the end of World War II.”

Any other historical comparison out there?

Related Item:
Can Clinton and Her Envoys Rebuild U.S. Diplomacy?

Secretary Clinton at USAID

Last week, Secretary Clinton also made a stop and gave a speech at the USAID HQ at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC. Below are a few excerpts from her remarks. So far no video of the event appears to be available online but the whole text is here. * Video is now here (updated 1/26).

And I wanted to come here today with a very simple message: I believe in development, and I believe with all my heart that it truly is an equal partner, along with defense and diplomacy, in the furtherance of America’s national security. (Applause.)

[…]

What I’m hoping to do as your Secretary of State is to work with USAID to provide the kind of leadership and support that will give you the tools you desperately need in order to fulfill the missions we are asking you to perform. We are asking you to do more and more with less, and my goal is to make sure we match the mission and the resources. It will be very difficult for us to expect you to perform at the very high level of professionalism that we will expect, without providing you the resources to do the job we ask you to do. (Applause.)

As I said yesterday in the State Department, we are going to work toward robust diplomacy. And I challenged my colleagues in the State Department to think more broadly, more deeply, outside the proverbial box, to let us know the ideas you have that will make what you do more effective for us. And I offer the same challenge to all of you here at USAID. I know that for some of you, this has been not just a career, but a labor of love, and that sometimes it hasn’t been easy, but that you have stayed with this mission because of your conviction of its importance. But I am asking you now to help us help you to be more effective.

[…]

Maybe because I have been in the public eye and in the political world for what seems like a very long time now – (laughter) – I welcome debate and I am respectful of dissent, and then I expect everybody, once we’ve made a decision, to work as hard as you can to get the job done. But I want to know from you what we need to do to make sure that USAID assumes once again the global leadership role you deserve it to have in the delivery of development assistance. (Applause.)

[…]

So this will be a lot of hard work. But you know, one of my all-time favorite movies, A League of Their Own, has this great scene where the Geena Davis character has decided, you know, her husband’s come home from the war, he was injured, they’re in the playoffs, and she just goes to Tom Hanks, the broken-down, drunken coach – that’s not an analogy, I’m just describing his role – (laughter) – and says, “You know, I’ve got to go home. I just can’t do this anymore. It is just too hard.” And Tom Hanks says, “Well, it’s supposed to be hard. If it weren’t hard, anybody could do it.”

More photos from her USAID stop here.

Brief as Photos – 17: The Winner

Photo from Wikimedia Commons under
Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0

It was her last day at work. She came in at her usual time, had coffee, and avoided answering the phone. She has started cleaning up her desk months ago, perhaps years ago, she could not recall. Yesterday she took all the photo frames and her knick knacks home. On her last day at work, there was really nothing else to do. But they all pretended otherwise, it was her last day at work, after all. She found some paper towels and armed with a can of Pledge proceeded to work on making her oak desk shine. She could not remember the last time she has done that in her long years of working there.

Somebody collected some money and they had pizza for lunch. After the afternoon coffee break, they had cake then they gave her a pin to commemorate her service. They also give her a card signed by all her co-workers including those she barely knew. Then they gave her a nice plaque, an award for something they said she did. There were hugs and goodbyes. They told her to come back and visit often. At quitting time, she was the first one out the door.

She had a big smile when she got on the elevator. The young man already in the car, smiled back.

She said, “It’s my last day at work today.”

The young man said, “Congratulations! You must be happy to sail into retirement.”

“Yes, I am,” she replied. “And I never had to put in a full day of work in 36 years,” she added proudly as she stepped out of the elevator.


Read:
About this series and the All Persons Fictitious Disclaimer

One for the Huh? News: Clinton’s "Power Grab"

Media Matters has a lot to say on CNN’s Situation Room reporting on the purported Clinton “power grab” at the State Department:

Summary: CNN’s Wolf Blitzer teased a segment by saying, “Hillary Clinton’s power grab — at least some are calling it that. The secretary of state wants to take back resources that she feels rightfully belong to her department.” During the report, Jill Dougherty stated: “Hillary Clinton is back on the campaign trail, this time to take back power and resources for the State Department.” However, neither noted that President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have both supported expanding the role of the State Department.

