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This is in reaction to the tragic events in Benghazi, and the comments on it.

I say this, full disclosure, as a retired career member of the U.S. Foreign Service (diplomatic) Corps.

It is standard in this country to praise the outstanding service and sacrifice of the brave and capable men and women in our military services.  It is right and proper to do this, and shameful when their service is exploited for narrow political reasons.

It is, however, standard practice to either ignore or criticize my many brave and capable colleagues and former colleagues in the diplomatic service who have also put themselves in harm's way time after time, as if their service to our country were less noble than that of the military.

Since WWII, more ambassadors have been killed in the line of duty than have flag rank officers in the military.  At the time our military was preparing to do battle with the Iraqi military in Desert Storm, several dozen diplomats were under siege in the U.S. embassy in Kuwait, unarmed and surrounded by the same Iraqi military.

We should remember the men and women who were killed by Al-Qa'ida in the 1998 bombings of our embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, the bombing of the embassy in Beirut, as well as countless other incidents that the media and politicians ignore.   We should remember that diplomats routinely serve under hardship conditions around the world without complaint, as a matter of routine and pride.

And we should honor that service, and recognize that working together with other countries in the service of peace is probably more useful than bombing them.  And sometimes just as risky.

Please.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (6+ / 0-)

    In Washington, whenever anyone does something wrong, everyone else gets punished.

    by Noziglia on Wed Sep 12, 2012 at 08:26:12 AM PDT

  •  Amen. I completely echo your comments, having (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlackSheep1

    served myself for 12 years as a Foreign Service Officers.  They put themselves in harm's way for us and deserve all our respect for their service.  

    Ultimately, the only thing that matters with respect to preserving choice is who will be nominating the next Supreme Court Justices.

    by Its the Supreme Court Stupid on Wed Sep 12, 2012 at 08:33:02 AM PDT

  •  Amen from me too (1+ / 0-)

    as someone who worked closely with Embassy staff in my various postings abroad I know firsthand how difficult and extremely dangerous the life can be.  Get a group of diplomatic types together for coffee and sometimes the stories will come out of evacuations, fears at potential evacuations and leaving pets with just your "go bag", safe rooms in your house to hunker down, earthquake kits complete with pickaxes to dig out a family member if you have to.  Or, long separations from families, some pretty shockingly dangerous incidents we all laugh about when we tell the stories later, but I assure you were not funny at the time, serious illnesses, colleagues or friends who succumbed to injuries in a motor accident, or a sudden illness in a country with lousy medical care.  It's not easy.  They deserve our thanks and appreciation.

  •  yes? (0+ / 0-)

    Am I alone in having absolutely no idea what a diplomat is or does? Seems a vague category of work, hence respecting or not respecting the work is an equally vague enterprise. Where does a diplomat go and for what purpose?

    •  Foreign Service Officers represent the (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bluebird of happiness

      interests of the United States abroad.  Political Officers  report on political events in the country back to Washington, negotiate agreements with foreign countries,  stay in touch with lovcal political leaders, report on human rightsetc (they prepare the country sections of the annual Human Right Report).  Economic/Commercial Officers report on econominc trends in the country, and assist Americans wishing to make investments there .   Administrative officers manage the embassy (which includes numerous local employees).  Consular officers issue visas,provide Americans with replacement passports, issue Birth of an American Citizen aAbroad certificates to Aermicans born aborad, asssit UScits with Social Security issues, and visit Americans incarcerated in the country.  

      These are just some of the tasks performed abroad by our diplomats.

      Ultimately, the only thing that matters with respect to preserving choice is who will be nominating the next Supreme Court Justices.

      by Its the Supreme Court Stupid on Wed Sep 12, 2012 at 10:11:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  what would be an example (0+ / 0-)

        of representing "the interests of the United States abroad"? What does that mean? What are the interests of the U.S.?

        •  They are civil servants who serve abroad (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bluebird of happiness

          as official representatives of the US to the foreign country.  All of the tasks I described are part of that.  Being the official eyes and ears and mouth of the United Staes towards the host government.  The interests of the US are policy choices which, ultimately are determined by the State Department and the President.  

          Ultimately, the only thing that matters with respect to preserving choice is who will be nominating the next Supreme Court Justices.

          by Its the Supreme Court Stupid on Wed Sep 12, 2012 at 11:48:58 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  The quick answer (2+ / 0-)

          given in any international relations class is:

          The interests of the U.S. are whatever we (i.e. the President) say they are.

          Sometimes, this means explaining and promoting the ideas that America stands for, and that advance America's security and prosperity, such as democracy, freedom, tolerance, free enterprise, international cooperation, the rule of law, etc.

