21st Century Career Suicide – No Longer Just Unauthorized Appearance in Al Kamen’s Column

salve-a-terra--twitter_4251_1280x800Image by _DaniloRamos via FlickrIn 2004, Nicholas Kralev wrote a pretty good 8-part series on the diplomatic service for the Washington Times called Foreign Service: America’s Other Army. That project lasted, as I understand it, some six months and was made possible in part through a grant from the Una Chapman Cox Foundation.  Mr. Kralev conducted interviews with five past and present secretaries of state and almost 300 other diplomats, both in Washington and at some 30 U.S. missions on five continents.

In one post that Mr. Kralev visited, my then boss was not only frantic but stressed to impress to make a good impression and hopeful to make it on paper. And no wonder. Then Spokesman Richard Boucher had sent a cable to the missions on Mr. Kralev’s schedule urging them to cooperate. According to this, the press officer at every post had already lined up a series of interviews by the time he arrived.   You just knew that everyone inside the big house would be reading the series.

It was not an embed arrangement, but one of the few isolated times when the State Department actually was not skittish of media attention.

FSO Peter Van Buren of We Meant Well has a lengthy piece in TomDispatch entitled, The War Lovers | Why It Feels So Good to Be Embedded with the U.S. Military. You may have to read the whole thing at home since apparently, TomDispatch is blocked from the State Department due to WikiLeaks materials.  I am  excerpting below the parts about dealing with the media and career suicide.

As a State Department Foreign Service Officer embedded with the military in Iraq, I walked in… er, deployed, unprepared. I had never served in the military and had rarely fired a weapon (and never at anything bigger than a beer can on a rock ledge). The last time I punched someone was in ninth grade. Yet over the course of a year, I found myself living and working with the 82nd Airborne, followed by the 10th Mountain Division, and finally the 3rd Infantry Division, three of the most can-do units in the Army. It was… seductive.
Other than preserving OpSec (Operational Security for those of you who have never had The Experience) and not giving away positions and plans to the bad guys, journalists were free to see and report on anything. No restrictions, no holding back.
Growing up professionally within the State Department, I had been raised to fear the media. “Don’t end up on the front page of the Washington Post,” was an often-repeated warning within the State Department, and many a boss now advises young Foreign Service Officers to “re-read that email again, imagining it on the Internet, and see if you still want to send it.” And that’s when we’re deciding what office supplies to recommend to the ambassador, not anything close to the life-and-death stuff a military embed might witness.

When I started my career, the boogieman was syndicated columnist Jack Anderson, then Washington Post columnist Al Kamen.  Now, it’s Jon Stewart and Wikileaks. A mention by name in any of those places is career suicide. Officially, State suggests we avoid “unscripted interactions” with the media. Indeed, in his book on Iraq and Afghan nation-building, Armed Humanitarians, Nathan Hodge brags about how he did get a few State Department people to talk to him anonymously in a 300-page book with first-person military quotes on nearly every page.
I saw it myself in Iraq.  General Ray Odierno, then commander of all troops in Iraq, would routinely arrive at some desert dump where I happened to be, reporters in tow.  I saw for myself that they would be free to speak about anything to anyone on that Forward Operating Base (which, in acronym-mad Iraq, we all just called a FOB, rhymes with “cob”). The only exception would be me: State had a long-standing policy that on-the-record interviews with its officials had to be pre-approved by the Embassy or often by the Washington Mothership itself.

Getting such an approval before a typical reporter’s deadline ran out was invariably near impossible, which assumedly was the whole point of the system. In fact, the rules got even tougher over the course of my year in the desert.  When I arrived, the SOP (standard operating procedure) allowed Provincial Reconstruction Team leaders to talk to foreign media without preapproval (on the assumption that no one in Washington read their pieces in other languages anyway and thus no one in the field could get into trouble). This was soon rescinded countrywide and preapproval was required even for these media interactions.

Not too long ago dealing with the media was a double-edge sword. You get a mention in the right places, your career’s life force goes up, you get a mention in the wrong places, its called career suicide. These days, of course, with social media, the double edge sword is a multi-edge sharp object that can cut many ways. You tweet the wrong 140 characters, you post the wrong photos, you forget to adjust for FB privacy settings and things could go south quickly.

It may be worth noting that the State Dept still read Al Kamen. But just so you know,the man has joined Twitter @AlKamenWP.

