As kind of a coda to the non-ambassador-to-Iraq-Tony-Zinni episode, I speculated at first about the optics of placing two generals — Zinni and Karl Eikenberry — in the all-important ambassadorships of Iraq and Afghanistan. Laura Rozen got at that in her Zinni post as well, and now a friend, stationed abroad in the Foreign Service, emails:

It’s a difficult issue, but really, having two (former) generals in charge of the two big diplomatic theaters pulls the rug out from Clinton and Gates’ insistence that the State Dept. needs to empower diplomats.

Not that that explains/excuses the way Zinni was evidently treated, but still. It’s facile and, frankly, ignorant to say that military officers don’t understand diplomacy or are more likely to militarize a problem. In fact, as far as Afghanistan and Iraq are concerned, I’d say they’re less likely to militarize an issue, since nearly every soldier or marine who has ever served in either war will tell you eagerly that the civilian component is what’s lacking in the wars and they don’t understand how the State Dept. can’t get its act together for what’s fundamentally a political conflict. (That’s also superficial and reductive, but it has great deal of truth as well.) Not that this will be in issue in Iraq, at least.

Crossposted to The Streak.

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman