Is Lack of Diversity a Factor in Our Failure in Afghanistan?

Richard Dickerson, Huffington Post, April 10, 2012

In her 2010 Statement on Diversity and Equal Opportunity, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that “Diversity is one of America’s greatest strengths.” She charged every leader in the department with ensuring “that the workplace for which they are responsible runs on the principles of equity, fairness and inclusion.” And she concluded that “In representing the United States to the world we need a workforce that reflects and respects the rich composition of our nation.”

We do need such a workforce—but we don’t have it.

I arrived at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan on August 1, 2010 as an employee of USAID, the independent government agency charged with delivering economic and humanitarian assistance abroad. For the next 11 months, I traveled extensively throughout southern Afghanistan—visiting Kandahar city, Dand, Helmand, Herat, Uruzgan, Zabul, Panjaway and Kakretz—working in communications and public outreach.

I had heard a great deal about the talented people who work for the State Department and USAID. But it did not take long for me to realize that those stories were largely myths. Their lack of diversity was only exceeded by the lack of leadership and competence. Eventually, I began to wonder if the two deficits might be connected.

{snip}

I participated in numerous meetings in which there would be 40-plus attendees and maybe two or three black people. After one particular meeting, when USAID staff at Kandahar Airfield briefed senior officials from Washington, I asked whether it was it important for the staff to reflect the makeup of the country. At first, the official from Washington acted as if he did not understand the question, then he attempted to make a joke, and finally he asked what country I was referring. The next day during a staff meeting a senior USAID official suggested that we should be careful what questions we ask. I was later told that this was not the time or place to ask this type of question.

But here’s what I’m wondering: When is a good time? When is a better time than when there are 44 civilians attending a meeting to discuss Afghan policy and how the US government will interact with the Afghan government and its people and there are two black people in the room?

This is not just an academic question. The U.S. government has been in Afghanistan for more than 10 years, with white men consistently in charge. In my mind, lack of diversity is one of the reasons our policy initiatives keep failing.

When you constantly pick the same people with similar backgrounds to serve and lead, it’s hard for new and different ideas to be considered—or even discussed. In Afghanistan, I repeatedly recognized a lack of creativity in examining solutions and problems. And when the vast majority of the staff have similar backgrounds, it’s easy for groupthink to set in. There is a value to different perspectives that come from different experiences, including a minority experience. A greater diversity of backgrounds, for instance, would be more receptive to questions.

{snip}

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  • http://countenance.wordpress.com/ Question Diversity

    Afghanistan would have been a failure anyway even if we weren’t so insanely diverse, because it’s impossible for even the “baddest rump SOB” regimes to occupy the place.  Add in our pathological obsession with equality, and it only makes it more impossible.  

  • Boereseun

    A far better solution would be to get the hell out and let the people sort out their own problems. Get the white men out and let Hilary, Richard Dickerson and their PC liberal diversity (No whitey allowed) brigade go in and fix it. They obviously have all the ideas and initiatives they need and if that don’t work, well hell, just throw money at the problem, that’s sure to work…ain’t it?

  • This_Name_Doesnt_Exist

    Someone should tell Richard Dickerson that the State Dept. knows full well that “diversity” is only for us over here.  They’re not stupid enough to fill Afghanistan up with Maxine Waterses and Sheila Jackson Lees and other various incarnations of the DMV-Lady-who’s-climbed-the-totem-pole.  The Pashtuns aren’t falling all over themselves looking for a black master like the white guilt nincompoops in America who eat up this garbage.

    While they’re at it, someone should ask him how Detroit and New Orleans have ended up the way they are.

    And also inquire if he were bleeding to death, would he refuse a not-sufficiently-diverse trauma team.

    We know the answer.  He probably does too, but it pays too well to say otherwise.

  • bluffcreek1967

    Politically-correct ‘diversity’ would never improve things in that desert hell-hole. It would only make a bad situation worse. ‘Diversity’ hasn’t worked here in the USA, and it won’t work there. We need to be out of there and quit trying to ‘nation build’ in countries that are stuck in the 7th century!

  • sbuffalonative

    My first thought when reading this was the old TV ad, ‘A mind is a terrible thing to waste’.

    It never ceases to amaze me that that some people see ‘diversity’ as the answer to any and every problem.  Is there no problem that can’t be solved with ‘diversity’?

    What kind of mind looks at the world and says, ‘diversity is the answer to all our problems’?

    A better question to ask, one Mr. Taylor might consider contemplating is, ‘when has diversity worked to solve any problem’?

