The Foreign Service Journal, September 2009

S E P T E M B E R 2 0 0 9 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 35 F O C U S O N D I P L OM AT S I N C O N F L I C T Z O N E S F ROM P INSTRIPES TO K HAKI : G OVERNANCE U NDER F IRE uring my 21-year diplo- matic career, I’ve served in Haiti at its worst moments, led a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Sadr City, Iraq, and worked as a country director for counternarcotics and law enforcement in Pakistan, among many other as- signments in the developing world. So I can attest to the fact that there is absolutely nothing new about Foreign Service personnel working in conflict zones. In recent years, the term “Expeditionary Foreign Service” has come into common usage to describe this role in quasi-military terms. I am not an advocate of that mindset, however. Instead, I believe the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Develop- ment must be full partners with our uniformed col- leagues in these environments. If anything, in a sustained conflict greater emphasis must be placed on civilian roles and leadership. To be successful, U.S. diplomats must work alongside our military colleagues to improve conditions in conflict zones — addressing food and nutrition needs, facilitat- ing access to education, strengthening the rule of law and instilling economic hope for the future — in addition to addressing security concerns. Resolving those issues is fundamental to a winning strategy. Not Present As Conquerors During the initial phase of any conflict, the military role is primary. However, that period is relatively short. Consider Iraq, where the conventional fighting was over within weeks; or Haiti, where a U.S. Marine expedi- tionary force gained control of Port-au-Prince within days after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled the country in 2004. Afghanistan has followed a similar pattern, albeit over a longer period of time. In all three cases, the con- flict continued to heat up as soon as the military goal was achieved. To a large extent, success in conflict zones is defined by promoting successful local governance — not replac- ing it with American military leadership. Especially when a conflict drags on for years, soldiers are not equipped to provide basic services to the population on a sustainable basis. These crucial tasks can only be per- formed by the host government and the local popula- tion, in conjunction with nongovernmental organizations and donors. Putting the Pentagon in charge of such ef- forts is a mistake we initially made in Iraq and continue U.S. DIPLOMATS MUST WORK ALONGSIDE OUR MILITARY COLLEAGUES AS FULL PARTNERS TO IMPROVE CONDITIONS IN CONFLICT ZONES . B Y P AUL F OLMSBEE D Paul Folmsbee, an FSO since 1987, has served in Geneva, Nairobi, Libreville, Colombo, La Paz, Dar es Salaam, Port- au-Prince, Sadr City, Baghdad and Washington, D.C. He is currently principal officer and consul general in Mum- bai.