State Department to Force Diplomats to Serve in Iraq

November 09, 2007 11:30 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The State Department plans an ultimatum for experienced Arabic-speaking diplomats reluctant to accept posts in Iraq: take the job or resign. Foreign service officers weigh career ambitions and duty against safety concerns for themselves and their families.

30-Second Summary

Anticipating a difficulty finding volunteers to fill posts in Iraq, the State Department announced on the week of Oct. 29 that if a personnel shortage arises, it will force diplomats to fill the vacant positions or to submit their resignations.

Between 200 and 300 diplomats are thought to have the target qualifications for 48 posts at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the provincial reconstruction teams in Iraq.

The proposed ultimatum, should it be imposed, will represent the largest diplomatic call-up of its kind since 1969, when State Department employees were reluctant to accept posts in Vietnam.

Foreign service officers decry the personnel move. One high-ranking diplomat claimed during an Oct. 31 town hall meeting in Washington that serving in Iraq is tantamount to “a death sentence.”

Other diplomats condemn such dissent, pointing out that a career with the foreign service means committing to worldwide availability, regardless of concerns for personal safety.

This is not the first wave of protest among diplomats over U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. In late 2002 and early 2003, during the lead-up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, three top diplomats resigned because of their unease with the administration’s line.

According to The New York Times, “The reluctance of some foreign service employees to go to Iraq highlights a problem with the administration’s overall strategy for Iraq."

Headline Links: Diplomats may have no choice about serving in Iraq

Reactions: Town hall meeting stirs up emotions

Debate over Service in Iraq Turns Bitter

History: A precedent for diplomatic dissent over Iraq

Key People: John Brady Kiesling

Opinion & Analysis: Examining the meaning of ‘worldwide service’

Reference Material: A day in the life of a diplomat


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