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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
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NOVEMBER 2012
7
oday’s security requirements
constrict efective, active diplo-
macy, which requires mobility,
access to local contacts, and
informed reporting and policy input—all
of which by their very nature entail expo-
sure to risks. Balancing those competing
demands is a daunting challenge, espe-
cially in places like Libya, where Ambas-
sador Chris Stevens and three members
of our diplomatic staf gave their lives in
the line of duty. What can we learn from
their supreme sacrifce and dedication?
Te post-9/11 era has seen an increas-
ing militarization of American foreign
policy and stretching of the concept of
diplomacy, exposing Foreign Service per-
sonnel to threats that vary dramatically
from station to station. Each requires
carefully calibrated procedures and
approaches to protect personnel while
maximizing the mobility needed to carry
out our professional responsibilities.
Under the Vienna Conventions, host
states are responsible for the protection
of accredited diplomatic personnel on
their territories, but this commitment
cannot be taken for granted everywhere.
In Benghazi our personnel came under
attack by al-Qaida afliates or mili-
tants opposed to the Libyan transition,
which is still in fux. Similar elements
stalk many countries in
the Middle East, some of
whom have experienced
the convulsions of the
Arab Spring and its aftermath.
Many in these countries nurse a deep
antipathy toward the United States and
the West, so the dangers to our diplo-
matic personnel and citizens there will
persist. Nonetheless, most nations in the
region continue to uphold their Vienna
Convention obligations.
During the recent wave of violent
protests over an ofensively anti-Muslim
flm, these governments acted to pro-
tect diplomatic compounds. In such
situations, where the host government
exercises sufcient control, we only need
supplementary measures to augment its
protection. But in several other countries
where we are heavily engaged, such as
Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq, it would
be naive to expect authorities to act in
a similarly efective manner. Where the
host government lacks the capacity,
for whatever reason, we need diferent
approaches, so long as they regularly
review our goals, the nature of our
engagement and the quality of protection
available.
In particular, we must assess the value
of a large presence in confict zones and
the feasibility of relying on an army of
contactors for security and large-scale
engagement in development projects.
Interventions in confict zones may not
necessarily contain the turmoil. Indeed,
the opposite often appears to be the
case. In such situations, we need a more
focused articulation of objectives and
a correspondingly more circumspect
engagement and presence.
Safety and efective risk management
for diplomats demand not just our own
assessment of the ground situation. We
need to listen carefully to the views of
the host governments, especially when
it comes to the extent of our presence
and diplomatic norms for immunity. To
expect hundreds of contractors and other
personnel employed on projects to enjoy
the privileges of diplomatic immunity
goes well beyond the terms of the Vienna
Convention. Tis can provoke local
sensitivities, place inordinate burdens on
host governments and cause unintended
incidents that are counterproductive to
policy objectives.
Tis does not mean quitting the front,
however. Rather, we must be judicious in
setting goals in complex situations that
put our people at risk.
We cannot ensure reasonable security
without making sufcient resources
available to the State Department and
our missions. Cutting corners puts our
diplomats at risk, something Congress
should keep in mind when setting bud-
getary allocations.
Members of the United States Foreign
Service, the cadre of professional diplo-
mats and development ofcers com-
mitted to worldwide availability, accept
the risks involved in doing their jobs.
Tey serve willingly and unreservedly
in difcult places and situations around
the world. Tey deserve recognition and
support.
n
Getting the Risk-Diplomacy Balance Right
BY SUSAN R . JOHNSON
PRESIDENT’S VIEWS
Susan R. Johnson is the president of the American Foreign Service Association.
T