Archive for April 2010
The Oral Assessment to become an U.S. diplomat has a section called the Structured Interview in which Department of State assessors ask about your experience and motivation for joining the Foreign Service. They also ask you about how you would act in hypothetical scenarios at an embassy.
The NDA (non-disclosure agreement) prevents applicants from talking about specific examples. However the HD brings you exclusive information: to prepare for potential hypothetical scenarios, imagine the quote from the movie Speed:
Howard Payne (Dennis Hopper): ”Pop quiz, hotshot. There’s a bomb on a bus. Once the bus goes 50 miles an hour, the bomb is armed. If it drops below 50, it blows up. What do you do? What do you do?”
So it’s pretty much like that.
The HD’s Afghan source relays this information (a bit outdated): “Whilst we are eradicating poppy fields in Hellmand, British farmers can’t have enough it, over 10,000 hectares of land in Oxfordshire andNorthamptonshire is dedicated for growing poppy this year because of shortage of morphine in the National Health Service UK.
A Scottish pharmaceutical company called Macfarlan Smith has an exclusive contract from the home office to grow poppy in the UK. under freedom of information act you can ask MS to provide you to full account of poppy growing in the UK.”
The previous post has generated some chatter on the wires so the HD is posting the best response from an Irish source:
“In reply to a recent post “Newspaper Criticizes State Department for HAVING A GOOD TIME!” a little perspective would go a long way Before your time in my country a high ranking government official spent 1000′s of Euro of tax payers money to fly across this tiny country to open an off-licence. $300,000 for whiskey, I’d say the Irish government run that sort of bill on an idle Tuesday.
Have a good day.”
The conservative Washington Times unjustly attacked the State Department on Tax Day for its liquor expenditures. The HD always welcomes political viewpoints of all stripes but this was clearly just a partisan attack on America’s drunk diplomats. Both liberals and conservatives can agree that alcohol fuels peace and security in crisis situations and that America’s diplomats need a little Jack Daniels to achieve America’s foreign policy goals around the world.
Do you think Henry Kissinger was able to achieve an opening with China in the 1970s without several Mai Tais?
Ask yourself, was Viscount Castlereagh, Prince von Metternich, Cardinal Richelieu, or Otto von Bismarck able to accomplish what they did in life without copious amounts of alcohol?
Shame on you, Washington Times for this unjust cheap shot.
My deepest diplomatic apologies as blogging will be light in the next few days. The Hybrid Diplomat has been summoned by the powers that be to an undisclosed location for an undisclosed amount of time. I will try to write when I can (if technology permits), and especially when heads of state and notable academics request HD counsel.
In the meantime, I suggest you check the blogs on the right. As always, the HD can neither confirm nor deny any relationship, whether personal or professional, to any of the fellow bloggers.
As President Obama has set a deadline (I like deadlines; I love the whooshing sound they make as they fly by) to withdraw troops from Afghanistan beginning in July 2011, analysts are beginning to examine the power vacuum that might exist in the region. Foreign Affairs magazine looks at the emerging Afghan-Chinese relationship HERE.
Astute readers will also recall Robert Kaplan’s piece regarding China-US interest convergence in Afghanistan back in October HERE.
Select Kaplan quote:
“Everyone keeps saying that America is not an empire, but our military finds itself in the sort of situation that was mighty familiar to empires like that of ancient Rome and 19th-century Britain: struggling in a far-off corner of the world to exact revenge, to put down the fires of rebellion, and to restore civilized order. Meanwhile, other rising and resurgent powers wait patiently in the wings, free-riding on the public good we offer. This is exactly how an empire declines, by allowing others to take advantage of its own exertions.
Of course, one could make an excellent case that an ignominious withdrawal from Afghanistan is precisely what would lead to our decline, by demoralizing our military, signaling to our friends worldwide that we cannot be counted on and demonstrating that our enemies have greater resolve than we do. That is why we have no choice in Afghanistan but to add troops and continue to fight.