          Sometimes, the interests are far more specific, such as keeping the Straight of Hormuz open to shipping the oil we import, preventing intellectual piracy, and much more.

          Often, way more often than the media has the patience to explain, this means balancing competing interests, such as stability vs. self-government.

          Very often, doing what seems the right thing can later bite us on the ass, as in the case of arming and then abandoning those who fought against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

          And that, believe it or not, really is the far too quick answer.

          In Washington, whenever anyone does something wrong, everyone else gets punished.

          by Noziglia on Wed Sep 12, 2012 at 11:59:50 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  thanks (0+ / 0-)

            Although that's kind of unfortunate (the quick answer part) because it is quite vague - your answer is the more specific of the two offered here, which I appreciate.

            The scope of the "long" answer is probably such that most people ("average" U.S. citizens going about our lives) are going to have absolutely no clue at all.

            Reading between the lines, I might imagine that "U.S. interests" means paving the way for U.S.-owned businesses to operate in other countries, or for obtaining access to foreign natural resources. But beyond that, I could not hazard a guess. Vaguely about law, vaguely about money, vaguely about public relations. Why would this become life-threatening? And if it is, what should that tell me about what the U.S. is trying to do, or about U.S. "security" in general?

            I don't think it's that the media doesn't have the "patience" to explain or report on what happens Out There. Most of what passes for "news" on TV is sensationalized violence, hand-wringing, tsk-tsking, name-calling, etc. I assume the news is intentionally made as vacuous as possible so that the "average" citizen will be discouraged from thinking about what might be going on beyond our borders, presumably because if we knew we might object. Engagement with the political process appears to be actively discouraged.

            If I want to learn what's happening in the world, I need to consult multiple news outlets from both inside and outside of the country, and try to decide for myself what the reports might mean. It's a task that requires time and effort. It is not that easy to be "informed;" there is no one-stop shopping for information. Everyone has an angle, and everyone is trying to blow smoke up somebody's ass. At the end of the day, what is beyond my reach becomes a waste of mental real estate - if I can't use the information directly, why do I need it?

            But because the diarist raises the issue of lack of respect, and because I believe any negative public opinion may instead be due to lack of knowledge, I wonder if it is simply a reflection of being too close to the situation to realize how far others are from it. Anyone in any profession knows his or her work from the inside, while those in other fields remain oblivious and often indifferent.

            •  It's complicated (0+ / 0-)

              is an excuse used too often to avoid the subject, and you are right about that.  If it seemed I was doing that, it is my failure and not yours.

              To an extent, the vagueness of my posting is a reflection of the vagueness of the reality, but there is also a great deal of very specific work that diplomats do.

              You mentioned the promotion of American businesses overseas.  While there is some -- too much -- exploitation of resources, including human resources (outsourcing), there is also a great deal of work promoting sales of American products, which is important in creating jobs in this country.  This can be direct and specific, but can also involve helping lawmakers understand and enact laws on intellectual property protection, tort process, trade and tariffs, corruption, and much more.

              I can also mention a function called citizen services, which means helping American tourists and other travelers who get in trouble in other countries.  Unlike what is depicted in many movies, our embassies spend a great deal of time and resources on this function.  It includes providing advice and contact with local advocates to those who are in trouble with the law (sometimes including bringing meals, toothpaste, and other supplies to those in foreign jails).  It also includes helping Americans who have been the victims of crimes, including robbery.  I remember helping a young American student who had been mugged in New Delhi.  We provided him a new passport, replacement tickets home, and even a small cash loan so that he could eat and pay his hotel bill.  That's not a small thing, but it is ignored by most Americans -- until they are grateful it exists.

              However, some of the more vague functions of what we do are also quite useful.  It is important, in dealing with others, if we are not just bullies, to understand why they are doing what they do.  That does not mean we accept their actions as valid, but it does help us deal with them, persuade them, in some cases, over the long term, help them become allies.  There really is very little specific we can say about what this involves, as it is long-term, subtle, and complex, involving as much give as take, but it is important.

              And impossible for bullies like Nomney and the Bushies to comprehend.

              In Washington, whenever anyone does something wrong, everyone else gets punished.

              by Noziglia on Thu Sep 13, 2012 at 08:20:07 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Respect (0+ / 0-)

              I thought your final paragraph deserved a separate reply.

              While I can regret the lack of understanding and respect for my profession and my colleagues on the part of average Americans, I can, for many of the reasons you mentioned, understand it.

              The outrage behind my posting was not in response to that, but rather to the abuse and ignorance of the Foreign Service on the part of politicians and journalists who should know better.

