Thursday, April 17, 2014

The State Department Responds to Benghazi

The Diplomad underground at State continues to function. It is a small group of FSOs and Civil Servants, ranging in ideology from libertarian to moderate liberal, horrified by the political correctness and Cloud La-la-land thinking that have overtaken State and the USG, and the horrid subsequent effects on America's interests around the world.

One dedicated Diplomadista provided an unclassified memo sent to the Secretary, dated April 17, 2014, from the Director of the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) with the subject line, "FSI’s Near Term Objectives – What Could Be Accomplished in 2014."

One key proposal is as follows, and I quote verbatim, in fact I "cut and paste" verbatim. (Note ARB refers to the Accountability Review Board, about which I wrote on December 27, 2012, convened in the wake of the Bengahzi fiasco. The ARB, of course, was a total whitewash, and left no senior official holding the bag.)
§ “ALERT” Language Training: The Benghazi ARB criticized the lack of language skills and situational awareness of personnel deployed to Benghazi. In response, FSI and DS implemented Arabic “ALERT” (Awareness, Language and Emergency Response Training) for DS staff assigned to High Threat Posts (HTPs) in the Arabic-speaking world. This 10-12 week course uses an innovative, task-based experiential approach to learning the Arabic they need on the job. ALERT’s active, realistic, and culturally engaging training format has been an effective training approach for this audience. Based on its success, FSI has developed Urdu ALERT – and is creating a French ALERT course (for HTPs in Francophone Africa) to begin this summer.
Have at it, folks!

There is so much to ridicule in this I don't know where to begin. Let me say, at least, that it shows how the bureaucrats running the FSI are out of touch with the wider reality, and have been captured by their little reality. They see the disaster in Benghazi as a means to advance some little bureaucratic agenda, in this case to get some funding and high-level attention for a silly language program.

The authors of this memo gem seem to assume that our people in Benghazi died because they did not speak Arabic well-enough . . . please heap your scornful comments here . . . I just do not have the energy . . .


44 comments:

  1. ALARM: Assholes Looking out Always for their Rear Members.
    Really, Mr Mad, you know how love to plunge the blade in, but this almost too pathetic.
    James the Lessor

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    1. That should read "you know how I love to"

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  2. Howard Sollenberger would never have done bureaucrap like that.

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  3. Interesting. I resigned from State in 2007 in part because I saw it as an organization putting political goals over common sense and safety. It appears to only be getting worse there. I'm sorry for my dedicated former colleagues who are stuck with "leadership" like this.

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    1. I left in 2011 and it had gotten worse

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    2. I retired in 1997. I think I saw the first waves of bureaucratization sweeping through the service. USAID, on the other hand, was a few years ahead, with its devotion to "metrics".

      In 1999 I was sent TDY to Caracas to fill a personnel gap. A group of junior FSOs asked me to talk to them about career development. I was not sure I had anything to offer, the service had changed so much since I joined.

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  4. In Bob Baer's book about his time working on Afghanistan, he recounts the fate of his request to retire and to have someone take over his job. The CIA did not have anyone to take over that spoke the languages of Uzbekistan, where he was, but did send him an expert on sexual harassment.

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  5. And I feel sorry for my fellow Americans who suffering under "leadership" like this.

    Throw them ALL out and clean house!

    LibertyGrace'sGrandma

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  6. Well, I see your point. BUT let's not dump too much on the concept of real language skills in the country you're serving in. Lots and lots people (especially in the Middle East) pull the Arafat/Kalidi shuffle!

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    1. Yeah, but to imply that bad language skills played a role in the deaths in Benghazi is just a bit much. I think bad policy, bad decisions all around, and incompetence and cowardice in DC played a MUCH bigger role.

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    2. Especially cowardice.
      James the Lessor

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    3. For sure, I meant this in the big picture sense, not the proximate-cause-of-our-failure-in-Benghazi sense.

      I heard the most amazingly out-of-touch speech from the #2 guy in the US Mission to Sudan. He gave a little talk to the Americans and their guests at a July 4 gathering at the USAID compound in Juba in 1984. This was 9 months after the start of the Second Sudanese Civil War, and though I cannot recall the particulars (due to advancing age), I remember my reaction as if it were yesterday: "Either (1) the ambassador and all his assistants are clueless and pathetic, or (2) someone has decided that it's in the US' interest to appear clueless and pathetic about this matter, and this guy is a consummate actor".

      I never did figure out which. Proceeding under the assumption that it was option 1: a lot of the same thinking you decry here was doubtless behind it, but not being able to converse in Arabic beyond going-to-the-market and how's-the-weather pleasantries could not have helped. As for anyone in the Embassy having decent speaking abilities in Dinka? Now you've moved beyond dreaming and gone to outright hallucinating.

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    4. When I served in Germany in the 1980s, most of them couldn't even speak German. Pathetic.

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    5. I spoke better German than some of these geniuses when I was in *high school* in Germany. I still probably do.

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  7. If only they had known how to say "please don't shoot me" in Arabic I'm sure that would have worked. /sarc

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  8. It is a rare occurrence but words fail me - well words other than obscene ones.

