PRT Officer Matthew Hoh Resigns Over Afghan War

WaPo’s Karen DeYoung just broke the story on the resignation of Foreign Service Officer and former Marine Captain, Matthew Hoh, over the war in Afghanistan.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Matthew Hoh joined the Foreign Service in March 2009 as a Political Officer. He previously served as a Combat Engineer Company Commander for the US Marine Corps Reserve (March 2006 — June 2007), worked briefly in the Iraq Policy and Operations Group at Bearing Point, was Regional Programs Coordinator for the US Department of the Army (May 2004 — June 2005) and served as Action Officer and Writer at the Office of the Secretary of the Navy, US Marine Corps from November 2002 — April 2004. He graduated from Tufts University in 1995. Read Matthew Hoh’s Resignation Letter (PDF).

Somebody has already posted his resignation letter in Scribd, so I’m embedding it below.

Updated: 10/28:
Post title updated

Related Item:
The State Dept on Matthew Hoh…and the Art of the Benevolent Push Back

Matthew Hoh first US official to resign over Afghan War

Jack Lew on Civilian Staffing in Afghanistan

Yesterday, Jack Lew, the Department’s Under Secretary for Management and Resources gave a briefing on progress made in civilian hiring for Afghanistan. He said that the Department is on-track to meet staffing goals in Afghanistan. In the Q&A that followed, Secretary Lew gave the staffing goal at this point:

The 974 is the goal. What I’ve been trying to express is that as the plan is implemented and as there are needs for additional experts, we are not saying 974 is the end of it and if you need 10 more agricultural experts, it’s over. We’re open, as the deployment takes effect and is fully implemented on the margins, to be flexible.

[…] civilians come in ones. They don’t come in battalions. So it’s a different concept to assign civilians. We’re really matching people to tasks. So as the Embassy identifies additional tasks, we are open. It’s not an unlimited openness. I mean, obviously, we’re limited by appropriations and available resources.

Of course, how can anyone talk about war zone staffing without bringing up the “near-revolt” in Foggy Bottom in 2007? “Secretary Rice was trying to compel Foreign Service officers to go to these places, and now you’re saying you’re having no trouble at all.”

DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: I don’t want to say it’s easy. This is very hard. I mean, they’re hard assignments. These are hard decisions for people to make to go over, and it’s hard work when they get there. So it’s challenging, and I think we have to be kind of conscious of the fact that it gets harder as you do it year after year, because people who are inclined to take assignments like this have already done it once or twice. So it’s a challenging undertaking.

I think that what I attribute the relative enthusiasm of the Foreign Service in the State Department to sign on for this mission really gets down to its core strategic importance and the leadership both from the Secretary, the Ambassador, Ambassador Holbrooke – the team that’s on it. Look, even the fact that I am managing the recruitment of the 974 people, I mean, I’m told that that wasn’t the way Iraq was handled. It wasn’t at a level – the Deputy Secretary level. There’s a lot of visibility to this, and there’s a lot of sense of calling, that it’s a mission that people, if they’re able to contribute, feel they should try to.

I think that it’s not for everyone. Some people sign up, and by the time they get through training don’t decide it’s for them. Some people go out and come back. But that’s really very few compared to the total. And there’s nothing – there’s no compulsion in this. I mean, we still have the tools that were contemplated then should we ever need them, but —

Meaning forced to serve?

Yeah. The tools exist and everyone who is in the Foreign Service knows that that’s an option that’s available. But I’m very proud of our Foreign Service that it hasn’t been necessary to talk about that. Having been there several times now, I have a great deal of admiration and respect for people who are leaving their families behind, going to places where they’re in harm’s way, and doing work that isn’t always glorious and grand, but it’s important and they have to do it day after day.

An alternate video source is here at c-span. The transcript of his briefing is available here.

Web 2.0 Roundup: US Embassy Manila

From US Embassy Manila via Facebook

Last week, the US Embassy in Manila had “Twitter Week.” The occasion marked the official launch of the embassy’s twin sites in Twitter and Facebook. In announcing the new online engagement, the US Ambassador to the Philippines, Kristie Kenney writes in her blog:

“At the U.S. Embassy in Manila, we use all sorts of modern technology to stay in touch, and we want more people to have virtual access to us and our activities. We have a new U.S. Embassy Manila Facebook page, along with our Embassy website, to share stories, news and photos with you.”

