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Foreign Service ‘Simply Not Up To The Task’ of Iraq?

ABC News reports that a GOP apparatchik who works in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has penned a scathing memo saying the State Department bureaucratic culture is "simply not up to the task" of Iraq. Read the memo. It really is scathing.

The question is whether it’s accurate. Its author, Miguel Manuel Miranda — yeah, that guy — exhibits palpable frustration with the State Department for not forcing the Iraqi government to break its intransigence. "Since [the Coalition Provisional Authority] there has been no concerted effort in the Embassy to support legislative reform in any manner, let alone a qualified and concerted manner," he writes to Ambassador Ryan Crocker. "The last thing we need in Baghdad is more Foreign Service officers. We need experts, experienced human capital managers, and leaders who can think outside the box to synchronize staffing, funding and urgent needs."

And, you know, maybe that would help. But Miranda’s assumption is that if only the State Department were more competent, Iraq’s political system would no longer be dysfunctional or sectarian or incompetent itself. That neglects every long-term and systemic problem with post-Saddam Iraq. The most competent State Department imaginable would still face those perhaps-insurmountable obstacles. Remember the lesson of The Wire : systems are what matter when answering the question, "Why is this place so messed up?" To do otherwise is to peddle scapegoats.

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