Oh, my, my! Who are calling it that besides Wolf? and Jill? Read the whole thing here.

Video of the Week: Malcolm Gladwell on Spaghetti Sauce

Malcolm Gladwell searches for the counterintuitive in what we all take to be the mundane: cookies, sneakers, pasta sauce. A New Yorker staff writer since 1996, he visits obscure laboratories and infomercial set kitchens as often as the hangouts of freelance cool-hunters — a sort of pop-R&D gumshoe — and for that has become a star lecturer and bestselling author.

Sparkling with curiosity, undaunted by difficult research (yet an eloquent, accessible writer), his work uncovers truths hidden in strange data. His always-delightful blog tackles topics from serial killers to steroids in sports, while provocative recent work in the New Yorker sheds new light on the Flynn effect — the decades-spanning rise in I.Q. scores.

Gladwell has written two books. The Tipping Point, which began as a New Yorker piece, applies the principles of epidemiology to crime (and sneaker sales), while Blink examines the unconscious processes that allow the mind to “thin slice” reality — and make decisions in the blink of an eye. A third book is forthcoming.

Video from ted.com

Video of the Week: Dan Gilbert on Happiness

Dan Gilbert believes that, in our ardent, lifelong pursuit of happiness, most of us have the wrong map. In the same way that optical illusions fool our eyes — and fool everyone’s eyes in the same way — Gilbert argues that our brains systematically misjudge what will make us happy. And these quirks in our cognition make humans very poor predictors of our own bliss.

The premise of his current research — that our assumptions about what will make us happy are often wrong — is supported with clinical research drawn from psychology and neuroscience. But his delivery is what sets him apart. His engaging — and often hilarious — style pokes fun at typical human behavior and invokes pop-culture references everyone can relate to. This winning style translates also to Gilbert’s writing, which is lucid, approachable and laugh-out-loud funny. The immensely readable Stumbling on Happiness, published in 2006, became a New York Times bestseller and has been translated into 20 languages.

In fact, the title of his book could be drawn from his own life. At 19, he was a high school dropout with dreams of writing science fiction. When a creative writing class at his community college was full, he enrolled in the only available course: psychology. He found his passion there, earned a doctorate in social psychology in 1985 at Princeton, and has since won a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Phi Beta Kappa teaching prize for his work at Harvard. He has written essays and articles for The New York Times, Time and even Starbucks, while continuing his research into happiness at his Hedonic Psychology Laboratory.

Video from ted.com

The Bush Ambassadors: An Epilogue

Ambassador and Mrs. Cain with his Grand Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog
Photo from American Embassy Copenhagen

It’s hit and miss right now when you look up the various websites of our embassies and consulates online. Some have completely turned a page, posting a photo and bio of the Charge d’Affaires (who will take care of the U.S mission pending the appointment/arrival of the incoming ambassador) like this one. Others still have the reminders of the Bush Administration like this one in Barbados where Mary Ourisman is still posted online as our ambassador there. I wonder if she’ll go back to her old gigs as member of the Board of Trustees of the Kennedy Center, or member of the Board of Directors of the Blair House or Emeritus Trustee of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. after this ambassadorial stint in the islands.

Some ambassadors went out quietly with very little newsy stuff about their departures. Others not so quietly like our ex-ambassador to London, Robert Tuttle, who delivered his remarks at Chatham House on 15 January, starting with “It’s morning again in America.” Then says, “The question we can ask now is: If this is morning again – what happened yesterday? In other words – what is the Bush legacy from the international perspective?” He then proceeded to illustrate his patron’s legacy. He was Bush’s guy to the end, but can you blame him?


