What if they built a fortified embassy and nobody came?

Think it couldn’t happen? Read this:

The troubled effort to build the giant U.S. Embassy in Baghdad seemed to be months away from completion when a team of top State Department officials flew to Iraq on March 20 to meet with senior staff from the prime contractor, First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting. But as insurgent rockets began to rain down on the flimsy trailers housing diplomats inside the Green Zone, the two sides suddenly found ways to settle many of the major issues dividing them.

“The only way to do this was for us to get in the room, nail the door shut and get this resolved,” said Robert S. Nichols, a partner with the Crowell & Moring law firm who attended the meeting and provides legal advice to First Kuwaiti. “It started out as the ‘Gunfight at the O.K. Corral’ the first day or so, but then we got past it.”

Construction of the embassy in Baghdad had been greatly complicated by several factors, including a fast-track building plan that had kept key State Department inspectors out of the loop until the building was largely done, changes made on the spot by the project manager without complete documentation, and cultural differences between State and a Middle Eastern company working on its first embassy project.

Then read this:

The State Department is warning U.S. diplomats they may be forced to serve in Iraq next year and says it will soon start identifying prime candidates for jobs at the Baghdad embassy and outlying provinces, according to a cable obtained by The Associated Press.

A similar call-up notice last year caused an uproar among foreign service officers, some of whom objected to compulsory work in a war zone, although in the end the State Department found enough volunteers to fill the jobs.

Now, the State Department anticipates another staffing crisis.

“We face a growing challenge of supply and demand in the 2009 staffing cycle,” the cable said, noting that more than 20 percent of the nearly 12,000 foreign service officers have already worked in the two major hardship posts — Iraq and Afghanistan — and a growing number have done tours in both countries.

As a result, the unclassified April 8 cable says, “the prime candidate exercise will be repeated” next year, meaning the State Department will begin identifying U.S. diplomats qualified to serve in Iraq and who could be forced to work there if they don’t volunteer.

Believe it or not, the first excerpt was from a feel-good article about how they got the whole thing straightened out (can-do, hoo-rah, U-S-A!) and the place is now safe, complete, spiffy-shiny, and awaiting staffing. But if the second excerpt is any indication, it won’t matter how super-duper-double-looper wonderful that compound is. The few people they’ll find who are ready, willing and able to work in it will probably feel like tiny little peas rattling around in a way-too-large pod.

At this rate, I can see that pricey bit of bubble real estate going to the oil companies real soon.

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