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the Foreign Service journal
April 2013
young woman long enough for her male
accomplice to lower the American fag by
the entrance and make of with it. (It was
recovered in Sweden some days later.)
Meanwhile, around the corner, the
Soviet embassy stood secretively behind
high walls, its entrance protected by
grim-looking guards. We Americans used
to loftily boast that our open, welcoming
embassies refected our society, while
Soviet embassies accurately refected
Sadly, we cannot make that boast
today. Rather, we appear both fearful
and fearsome behind our new walls and
moats. We are now often located far from
the center of the capital, where we used
to hold prime real estate that served as
a positive statement about our rela-
tionship with the host country. Tink
of the beautiful Canadian, Swedish
and Finnish embassies in Washing-
ton, for example.
I cannot accept the assertion
that host-country nationals are
unconcerned with how our
embassies look and how dif-
fcult they may be to enter on
ofcial business. (Regrettably,
visits to American libraries
are already a thing of the past.)
Back when our current embassy in
London was built, it provoked howls of
protest about its massive size. It was even
topped by a ferce eagle seemingly ready
to dive into Grosvenor Square. Tere was
no real security issue then, but aesthetics
did, and do, matter to the local popula-
Te fortress concept may well be nec-
essary in places like Kabul and Bagdad,
but its strict worldwide application does
American values a disservice.
Harvey Leifert
FSO, retired
Bethesda, Md
Fortress America
I write in praise of the December 2012
, in particular “Beyond Fortress
America” by Jane Loefer; “Building the
Bonds of Trust” by Joshua Polacheck; and
“Reasons for Hope in the Israeli-Palestin-
ian Confict” by Kristin Loken.
I’ve just returned from a country
where I served many years ago. While the
U.S. mission is still in the same place, it
appears from the outside to have been
transformed into a Fortress America with
a highly unfriendly appearance. I did not
attempt entry.
Compounding the poor impression
were the tales of woe I received from
visitor-visa applicants, including com-
plaints that the enormous application
fees required each time they applied were
not refunded when they were
denied a visa. I have
heard the same from
another country, and
assume the problem
is general. Maybe too
many embassy person-
nel are hunkered down
in their respective forts
to be able to go out and
learn what’s really going
on outside.
At the very least, a
large portion of the stratospheric visa
fees should be returned to unsuccessful
applicants. Te whole non-immigrant
visa issuing systemmust be sanitized and
made rational. Te immigrant visa sector
requires major reform, too.
Turning to policy, much of our current
fortress mentality derives from the Middle
East enigma, now extended to Central
and South Asia. Everyone (at least in the
U.S.) seems to have forgotten that Britain,
not we, more or less created the modern
Middle East when it exploited the defeat
of the Ottoman Empire after World War I.