    Tell me that extract is from an American version of "Yes Minister" - PLEASE.

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    1. You're absolutely right, it is straight out of a script.

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  9. Ambassador Stevens and his staff didn't know how to say "I surrender" in Urdu. If only ...

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  10. Just as an aside yesterday I saw a story about the Jordanian military destroying a Syrian rebel convoy attempting to enter Jordanian territory near the Jordanian town of Ruwaished. Apparently attempting to attack a joint US/jordanian training site in the area.

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  11. An incomplete part of the ALERT system is in the filing of proper reports of annual or more frequent incidents. The State Department is indebted to the Treasury Department for the loan of several tax regulation professionals to aid in this task. So far, however, no one has been found who has the slightest idea as to what the various forms and regulations actually require.

    Expected release of this new package is May. The year will be determined later.

    Green Bear

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  12. It seems to me that Ambassador Stevens knew the important points which were that they had no protection, and Al Qaeda wanted to kill them.

    I fail to see how knowing how to call somebody a male goat molester in perfect Arabic would have ameliorated the situation.

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  13. The new book "HRC" is supposed to be a revealing picture of Hillary as Sec State. I would read it if I had a stronger stomach. Hugh Hewitt interviewed the author and it supposed to be excellent.

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  14. Perhaps they could send the FBI who are BEGGING to be allowed to investigate the disaster in Benghazi on that course, they need to know how to ask the terrorists for permission.

    They could begin by translating this part of the halfrican queen's comments: "The United States condemns in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack. We’re working with the government of Libya to secure our diplomats. I’ve also directed my administration to increase our security at diplomatic posts around the world. And make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.

    "And make no mistake, we will work......to bring to justice the killers". Read it and weep.

    This attack could and would have been stopped in its tracks if the general of Africom's orders had not been countermanded by the coward halfrican queen.

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    1. "And make no mistake" seems to be a favourite prefix for the Gospel according to Obama - just before he sets about doing s.f.a about whatever it is he is talking about.

      A snake oil salesman has more credibility than this bloke.

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    2. Dave, as someone not too well-versed in "Strine", how serious an insult is "bloke"? I thought it was just something akin to "feller" in 'Murkin.

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    3. David why are you down on snakes? They work hard for that oil.
      James the (time for a change) Lesser

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  15. Has the State Dept always been this big of a cluster flop or did it just cross a line at some point from capable servant to hapless hack? This Dept seems as much a threat to national security as our sorry excuse for a president.

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    1. Well, my account was from 30 years ago.

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  16. It’s just institutional tunnel-vision on FSI’s part; focusing laser-like on a throw-away recommendation from the Benghazi ARB.

    (I mean really, who has _ever_ recommended that there be worse/less foreign language training for diplomats?)

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    1. Just seems very poorly stated; as though Stevens, who was a life-long Arabist, would be alive today if he had had just another 12 weeks of emergency Arabic.

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  17. Diplomad Sir?

    What's going on here?

    The Russian government this week canceled a planned U.S. surveillance flight over Russian territory in a bid to limit spying on massed troops facing off against Ukraine and Eastern Europe, according to U.S. officials.

    http://libertyunyielding.com/2014/04/17/escalation-russia-cancels-open-skies-overflight-u-s/

    (Open Skies Treaty.)
    ___________________

    The Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. military and American intelligence agencies have quietly pushed the White House in recent weeks to deny a new Russian surveillance plane the right to fly over U.S. territory. ... The State Department, which ultimately makes that decision, has favored such certification.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/04/18/pentagon-moves-to-block-russian-spy-plane-in-american-skies.html
    _________________________________

    The Russian Aircraft in Question:

    http://theaviationist.com/2012/05/24/tu-214r/

    The US aircraft in question - the 1960s era U-2 (yeah, those're still airworthy & being flown.)

    Arkie

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  18. Arkie,
    I think Putin is reinforcing a message to Obama that the way things were done in the past are over, regardless of treaty, pact, accord, detente, entente, or any understanding.
    James the Lessor

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  19. My fear i that Obama and Hagel will do a Chamberlain and procrastinate and appease until it is useless to intervene, then send troops or make some foolish declaration. Such as:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2014/04/18/u-s-ground-troops-going-to-poland-defense-minister-says/

    Oh and Obama (or the doS) announced today no XL pipeline until after the election.

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    1. Michael K?

      The Visegrad Group is "doing their stuff." No "Chamberlain '39 I'm reckoning - should give us until after the election. ... The Poles I'm reckoning can hold through then.

      Arkie

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    2. " Obama (or the doS) announced today no XL pipeline until after the election."...................duly noted. It required a decision , the halfrican queen does not make decisions, he is incapable of doing so.

      Sending oil south is not Canada's only option, and since the USA is no longer an ally or friend, look for some new announcements.

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    3. " ... Sending oil south is not Canada's only option ... "

      As I understand it the only "cracking towers" capable of handling that grade of crude would be nearabouts Eldorado, Augusta and Wichita Kansas.

