Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What's Happening at State?

Well, it seems that our pretend President is making the rounds of the "Letterman Show," and hanging out with other entertainers, including at Jay-Z's 40/40 club. I guess this means that we all should forget about the new 9/11. Bury our dead; send the FBI to Tripoli; change the topic to some video -- no, not the one that allegedly enflamed the Middle East, Asia, and elsewhere -- but the one with Mitt Romney saying some hard truths about our current reality which has enflamed the echo chamber media.

I was wondering whether the State Department shared the White House view that the crisis is over so I went to the official State website. So what is our Toy Town Secretary up to? The lead piece is her meeting with the Mexican Foreign Minister and their signing of a "Memorandum of Understanding" (MOU) to "promote gender equality." Yes, she made a brief reference to the murders in Libya, but then quickly got around to the most pressing business of the Department, promoting women in some ill-defined manner. You can read the wonderful MOU here. As a person who has written a lot of these things, I can assure you this is total nonsense. This clearly was a desperation move to come up with a "deliverable" for the Mexican visit.  Look, I understand that our diplomatic machine must walk and chew gum simultaneously. We have lots of things going on, but really . . . this? When you look at the first page of the official website you are immediately struck by the lack of concern, or even mention of what is happening in dozens of countries in which we see the followers of the "Religion of Peace" doing what they do best: burning American flags, trashing embassies, and killing. The one bright spot, surprisingly not credited as a success for the Obama/Clinton foreign policy, is the report (h/t Drudge) of a Pakistani protestor who died after inhaling fumes from a burning American flag. I only hope it is true, and that his death was painful.

The State Department is largely a hopeless organization. It is absurdly overstaffed and organized in a bizarre and antiquated manner. Every politically correct fad that comes along somehow gets pumped into the State Department organizational chart: an office, staff, and budget get created, and its objectives immediately become a "top" priority. The obsession with women is about 20 years old, and State and AID pay all sorts of tribute to the objective of promoting "gender equality." This promotion basically takes the shape of giving money to some "pro-women" NGO that has gained favor with some senior bureaucrat or political hack--often with backing from a Congressman or two. The people who run the NGO's foreign office immediately get themselves cellphones, a fax machine, some computers, office phones, an office, and a car or two with a nifty logo. They will also get occasional trips to the US and to other countries to make presentations at conferences, and they will present papers that always conclude "more needs to be done." Their objectives also get worked into the Embassy's work plan. Did I mention that all this takes place with your tax money? We don't have money to provide proper protection for our embassies, but we have money for this sort of nonsense.

Before I sign off, let me tell you a darkly humorous little story.

In the late-1990s, I was working in State's Political-Military Bureau in Washington. One of our duties was to work with the Pentagon planning and executing "noncombatant evacuation operations" (NEOs)  in countries where the security situation had gone belly up. We had the job of getting our people out of harm's way. This meant that we had to spend hours going over Embassy reports and other intel on the situation in likely trouble spots. I remember that a couple of us became concerned about the situation in a small West African country. Despite assurances from the Africa Bureau and the US Ambassador there that everything was under control, we pored over everything we could find on the country. That Ambassador had returned to the US for a couple of weeks to make the rounds of various Chambers of Commerce to convince US businesses to invest in this little country. One of the top goals of the Embassy country team was "empowering women." The Embassy's small political section flooded State's computers with reports on the great work being done to "empower women." The head of the political section had traveled to a remote part of the country to cover USAID sponsored events promoting rural women. Lots of cables came in describing the success of this program.

One morning, we were busy reading this stuff just as the army, which had not been paid in months, marched into the capital and overthrew the government, creating a huge security situation for our people there. There had  been not a single State or CIA cable reporting on the growing crisis within the military. The Embassy, covering the issues of girls and women, had completely missed what the boys and men with guns were up to. The Embassy had dismissed the one report that had come in from a member of the DAO (Defense Attache's Office) in a neighboring country; he had reported that his contacts were telling him that there appeared to be some sort of growing malaise within the military across the border. The Embassy had dismissed the report saying that they knew the situation better than some junior military officer in a neighboring country.

