Wednesday, February 13, 2008

From Other Sites on the Line

UPDATE: A friendly commenter pointed readers at Radarsite to Digger over at, who offered a spirited attack on the Manuel Miranda memo, of which I recently commented in my post “Blistering Assessment of Foreign Service and State Department in Iraq Released”.

She likely hasn't read my post, but I find her thoughts interesting considering her background as a Foreign Service officer. She begins:

Miranda, for those who don't know, is Manuel Miranda, has been serving for the past year as the Director of the Office of Leglistative Statecraft in the Embassy in Baghdad. The memo in question was one he wrote to Ambassador Crocker. That is ended up in the press is of little surprise, since he is the same Manuel Miranda who gained access to the emails of Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee and leaked them to the Washington Times.

I suspect she believes some leaks are more important than others, which is why, rather than debate Mr. Miranda’s criticisms, she first works to undermine his credibility. I think it's very important that we hear about the work being done by our State Department in Iraq, especially considering that while the military has achieved so much, it seems our diplomatic corp has achieved so little. Here, with a chance to rebut Mr. Miranda Digger goes political, which might be symbolic of a problem when it comes to working alongside this administration to rebuild Iraq. The issue is not Mr. Miranda, it’s the competence of the State Department in Iraq.

The truth is that the State Department has far more experience than Miranda in managing multi-million dollar programs throughout the world. But Miranda seems to think highly-paid contractors rather than dedicated government servants who have experience throughout the world would be better at this mission. How offensive to those of us who have dedicated our lives to serving the country.

Manual Miranda's expertise is in management, borne of years of study and practice, and allows him to recognize particular problems when he sees them. He has outlined them specifically, Digger's educated answer is to attack the messenger with an ad hominem attack directed at his motives. Mr. Miranda never calls for highly paid contractors nor does he disparage the dedication of government servants - he merely bemoans a staffing system that offers a perpetual pool of inexperienced government servants unable to wield efficiently hundreds of millions of dollars in a constructive way.

She also insists on ignoring what Mr. Miranda writes in his introduction:

“Nothing in this assessment is intended to cast doubt on the diplomatic strengths of the Foreign Service in Iraq. Nothing in this assessment should be read as critical of the hundreds of civilian men and women, of all ages and backgrounds, who work in Iraq tirelessly and at great personal sacrifice of their careers and family lives, and the many at lower levels of internal management that support us. Although my assessment is limited to certain areas of expertise, it is applicable Embassy-wide.”

Mr. Miranda is not a hatchet man out to hurt people. He's criticizing the way things are being done.

I find it ironic that he is criticizing Foreign Service Officers for rotating out after a year when he is also leaving after a year.

I wish he had stayed as well, but I imagine that if Digger's wounded pride exemplifies the reaction of those he has to work with in Iraq, the environment must be a hostile one.

I seem to recall that it was the State Department that argued for a plan for rebuilding Iraq BEFORE we started the war, and the Secertary Rumsfeld dismissed us as feet draggers. We are now seeing the results of the lack of planning but it has somehow become the State Department's fault.

The charges brought by Miranda weren’t about pre-war planning, but about the lack of support for the GOI right now, which makes everything said after this red herring meaningless. If she wants to debate the canard that there was no plan for rebuilding Iraq considered before the war, then we can also address the State Department success at sabotaging the Iraqi National Congress or the many groups inside Iraq that sought to assist in the transfer of power from Saddam to the Iraqi people.

Again, if memory serves, we were told before this war that the U.S. was not in the business of "nation-building." Then we trumpeted the Iraqi election of a government of their own. And now the State Department is criticized for conducting the business of government-to-government relations rather than governing Iraq ourselves. The Department is not the Government of Iraq, nor should we be.

The State Department is criticized for NOT conducting the business of government to government relations, and no where does Miranda intimate that the State Department should be governing Iraq. His constructive criticism focuses on the inability of our State Department and our Foreign Service to assist the GOI through its birthing process. When we talk of the GOI not achieving the benchmarks set out, some of the responsibility for that falls on our diplomats failing to bring to this complex process some of the lessons we have learned through the vast experience Digger claims the State Department has. When Democratic leaders such as Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid talk about the surge being a failure and political progress being negligible, it's the failures of the State Department they are keying in on in an attempt to shape an argument for abandoning Iraq.

Overall, I found the memo to be pompous, partisan and, as someone who has very good friends serving in Iraq and who will no doubt serve there myself in the not so distant future, deeply offensive. It is full of the same old rhetoric about how the military is Iraq is perfect and the State Department is really just an impediment to the progress the military could make. The truth is we are part of the same team. Even Defense Secretary Gates recognizes the need for both soft power and hard power. No one blames the pitcher for not being a catcher and everyone recognizes that a baseball team needs both.

