February 1, 2009  

Who’s in charge ?

Every American ambassador carries a letter establishing his or her authority over all U.S. government programs and individuals in the accredited country — except those under authority of a combatant commander. On the surface this sounds like a clear division of responsibility, but in reality it is increasingly difficult to determine “who is really in charge.” Are Iraq and Afghanistan anomalies — or templates for future U.S. involvement abroad?

Charles Ray examines this issue from the perspective of a former ambassador and current defense official. He argues that the Kennedy-era decision on Chief of Mission authority should be revisited and a new letter issued not only to ambassadors, but also to combatant commanders.

Lt. Col. Reyes Cole’s perspective is that of an officer experiencing the changing nature of warfare and the increasing complexity of military-civil operations. He questions why Army training programs lack instruction on diplomatic interactions.