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Iraq: A Gun At The Head of U.S. Diplomats

Last year, the State Department couldn’t fill positions in Iraq, so it threatened to conscript diplomats if it didn’t find volunteers. But people stepped up and the crisis was averted — though the acrimony remained. Now, reports Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post, the State Department has another projected personnel shortfall in Baghdad for next year’s rotation, and it’s renewing its threat:

The State Department has warned U.S. diplomats that they may be required to serve in Iraq next year if there are insufficient volunteers to fill job openings there, U.S. officials said.

The possibility of “directed assignments” was first raised last fall, when State projected a shortfall of about 50 volunteers for positions at the Baghdad embassy and other locations in Iraq in 2008. Although those jobs eventually were filled without compulsory postings, the possibility of being forced to serve in a war zone caused deep unease at State.

Get used to this again and again and again, for every year that the Iraq war persists. Not only is the diplomatic corps relatively small — about 6,500 for the entire planet, according to DeYoung — but it’s not an expeditionary force. Diplomats aren’t trained to serve in shooting wars, since wars usually herald a disruption in diplomacy. Luckily for State Department morale, when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was asked about last fall’s so-called “diplomatic revolt” (a town-hall meeting at Foggy Bottom about Iraq conscription became acrimonious) she responded thusly:

Rice said yesterday that those who attended the meeting were “self-selected” and that many of their colleagues were “absolutely offended” by their remarks. “I was deeply offended myself and deeply sorry that these people . . . went out of their way to, to my view, cast a very bad light on the Foreign Service,” she told the House committee.

Yes, from the seventh floor of a D.C. office building, Rice was offended by intemperate remarks from the people she threatened to force into a war zone. Get me a tourniquet! My heart is bleeding.

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