I always remembered this episode in subsequent years. It represented the State obsession with issues far removed from core US national interests. As I can tell from the State website, things have not improved.

14 comments:

  1. This is preaching to the choir, but here goes. Over the decades State has had a steady increase of liberal personel. To these people the theory "everything is political" is their reality. They really really mean it. So when a hyper liberal partisan administration installs a hyper liberal creature as secretary then it's Katie bar the door.
    State now has only one function reelect Obama. Which means first do no harm to reelection, second advance the liberal political agenda.
    Unfortunately foreign affairs can be quite pesky and tend to show up at the front door unwanted (like children from past dalliances), but impossible to ignore.

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  2. In regards to your 'story' I don't suppose the head of the Africa Office who was busy with fabricating stories about the girls while missing the truth about the boys just happens to be our current UN Ambassador; Ms, Rice?

    We should also remember that the leaks to the NYT during the Bush 43 Administration were coming out of the State Dept.

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    1. She was at the NSC handling African Affairs.

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  3. As much as I agree with you on most matters you must admit your man has blown it, what a stupid barsteward.

    Regardless of the low shenanigans by Obama to get it into the interwebs, he should never have made such ignorant remarks, which have now gravely damaged his cndidature and by extension, on the premise that Obama has to go, the nation.

    Idiot. Idiot.

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    1. For posterity, could you possibly elaborate on what "ignorant remarks" were made, and by whom?

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    2. Oh Mr. Cuffley,
      Your Nigerian bank transfer is due anytime. You can keep track of it on the interwebs.

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  4. Cuffley:

    Clearly, Romney is no idiot. Honors in a double major (law and business) at Harvard. Inartful? Yes. Unguarded? Yes. Piled on by the legacy media? Absolutely. I know, life is not fair, but it is really unfair that Obama and Romney will not be weighed on the same scale when it comes to preparation for leading what was once the most prosperous and powerful nation in the world. Really unfair.

    Now, about State. Yes, it certainly has been caught up in Political Correctness and the latest social movement. This is probably not always bad, but when it blinds officials to what is happening in front of their eyes, it is bad. I have tried to recall if there is an example of this from the right side of the political spectrum, and cannot come up with one. Why is it always the leftists that lead this institution astray?

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    1. Good point. The one mistake on the tight re foreign affairs was to buy into the left's idea of "nation building." Bad.

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    2. That should be "right" not "tight."

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    3. "nation building." Bad. Yes, they have post WWII Germay and Japan as the Holy Grail. But those outcomes are alot harder to replicate than they believe.
      F. I think it goes back to the 30's at least. A rough paralell would be Philby and the Cambridge people and what they did to MI6 and other British institutions.

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  5. OK. Cuffey's maybe talking about the edited MoJo tape of Romney's gabfest? Swell. Now back to the thread. Is there anyway to fix DoS short of flushing it down the drain?

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    1. My only hope is, and it is a long shot IMO, that Romney is elected and he just slashes and burns DoS, EPA, DoE, and Education...

      I already assume that I will be disappointed.

      And for good luck, how about the Ag Dept. and their rediculous food stamp program? And free cell phones and turtle tunnels and sex workers in China and, and, and...

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  6. Having been a college student back in the 1970's and an FSO in the 1990's, I regretfuflly agree with our blog host. We're witnessing a Gramscian march through the institutions, and it's not doing the institutions any good.

    Re the preoccupation with women, I recall one World Bank (granted, not a State baby) project about helping rural women in East Africa develop business skills. Well, who the heck has been selling the papayas, plantains, dried meat, etc. in the markets since time immemorial? Frankly, I'll bet on a Third World market woman for shrewdness and people skills over the typical Washington Yupee any day of the week.

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