But as much as we hone our counterinsurgency skills and develop assets for the “long war,” history would suggest that over time we can more easily preserve our standing in the world by using naval and air power from a distance when intervening abroad. Afghanistan should be the very last place where we are a land-based meddler, caught up in internal Islamic conflict, helping the strategic ambitions of the Chinese and others.”
SCATHING: “MILITARY: Troops exchange weapons for pens for lesson in geopolitics”
In what internet analysts are already calling a *shocking* blow to the once powerful blogger over at Automatic Ballpoint, comes this story out of Camp Pendleton. Automatic weapons will always remain important. Indeed, the United States will remain the DOMINANT land, air (especially), and sea power for generations to come. If we are going to remain TOP DAWG as the HD often likes to refer to any hegemonic power in history, we are going to need to have a stronger population centric, America as friend approach rather than the shoot ‘em up, kick ass domination that has suited us so well in the past.
As a Pakistani diplomat observed, “When a child is killed in a [Pashtun] village, that village is lost for 100 years.”
So check out the posts over at Automatic Ballpoint as well as some David Kilcullen counterinsurgency over at the Road to Academia HERE and HERE . As always, the Hybrid Diplomat can neither confirm nor deny any association, whether personal or professional, to these great bloggers.
“Each company, each platoon, and each Marine is the instrument of national power,” said Professor Russell Burgos, an expert in Middle East military security. “Whatever you do in the places you visit will be what the people in those regions know about the U.S.”
“In the past, we may have not paid as much thought to the political and cultural aspects of the countries we might visit and not been as aware of the background of the people we interact with,” said Lt. Col. Todd Oneto, 47, a pilot with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165.
Retired Rear Adm. Stephen Loeffler, who provided an overview of Indonesia, stressed that any humanitarian and civil affairs projects the troops take part in can have profound consequences.
“It can literally change the entire dynamics of a region,” he said. “You are the ambassadors of the Marine Corps, the military and for the entire country.”
Tonight’s late night reading features:
The Hybrid Diplomacy ALWAYS welcomes insights, festive banter, and especially critical analysis in the comments section. Whenever someone calls out the HD for his sweeping overgeneralizations and/or major lapses in judgement (or compliments him on his ASTUTE analysis), he or she will be placed in the running for the COVETED prize of Comment of the Day.
As there were two AMAZING comments today, a committee was set up in true diplomatic fashion among the HD’s closest confidants and determined JUHA to have the Comment of the Day:
“While freedom of speech is an important right, the bulwark against fascism and just generally a good thing, it is however, not an absolute right, and never has been. There is a normative framework in place dictating what you can say and what you can’t, and there are certain things that simply do not fall into the category of freedom of speech.
The Islam debate is certainly one of those avenues of public debate that doesn’t necessarily need government regulation, but it cannot be unregulated either. There are views that are simply unacceptable in a liberal democracy, and do not fall within the category of freedom of speech. People definitely should be entitled to their views, but espousing them publically should not be an absolute right.
Wilders’ hate speech is a prime example of how certain people try to have their cake and eat it too. He has no problems banning the Quran and isolating Islamist movements from exercising their rights when it comes to freedom of speech (it’s not necessarily a bad thing). But then to turn around and play the freedom of speech martyr card? To use a colloquial expression, “Bitch, please.”” (Emphasis mine because that was legendary).
Tariq Ramadan has finally been allowed to enter the United States for the debate he so desperately desires. The HD heard the good sir speak at the London School of Economics and Political Science (the HD can neither confirm nor deny any affiliation with this educational institution. It was a public lecture) back in October where he argued for the necessity of respectful debate between the opposing ideological viewpoints.
The government move to ban people from entering countries based soley on ideological views (example: Geert Wilders to the UK and previously Tariq Ramadan to the US) is troubling. We need to have the debate.
BUT the US will allow him to enter the US, but the Chronicle won’t even let us read the article without a subscription!!!!!
