re: "Hell No, We Won't (All) Go!"
"Predictably, it was the "potential death sentence" phrase that got all the attention, and has led to endless and repetitive denunciations from internet-land of all those State Department pussies who fear to go to Baghdad. From what I've seen, there is a right/left split in the exact terms of those denunciations, with the right-wing bloggers most often calling diplomats unpatriotic civilians, wimps, and Clinton administration hold-overs, and their left-wing counterparts usually calling them Neo-Con chickenhawks."
"(I)t was Mr. Croddy's comment about how 'any other embassy would be closed' that I found much more significant. I suspect that really gets to the heart of the very genuine Foreign Service reluctance about the enterprise in Iraq. The fact is that there really isn't much, if any, diplomatic work to do when hunkered down in the Green Zone."
"Today's diplomats experience more than their fair share of hazardous duty stations. Someone who came into the Foreign Service in 1971, as Mr. Croddy did, has seen the embassy environment drastically changed by mob take-overs starting in 1979 (Tehran, Tripoli and Islamabad), suicide carbombers starting in 1982 (Kuwait, and Beirut twice), and more or less constant assassinations, riots, hostage-taking, wars, and civil disturbances. That's on top of the traditional embassy threats of violent crime and disease.
Most Americans have an out-dated and ridiculously glamorized image of embassies and diplomats. The first embassy I ever visited was Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in the aftermath of a military coup. I was fresh out the U.S. Army at the time, and the embassy compared very unfavorably to any Army base I had ever experienced. It was a shock to my TV-and-movie derived image of the plush diplomatic life. Since then, I've visited about 45 embassies (some of them even worse than Haiti!) and have had a ring-side seat from which to observe the Foreign Service both abroad and in Washington. I completely reject the idea that diplomats are unwilling to serve in unpleasant or dangerous places."
"The news media has done a terrible job of reporting the basic facts of this story. State isn't drafting diplomats wholesale, and it doesn't lack volunteers for Baghdad or the Provincial Reconstruction Teams. Here are the facts: there are about 260 diplomatic positions in Iraq now, all filled with volunteers; Ambassador Crocker has asked for an additional 48 positions to be created in the next few months, 15 of them in Baghdad and 33 in the PRTs. State has notified 250 officers that they are prime candidates for filling those 43 positions, and that they will consider directed assignments if enough officers don't volunteer. As of Friday, 15 officers have already volunteered. In short, there is no crisis here."