Commentary: Letter to McClatchy DC Editors

Dear Messrs. Walcott and Strobel:

In his July 21 McClatchy article, "State Department Planning to Field a Small Army in Iraq," Warren Strobel repeated the old canard that "...this is no longer just the foreign service officer standing in the canape line, and the military out in the field." He added the line: "The State Department, better known for negotiating treaties and delivering diplomatic notes, will have to fend for itself in what remains an active danger zone." These are particularly egregious statements that fly in the face of heroic service in recent years by thousands of — often unarmed — Foreign Service personnel in danger posts around the world. Strobel's use of the term "army" is also wildly innacurate; State is planning for some hundreds of new security personnel, a far cry from the nearly 40,000 soldiers that comprise an "army" in the US military.

Recent history has repeatedly proved that Mr. Strobel's strong implication -- that career Foreign Service "diplomatic security" personnel who work in war zones are too weak and unprepared to effectively ensure security for American diplomatic missions -- is balderdash. Does he also impugn the professionalism of our military and intelligence service professionals for some of their admitted shortcomings?

AFSA, as the sole representative of the some 12,600 foreign Service personnel around the globe, thinks these canards are especially inappropriate when nearly 1,500 Foreign Service members have volunteered to serve unarmed in the Iraq war zone, as well as hundreds of Foreign Service volunteers in Afghanistan, carrying out the administration's main foreign policy efforts side by side with the military. Mr. Strobel's gratuitous slurs are unworthy. He disparages thousands of courageous people who serve their country in the most difficult and dangerous places -- and who take a 21 percent base pay cut for the privilege of leaving Washington to do so.

Susan R. Johnson


American Foreign Service Association (AFSA)