Page 30 - Foreign Service Journal - December 2012

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standard New Embassy Com-
pound, with its abandonment
of city centers and our historic
embassies there.
What most worried me
was how the isolation and
separation embodied in these
tactical choices impedes our
ability to truly understand
host countries—leading, for instance, to the deep surprise of
the Arab revolutions. My assessment was that this approach
to security can run counter to our core values of openness and
Honoring Ambassador Stevens’ Memory
Te Sept. 11 Benghazi tragedy, as well as the other events that
week, gave me real pause. Although I did not know all four men
who died there, I’d had the privilege of engaging with Ambassa-
dor Chris Stevens on aspects of our post-Qaddaf policy for Libya,
and I very much want to honor their memories.
While wrestling with the decision as to whether I should
still write this article after this tragedy, I had some very painful
conversations with friends and colleagues about these events.
Ultimately, I decided that this is a critical time for our profes-
sion to continue to pursue the debate about how to maintain our
tradition of open diplomacy—not just in revolutionary contexts,
but in every country around the world.
I acknowledge that I am not a security expert, so I worked
from a set of frst principles as I thought about the delicate bal-
ance between security and openness, and between prudence and
First, the United States is unique because it is both a country
with interests that span the globe and an idea with universal
aspirations. We are still the most powerful nation at this point in
history, and our ideals of democracy and freedom are the due of
every human being, from Pittsburgh to Pyongyang.
Second, I believe that America is on the right side of history,
and it is our mission as Foreign Service ofcers to both advance
our interests and spread our values. We carry a heavy responsibil-
ity to serve the American people.
Tird, we need to pursue a multifaceted approach to security,
one that recognizes that all protective measures have costs and
benefts, and that none are infallible or universally applicable.
As we just saw in Libya, today we face a terrible threat to our
mission as diplomats. Criminals seek to kill our colleagues to
efect political change in their own societies and around the
world. In a handful of coun-
tries, politicians have been
willing to set up America as
a hated strawman to score
cheap political points.
Te proper response to
such crimes and hate is for
peaceful people to come
together; after all, there are
more of us than there are of them. Conversely, forcing us to keep
our embassies, consulates and missions under a permanent state
of siege and isolated from host societies is the explicit goal of
many terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida and Hezbollah.
In her Oct. 17 piece in the
Washington Post
discussing the
ofcial U.S. reaction to the tragedy in Benghazi, Pulitzer Prize-
winner Anne Applebaum wrote: “To my mind, there is only
one truly disturbing element of this discussion: the underlying
assumptions—made by almost everyone participating in the
argument—that no American diplomats should ever be exposed
to any risk whatsoever, and that it is always better to have too
much security than too little.”
A Terrible Dilemma
Te reality that there are still people who want to attack Amer-
ican targets overseas confronts those whose job it is to keep us
safe with a terrible dilemma. Tey cannot harden every conceiv-
able target, or restrict movement to ever-shrinking permissive
areas. And they have repeatedly seen that an individual or group
with sufcient opportunity, dedication and willingness to die for
their cause can succeed in killing and injuring our colleagues.
At the same time, as internal security measures mount, they
reduce our ability to engage the people of our host countries,
sending them a clear message that America distrusts and fears
them. Whenever we abandon city centers and close our cultural
centers, we lose vital links and means of infuence. Tis is not the
message the fearless champion of justice and freedom should be
sending to the world, especially in the capitals of our closest allies
in Ottawa and London, Berlin and Tokyo. We should not build
bunkers in such countries.
It is important that the Foreign Service as a whole honestly
and frankly discuss and assess the benefts and costs of these
difcult decisions. Whatever security measures we take must be
rational, efective and sustainable. As Secretary of State Hillary
Rodham Clinton said in October: “We will never prevent every
act of violence or terrorism or achieve perfect security. Our peo-
ple cannot live in bunkers and do their jobs. But it is our solemn
Our embassies and cultural
centers have long been
not only symbols of
our values but physical
incubators of those values.