Overall, I find your response reactive rather than thoughtful, ideological rather than substantive. Never did Mr. Miranda say the military in Iraq was perfect, nor did he say the State Department is just an impediment - rather he makes the point that the State Department is under-performing in a role that is crucial, and that we ought to give it what it needs while increasing oversight on its performance in Iraq. Throughout her response I see only hurt feelings and partisan sniping, when, given her background, one would expect detailed insights into what State does and the challenges it faces. It might be, as I said earlier, that Digger's response typifies some of what many believe contributes to the lack of focus that paralyze the department.

The State Department starts from a position of supporting ‘stability’ rather than insisting upon a level of civility and human rights from countries, hewing to values that America says it represents. For this reason it’s no surprise that State was against the invasion of Iraq. But once we went in, State has a responsibility to represent the administration’s objectives. There are examples of State working to undermine this administration rather than support it, and while some disagreement between bureaucracies is expected, the level of partisanship has escalated to an extent that many Americans wonder aloud if lives are being sacrificed while the government bickers with itself. That’s me saying that - not Mr. Miranda, who has offered only his educated opinion as to why the performance in Iraq of our dedicated government servants has been substandard thus far. There should be one thing we can both agree upon - Americans do not know enough about what our State Department is doing, and I, for one, believe that we need more Mirandas speaking aloud about things that ought not be State secrets.

Published by Reuters


  1. So...the State Department was opposed to going into Iraq, knowing that turning Iraq into a stable democracy was something near impossible.

    And so after fabricating evidence to go to war, now the neoconservatives are blaming the State Department for not making sure that a doomed effort succeeds?

    For this reason it’s no surprise that State was against the invasion of Iraq. But once we went in, State has a responsibility to represent the administration’s objectives. There are examples of State working to undermine this administration rather than support it, and while some disagreement between bureaucracies is expected, the level of partisanship has escalated to an extent that many Americans wonder aloud if lives are being sacrificed while the government bickers with itself.

    Is State's job to represent the administration's objectives or to further the interests of the American people? 2/3 of the country is against this war. The administration has undone most of the Public Diplomacy efforts of State in the Islamic World from Abu Gharib and Guantanamo. And State is criticized for a failing Iraq effort?

    Senator Joe Biden, head of the foreign relations committee, knows that a stable democracy is NOT possible in Iraq. Don't blame the State Department for the failure of the administration's ideology.

    And it is perfectly legitimate to attack Miranda on political grounds. His dubious ethical qualifications remove any objectivity that can claim to be present in the memo.

    Considering that people who signed up to be Diplomats but instead VOLUNTEERED to get shot at on a PRT, this is the thanks they get? Disgusting.

    You want to blame the State Department? Why not investigate why the woman who was afraid of getting raped in going to the bathroom at night, so she died of urine poisoning?

  2. Who fabricated evidence? How high does one have to be to keep using these leftist canards? Let's try something different today Johnson - just this once - try thinking for yourself!

    If you think that the job of the State Department is to read the polls and devine the interests of the American people, then you end up with an unelected agency within government unaccountable to its citizens and unaccountable to its only oversight - the elected legislative and executive branch. You actually support unleashing a rogue agency that rule by "polls?" I can see you hate Bush. That's OK, but once you start slashing away at the foundations of our system we suffer the consequences far after President Bush leaves.

    Senator Joe Biden knows a lot of things, but his opinions are no more enlightened than Senator Coleman or Jim Demint. Frankly, I think Joe Biden is an ass of the first order, and a racist (remember his 7/11 comment?), so I expect him to undermine our work in Iraq. Splitting up Iraq is arrogance unmatched, and serves only to create the animosity for the future (haven't you doves been blaming the British for doing this when they carved out the Middle East?). There is one real hope for the Middle East - they have to learn to live together, dispense with tribalism and religious intolerance and live under a centralized government that involves voices from all of Iraq's diverse people. If that's smacks too much of the West imposing civiity on Iraq, then I guess Iraqis can just go back to murdering each other for the next thousand years.

    You can attack Mr. Miranda's ethical qualifications all you want, but judging from your inability to address his challenges I'll accept your impotence as a sign that Mr. Miranda is absolutely correct in his assessment. You bring nothing to this debate but simplistic vindictiveness.

    I suspect you haven't read the assessment, which is why your flaccid attempt to defend something you know very little about is less than amusing or constructive. Your support for insubordination within government tells me all I need to know about you - and thus proves my point that too many on the left today feel rather than think. That kind of approach will leave us less free and in more danger. Let's raise the bar - let's expect more from our dedicated government servants.

  3. I've quoted you and linked to you here: