Can diplomats field their own army? The State Department is laying plans to do precisely that in Iraq , in an unprecedented experiment that U.S. officials and some nervous lawmakers say could be risky.
In little more than a year, State Department contractors in Iraq could be driving armored vehicles, flying aircraft, operating surveillance systems, even retrieving casualties if there are violent incidents and disposing of unexploded ordnance.
Under the terms of a 2008 status of forces agreement, all U.S. troops must be out of Iraq by the end of 2011, but they'll leave behind a sizable American civilian presence, including the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad , the largest in the world, and five consulate-like "Enduring Presence Posts" in the Iraqi hinterlands.
I'd think that really beefed up Marine security contingents could take care of point security of facilities. But for diplomats and other staff going out on civilian tasks, they'll need security. We plan to do just that with up to 7,000 contract security forces using helicopters and MRAPs. And despite the hysterics over Blackwater in Iraq, private contractors really can do the job. State is to be commended for this connection with reality even though their party base will be spitting latte and chai across their computer screens.
Unless we are to abandon Iraq and unduly risk all that we have achieved and rule out achieving even more, we have jobs to do in Iraq after 2011, and we have to make plans to do those jobs under the limits of Iraqi permission regarding military forces that we will face.
We go to war with the Army we have and not the Army we wish to have; and we carry out peacetime missions with the armed forces we are allowed to have and not with what we wish to have.
UPDATE: Thank you to The Unreligious Right for the link.