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MAY 2015


the years. Subjecting our visitors to searches andmetal detectors,

and requiring them to leave their electronic devices at the door had

become routine for us “on the inside.”

But when I went to work for the American University in Cairo

and returned to visit my former colleagues at the U.S. embassy

there, I experienced those same layers of security “from the out-

side.” Gaining entry to a U.S. embassy, even as a recently retired

U.S. diplomat, was a real ordeal; it reminded me of a cartoon

that ran in the


following the release of the Inman Report. It

showed a walled compound with no doors or windows, only a

U.S. flag rising from within. Two puzzled locals are walking the

perimeter. “How do you get in?” one asks. “You don’t,” the other

Everyone understood that being secure,

by itself, could never be any mission’s

primary goal. I am not sure we all share

that consensus anymore.

replies. “You must be born in there.”

My former colleagues, however, could

easily visit me at AUC, even though it,

too, was a “high-value target” for those

opposed to any U.S. presence in Egypt.

The U.S. government continues to pour

large amounts of grant money into

the university and other NGOs to run

programs that Foreign Service personnel formerly would have

managed. The difficulty in gaining access to embassy or USAID

compounds is not, of course, the only reason for outsourcing; but

it surely is an argument for working through outside partners.

When I returned to Washington, I signed up to work as a When

Actually Employed reemployed annuitant. In late 2012 the Bureau

of Near Eastern Affairs asked me, along with several other WAEs,

to help staff our embassy in Tunis, which had been on “ordered

departure” since a violent mob attack on Sept. 14, 2012, that had

left both the embassy and the nearby American School seriously

damaged. The embassy’s core chancery building, recently built

to Inman Commission standards, had kept the mob out, and not