• Too.Much.Self.Love.

    July 25, 2012

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Afghanistan, Embassy/State

    I wrote yesterday that if one definition of mental illness is doing the same thing repeatedly hoping for different results, the Department of State is clearly and simply insane as an organization.

    Example No. 1 was then-ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker, who oversaw a good chunk of the State Department’s failed reconstruction follies in America’s longest war. Crocker had previously overseen a good chunk of the State Department’s failed reconstruction in Iraq as ambassador there. He was also recycled to be ambassador in Pakistan, where things are also going swimmingly in anticipation of someone else’s disclosure book-to-come. Why keep sending a guy who failed at leading reconstruction efforts repeatedly back to lead some more off a cliff?

    The Crocker example was paired with a piece on State’s failures in post-earthquake reconstruction in Haiti, lead there by now-departing US ambassador Kenneth Merten (Merten’s departure was marked by the freakish sideshow caricature above, posted on the embassy’s official Facebook page; Crocker’s embassy staff blessed his departure by naming a hut after him. My own departure from the State Department will no doubt by marked by them simply slamming the door shut behind me).

    Today we learn from Diplopundit that Merten was the recipient of the 2011 Ryan C. Crocker Award for Outstanding Leadership in Expeditionary Diplomacy, for, of course, “his extraordinary leadership of the unprecedented U.S. government response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake, which… embodies the highest virtues of public service and crisis management.”

    So to sum up things at the State Department: a guy who fails at reconstruction gets chosen to do it again, then gets an award for such work named after him, and that award is given to another guy who was largely unsuccessful at the task.

    Aw yes, the circle is complete. As one philosopher stated, self-love is the purest form of affection. Gotta go wash up now.

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  • Recent Comments

    • Rich Bauer said...


      “The circle is complete. As one philosopher stated, self-love is the purest form of affection. Gotta go wash up now.”


      07/25/12 3:24 PM | Comment Link

    • Janice said...


      Do the awards mean anything though? Five minutes of fame (one minute for the lower-level “functionaries” – the handshake with an appointee), a rambling speech, and a nifty award plaque. No catered food though, State is thrifty in that way.

      I dont know how it works on the foreign service side, but in ECA Bureau, ECA HR used to get involved and tell supervisors who can — or can’t — receive awards, even if a supervisor wanted to nominate staff.

      With a little creativity, there are ingenuous uses for the award plaques: filling space between the rear side of a bureau and a wall, a coaster, or propping your door open when you need to bring groceries into your flat. American ingenuity

      There are some who truly deserve the awards they receive and that is a great feeling to know someone worthy is getting recognized. There’s hope for the system then. But meanwhile there’s something amiss with some of the awards being doled out sometimes on the basis of connections not performance, as well as the hiring and firing procedures

      07/25/12 8:19 PM | Comment Link

    • wemeantwell said...


      The awards themselves, on an individual basis, are largely meaningless, as you point out. They are often used as a form of currency by HR and supervisors, cheapening the whole point as everyone knows the game is rigged.

      On the other hand, seen more broadly, the way State rewards/pseudo-rewards its people tells you a lot. That guys who fail at the main point of their jobs while remaining loyal to the organization get awarded tells the rank and file everything they need to know about priorities.

      07/25/12 9:00 PM | Comment Link

    • Quesabores said...


      Peter — The U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires is celebrating their 100,000 friend on Facebook. A milestone in diplomacy! “Your rock,” says PD officer. “This is an important achievement,” she goes on to say. Apparently there isn’t a whole lot to celebrate here in Latin America, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. http://youtu.be/B1VxO6thq8Y

      07/26/12 8:45 PM | Comment Link

    • Quesabores said...


      You rock*

      07/26/12 8:46 PM | Comment Link

    • Quesabores said...


      Sorry that I keep posting, but I thought it might be a good idea to publish the full transcript of what she says in the video. She kind of stumbles in the middle of the video, and the last sentence doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I guess it’s reflective of American diplomacy overall, so I’m not surprised:

      “100,000 thank-yous from the U.S. Embassy here in Argentina. A thank-you for being part of our community of Facebook fans: 100,000, an important achievement. We invite you all to continue following us on Facebook, and to maintain our conversation so we can figure out how to celebrate it. You rock!”

      07/26/12 8:53 PM | Comment Link

    • » Nine Circles of Hell!: Sunday Morning Edition! / This Is Hell! said...


      […] Peter van Buren, “Too.Much.Self.Love.” […]

      07/29/12 6:04 PM | Comment Link

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