Over a month ago I published my most recent blog post and since then a lot has changed. In December I was at Duke’s Sanford School and studying for a Master’s in International Development while consulting for a start-up called Statecraft. Now I’m in Fort Benning, Georgia, and getting ready to fly to Iraq where I’ll be working as an instructor at the U.S. military’s Counterinsurgency and Stability Academy in Baghdad.
In the interim, a couple cool things have happened. . .
My friend Paul Miller published a piece in Foreign Affairs on how to “Finish the Job” in Afghanistan. We’ve known each other since our time as undergrads at Georgetown and happen to share very similar career paths. He’s the only one of my friends from college who does the kind of work I do. He also blogs on Foreign Policy’s Shadow Government and teaches courses on state-building at the National Defense University.
The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review was also released. For those of you tracking issues related to stabilization and state-building, plus humanitarian aid and international development, this is a very important event, though what actual impact it will have is up in the air. The QDDR is the State Department’s and USAID’s version of the Quadrennial Defense Review, which the Pentagon uses to guide its operations and express its thinking about current and future conflicts. As expected, the best commentary comes from the folks at the Center for Global Development and the numbers crunchers at the Stimson Center’s blog The Will and the Wallet. Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy also has a good summary of the document and can be relied on for updates on all things development and diplomacy related. The QDDR is about a month old, but something folks planning on working for the U.S. government foreign policy positions should get to know, especially if they’re involved in D3.
As for me, I plan on returning to Duke, most likely for the spring 2012 semester. My teaching job is supposed to last until August, but rather than going back for the fall, I’ll see if I can hop over to Afghanistan. If not, I’ll spend the rest of my time in Central or South America where I’ll travel, surf, write, and learn as much Spanish as I can.
I hadn’t planned on taking a leave of absence and heading back to Iraq, especially since I was enjoying living in the U.S. again. In the middle of finals the position came up and I realized the experience of teaching and traveling the country (when classes aren’t in session we visit units on the ground to evaluate operations, local conditions, and what lessons can be learned) is something I can’t pass up, especially since the U.S. military presence in Iraq is supposed to end later this year. While I’ve enjoyed my time at Duke studying international development, I’m looking forward to spending some time with a group of people whose lives revolve around thinking about things like stabilization, counterinsurgency, and state-building.
Plus, for some weird reason, I really do love being in Iraq.