The Washington Post reports today that due to foreseen shortfalls in the number of diplomats volunteering to serve in Iraq, up to 50 foreign service officers may be “drafted” into service.
Over 10% of the diplomatic core has already served in Iraq, which “has become the largest U.S. Embassy in history.” It currently employs nearly 6000 people and has only gotten larger since its reopening in 2004, says the Post.
The “recruits” are tipped to fill positions with the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs), which were intended to be staffed by diplomats and civilians. When the relatively small State Department couldn’t muster enough employees, the Pentagon sent staff to work instead. The State Department has continued to seek volunteers for the positions, but nevertheless came up short.
The Post writes that 200-300 officers will receive written notification that they are “prime candidates” for service in Iraq, with the expectation that most, if not all, will understand they should volunteer. Exceptions will be made only for documented medical reasons. As the State Department has the right to direct the service of its employees, those who refuse to serve can be fired.
The article notes that the last diplomatic draft occurred during the Vietnam War, when 10-15 entry-level officers were sent to Vietnam four years after the first troops. In contrast, the current draft will affect in one year five times that number of experienced officers with years of service in political and economic spheres. While the article outlines the benefits awarded to foreign service officers in this hardship post, it sadly fails to mention the risks they face while serving their one-year tour. How many foreign service officers have been injured or killed in Iraq in the line of duty? Have any been kidnapped? Must they live together in a guarded compound? The psychological costs noted only hint at the physical.
Further, what impact will the draft have on morale and on the number of employees volunteering for service? Might the State Department follow the military model, keeping its recruits longer than promised and calling them back for extended tours? Will voluntary vs. involuntary service in Iraq become a litmus test within the State Department? Without further expansion, half of the department will have served in Iraq in little over a decade. Will this affect the ability to recruit talented new applicants into America’s diplomacy apparatus?
Thanks to Courtney for the link to the article.
— posted by poetloverrebelspy