First Freedom of FDR’s Four Freedoms that should be enjoyed by people “everywhere in the world”:
1. Freedom of speech and expression
First Freedom of the Hybrid Diplomat:
1. Letting us read articles on the Internet for free
The Hybrid Diplomat does his best to obtain critical analysis from those close to political action and elites around the world. So when New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof decided to make a big show of his Zimbabwe column, the HD had the article wired to his CLOSEST Zimbabwean source in Zimbabwe. So rather than reading the words of a man who only spent a few days in Zimbabwe, the HD tries to bring you the perspectives of people who have spent their whole lives in a country. His point by point response, below, is rather SCATHING (Read the Kristof column first):
“Start by asking asking people whether or not things were better before or after independence and then pause. The counterintuitive answer you will most certainly get will allow you to purge any form of historical racial guilt that your reader might have. Ignore the fact that people will almost always tell you what you want to hear, especially if you are white, but remember more important than anything keep it simple.
Then talk about how dangerous it is to be found “committing journalism” in Zimbabwe, but tell stories about how you have snuck in and out of unnamed villages (in a discreet four by four of course). Don’t forget to describe the villages as made up of mud huts. That should really draw the attention to the misery these people have suffered under this oppressive regime. Draw attention to the bon sauvage battles the natives have with elephants.(Now would almost be a good time to mention re-legalising the ivory trade: but remember your audience they are after all very sensitive to the plight of black man and elephant alike. Besides they probably don’t want to have to think about anything too complicated as the CITES treaty and all that: remember keep it simple!
Now get back to the poverty: Talk about the precipitous decline of this once thriving country since the whites were kicked out in 1980 but give your facts of decline from 1990, too much nuance would ruin your report.
Talk about the schools and the healthcare and how they have declines.
Now might be a good time to mention Rhodesia again. This particular school was built during Rhodesia, and was probably more efficiently run, but possibly not as well as the segregated schools, but we had better not mention that?
Now talk about how much you love the country, its pretty much one of your favourites, the scenery, the animals, and the people, don’t forget the people, just magical! Big smiles.
End it with a bold political statement about how political pressure ended Rhodesia, you might want to forget the brutal bloody war that the current dictatorship had to wage against the Rhodesian regime, and ignore the tacit as well as overt military support that the regime got from the western states: but that was a different time, a simpler time when the quaint issues of racial discrimination and a ten year bush war.
Ah, kids say the darndest things: Zimbabwe, a brutal bloody dictatorship for the whole family.
The point is it is complicated, so on one hand when you have the Harare Herald writing absolute crap about american imperialist interests in Zimbabwe (they even busted on michelle obama the other day, seriously!). It doesn’t help to get trite simplistic articles in the New York Times.”
Well said, the rise of the commentator (Kristof) over the specialist (my source) in international affairs is troubling.
And for all those who want to learn “How to Write about Africa”.
ADDED: The good sir has just released another column. I’ll leave you to read it. The HD must attend to diplomatic business and ensure the world is running smoothly.
Language proficiency. From the article: “There is no substitute,” said the multilingual Negroponte, “for recruiting, training, deploying, retaining and retraining,” officers in languages and geography so they “develop the contacts, the knowledge, the insight, the local and area expertise” needed to help develop America’s foreign policy.
Nearly HALF of diplomats in Iraq and THREE QUARTERS of diplomats in Afghanistan couldn’t follow Kurt Ahmed’s advice even if they wanted to!!! “In Iraq, 57 percent of Foreign Service officers lack sufficient language skills. Afghanistan trails far behind, with 73 percent unable to directly communicate with the country’s people.”
“State’s diplomatic readiness remains at risk.”
People, especially diplomats, respond to incentives and if we’re “in it to win it” in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, we need to develop a cadre of specialized linguists much in the same way as we did in Russian and Eastern European languages during the Cold War. We’re in the “Long War” now and we need to start adopting a strategy that is long-term (think multiple decades) rather than focusing on the year to year band aid remedies. Diplomats, civilians, and soldiers need to speak the language(s) of the countries we are trying to win the population in. Intensive language study for multiple years should be a part of career pre-deployment training. Once deployed, we need them committed to these countries for multiple years, preferably decades.
