Monday, December 12, 2005

You should get out more

I followed a link on Andrew Sullivan’s blog to Julian Barnes’ blog (US News & World Report), and read about activities of one of the units that replaced us. Barnes wrote about how the 101st soldiers seemed to have a better grasp of the area than preceding units, i.e., my unit. I don’t recall him spending time with us so I don’t know upon what he bases this opinion, but it may well be true. The 101st has been there before, and that experience has to help.

It got me thinking about information flow. The military gets out and about and mixes with Iraqis, and I suppose the CIA does too, and these agencies report up the chain to the national security decision makers. The group that doesn’t get out is the State Department employees.

Kirkuk had a Regional Embassy Office, and the State Dept employees stayed there in a secured compound. Sometimes they’d come to our FOB, but more often we’d go there to meet with them. Iraqis would also go there for meetings, after passing through security of course.

However, the SD folks would seldom if ever go out and meet with Sheiks or muktars, or just rub shoulders with Iraqis. I didn’t hang around the State Dept at all, but a colonel who went there at least weekly told me about this. When the SD employees would seek to leave the compound, they’d have to get it cleared through Baghdad, and Baghdad would never give permission. The word always was, too dangerous.

There was danger, but it wasn’t that bad, and precautions can be taken. The denial was based on the recommendation of the SD’s security group, Blackwater Security. Of course, Blackwater’s job is to avoid injury to its protectees. If anyone gets hurt, Blackwater looks bad, so they recommend against risky behavior. Naturally. The SD types, according to the colonel, seemed pretty uninterested in leaving the compound anyway. He said that the SD employees just seemed interested in getting their ticket punched as having had an Iraq tour, and then getting out of there safely.

All of this is understandable behavior, and I’m not criticizing it. SD employees are civilians, not soldiers, and can’t be expected to risk their lives more than necessary. I just think that the SD recommendations are probably not as well informed as they could be because of their isolation. And, a great many political decisions defaulted to the military leaders


David M said...

That sir, is in my opinion the main reason we have so many failed policies come out of Foggy Bottom. And yes, you know as well as I that the SD makes and implements policy, just look at their current track record of creating policy contrary to the Presidents directive. In my opinion State should be there after the dust settles and then only to promote US interests not coddle the locals and promote their interests over ours. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.