      Pennsylvania of course has the infrastructure but then, only the New Jersey towers could handle it then - and so where to port?

      Europe as I understand it prefers LNG - & that would come [mostly] via the Bakken Shield [Wyoming mostly] - & the refinerys capable of "cracking it" are, mostly mid-section Kansas.

      I can't "know" of course but I figure El Presidente' Obama is waiting to "be forced" much like Clinton had to deal with [Republican majorities in the Congress] to green-light the KeyStone.

      (& it would be well for all of us to remember exactly where the term "KeyStone" comes from.)

      All this crap we're dealing with now is the usual Washington DC smoke and mirrors. The LNG off-shoring ports are mostly proximate to Galveston.

      Sure Canada can move the stuff west but that'll take some heavy heavy infrastructure. And I seriously doubt Canada would be up to exporting west 'cause that'd mean porting the stuff toward Archangel.

      And that wouldn't solve anything.

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    4. Energy infrastructure building is a long term game, you are correct that changes will come slowly, but they will come. Two crude oil pipelines proposed to the west one to the east already in the process. Three LNG projects on the books for the West coast more rumoured.

      Canada has always co-operated with the US as you were seen as a reliable and honest ally-no longer, we need an independent energy policy unencumbered by likes of the halfrican queen.

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  20. The latest Sate Departmant mantra:
    " O he we're the boys of State'
    We hope like our show,
    We know you're rooting for us, But now it's time to go............l

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  21. where even, some time this site sucks ass.

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  22. Some things are timeless -- go read the Retief stories by Keith Laumer (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keith_Laumer#Retief)

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  23. I got RIFed as part of the Peace Dividend back in 1995-96. Then again, had they decided my track record as a competent Hard Languages Junkie been useful and kept me, I probably would've left out of a feeling of disgrace during this administration. As I've said in other comments elsewhere, I believe that making Uganda safe for Western perversion tourists is an unworthy goal for American foreign policy--especially when the real direction of the Arab Spring and the intentions of Moscow and Beijing are clear to anyone who cares to see them.

    The charge that our diplomats "don't speak the language" is a hoary old chestnut as far as I'm concerned. It had some validity when we thought the managers of the Second Indochina War were well-equipped if they knew French (as if Viet Nam, Laos, and Cambodia didn't have their own national vernaculars--and scads of minority languages). Certainly we're poor players compared to our German counterparts, for whom proficiency in French and English is a fundamental requirement before one even thinks of trying out for their diplomatic corps. But as a language teacher myself, I think we've done a lot of catching up since the early 1960's. A couple of years back, I even wrote a scathing letter to the WashPo's David Broder over this "nobody speaks Chinese at State" complaint he ignorantly spewed out in one of his columns. We'd do a lot better if we taught some reading in these hard languages (a tougher proposition, though, with people whose first exposures are at FSI, I assure you).

    Frankly, I tip my hat to FSI's language-training program. I entered State after a number of years teaching English in Taiwan, got a serviceable knowledge of Thai from FSI (a 3/3 in Chinese got me off language probation when I entered DoS), and since leaving State have taught ESOL again as well as Elementary Chinese in schools. The language training apparatus they had at State in 1989-90 was about the best language-teaching machine I've ever seen short of a few years' immersion in a country where the language is in general use. A deep, deep wai to three Thai teachers at FSI in those years, who will remain anonymous unless they're lurking here and willing to be outed. I went from knowing nothing about the Thai language except that it existed and where it was spoken to being able to function fairly well in it when shipped to Bangkok. Much later, when teaching in Taiwan again, I found that I could still converse with Thai Guest workers and Overseas Chinese students I met there. I even translated for three Guest Workers who wandered into my wife's cousin's shop to buy watches and clocks. I'm sure there are other former FSO who can testify to lasting skills in various languages learned through FSI--and I'm also willing to bet that there are former FSO who learned a real love and appreciation for a language first learned at FSI.

    Also, while at AMCONSUL Guangzhou, I noted that almost all of the American officers there had some working knowledge of either Putonghua (Mandarin) or Cantonese--certainly the ones who had to have it for the performance of their regular duties--although I was probably the only native-born American who could write a letter in the language. I was also the "Language Officer" at post, reporting on needs and arranging for testing materials to be sent to my colleagues who needed them. Hence, my guess is that the leaked memo mentioned in our host's post was probably written to impress some political appointee in high places.

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  24. i retired from state in 2011, havent looked once in the rear view mirror. that fsi memo brought back memories, none warm and fuzzy.

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    1. Well, Anonymous, I guess my warm fuzzies for my former employer stem from the fact that I'm a languages freak. Period. I honed my Mandarin, learned Thai, gave my limited Hakka a workout, and even learned a few words of Lao, Vietnamese, Khmer, and Uighur. Working in China and in the Orderly Departure Program in Viet Nam also gave me some wonderful stories to embarrass my Leftist friends and kinfolk. On the other hand, a lot of the work gave me a profound understanding of Qoheleth's "Vanity of vanity, all is vanity!"

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