LINE OF FIRE

State Dept. to Run Small Army in Iraq

Can diplomats field their own army? This has been one of many big questions going around Washington lately, and it looks like American politicians, foreign-relations strategists, and others are about to find out. Here’s why: The State Department is currently laying the groundwork to set up an unprecedented army of diplomat contractors in Iraq who will head to the Middle East in just over a year. They’ll have the ability to drive armored trucks and fly Black Hawk helicopters when U.S. troops withdraw from Iraq by 2011. Left behind, however, will be American civilians, including the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad—the largest in the world. And with the country still a war zone, the State Department will be forced to fend for itself. This arrangement is “one more step in the blurring of the lines between military activities and State Department or diplomatic activities,” Richard Fontaine of the Center for a New American Security told McClatchy. “This is no longer the foreign service officer standing in the canape line, and the military out in the field.”