“Canada loses a friend,
” screams The Sudbury Star in Canada on U. S. Ambassador David Wilkins stepping down as President Obama takes office. Here’s part of the interview:

“Canadians sometimes think they know everything about the United States and they don’t. And sometimes Americans think they know enough about Canada and they don’t. So we can both benefit from continuing dialogue and education.”

Most of all, Wilkins says, “you cannot underestimate the value of personal relationships.

“It is extremely important that the new president and the prime minister have a respectful, positive working relationship, so you want to focus on that immediately.”

Stephen Harper meet Barack Obama. This should be fun.

One Winnipeg Sun columnist has already moved on, dreaming of Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm as the next U.S. Ambassador to Canada as she “already represents a state at the epicentre of Canada-U.S. relations, and was born in B.C.”

In Pretoria, Ambassador Eric Bost’s departure also made the news: In his farewell to embassy staff in Pretoria, he reportedly said: “I have greatly enjoyed my time here in South Africa and will miss it and the US Mission deeply. “We have accomplished so much, and I am truly proud of each and every one of my staff.” Bost said the country had been his home for over two years and he had “loved every minute of it”. “From Cape Town, to Durban, to Johannesburg, to Pretoria, I have seen the immense beauty and vast promise of this nation. It is something I will not forget.” He said that as an American he was proud of his contribution to expanding the rich and vibrant US-South African relationship and building a better future for the two nations.

In Slovakia, President Ivan Gasparovic met with outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia Vincent Obsitnik for a farewell audience at the Presidential Palace in Bratislava. Gasparovic thanked the ambassador for the efforts and the work he has carried out in Slovakia’s interests. In his opinion, Obsitnik during his short but successful tenure made a positive impact not only in the diplomatic field but also in co-operation between Slovak and U.S. businessmen.

At the Czech Republic, Ambassador Richard Graber paid a farewell visit to Czech president and with their wives had lunch in the Czech presidential seat Lany chateau. Graber who has been ambassador to the Czech Republic since October 2006 says he considers the lifting of U.S. visa requirements for Czechs as his biggest achievement on the post of the ambassador. Graber also said that he was an optimist and believed that the construction of a U.S. missile defense radar base on Czech soil would be implemented.

In Beijing, Ambassador Clark T. Randt Jr. says bilateral ties ‘in good shape’: “I am pleased to be leaving with the U.S.-China relationship in good shape. People tell me it’s as good as it’s ever been and I’m proud of that fact,” said Ambassador Clark T. Randt Jr. during a farewell address to the American Chamber of Commerce. Ambassador Randt, appointed by President George W. Bush, is ending his eight-year tenure as the longest serving U.S. ambassador to China.

In Malta, upon news of Ambassador Molly Bordonaro’s departure for February 6, the Maltese came out with thanks and good wishes online for the outgoing ambassador. Mr. Spitero writes: “The only one who really helped us in a practical way regarding illegal immigration. Much more then the EU we voted for. Thank you very much Ms. Bordonaro and good luck in your new assignments. You were the best US ambassador I ever remember.” She’s also been called “good-hearted,” “wonderful,” “hardworking,” by regular folks it seems. Which all goes to prove that not all political appointees are created equal. Some are great, some are good and some are not so. But such is life.

Some ambassadors went home with more than speeches or lunches as send aways.

On January 16, in Denmark, Ambassador Cain and Mrs. Cain visited HM Queen Margrethe II at Amalienborg for a farewell audience. At the event, Ambassador Cain was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog.

Three days later, the Papal Nuncio in Madrid conferred on Ambassador Eduardo Aguirre the Grand Cross of the First Class of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great, a decoration for extraordinary behaviors and civil service. “The basis for the conferral of this award were Ambassador Aguirre’s outstanding contribution to the diplomatic community and in fostering the excellent relationship between The Holy See and the United States of America.”

