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State Loses Its Army

I’ve imagined (and it’s largely imagination) that Condi’s little PR campaign of the last week was a desperate attempt to stave off DOD control over State’s bodyguards–an attempt to retain an army for the exclusive use of the State Department. Condi went to (for her) unheard of lengths to try to play nice and pretend that State could manage a very large band of mercenaries.

Is it just coincidence that that effort ends as it becomes clear that State tried to cover-up the September 16 killings?

All State Department security convoys in Iraq will now fall under military control, the latest step taken by government officials to bring Blackwater Worldwide and other armed contractors under tighter supervision.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gatesagreed to the measure at a lunch on Tuesday after weeks of tensionbetween their departments over coordination of thousands ofgun-carrying contractors operating in the chaos of Iraq.

Mr.Gates appears to have won the bureaucratic tug-of-war, whichaccelerated after a Sept. 16 shooting in central Baghdad involvingguards in a Blackwater convoy who Iraqi investigators say killed 17Iraqis. Military coordination of contractor convoys will includeoperations of not only Blackwater, formerly known as Blackwater USA,but also those of dozens of other private firms that guard Americandiplomats, aid workers and reconstruction crews. [my emphasis]

Much as I may believe that Condi is an incompetent jerk, this is not a good thing. It means that anything State tries to do will be beholden to the political interests of those running DOD. This was a fatal problem in summer 2003–when Rummy was able to pre-empt Colin Powell’s more mature plans for Iraqi reconstruction by withholding logistical support. And it may become a fatal problem to Condi’s attempts to support diplomacy over bombing. I’ve long believed this fight was about retaining the mercs in Iraq long enough to defend the military in the event of bombing campaign in Iran, and DOD control over the mercenaries makes this an easier scenario.

In other words, Condi’s charm offensive appears to have failed. Gates has won the round. And that may well mean the advocates of diplomacy have lost the critical round.

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