    I agree with Boereseun. Leave the Afghan people alone to sort out their own problems. They don’t need more diversity, they need less; a homogeneous nation where like-minded people actually work together for their own common good.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/DFC73YYAKSHGIE32R4T3TFAEHI No

    QUOTE:  At first, the official from Washington acted as if he did not understand the question, then he attempted to make a joke, and finally he asked what country I was referring.  //////////

    I’m also confused.  What do American blacks have in common with Afghanistan?   (Answer: Nothing.)  The largest ethnic group (pashtuns) and second largest (tajiks) can usually pass for white . . . after you scrub off the layers of dirt and garbage.  Also, like most middle-easteners, they despise Africans.

    As far as reflecting the diversity in America . . . very few federal agencies do except at the lowest level – clerks, maintenance, drivers, janitors, etc.  I seriously doubt Hillary sees any blacks that aren’t carrying a broom.

    What an idiotic, pandering, gutless phony. 

    I challenge Dick to provide us with examples  of situations improved by INCREASING the number of blacks.  Since there are none, he can’t . . . which makes his article almost demonically specious.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XWI54NZMQMF47NXYB2EEQAFLKA Orville

    I work in such an area, diversity does nothing to improve anything, much time is wasted attempting to keep the locals honest, actually working a full day  and then having to undo their mistakes. Diversity serves no purpose. The Government inspite of all its bullshit can’t explain diversity beyond race.

  • Southern__Hoosier

    I think Richard Dickerson might be on to something. We could send people like Jessie and Big Al over to Afghanistan.  They seem to have a special knack for organizing stupid and lazy people. Granted they wouldn’t accomplishment much, but at least the Afghans would be organized. That would make people like Richard Dickerson so happy.

  • Heinrich24

    When the day comes that the Huffington Post and their ilk are running articles crying about the lack of “Diversity” in, oh say, the NBA, NFL, Pop-Music industry, various Federal Gov’t careers or other areas totally dominated by Blacks of other non-Whites, then I suppose I’ll at least listen with half an ear to their boo-hoo baloney about “equality”!!  

  • JackKrak

    “…there are 44 civilians attending a meeting to discuss Afghan policy and how the US government will interact with the Afghan government and its people and there are two black people in the room?”

    I guarantee you that the representatives of the Afghan government were asking themselves “Why are there two black people in the room?”.

    • The_Bobster

      Janitors?

  • Southern__Hoosier

    I guess in the name of diversity to reflect the make up of our country, we need to send some Jews as well.

  • Whiteman

    “I guarantee you that the representatives of the Afghan government were asking themselves “Why are there two black people in the room?””
    Right, and that’s insensitive. With our can-do attitude, American’s can cure that. There’s no way we can help Afghanistan more than by bringing them diversity. Afghanistan is in dire need. America, and African and China too, can help supply it. We shouldn’t be afraid to do our part, however. 

    On a more serious note, while I’m not sure I believe every word this reporter wrote, not at all, or even the idea she tried to get across, it was interesting in that it was kind of a reverse of what would be said on AmRen. It was as if she had visited this page and tried to reverse the general idea of what is said on here. You have to give the reporter credit for trying. 

  • RobRoySimmons

    Several years ago a security contractor in Af/Pak was put on trial for murdering an Afghan man.  This man was put in charge of guarding a white woman who actually knew one of the languages of the land.  So they are driving in convoy down a road to get to some village when they come upon something in the road that makes them stop for a few minutes.  Said white woman gets out and then proceeds to go over and speak to a native man siphoning gasoline.

    He did not celebrate diversity, he took his pail of gasoline dumped it on Ms. Polly doGooder and burned her to death.  Security guard became upset, put pistol to head of native and blew his brains out, not a happy ending all the way round.

  • RobRoySimmons

    Several years ago a security contractor in Af/Pak was put on trial for murdering an Afghan man.  This man was put in charge of guarding a white woman who actually knew one of the languages of the land.  So they are driving in convoy down a road to get to some village when they come upon something in the road that makes them stop for a few minutes.  Said white woman gets out and then proceeds to go over and speak to a native man siphoning gasoline.

    He did not celebrate diversity, he took his pail of gasoline dumped it on Ms. Polly doGooder and burned her to death.  Security guard became upset, put pistol to head of native and blew his brains out, not a happy ending all the way round.

  • Anan7

     I would say that racial diversity is a always a weakness.  “Diversity” has become a perverted word over the years, much like the word “gay” has.

    And “Diversity” isn’t about ensuring different opinions and different voices, it is more about replacing and wiping out the White race.

    If Mr. Dickerson wants more “diversity” he should go back to the place where it is 100% diverse: Africa!  Maybe he would be happier there with fewer whites around.

  • anonymous_amren

    I support this move. Let’s make our Afghanistan force 100% diverse. We should also increase our troop commitment in that war to include all the diverse Americans we can find. That would guarantee that Afghanistan would never be strong enough to threaten us again, whilst we can live in peace and security back home. :-)

  • shmo123

    Touche and Amen. Is this guy serious or what? Diversity is going to save and change the program in Afghanistan? Unbelievable.