The Clipped Wings of the Flightless Dodo
Richard Miniter reports that CIA teams operating out of the Green Zone have had their wings clipped by the State Department ban on Blackwater escorts. Blackwater Blogger correctly observes the issues involved are far broader than the identity of the security contractor itself. It goes to the heart of how "diplomacy" should be conducted in the age of terror.
Embassy Security For Dummies: OK, this is put together on the fly, in about five minutes of internet research, but it is apparently necessary because the idea that there might be security personnel as part of a diplomatic mission and host nation security personnel as well is apparently quite a complex one. At least we make some effort to document our assertions of fact.
Yes, the U.S. Secret Service does provide some security, stationed outside embassies, for our foreign guests. Just like other nations provide external security for U.S. missions overseas.
But the diplomatic mission itself has its own inherent security force. (Some, e.g., Jamaica, probably not so much, mon. But a G8--you bet.) Whether those individuals are hired as employees or are provided to the embassy by a private security company, when the individuals are providing security services to the diplomatic mission, be it on embassy grounds or in embassy vehicles, our understanding is that the professional licensure requirements of the locality do not apply. Specifically, those places are islands of sovereign territory of the foreign power, and the applicability of licensure is at best quite unclear. If someone can document that it is otherwise, we'd genuinely be glad to know that. But we’ll put money that the answer is no.
And to put a point on it: Nobody's claiming that traveling through the Mansour district is like rolling Anacostia after dark. (Even if it sometimes seems close.) We're just saying that there is far more to this than: "Who has a license?" 'Course we're just dumb bunnies who don't bother to research facts before we speak. ...
IF Blackwater followed the U.S. government-issued Rules for Use of Force (and that is really the $800 million dollar question of the day--one to which we won't know the answer until DoS/MoI complete their investigation), then this is actually a dispute between the MoI and DoS over RUF. Because plugging in DynCorp or Triple Canopy won't change anything. So it will be interesting to see whether the two bureaucracies get together and throw Blackwater under the bus. Pinkertons, anyone?
Addressing this issue broadly is the key to fixing one of the key shortcomings in Iraq and elsewhere: enabling the projection of nonmilitary components of the nation's power. Unless some way is found to secure AID personnel, civilian advisers, diplomats and spooks, then embedding with the military is the only way to survive. Ryan Crocker has had to waive State Department security regulations simply to get diplomats into the field legally. Now with their Blackwater escorts grounded (by the State Department itself) the need to find some way to allow "nonmilitary" elements to operate in the War on Terror environment is greater than ever.
But I have little confidence the issue will be addressed in these terms. It is far more likely that "Halliburton"-type talking points will be bruited about instead. If America loses the War on Terror, the politicians in Washington will have deserved to lose.