A Turning Point in Afghanistan?

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Matthew Hoh, a mid-level U.S. Foreign Service Officer in Afghanistan has resigned because he questions “why” the U.S. is in Afghanistan, “and to what end.”

I have often marvelled at FSOs (State Department employees) who privately question a given policy, some of them with great logic and precision. Naturally, I suppose, since they are closest to the policy implementers. But they rarely express their disagreement, much less their criticism, in public.

One of them, a very smart guy who was very critical (and properly so) of a certain decision, once unloaded on me privately, in my staff office at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I asked him why he, who knew more about the disaster that was about to happen than anyone else, didn’t go public about it and save the his boss, the administration, and his country a heap of trouble.

“I’d have to quit to do that,” he said β€” “and you can only quit once.”

I suppose he was waiting for something even bigger to come along. Or maybe he just thought no one would listen, or care, or do anything about it anyway β€” and he’d still be out of a job. No future. No plush pension. No “Mr. Ambassador” in his later years … lots to think about. Lots that advised him to keep his own counsel.

Now that Mr. Hoh has asked the question, and staked his career on it, perhaps someone will answer it. You can only quit once β€” and he did. Hats off to him for following his conscience, instead of “just following orders.”

10:27 am on October 27, 2009