THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
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.