In El Salvador, Ambassador Charles L. Glazer was awarded the Orden Nacional Jose Matias Delgado en el Grado de Gran Cruz de Plata. The Orden Nacional Jose Matias Delgado is the highest decoration bested upon a diplomat by the Salvadoran Government. In her remarks, the Foreign Affairs Minister acknowledged that “his engagement with El Salvador led to important achievements and has brought prosperity to Salvadoran citizens, in both countries”. In a separate ceremony, Salvadoran President Elias Antonio Saca also publicly thanked Ambassador Glazer for his work on behalf of Salvadorans during his two-year tenure as head of the American Embassy in El Salvador.

One ambassador’s trip home might be the shortest ever. Ambassador Tony Garza departed as official US representative and moved across town to his wife’s digs in Mexico City:

After six years managing one of Washington’s more important relationships as its ambassador to Mexico, Texas lawyer and politician Tony Garza is heading home. But for Garza, a native of Brownsville and a once-rising star in the Texas Republican Party, the journey will entail a short drive across Mexico’s sprawling capital — from the ambassador’s residence to his wife’s. Married four years ago to Mexican beer heiress and business titan Maria Asuncion Aramburuzabala, Garza, 49, says he plans to spend much of his time with her in Mexico City, where she maintains a palatial home.

Okay, I know these folks are all out of jobs now but I assure you, none of them will be heading to the poor house. And although they can no longer travel on diplomatic passports (yeah, I know — that’s a bummer!), they get to keep their titles for life and spend more time with their families. Back home, not in some foreign country with non-English speakers.

One other good thing – Bush appointees can now sign up as a Bush-Cheney Alumni Association member. All employees, appointees, and interns of President George W. Bush as well as campaign donors and volunteers are eligible to join. Members will receive valuable benefits, including access to an online community, alumni updates, opportunities to be involved with the Association, and invitations to events and activities sponsored by the George W. Bush Presidential Center. Click here to sign up now. The new website also has a section for “Setting the Records Straight. The page says:

“We were there. And as members of the team, we know the difference between rumor, reality, fact, and fiction. This is our chance to stand up, speak up, and set the record straight.”

So far, that page is empty, so there’s a job cut out for a whole lot of somebodies.

Is Diplomacy Hot Again or What?

“The old state department building in Washington, as it was in 1865.” – From an 1898 publication.

On Hillary’s first day on the job, she gave a well applauded speech, and her new boss and next boss in line came for a visit and not just to shake hands. That’s something. I did not applaud because she said smart power need smart people, although I’m sure that endeared her to our brainiacs at Foggy Bottom. My mind was somewhere else…

For this institution that had been relegated to the wood kitchen or had been invited only into polite company in folding chairs, that early visit sends quite a positive signal. I hope this is the start of a turnaround.

I hope, too that the new occupant of the 7th floor will have somebody do something about Corridor 1500 (see Dead Men Working’s post on this here). It may seem petty, wanting our history back on the wall, but it harms no one; besides they’re mostly dead people now, it’s not as if they’ll ask for directions or a promotion or harangue anyone for any bad decision. Please rescue Elihu Root, William Bryan, Cordell Hull, George Marshall, Dean Acheson, John Dulles, Dean Rusk, even Henry, the Kiss, from the dungeon of Foggy Bottom and let them enjoy their space on our walls once more.

I have to admit that I got a little dizzy yesterday watching Steve Kashkett’s body movement as he spoke (if he is a PD officer, FSI needs to update its training modules on public speaking). Sorry, but I also want a diplomat there who can speak without notes. I hope AFSA is keeping notes for next time. Ambassador Bill Burns did his part just perfectly. I watched the videos and scrolled through the blog comments in the official blog, DipNote (under new management). It crossed my mind that Hillary may exactly be the remedy for the inattentiveness of the American public to the Foreign Service and the work of the State Department.

I still don’t quite understand why Hillary was willing to swap her Senate seat with what is a 4-year, maybe 8-year gig. But if those “18 million cracks” on the ceiling will continue to focus and engage their attention on Hillary and by extension her work at Foggy Bottom, the agency may find its constituent in a roundabout way for the first time. Sure, Colin Powell had rock star quality, but he did not have the 18 million support pack that Hillary carries.