Officially In: Frankie A. Reed to the Fiji Islands, Nauru, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Kiribati

Map of Fiji showing the location in Oceania Ca...Image via WikipediaOn May 13, 2011, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Frankie A. Reed to be Ambassador to the Republic of the Fiji Islands, the Republic of Nauru, the Kingdom of Tonga, Tuvalu, and the Republic of Kiribati. The WH released the following brief bio:

Frankie A. Reed currently serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, responsible for relations with Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Island posts.   Previously, Ms. Reed served as a Diplomat-in-Residence at the University of California, Berkeley.  Prior to her assignment at the University of California, Ms. Reed was the Consul General and Deputy U.S. Observer to the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France from 2005-2008.  She served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Conakry, Guinea from 2003-2005 and as Deputy Chief of Mission in Apia, Samoa from 1999-2002.  A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Ms. Reed’s earlier assignments included: Deputy Director in the Office of Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Island Affairs, Political Section Chief in Dakar, Senegal, and Political Officer in Nairobi, Kenya and Yaoundé, Cameroon.  She also worked as a Desk Officer in the Bureaus of African Affairs and Western Hemispheric Affairs.

Ms. Reed holds a J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley and a B.A. from Howard University.

If confirmed, Ms. Reed would succeed career diplomat, C. Steven McGann who assumed his duties at post in October 2008.

Related item:
President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts, 5/13/2011

Officially In: Dan W. Mozena to Dhaka

Dan Mozena, U.S. Ambassador to Angola                    Image via WikipediaOn May 13, 2011, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Dan W. Mozena to be Ambassador to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. The WH released the following brief bio:

Ambassador Dan W. Mozena is currently a Professor at the National War College on detail from the U.S. Department of State.  From 2007-2010, Ambassador Mozena served as the U.S. Ambassador to Angola.  A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Ambassador Mozena served as Director for the Office of Southern African Affairs from 2004 to 2007.  Immediately prior to returning to Washington as Director, Ambassador Mozena was Deputy Chief of Mission in Lusaka, Zambia, where he began his Foreign Service career in 1982.   From 1998-2001, Ambassador Mozena was Political/Economic Counselor in Dhaka, Bangladesh.  At Embassy Islamabad, Ambassador Mozena held the position of Deputy Political Counselor from 1995-1998.  Ambassador Mozena was Officer-in-Charge for South Africa and Deputy Director for Southern African Affairs during South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy.  Other overseas assignments have included New Delhi, India and then-Zaire, where he and his wife had earlier served as Peace Corps Volunteers.

Ambassador Mozena received a B.S. from Iowa State University, and a M.A. and M.P.A. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

If confirmed, Ambassador Mozena would succeed career diplomat, James F. Moriarty who was confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh on March 13, 2008.

Related item:
President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts, 5/13/2011


US Mission Afghanistan: CODEL Hartzler 05.07.2011

U.S. Representatives Vicki Hartzler (R-MO), Susan Davis (D-CA), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Donna Edwards (D-MD), Niki Tsongas (D-MA) and Martha Roby (R-AL) visit the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan on Saturday, May 7, 2011.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.
Photos from US Embassy Kabul/Flickr

US Mission Afghanistan: CODEL Kerry in Mazar-i-Sharif and Kabul 05.14-15.2011

U.S. Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry and Senator John Kerry (D-MA) visited Mazar-i-Sharif on Saturday, May 14, 2011. Senator Kerry also attended several events in Kabul on Sunday, May 15, 2011.

“Yes, there are insurgents coming across the border,” Kerry (D-Mass.) said in Kabul. “Yes, they are operating out of North Waziristan and other areas of the sanctuaries. And yes, there is some evidence of Pakistan government knowledge of some of these activities in ways that is very disturbing. That will be without any question one of the subjects of conversation.”

John Kerry – Washington Post

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.
Photos from US Embassy Kabul/Flickr

US Mission Pakistan: Threat Against Americans in Karachi

Karachi BeachImage via WikipediaUS Mission Pakistan issued a warden message on May 14, 2011 regarding threats to American citizens and US interests in Karachi:

This Warden Notice is to notify American citizens that the U.S. Consulate in Karachi has received information regarding a threat against American citizens and interests in Karachi over the next few days.

The Embassy reiterates its advice to all U.S. citizens to take measures for their safety and security at all times.  These measures include maintaining good situational awareness, avoiding crowds and demonstrations, and keeping a low profile.  U.S. citizens should avoid setting patterns by varying times and routes for all required travel.  U.S. citizens should ensure that their travel documents and visas are valid at all times.  In addition, over the next several days and weeks, we advise U.S. citizens to avoid areas where foreigners are known to congregate.

Read in full here.