Let's Get Rid of the State Department Refuseniks

Diplomats represented by a union?

That sense of shock and awe you are feeling at that idea is natural.  It may even be particularly shocking to the millions of hard working American union members who have served in the armed services and would answer America’s call to service again if called upon.

What is truly shocking is a union representing American diplomats declaring that, "Directed assignments of unarmed Foreign Service members into the war zone in Iraq would be detrimental to the individual, to the post, and to the Foreign Service as a whole."  

What the American Foreign Service Association ("AFSA") forgot to mention is what is good for America.

All diplomats, as a condition of employment, must agree to be deployed anywhere in the world, at any time, for whatever reason.  According to the AFSA, 68% of Foreign Service officers ("FSOs") "oppose directed assignments to Iraq."  Put more bluntly, 68% oppose fulfilling the oath they took when the American taxpayer hired them.  Couple these numbers and the statement above with the bureaucratic monstrosity the Department has become, and one thing becomes clear.  The Department of State is broken, and in a time of war, we cannot afford a broken diplomatic corps.  This makes Congressional oversight and genuine reform vital.

To begin, I have a suggestion for that 68% I mentioned before — Resign!  If you cannot fulfill your oath or feel it is wrong to be deployed to Iraq, resign.  Stop passively hampering the war effort and poisoning the well and just leave.  That is the honorable thing to do.

A second suggestion requires an historical perspective. From 1781 through the beginning of the Civil War in 1860, the Department of State went from 14 employees to a little over 300.  From the founding of the Republic up to the First World War, the ratio of State Department employees serving overseas to those serving in the United States was as high as 10 to 1.  In 1997, there were 15,506 employees, of which 9,416 served in the United States.  In other words, the Department has gone from 1 employee at home for every 10 deployed overseas, to 61% of State Department employees serving in the US.  Both in total number and location, this is unacceptable and detrimental to the Republic. While we would all agree that Washington could improve its relations with its own citizens, this is a bit excessive.

Only the federal government would presume that this country needs 9,416 people inside the United States to implement FOREIGN policy. If the most recent episode of bureaucratic mutiny at the State Department teaches us anything, it is that the Department needs to clean house.

It can start by identifying those FSOs who wish to fulfill their oaths and deploy them overseas immediately.  Congress can aid the process of transformation by using the power of the purse and demanding results.

We can stop the knee jerk budget increases and return the orientation of the Department to its proper mission.  A leaner and, judging from this latest episode, meaner, Department of State is vital to succeeding in a post 9/11 diplomatic world.

The third suggestion is one that my friend Duncan Hunter has come up with.  It involves utilizing the talents of a well-trained, highly motivated, all-volunteer, experienced, and professional force to implement foreign policy, and I am not talking about the Foreign
Service.  There are thousands of military veterans whose real world experience in the region would be a tremendous asset to our nation.  Specifically, there are thousands who have been wounded in action who should be offered the opportunity to serve their nation in a different capacity.  They stepped forward once.  Many would again. These patriots may be America’s best diplomatic hope.

If anyone can rebuild America’s image in the Middle East and around the world, it is those who have been willing to risk life and limb.  As a bonus, being members of America’s new diplomatic corps would mean they would finally be appropriately rewarded for their service.  We all know riches are not the reason millions serve, but wounded warriors deserve more than America can repay.  A job that is safer, where the housing and the pay is better, and where they can still serve the nation would be a start.

Our federal government is in need of serious institutional reform.  This incident crystallizes our understanding. For those who believe diplomacy must save us from future conflict, this fight is your fight.  For those who believe that the federal government is too big, too costly, and too invasive, this is your fight.  For those who believe the State Department has become a bloated debating society, this fight is your fight.  For those who believe we must be forward thinking and innovative in a post 9/11 world, this is your fight.

For those who believe we must protect bureaucrats and unions, this is not your fight.

We will see what side the Democrat Party comes down on.