At the Benjamin Franklin Room, around mid-afternoon, Secretary Clinton with Vice President Joe Biden announced Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell and Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke. There were speeches all around (excerpts below). The full text is here. The 39 min video is here.

Secretary Clinton:

Mr. President, by coming here to the State Department and through your announcement today of these two positions, you are through word and deed sending a loud and clear signal that diplomacy is a top priority of your presidency and that our nation is once again capable of demonstrating global leadership in pursuit of progress and peace.

We are honored to have you join us on only the second day in office. We are grateful to you for highlighting these urgent issues and the collaboration needed to address two of the biggest foreign policy challenges of our time.


Vice President Joe Biden:

We’ve come here today to the State Department to send a very clear message, a clear message at home as well as abroad that we are going to reinvigorate America’s commitment to diplomacy. This effort will be led by Secretary Clinton.

For too long, we’ve put the bulk of the burden, in my view, on our military. That’s a view not only shared by me, but by your secretary of defense, as well. And our military is absolutely, to state the obvious, absolutely necessary, but not sufficient, not sufficient to secure the interest of this great nation.

President Obama:

My appearance today, as has been noted, underscores my commitment to the importance of diplomacy and renewing American leadership. And it gives me an opportunity to thank you for the services that you perform every single day.

Sometimes I think the American public doesn’t fully understand the sacrifices that you and your families make, the dedication that is involved in you carrying on your tasks day in, day out.

[…]

This morning, I signed three executive orders. First, I can say without exception or equivocation that the United States will not torture.

(APPLAUSE)

Second, we will close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and determine how to deal with those who have been held there.

And, third, we will immediately undertake a comprehensive review to determine how to hold and try terrorism suspects to best protect our nation and the rule of law.

The world needs to understand that America will be unyielding in its defense of its security and relentless in its pursuit of those who would carry out terrorism or threaten the United States. And that’s why, in this twilight struggle, we need a durable framework.

The orders that I signed today should send an unmistakable signal that our actions in defense of liberty will be just as our cause and that we, the people, will uphold our fundamental values as vigilantly as we protect our security. Once again, America’s moral example must be the bedrock and the beacon of our global leadership.

President Obama’s speech includes the following which must also ricochet around Kabul:

The American people and the international community must understand that the situation is perilous and progress will take time. Violence is up dramatically in Afghanistan. A deadly insurgency has taken deep root. The opium trade is far and away the largest in the world.

The Afghan government has been unable to deliver basic services. Al Qaeda and the Taliban strike from bases embedded in rugged tribal terrain along the Pakistani border. And while we have yet to see another attack on our soil since 9/11, Al Qaida terrorists remain at large and remain plotting.


Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta
was already unhappy with Secretary Clinton for calling Afghanistan a “narco-state” during her testimony, this one is not going to make him or President Karzai feel better. Afghanistan produces more than 90 percent of the world’s opium, the main ingredient in heroin. I wonder if calling Afghanistan “opium heaven” would be more diplomatic and palatable than “narco-state?”

Our Shooty-Shooty and Talky-Talky Teams in Afghanistan

In the February 2009 issue of the Men’s Journal, Robert Young Pelton goes inside our new and brainier strategy in Afghanistan and finds that, on the front line, scientists and soldiers don’t always mix. Afghanistan: The New War for Hearts and Minds, has been called “an absurdist tale of modern warfare,” and there is a good reason for that.

Pelton’s piece focused on the subject of human terrain teams, or HTTs, the idea of putting a small army of civilian social scientists (apparently anthropologists are the ideal ones) and intel-savvy military officers into the field to give brigade commanders a better understanding of local dynamics (social structures, linkages, tribal implications, etc). This is reportedly all part of General Petraeus’s doctrine of a smarter, management-style counterinsurgency.

Pelton reports that there are now “six five-to-nine-person human terrain teams in Afghanistan and 21 teams in Iraq. If the concept proves successful, the $120 million–plus program would grow to 700 HTT and support staff in those countries and other hot spots.”

