We are there now, however, in a long occupation. As I write this Veteran's Day, I am saddened by how much has been sacrificed by our (mostly young) men and women in uniform, many of whom I have known, and some of whom never came home.
I am also mindful of those out of uniform -- both Afghan citizens who want a normal life and our own men and women who serve in diplomatic and development roles. According to Tom Bowman's recent reporting, they are essentially confined to barracks.
The current administration came to office in part on the basis of mischaracterizing the terrible events in Benghazi, Libya, in which four U.S. diplomats and eleven (always forgotten) Libyan colleagues were killed. That terrible event was reduced to a couple of soundbites and hashtags as it was used for political purposes, mainly by people who cared not one whit about the work of the diplomats who perished. For of course, it was many of those same people who had failed adequately to fund diplomats in general and diplomatic security in general.
|Photo: S.K. Vemmer, U.S. Department of State, from Louisa Bargaron's Keeping America Safe: Development's Role in National Security|
The administration to which they report, however, is paralyzed by its own rhetorical excesses. Those who stand ready to serve in Afghanistan are thus virtual prisoners of an overly cautious security posture that does not allow them to work freely -- even within the boundaries of secure areas, according to Bowman's reporting.
Aid and diplomacy will not make Afghanistan a safe and prosperous place in the near term -- nothing is going to do that. But hunkering down is not a viable option. The current non-strategy serves nobody well by this -- not the civilians and diplomats, nor the soldiers and marines on whom they rely.
It is becoming apparent that the marginalization of diplomats in Afghanistan may be only the starkest example of a rapidly-emerging process of hollowing out the U.S. diplomatic corps worldwide. According to recent -- and thorough -- reporting by the Washington Post, Secretary of State Tillerson is pushing hundreds of career diplomats out of their posts, replacing very few of them.