What soldiers can learn from diplomats in war zones

On this week’s episode of “Conversations with Nicholas Kralev,” Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, talks about the different approaches America’s soldiers and diplomats employ in war zones, and what they have learned about each other in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sink or swim

Imagine the following scenario: A 29-year-old restaurant manager becomes a U.S. diplomat. Five years later, he is appointed the founding director of the Arabian Peninsula office of the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), a major State Department program aimed at creating and strengthening civil society in a region vital to global stability.

Even though he is considered a good officer in general, the young diplomat has little idea how to do his new job. He speaks no Arabic and has never managed people or a budget outside a restaurant — let alone $2 million of taxpayers’ money. He has minimal knowledge of democracy promotion, institution-building, or grant-making, but he is expected to identify suitable NGOs in eight countries and award them grants to build an alternative to the authoritarian regimes across the Middle East…