Against Fortress Diplomacy

Oct 18 2012 @ 4:47pm

Anne Applebaum pushes back against the assumption that US diplomats must not face any risks:

Diplomats who have no contact with ordinary people get things very wrong and are liable to be badly misunderstood themselves. Remember Iraq's Green Zone, the high-security U.S. compound in Baghdad where American soldiers and diplomats had access to discos, bars, and a shopping mall—but rarely met any local residents? Does anybody still think that was a good place from which to run Iraq?

In Kabul a few years ago, I met a USAID official who showed up for a meeting at a factory with a security detail so obtrusive that all of the Afghans in the room shrank away from her. American diplomats who bring menacing bodyguards to meetings, or make their visitors endure humiliating security checks, are unlikely to make many friends.

In the wake of the Benghazi attack, even more Americans scurried for the cover of bullet-proof windows. The current [political] argument could make things worse. I don't know why officials decided that Ambassador Stevens had sufficient security in Benghazi, but I'm sure they had their reasons—just as I had my reasons to believe I would be safe on the street in Tripoli that night. Clearly they were wrong. But that doesn't mean that going forward their counterparts should always err on the side of safety, all of the time. There is such a thing as too much security.