The Foreign Service Journal, February 2011

F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 1 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 7 Remembering Counterinsurgency In a perfect world, Patricia Thom- son’s recommendations for recruiting the “best and the brightest” for Provincial Reconstruction Teams would be taken to heart (November Speaking Out, “Making Provincial Re- construction Teams More Effective”). When I was a first-tour FSO, my recruitment for the Civil Operations and Rural Development Support pro- gram, where I served from 1969 to 1971, came in the form of a telegram assigning me to the pacification effort. The cable also informed me that in order to make the next training cycle at the Foreign Service Institute’s Viet- nam Training Center, I would have to leave post in about 10 days. As a young FSO, I probably had few of the management skills Thom- son also found lacking in the more senior officers who typically lead the PRTs in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our province senior adviser in Vietnam was a senior FSO, but not the corpo- rate-style manager Thomson de- scribes. Even so, under his leader- ship we moved some 18,000 refugees out of camps and back into their homes. The key to success in my dis- trict, and I suspect in any counterin- surgency setting, was the provision of physical security for the people. I believe that Thompson describes the perfect PRT-man in her article. But I am not sure every PRT officer needs to be nearly as perfect as she de- scribes. That said, there should be a national campaign plan (as in Viet- nam), which those stationed in the provinces would implement as well as they could, given local conditions and the “canon of resources” available. The problem with recruiting too many perfect PRT-men is that coun- terinsurgency is not a reliable career outside the military. I recall that after Vietnam, everybody (even the mili- tary) wanted to forget about coun- terinsurgency. Indeed, many of the young Foreign Service officers who had served so ably with CORDS strug- gled to gain career status in the U.S. Agency for International Develop- ment. Thomson concludes that making the changes she recommends will re- quire a real investment, and asks if we can afford it. Unfortunately, Con- gress thinks not, and has only given modest support to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s funding re- quests. So, where will PRT members go after Afghanistan? My guess is back to the Foreign Service, back to the military, and back to the university. Alfred R. Barr FSO, retired Washington, D.C. With Low in Rhodesia ... I was in the Foreign Service from 1970 to 1979. My last post was South Africa, where I was a political officer, but I also had the Rhodesia (now Zim- babwe) portfolio. In 1976, when I arrived there, that job basically meant following develop- ments through newspapers and meet- ing with the occasional Rhodesian passing through town — Bishop Abel Muzorewa, Ndabagini Sithole, etc. But once the “Anglo-American” ef- fort got under way, I began working in support of talks — from Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s trip to see South African Prime Minister John Vorster and Rhodesian Prime Minis- ter Ian Smith, through Andrew Young’s trips (as emissary to Africa) once the negotiations moved to Malta and then Lancaster House in London. I wasn’t around for the endgame, but did start going to Zambia and Mozambique to see key players Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe, and then became the support staff for our ef- forts in Salisbury (now Harare). At the time, Stephen Low was the U.S. ambassador to Zambia, and he became a key mediator in the Rhode- sian transition. At one point, he moved to Salisbury, then the capital of Rhodesia, taking a suite at the Meke- les Hotel downtown. I can remember many a session L ETTERS