Very wisely, Anne made almost no reference to her job in her website, even though I suggested to her once that she would probably have some insight into the kinds of people who might have difficulty handling the pressures of working in
The March 10, 2008, issue of Time magazine carried two articles with the front-page title, "How much does experience matter?" which included a fascinating account of an experiment at Florida State University on whether experience enabled nurses to respond better to an emergency situation. In the example cited, although the experienced nurse quickly took the right steps to assess the situation correctly, both the experienced and inexperienced nurse made the same mistake and ultimately killed the simulated patient. (The article did not say whether any nurse in the study was able to save the patient.) A second article found little correlation between historians' assessments of presidential records with the amount of experience that the presidents had in government. Both articles implied the intuitively obvious conclusion that success depends more on character and judgment rather than experience, and that experience could just as often incline someone to make the wrong decision, rather than the right one. The lead scientist for the study also noted that one has to continuously move out of one's comfort zone in order to get better and for experience to reliably lead to improved performance.
I will certainly be out of my comfort zone in
In common with many Foreign Service colleagues, I was also not unfamiliar with danger. Although I would certainly be alert and adopt good personal security procedures, I know that danger has a random element and requires a degree of fatalism to function. The security trainers, when talking about "choke points," cited the case of LTC Nick Rowe, who had been assassinated in
Finally, although I have served in five different embassies and a consulate general, Embassy Baghdad has a number of unique characteristics, adjusting to which will be another learning experience.
Embassy internal dynamics: Although I have primarily served in large embassies, Embassy Baghdad's size dwarfs any other. My challenge will be to make sure that I connect to colleagues in other sections and develop the personal connections that will lead to smooth implementation of policy. Another challenge will be to ensure that internal paper flow and coordination will not be a distraction from working with the Iraqi government in pursuit of
Civ-Mil relations: Although I worked closely with the
FS-Civilian relations: Although we are used to working with civil service colleagues in Washington and civil service colleagues from other agencies while working at embassies, Embassy Baghdad also hires from outside the State Department's regular ranks to fill one-year assignments in Iraq. Tapping the expertise of these new employees and ensuring that they are well integrated into my unit's operations will be another challenge.
Maintaining continuity: I have never served in another embassy where virtually the entire staff changes over annually. My very first challenge will be to pick up the reins smoothly from my predecessor and to build on his achievements without slowing down too much during the transition period. I will also have to develop and strengthen systems to ensure continuity.
Security: Balancing security requirements against the need for operational effectiveness will be an ongoing challenge. My whole reason for being in