The United States State Department has informed its diplomats they may be required to do a tour of duty in the hell hole known as Baghdad. A similar call-up notice last year created an uproar among foreign service officers who apparently don’t want to be placed in a war situation. Unfortunately, the State Department is facing a staffing crisis. An April 8th cable revealed, “We face a growing shortage of supply and demand in the 2009 staffing cycle” which noted more than 20% of the nearly 12,000 foreign service officers already have worked in the two major hardship posts of Iraq and Afghanistan. The “prime candidate” list identifies those with special skills such as proficiency in language as individuals who most probably will go into combat, diplomatically that is.
An estimated 300 Baghdad slots will come open in May and many will be filled by “directed assignments,” which means you will go or you will not serve in the State Department. Last year the slots were filled due to the willingness of some to volunteer, but if there is a lack of sufficient volunteers, the slots are filled by forcing men and women to serve where they do not wish to serve.
Secretary of State Condi Rice told the press on Tuesday she was personaly offended by the critical comments of some diplomats who questioned the ethics of sending foreign service officers into areas they felt were life threatening. She termed their comments, which were made at an open forum held by the State Department, to “cast a very bad light on the foreign service.” Of course, Secretary Rice flies in and out of combat areas under heavy guard which is not available to the average foreign service worker. One can only wonder why she holds an open forum to solicit ideas and then becomes angry when people express their ideas.