The man charged with managing the program is retired special operations colonel Steve Fondacaro who freely admits that one of the biggest obstacles to injecting social science into the military will be the military itself. “We are like a virus infecting the host,” he told Pelton. “Either the army will be inoculated and be stronger, or they will expel us in a torrent of puke.” Okay, if that is not a quotable quote, I don’t know what is.

Pelton situates us in Bagram and gives us a feel of the “many tribes” there from the dominant ones “identifiable by their digital camo and bad haircuts,” to the “contractors recognizable by their Fu Manchu mustaches,” and an invisible tribe of about 600 aka prisoners. With Burger King, DQ, and Subway in addition to premium cable available for $115 a month and massages from young Kyrgyz ladies for $15, he calls Bagram “America’s duty-free space station in the war on terror and may be the most culturally isolated outpost on the planet. The world’s most effective killing machine has ensconced itself in a hastily constructed replica of a Midwest strip mall.”

Ouch!

Some more interesting stuff:

A scientist did not want to be photographed or named: Pelton speculates “It seems that within left-leaning academic circles, hanging out with the military is the equivalent of a movie star doing infomercials.”

The research manager, Army lieutenant “Indiana Jones” makes about $30,000 before danger pay, while a top-tier scientist can make $250,000 a year in the program. The interpreter makes four times what the lieutenant earns. Think how much will be in this pot if there is one scientist for each of the 700 HTTs at $250,000 a pop.

Read about a team of three burly, geared-up men known only as Peter, an Afghan-American translator named, Joseph; and Peter’s partner, who calls himself “Paris Hilton;” Their team also called HTT, for HUMINT or human intelligence are the “shooty-shooty guys” according to Paris. Apparently the scientists of the human terrain teams are the “talky-talky” guys. They threw around other acronyms like THT for tactical human terrain teams and CTTs for cultural terrain teams to avoid confusion but gave up on it after a while.

Halfway through the piece, Pelton writes:

“Imagine if dudes with guns like that come into your house at 2 am,” Jones says. He has stumbled across the dirty secret of “human terrain” mapping. In order to snip the connective tissue between the network of evildoers, someone has to figure out who they are. Whether you snip the web by being nice or nasty is irrelevant. The information Jones and his team collect with good intentions is all part of a massive database that may eventually lead to Paris Hilton knocking on someone’s door.”

And like any writer in search of a story, he wastes no time while waiting for a ride. Pelton asked his company to name who are the good guys and the bad guys. You have to wade through many more acronyms but he was kind enough to explain each one. Somebody put JAG, the U.S. military’s investigation unit in the bad guys’ column. Jeez!


He closes his article with a quote from an MBA grad, Masood Karokhail, “You can’t be in the military and expect to work with the very people they are attacking,” and decided that Karokhail has captured the crux of the problem.

“My time with Jones taught me more about how Americans think and operate in Afghanistan than how Afghans think and operate. The resurgent Taliban is thrilled to see the Americans make many of the same mistakes the Russians did here: worn-out troops isolated in hardened forts defending a weakened central government promoting a foreign agenda. HTTs are supposed to bring down the cultural barrier between the military and the locals, but the biggest enemy is the natural inclination of troops to be troops, not social workers. Strangely enough, the Taliban is far more expert at meeting the basic needs of Afghans: namely, by fighting the corrupt central government and providing justice and security. Until that changes the Afghans will be more inclined to identify with the “enemy” than the well-intentioned guests.”

Our national security strategy stands on the three legs of defense, diplomacy and development. Leaning on one leg for much of the last eight years has made for a wobbly stool to put it mildly. As Afghanistan heats up once more, I think this one makes for a very serious reading. I am curious as to how much of the Afghanistan strategy is going to change with the new national security team in place. How much control/oversight will the new Obama team and 111th Congress exercise over the execution of new programs like this, especially one that is part of the Petreus Doctrine.

You’ve got to read the whole thing here.

Danger Room has more articles on the Human Terrain Teams here.