              The casual, frequent insults to the Foreign Service, and to all government employees, by Republicans -- and this is yet another example of the fact that "both sides" do NOT do this -- is an outrage.  Especially when members of this service have just been killed in the course of doing their jobs.  The acceptance of this outrage by people who are supposed to be journalists, and who are the beneficiaries of many of the services -- and others -- mentioned in my previous comment, is just disgusting.

              It is not just a disservice to these people.  It is a disservice to America.

              On this, all who read these postings can agree.

              In Washington, whenever anyone does something wrong, everyone else gets punished.

              by Noziglia on Thu Sep 13, 2012 at 08:29:31 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  thanks for bearing with me (0+ / 0-)

                I realized after the fact that I was having an ADHD moment and completely missed that you are the diarist. In addition to gaps in my ability to grasp what is right in front of me, there is a lot going on out there that I have no conceptual framework for understanding. I apologize for being so obtuse. The book you mention sounds interesting and is now on my reading list.

                As for your frustration with unpleasant or dismissive attitudes from within the Republican Party, I suspect most people who are not blinded by right-wing talking points know that the Republicans will take any advantage they can conjure during a campaign season. Doesn't make it any less offensive, particularly in the wake of the killings in Libya (who knows what that's really about - whatever the case, even I know it ain't about a movie).

      •  You left out one (3+ / 0-)

        which is what I was:

        Public Affairs, which:

        -- maintains contacts with journalists and other opinion leaders, distributes press releases, articles, books, and other information of all types about American history, society, culture, politics and government policy.

        -- operates professional-level libraries and research centers where scholars, students, and other can learn about the above, or whatever they want.

        -- runs scholarship, fellowship, and other grants program (including Fulbright grants) for scholars, professionals, and leaders to visit the U.S. for anything from two weeks to two years to study their field of interest and experience America first-hand.

        -- manages visits from American scholars to give talks on a wide range of topics, as well as tours of American performing artists to display the best of American arts and culture.

        It used to be USIA before Madeline Albright made a deal with the devil named Jesse Helms to abolish the Agency and make its functions part of the State Department.  This, IMHO, was a disaster that should be reversed if we ever do begin to address the real conflict now mistakenly called the War on Terror.

        In Washington, whenever anyone does something wrong, everyone else gets punished.

        by Noziglia on Wed Sep 12, 2012 at 11:46:39 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Sorry. I left before USIA was assimilated into (0+ / 0-)

          the collective (althought my first Ambassador was previously the acting Director of the Agency, so he taught me to respect the agency and its work.  He is probably reprimanding me as I type)  I just forgot about them.  My bad.

          Ultimately, the only thing that matters with respect to preserving choice is who will be nominating the next Supreme Court Justices.

          by Its the Supreme Court Stupid on Wed Sep 12, 2012 at 11:52:17 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  You left out: (0+ / 0-)

        what I was:

        Public Affairs, which:

        -- maintains contacts with journalists and other opinion leaders, distributes press releases, articles, books, and other information of all types about American history, society, culture, politics and government policy.

        -- operates professional-level libraries and research centers where scholars, students, and other can learn about the above, or whatever they want.

        -- runs scholarship, fellowship, and other grants program (including Fulbright grants) for scholars, professionals, and leaders to visit the U.S. for anything from two weeks to two years to study their field of interest and experience America first-hand.

        -- manages visits from American scholars to give talks on a wide range of topics, as well as tours of American performing artists to display the best of American arts and culture.

        It used to be USIA before Madeline Albright made a deal with the devil named Jesse Helms to abolish the Agency and make its functions part of the State Department.  This, IMHO, was a disaster that should be reversed if we ever do begin to address the real conflict now mistakenly called the War on Terror.

        In Washington, whenever anyone does something wrong, everyone else gets punished.

        by Noziglia on Wed Sep 12, 2012 at 11:47:35 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  A good book (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bluebird of happiness

      If you want to know more, a good book written to explain what an embassy does is called Inside a U.S. Embassy: How the Foreign Service Works for America

      http://www.amazon.com/...

  •  Joe Biden speaking to this (1+ / 0-)

    excerpt from MSNBC (Mrs. Greenspan wouldn't show the whole of his remarks). He sounds as genuine, as grave, and as heart-hurt as our President.

    LBJ, Lady Bird, Anne Richards, Barbara Jordan, Sully Sullenberger, Ike, Drew Brees, Molly Ivins --Texas is no Bush league! -7.50,-5.59

    by BlackSheep1 on Wed Sep 12, 2012 at 10:23:52 AM PDT

  •  Thank you for spreading the word. (1+ / 0-)

    So many great aspects to the life, but so many risks and challenges as well.

    Dreidlgirl in Moscow
    15 years as a Foreign Service Spouse

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