Putting your own *ss on the line in “Development Assistance”

On diplomacy and development work in South Sudan, “You clearly have to decide to be there in spite of those risks if you are going to be there at all”.

That’s from a recent article titled Experts See Benghazi Controversy Creating ‘Remote Control’ Diplomacy In Conflict Zones

I get why this is a problem for Washington decision makers, and I think it’s a institutional problem more than a Democrat/Republican one. There is no substitute for person-to-person interaction, mutual respect, and having one’s skin in the game. How else can you show your seriousness and honesty to the people that matter – the civilians in developing countries who make the ultimate choice of (a) joining a militia and blowing things up or (b) trying to start a business, raise a family, grow food, etc.?

But if even the military is subject to the politician’s terror of losing office because of soldiers in body bags (not without d*mn good reasons, mind you), then what hope is there for the State Department and its appendages like USAID to escape the gravity/suck of politicization?

How can the USA *order* diplomats, engineers, ag. extension officers, economists, etc. into potentially dangerous situations?

An individual can more easily make that personal choice. But often they lack the massive resources of a large institution. So how do you get “Citizen Diplomats” and a “Citizen Economic Development Corps” that can mobilize its own resources?

Article Excerpt: “Vital diplomatic efforts like conflict mitigation and peace talks also suffer in the absence of constant, on-the-ground attention. ‘You’re trying to tell the people of South Sudan, ‘We’re with you,’ but it sends a bit of a mixed message to say, ‘We’re with you – but from Washington. We’re just not with you there.’ Ninety percent of everything in the world is showing up, right? When you aren’t there, that sends a message, no matter how well-intentioned you are.”

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