After more than a decade of fighting, the crisis in Iraq is beginning to boil over in a way most could never have imagined. Although most of the usual suspects are at the heart of the conflict, some unlikely alliances are forming as a result. But, even with Iran and the United States combining forces, diplomacy appears to be the prevailing battle cry from both the State Department and the White House.
One of the most important set of eyes and ears for the State Department is making the trip to the region in the very near future. Before the doctor-turned–Foreign Services Officer left Marquette for his latest stint abroad, ABC 10’s Rick Tarsitano caught up with him to see what it’s like to live and work in the cross-hairs of chaos.
It seems nearly every time you turn on the news, you hear stories of pain and suffering in the Middle East. The most recent tale takes place in a country all too familiar for the American people.
But this is a different Iraq. One that saw the glimmers of peace and prosperity gained through years of diplomatic resolutions come crumbling down at the hands of a Sunni militant group called ISIS or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. In fact, they also go by another name: the ISIL or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Either way you say it, they’re a force to be reckoned with.
“Al-Qaeda has even divorced them because of their ruthlessness,” remarked Lorinser. “Now they have received weapons and finances from when they took over Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq.”
Lorinser, or Dr. Bob as most of his patients knew him during his time as physician in Marquette, would know a little bit about the climate in Iraq. He once called the region home.
“The embassy in Baghdad is as big as the Vatican. It’s 105 acres,” Lorinser noted. “It’s a very interesting place. We have gyms. We have swim pools. We have offices. It is a self–contained city. Everybody lives inside the walls, which are fortified. They’re guarded with, if I can say, a lot of technology to keep us safe. What’s happening right now, is a political situation.”
“The very future of Iraq, depends on choices that will be made in the next days and weeks,” said Secretary of State John Kerry at recent press conference. “The future of Iraq depends, primarily, on the ability of Iraq’s leaders to come together.”
“We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq,” stated President Obama.
“This is not a military solution to this problem. This has to be a diplomatic solution,” added Lorinser. “I think a lot of people want the United States to do something, and I think they are. The game right now, is a diplomatic solution in the hands of Iraq. The Americans that are there do need to be protected.”
And cared for. That’s where Dr. Bob comes in. He is one of 65 Foreign Service doctors in the world. His health unit, which is comprised of 10 to 13 employees, provides first class medical care to the men and women fighting to stave off a potential transition to an all-out Islamic state.
“I take care of the diplomats,” said Lorinser. “So, if someone comes in with a broken arm – I fix it. If someone comes in with a heart attack or a stroke and we’re actually able to care for it and evacuate them, we do. If somebody comes in with a stress reaction from, let’s say, all of the security issues and they can’t handle it, we are able to counsel them, reassure them, maybe medically evacuate them or keep them there.”
But Lorinser believes this type of deep–seated turmoil, which can be traced back to a seventh-century disagreement over who should succeed the Prophet Muhammad, can’t simply be won with boots on the ground. He says it calls for more than just military action and the medical care he can provide.
It requires “what we still call people to people diplomacy. As the doctor, you still reach out. So when we talk about having meetings with the Minister of Health for the country, meetings with the Director Generals of certain departments, meetings with some of their students who may, one day, become their Minister of Health – there’s where you get a sense of satisfaction for showing them the American ideals; what we stand for, what we believe in. Maybe, 10 years from now, that person will be one of the world’s leaders, that person may be able to stop this ISIS, that person may believe in the human rights of say ‘equality’ and ‘democracy’ and ‘justice,’ instead of dictatorships. Instead of giving some a lot and others nothing, maybe that people to people diplomacy will pay off 10 years from now, 20 years from now. I may not see that. But, my children, and my children’s children may see that. Our whole goal for being in the Foreign Service – which is a duty, which is a passion, which is a vocation – is try to make the world a safer place.”
Which is more important now, than perhaps ever before.
A Human Rights Watch analysis shows that ISIS conducted a mass execution of between 160 and 190 civilians between June 11th and June 14th. 175 Iraqi Air Force recruits were killed in a similar fashion a week later. And that’s just the bodies they’ve been able to locate.
Even though its estimated that ISIS still is outnumbered by a count of 200 to 1, they are gaining support that could eventually metastasize on to U.S. soil.
“Remember ISIS, the leader of ISIS, was in prison for four years. Upon release from the prison, he was quoted, even upon leaving, ‘See you in New York,'” remembered Lorinser. “Right now he’s in Syria. Right now he’s in Iraq. There are questions. If they’re challenged with their security, we could be next.”
Fortunately, even as thousands are leaving, people like Dr. Bob are ready to dig in and do what needs to be done.
“The State Department and the Foreign Service has been called ‘America’s other army,'” Lorinser remarked. “Now, there’s reason for that isn’t there? We have defense and we have diplomacy. I’m on the diplomacy side. But, the diplomacy wouldn’t work without the defense, and the defense wouldn’t work without the diplomacy. Those are the two ‘D’s’ of security and prosperity.”