Ambassador Kenney is one of the very few US Ambassadors with an official blog, and the only one with a blog hosted in As can be expected the topic she addresses in her blog are normally selective, noncontroversial and usually tied to her official events like US Navy ship visits here and here, USAID projects, the passing of President Aquino and marking 9/11. But in late September when Typhoon Ketsana caused widespread flooding in Metro Manila and nearby areas, and in the relief operation that followed, she was able to use her blog here and here, to give insight into the calamity on the ground and share online what the USG was trying to do to help. And none of it looked like boiler-plate language that you see in cables or in press releases. In one of her blog posts she writes:

“I have to start this blog entry by telling my mother, once again, that I am fine. Yes, Manila was flattened by major floods. Yes, typhoons followed the floods. Yes, many people suffered. Yes, the U.S. Embassy was flooded. But I am fine. And very lucky. Many others were not so fortunate.”

I don’t think we can realistically expect our ambassadors to write about foreign policy issues in their blogs. We certainly can’t expect Ambassador Kenney to write about the RP-US Visiting Agreement in this medium because there are other venues what would lend more effectively to the discussion of such matters. But as she has shown, a blog can be a great tool in public diplomacy; no, not as a public relations-lobbying tool but in personalizing our government’s top representative in a foreign country, and in showing empathetic engagement.

Whoever works online officially as part of the public diplomacy outreach must bear in mind what Edward R. Murrow, former director of the USIA, once said: “Truth is the best propaganda and lies are the worst. To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful. It is as simple as that.”

Internet stats for the Republic of the Philippines below:

Population (est. 2009): 97,976,603

Internet Users (2000): 2,000,000

Internet Users (latest data): 24,000,000

Penetration: 21.1 %

User Growth (2000-2009): 932.5 %

User in Asia (%): 2.9 %

In addition to the ambassador’s blog and the mission website (that has so far evaded the fate of a canned website template), the US Embassy Manila is on Facebook and Twitter. It is also on Flickr although its extensive photo gallery has not been uploaded to it. Ambassador Kenney is on Twitter with over 700 followers (including basketball star, Chris Tiu). That’s how you know she had “dinner with embassy pals and manny pacquiao” or that she watched the Smart Gilas versus Ginebra game. As an aside, the game, that’s the basketball game — is important. In 1898-1900s, the United States introduced basketball in the Philippines. Today, it is the most popular sport in the country.

Similar to Indonesia, I think there is an opportunity for innovative PD engagement in the Philippines that no one has grabbed unto yet. Filipino mobile phone users currently number more than 70 million out of the total population of 97 million. Its penetration rate hit 75 percent in 2008; double that of Indonesia’s. More than radios, more than the Internet, mobile phones have more reach than anything else in this country of over 7,100 islands. The Philippines is also widely called the text-messaging center of the world for a reason; they send one billion text messages a day. According to WaPo, when President Joseph Estrada was forced from office in 2001, he bitterly complained that the popular uprising against him was a “coup de text.” (It was widely reported that the protest was coordinated with SMS chain letters).

“This is a development for democracy,” was how text messaging was described by one protest leader, five years later, organizing against Estrada’s successor. If a “coup de text” was possible, how can making this work for public diplomacy be impossible? “Once we rid ourselves of traditional thinking we can get on with creating the future.*”

There is a way to put this to great use – find it!

See more Web 2.0 Roundup here.

*James Bertrand quote

Quickie: One Nation Under Contract

On October 25, Mickey Edwards, a former Republican congressman who is now vice president of The Aspen Institute writes about Allison Stanger’s new book in the Boston Globe (One Nation Under Contract: The Outsourcing of American Power and the Future of Foreign Policy | Yale University, 256 pp):

In her new book, “One Nation Under Contract,’’ Stanger, director of the Rohatyn Center for International Affairs at Middlebury College, documents in stunning detail the extent to which the United States has turned much of its most important work over to private contractors whose motivation is profit and level of public accountability near zero.
“For-profit foreign aid,’’ Stanger says, “is now a booming business, with billions of US government dollars flowing into sketchy projects.’’ She points to a 2005 congressional study that found that of 286 schools that were to be rebuilt by a private contractor with funds from the US Agency for International Development, “only 8 had been completed and . . . only 15 of 253 planned health clinics were operational.’’ With as many as five subcontractors on each job, “each charging a substantial fee’’ a school that could be built by Iraqis for $50,000 costs the American taxpayers five times that much.
There’s plenty of scandal, and she calls it such, plenty of concern about cost, lack of accountability, fiscal irresponsibility. But she also sees contracting out as a wave of the future, in large part probably because the elimination of the draft makes unavailable the large numbers of uniformed personnel to drive trucks, peel potatoes, build buildings, or do the laundry. Her concern is not with the idea of farming-out but with the mismanagement of it, the lack of transparency, the lack of effective monitoring and evaluating.

Read the whole thing here.