Page 8 - Foreign Service Journal - May 2013

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8
MAY 2013
|
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
LETTERS
Save the Legation
Te mail gets to us only slowly here in
Morocco, so I am only now able to com-
ment on the excellent December 2012
article by Jane Loefer, “Beyond the For-
tress Embassy.” As the director for nearly
three years now of the Tangier American
Legation Institute for Moroc-
can Studies, I have come to
appreciate what Ambassador
Barbara Bodine, quoted in the
article, calls “embassies inte-
grated with their surroundings
and culture.”
You can’t get more integrated
than the American legation,
which is not only nestled in
the Medina (“Old City”), but
bestrides “America Street” and is built
over it. Tat was the American way of
diplomacy in Morocco from the 1790s to
the early 1960s. Te legation is the only
U.S. National Historic Landmark located
abroad, by virtue of its status as the frst
American diplomatic property, a gift of
the sultan of Morocco in 1821.
Te October 1932 issue of
Te Foreign
Service Journal
carried a story about the
legation’s brand-new “Moorish Pavilion”
annex, which author Honor Bigelow
described as “one of the most notewor-
thy” American diplomatic buildings
of the era. Photos of it grace publica-
tions the Bureau of Overseas Buildings
Operations has issued highlighting the
Secretary of State’s Register of Cultur-
ally Signifcant Properties and the new
public-private partnership, the Fund to
Conserve United States Diplomatic Trea-
sures Abroad.
It is still a very photogenic building—
until you look closely. More than 80 years
after Congress appropriated $22,000 to
build the pavilion, this diplomatic trea-
sure is at risk. Major structural fssures,
water damage from leaking roofs, rotting
wood, etc., threaten what is a repository
of the best that artisans from across the
Maghreb could produce—mashrabi-
yya screens on the windows, intricately
painted wooden ceilings, zellij foor tiles.
As a living embodiment of citizen
public diplomacy, the legation is also a
symbol of America’s longstand-
ing engagement with the Arab,
African and Muslim worlds.
Sultan Sidi Abderrahman
recognized “the Americans”
as Moroccan partners in
December 1777, while George
Washington was still hunker-
ing down in Valley Forge.
OBO, the Fund to Con-
serve U.S. Diplomatic Treasures Abroad
and historic preservationists would
do well to band together to “Save the
Legation Pavilion.” What could be more
important than to save this example of
America’s diplomatic heritage—from a
time when “fortress embassy” meant a
solid oak door and a deadbolt lock—in
such a crucial region of the world? Sultan
Moulay Suleiman, our benefactor in
1821, would expect nothing less of the
United States.
Gerald Loftus
FSO, retired
Tangier, Morocco
Balancing Access
and Security
In his February Speaking Out column,
“Te Value of Fortress Embassies,” Nick
Pietrowicz contends that even heavily
fortifed facilities do not prevent diplo-
mats from performing the traditional
practices of their trade. Rather, it is post
security policies that dictate when and
how personnel may make sorties beyond
fortress walls.
Tat assessment is basically accurate.
Still, there can be adverse consequences
when the location for an embassy or con-
sulate is selected primarily on the basis of
security standards.
To fnd enough open land to pro-
vide the required 100-foot setbacks, the
bureaus of Overseas Buildings Opera-
tions and Diplomatic Security have had
to move many embassies and consul-
ates farther and farther from convenient
locations in or near the cities they serve.
Decades ago, for instance, I narrowly
foiled a plan to move Consulate General
Montreal miles west to a location on
the Trans-Canada Highway, which was
served by no public transport of any sort.
Not only would this have made it very
difcult for the public to come to our
ofce, but it would also hurt our eforts
to recruit and retain good local staf.
It would also increase travel time for
ofcers to call on contacts, with a con-
sequent increase in exposure to the very
security risks that the fortress was built to
protect them from.
Fortunately, that particular relocation
never happened. But my initial objec-
tions to this and other impossible sites
were always rebufed with a single word:
irrelevant.
Decades ago we went through
another security “enhancement” that
was a prime example of the DS tail wag-
ging the embassy dog. I lost that battle,
which left consular ofcers separated
from their customers by bulletproof glass.
Tat barrier obscures vision and sound,
destroying the eyeball-to-eyeball scrutiny
needed to make the best decisions.
Such a safeguard hardly seemed nec-
essary since all visitors to the ofce have
always been screened for weapons at the
door. Moreover, a wide interview counter
and a closable window already protected
the consular ofcer from a casual fst or a
lunge across the counter.
Visa ofcers around the world face