OR, if local populations were willing, “It seems that flooding Afghanistan with English learning materials would be in everyone’s best interest.” English is the lingua franca of business, mathematics, and science…
Many years ago, when the Hybrid Diplomat was living abroad, he’d just say what he wanted in English. If they didn’t understand, he’d just say it louder in English. Just kidding, the Hybrid Diplomat speaks a dozen languages, knows every local custom, he blends in, disappears, you might never see him again. (Hat tip: Indiana Jones)
Marcus Brody: Uhhh, does anyone here speak English?
Counterinsurgency is THE buzz word nowadays in certain military cirlces. How can the diplomat remain relevant? Read Kurt Amend’s “Counterinsurgency Principles for the Diplomat” in the Small Wars Journal and follow his instructions!!!!! Kurt Amend is the REAL DEAL having served in Afghanistan, India, Kosovo, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Tajikistan and speaks German, Russian, Hindi, Arabic, Urdu, and Farsi.
Two points worth noting in the article: 1)”Armed with a comprehensive political strategy, fluent in the history and workings of a province, and inclined to help shape desired politicaloutcomes, the diplomat’s effectiveness will be enhanced considerably if he spends every possiblewaking hour with local leaders, officials, and residents.”
And the historical perspective: 2) “Learn all you can about your Ashraf and Bedu. Get to know their families, clans and tribes, friends and enemies, wells, hills and roads.” -T. E. Lawrence, “The 27 Lessons of T.E. Lawrence,” The Arab Bulletin, August 20, 1917.
As one source close to the Hybrid Diplomat commented, “I hope they catch every one of these selfish jerks. Our citizens put their lives on the line every day to collect that information and when some jerk decides to compromise it, I think they should use the harshest punishment possible. It absolutely disgusts me.”
Wow, tell me how you really feel! Well said though, and exactly on the money.
and those destined for the upper echelons of government in general: Sometimes the biggest barrier to serving your country is obtaining the all-important Security Clearance (examples: Secret, Top Secret, Sensitive Compartmented Information, and Special Access Programs). If you have to ask, the Hybrid Diplomat has the Animal House Double Secret Probation Edition Security Clearance which allows for the viewing of classified material across national governments and alien overlords.
For all those worried about their past devious mischief, drug use, finances, personal conduct, foreign influence and preference, or even all of the above, THERE IS HOPE!!! Read through some of the cases if you’re concerned about your own clearance prospects. One example is that often times clearances are denied based on finances as the powers that be are concerned that once hired you would be susceptible to selling off classified information to your foreign rellies to pay off your debts. And DoD’s clearance process is apparently stricter than the Department of State’s…
LATE NIGHT ADDITION: Extremely close source (code name: *** ****) to the HD has alerted me to the Yankee White background check: “these clearances require that cleared personnel not be and not have been married to a person of foreign descent and not to have traveled to countries unfriendly to the U.S.” (Citation Needed: 5th paragraph)
After being pestered by numerous heads of state, presidents, prime ministers, policy makers, ambassadors, generals, and even receiving a phone call LATE last night from the Doctor of Diplomacy himself, HYBRID DIPLOMACY is go for launch!
Although the Hybrid Diplomat has historically relied on more discreet channels of communicating his message to the political elites, the time has come for the message to be available to the public. I will be blogging on all things diplomacy from an Anglo-American-Irish perspective, and maybe a few other cheeky perspectives as well. I welcome your comments as long as they adhere to the Hybrid Diplomacy Rule (Derived from the Chatham House Rule):
“When a blog post, or part thereof, is posted under the Hybrid Diplomacy Rule, readers and commenters are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the author may be revealed”.
Many thanks in advance as always!
The Hybrid Diplomat