The Tethered Goat Strategy
Thursday April 6, 2006
"The Bush administration's preferred response to increasing disintegration is to act as if it has a strategy that is succeeding. "More delusion as a solution in the absence of a solution," said a senior state department official. Under the pretence that Iraq is being pacified, the military is partially withdrawing from hostile towns in the countryside and parts of Baghdad. By reducing the number of soldiers, the administration can claim its policy is working going into the midterm elections. But the jobs the military doesn't want to perform are being sloughed off on state department "provisional reconstruction teams" (PRTs) led by foreign service officers. The rationale is that they will win Iraqi hearts-and-minds by organising civil functions.
The Pentagon has informed the state department it will not provide security for these officials and that mercenaries should be hired for protection instead. Internal state department documents listing the PRT jobs, dated March 30, reveal that the vast majority of them remain unfilled by volunteers. So the professionals are being forced to take the assignments in which "they can't do what they are being asked to do", as a senior department official told me.
Foreign service officers, as a rule, are self-abnegating in serving any administration. The state department's Intelligence and Research Bureau was correct in its scepticism before the war about Saddam Hussein's possession of WMDs, but was ignored. The department was correct in its assessment in its 17-volume Future of Iraq project about the immense effort required for reconstruction after the war, but it was disregarded. Now its reports from Iraq are correct, but their authors are being punished. Foreign service officers are to be sent out like tethered goats to the killing fields. When these misbegotten projects inevitably fail, the department will be blamed. Passive resistance to these assignments reflects anticipation of impending disaster, including the likely murder of diplomats."
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