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MAY 2015



Getting Real Value for Risks Taken

When we decide to put diplomats and other civilian workers

into a country, we need to ensure they have the tools they need to

accomplish the tasks set for them. And because risk can never be

eliminated, it must be managed.

Somehow few challenge the risks we face from tropical disease

or endemic crime, only frompolitically motivated violence. For

that, host governments have the primary responsibility to protect

our official facilities under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Dip-

lomatic Relations and the parallel 1963 Convention on Consular

Relations. As politicians and pundits club each other with talk of

The net effect of this security-first posture

was to reduce the U.S. government’s

presence and operational effectiveness in

Tunisia at a crucial time.

“sending in the Marines” (or the 101st

Airborne), let’s admit that it is almost

never practical or desirable to apply purely

military solutions to diplomatic security


We need tomaintain good “force pro-

tection,” of course, and we need tomini-

mize mistakes, but we also need to get out

of our offices to do our jobs. That means tolerating a certain level

of risk. As the recent knife attack onMark Lippert, our ambassador

in Seoul, demonstrates, we can never completely take the danger

out of diplomacy. What we can do is take a critical look at security’s

increasing share of our limited resources, and ensure that we get

real value for the risks we do take.

If, as I have read, our overall budget for security is now four

times our budget for public diplomacy, let’s reexamine our goals.

Just “staying safe” cannot be primary. Let’s transmit to our next

generation of diplomats those virtues and values Amb. Stevens

gave his life for—and achieve real benefits for the nation.