Our diplomats trust our enemies, not us.
A good con knows that the easiest person to fool is the one who wants to be fooled. And in this age of global upheaval, our diplomats want to be fooled. They routinely put their faith in foreign scoundrels, while disdaining our military and despising any citizen who didn’t go to Harvard, Yale or Princeton. (The Peters corollary: If you have a Ph.D., every problem looks like it just needs a theory.)
Certainly, our State Department has some fine, dedicated Foreign Service Officers. But those of us who’ve worked with State also know that Foggy Bottom insiders regard generals as chumps and our troops as dangerous cattle – while viewing themselves as oracles. Rare is the diplomat who sees the world from the alleys or the bush, rather than embassy receptions or surreal “green zones.” They suffer from social altitude sickness.
The Benghazi debacle was one of the results. In the months before the attack, we had a robust security team in Libya to safeguard our diplomats. When the contingent’s term expired, our military offered to leave the force in place.
State turned down the offer. Security officials in Washington preferred to put their trust in Libyan militias, rather than extend what they viewed as an unseemly “militarization” of our presence.
The result? Four dead Americans, including an ambassador.
Were it not for the deaths, the Benghazi incident would seem the least of the follies. Over the last few years, our diplomats pushed through a woefully one-sided (against us) arms-control treaty with Moscow; fought to continue to favor Pakistan – a state that helps kill our troops and protects our enemies – over India, a burgeoning democracy; and insisted against all evidence that negotiations will end Iran’s nuclear program.
Obsessed with obsolete notions of stability, our diplomats celebrated Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s Islamist prime minister, as he dismantled his country’s secular constitution, staged show trials of secular generals, and imprisoned more journalists than China.
When the insurgency broke out in Syria, our diplomats supported using Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other “friendly” states as no-cost proxies to help the rebels. Of course, not one of our regional “allies” wants to see a secular, rule-of-law democracy emerge in Damascus. So the Saudis funneled arms to Wahhabi extremists, while the Turks and Qataris channeled support to Muslim-Brotherhood-related insurgents. The moderate, secular revolutionaries have been sidelined. Terror rules.
State’s blunders go back years. After we won the Cold War, our State Department sought to persuade the Soviet Union to stay together. We won – and our bewildered diplomats begged our enemies not to quit. The same stability-worshippers pleaded with an ever-shrinking, soon-to-disappear Yugoslavia to stay together. In an age of the unstoppable breakdown of the rotting old order, our diplomatic priority has been to preserve the old order.
State’s not just on the wrong side of history: It’s on the wrong side of common sense.
The archetypal diplomat was L. Paul Bremer, our proconsul in newly liberated Iraq. Bremer had a genius for doing precisely the wrong thing: Stiffing our Kurdish allies; disbanding the Iraqi military (thus putting hundreds of thousands of jobless young males on the streets); trusting any Iraqi hustler who whispered “Democracy!” (such as Ahmed Chalabi, now Iran’s point man in Baghdad); second-guessing generals trying to nip an insurgency in the bud; and, not least, generating the culture of contract guards running down and gunning down innocent Iraqis. In Iraq, our diplomats were the least diplomatic part of our presence.
We have met the enemy and he is, indeed, us.
Watch: Will our diplomats continue to fawn over the Islamizing, increasingly brutal Erdogan regime in Turkey? That’s the bellwether issue.
Crisis Watch Bottom Line: The most dysfunctional agency in our government isn’t the IRS.
Ralph Peters is a longtime member of the “Armchair General” team, a Fox News strategic analyst, and the winner of the American Library Association’s Boyd Award for Literary Excellence in Military Fiction for his novel “Cain at Gettysburg.”
Originally published in the November 2013 issue of Armchair General.