- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 12, 2007

‘Street smarts’

Diplomats are sent abroad to “lie, steal and cheat” for their countries, and they should find another job if they can’t live with that, said a retired CIA agent who spent most of his career working with U.S. Foreign Service officers on three continents.

Garrett Jones proposed that advice in “street smarts” principles for diplomats in a recent article for the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

“Most Foreign Service officers operate at a level far above their pay grade, with little or no thanks from anyone. But despite their hard work, there seems to be an ignorance of ‘street smarts for diplomats.’ ” said Mr. Jones, now a senior fellow at the think tank.

His recommendations included ways to deal with charities, dictators, financial aid and other issues they will face in foreign posts, often in Third World countries where the rule of law does not apply.

He warned them:

c ”Aid and charity organizations lie. You cannot place much confidence in the reporting of any U.S. government agency or international charity group about what the conditions on the ground are at any location.

c ”Dictatorships are personal. In a dictatorship, there is no space between the Supreme Leader and the government of the country. Criticizing the Big Man’s necktie will go over about the same as calling all the citizens buffoons.

c ”Money is fungible. Even by giving aid to the victims [a regime] is abusing, you are, in fact, supporting a repressive government. Money not spent on either feeding or repressing its restive citizens is money available to the regime. These funds are then used for corruption or other means of propping up the government.

c ”Get over yourself. You were sent overseas to lie, steal and cheat for your country. If you are uncomfortable with that, then you do not understand your job.”

Mr. Jones, a CIA case officer in Africa, Europe and the Middle East, also cited four basic interests common to all governments. Those interests — national security; access to oil, water or other vital resources; the promotion of national economic institutions; and the encouragement of national heritage — are “taught in academia.”

However, the most important interest is an “unspoken one,” but it “trumps everything else,” he said. That is the “political survival of the government in power.”

“The longer a government or political party has been in power, the greater the level of corruption and incompetence among the people in charge,” Mr. Jones added.

In an apparent reference to what has been reported to be an overconfident prediction on Iraq by CIA Director George J. Tenet, Mr. Jones added a word of caution.

“I have read reports where diplomats assure Washington that some country’s leadership will act in their country’s best interest, only to watch the same country doing the exact opposite,” he said.

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