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With Crocker's exit, a chance for a new approach to Afghanistan

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Crocker brought to the table a familiarity with Muslim culture. He speaks Arabic and served as ambassador in Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, and Lebanon, as well as previous stints as ambassador to Pakistan and to Afghanistan, immediately after the US embassy was reopened in early 2002. Crocker's most important calling card was helping to pacify Iraq, but this success carries its own challenges. Like many members of the US diplomatic corps, Crocker's approach to US diplomacy in Afghanistan is marked by one single event – the September 11 attacks – and an obsession with security.  

Time for a shift?

Crocker's departure might be a good time for a shift in the US's diplomatic approach, away from a single-minded focus on 9/11. 

One thing about the decade after September 11 is that it has clarified for an entire generation of US diplomats what their job is about. Before 9/11, there was a lot of talk about America’s soft power abroad, about the myriad ways in which American culture and economic power was unifying men and nations. Destruction of the Twin Towers changed all that. Post 9/11, US diplomats pared down their job description to three essential functions, to report, influence, and defend: that is, to report on events in foreign lands, to influence foreign leaders to make decisions in line with US interests, and to defend US interests (rhetorically at least) abroad.

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