The Foreign Service Journal, September 2021

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | SEPTEMBER 2021 39 FOCUS 9/11, TWENTY YEARS LATER Now president of the American Academy of Diplo- macy, Ronald E. Neumann was a 37-year career FSO who served in Senegal, Iran, Yemen and Iraq. He was ambassador to Algeria, Bahrain and Afghanistan. Before joining the Foreign Service, he was an infantry officer in Vietnam. I raq and Afghanistan were the latest in a 170-year history of American and State Department failure to figure out how to staff and run State’s part of mil- itary interventions. For the curious, I date State’s failure from 1848, when the department could not fill the U.S. Army’s request to send diplomats to help the Army manage civil affairs in conquered Mexican territory. Providing diplomatic personnel remained a problem in the latter half of the 20th century when every administration since President Harry Tru- man’s had foreign interventions that required diplomatic assis- tance. Nadia Schadlow has told much of this story in her book, War and the Art of Governance: Consolidating Combat Success into Political Victory (Georgetown University Press, 2017). The staffing problem is an example of the persistent unwill- ingness to learn from our own past. I have lived some of the latest chapters of this story while serving in Iraq and Afghani- stan. The difficulties in staffing interventions are many, but the underlying issue is that every intervention has been treated as a unique occurrence, often better forgotten than studied. Yet with more than 70 years of repeated military interventions requir- ing close civil-military operations in the field since the close of World War II, it is plainly unreasonable to assume that “never again” is a sufficient response. The State Department’s failure to effectively staff and run interventions requiring close civil-military cooperation in the field has a long history. Four critical lessons can be drawn from the post-9/11 experience. BY RONALD E . NEUMANN UnlearnedLessons, or the Gripes of a Professional