Summer Soldiers and Sunshine Patriots

Posted: Apr 14, 2008 10:23 AM

For everyone who thinks the US foreign policy has had no effect, consider this: In the summer of 2003, prior to my posting to Iraq, I went to Kuwait to cover its national elections. The shorthand as I wrote on July 4, 2003, was this:

There are about 2.1 million people here, of whom about 1 million are citizens but only about 120,000 of those are permitted to vote. No women are among them.

Got that? 2003. 2.1 million people. No women could vote. Pretty typical of the Persian Gulf States back in the day.

Since that time, women have been granted the right to vote in Kuwait (as well as most of the other countries) and, more that than, women have been appointed Ministers of Cabinet-level Departments.

I bring this up because on Friday I was invited to attend the swearing-in ceremony of a career Foreign Service Officer to be the new US Ambassador to Kuwait.

The new Ambassador's name is: Deborah K. Jones.

Five years ago, the suggestion that the United States - or any other nation - would dare to send a female Ambassador to a Gulf State would have been laughable.

AMB Jones was the subject of a previous Mullings. I met her in April of 2006 when she was the US Consul-General in Istanbul, and of whom I wrote: Counselor Jones is a delight. A Turkish delight. She has been in the service of our nation for coming up on 25 years in posts which include South America and just about every caravan stop in the Middle East. She is brilliant, forthcoming, attractive, and witty.

The ceremony was held at the State Department. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte spoke words. Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsberg administered the oath. There were, maybe 200 colleagues, friends, family and (like me) hangers-on.

Because AMB Jones is largely a Middle East hand, a number of her colleagues from that section of the Foreign Service were in attendance. I had served with many of those same patriots during my time in Iraq.

During the heat of the unpleasantness in Fallujah two of them went there from Baghdad to see if they could bring some sanity to an insane situation. I wrote in 2004 about those two senior State Department Foreign Service Officers: They didn't go to Fallujah in morning suits and bowler hats. They went in body armor and Kevlar helmets. It was, perhaps, the bravest single act I have personally witnessed since I have been here.

In her remarks - which she specifically addressed to the younger members of the Foreign Service Corps in attendance - Ambassador Deborah Jones quoted Thomas Paine:

These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

The patriots who make up America's Foreign Service Corps are, short of war, the people who accept the responsibility for projecting our nation's foreign policy to every corner of the planet.

Some get to do it in places like Paris or London. Most get to do it in places like Kampala, Uganda or Sanaa, Yemen or Dhaka, Bangladesh.

These are most definitely NOT summer soldiers nor sunshine patriots. Through every season and in all weather conditions the members of America's Foreign Service are true patriots.

Ambassador Deborah Jones is surely one of them. But she is most assuredly not the only one of them.

As has happened so often in my life, I was once again blessed to be in the presence of American heroes.