Sunday, October 14, 2012


It has been just over a month, but the attacks on our embassies and consulates and the deaths of four diplomats including one friend are never far from my mind. And the dangers friends continue to face continues to worry me.

The politicizing of this situation, however, including the blame game going on, is infuriating.

That the very people who have repeatedly slashed our security budget would then try to find scapegoats within the State Department, the people who have tried their best to "do more with less," is unconscionable.

We know we sign on for dangerous tasks when we join the Service. It is a risk most of us gladly take for the privilege of serving the country and the feeling that we get to make a difference and help keep America safe.

Since I last posted on this topic, there have been a couple good pieces I wanted to share with you on what we do and the choices we make to do it.

From American University Radio:

U.S. Diplomats Grapple With Risks, Rewards Of Jobs Overseas

"Citing statistics from AFSA surveys over the last eight years, [AFSA President Susan] Johnson says 89 percent of the foreign service now say they have served in hardship posts of 15 percent or above. And when it comes to what the foreign service refers to as "danger posts," Johnson says, "Thirty-three percent say they've served in unaccompanied posts. And 'unaccompanied posts' means they're so dangerous that you can't take your family."

Then, as we've recently seen in Lebanon, Tunisia and Sudan, there's the number of foreign service workers who have experienced an emergency evacuation: to date, about 22 percent. In terms of all authorized evacuations since June 1988, Johnson says the reasons for these ordered departures include everything from earthquakes and cyclones to civil unrest, war and, of course, terrorism.

"That's the environment in which diplomacy needs to operate, and we accept that," Johnson says.

And From McClatchy, this:

Risky business: U.S. diplomats abroad

"The ambassador's decision points to an often overlooked truth about diplomacy: at its core, it is risk. From the craft's origins in antiquity, diplomats left the protections of our own borders and relied for our safety on persuasion, judgment and our indispensable role, without which state-to-state relations would go dark. Our presence on foreign soil best positions us to assess others' receptivity to our messages and to persuade them to work with us. But we are exposed when we are abroad.


In many places, it is difficult to distinguish friend from enemy. Our role is to clarify and to win partners. We cannot leave the world in the hands of economic or strategic competitors, or in the grip of dictators, criminals or extremists. We must, in the can-do spirit of our country, take necessary risks to represent the American case. We compete, we win, and we bring others along with us. These are the reasons that Ambassador Blaney chose to keep the flag flying in Liberia. They are the reasons that Ambassador Stevens and his team ventured last year into a contested land."

We are doing our best, under dangerous and trying conditions, to serve the country and make America safer for Americans. The blame game going on now to me is akin to rejecting a military request for bullet-proof vests and then blaming the supply guy when they get shot. So rather than looking for ways to blame those on the ground for doing the best than they could with the limited resources we are given, how about take a look at this moving piece, written by fellow blogger L over at Four Globetrotters, about what they faced in Tunisia and how they responded.

All employees are ordered to the safe haven. Everyone dutifully files in, deposits their cell phones since the safe haven is a phone-free zone. Reports continue to come in. The motor pool is on fire. The rec center is on fire. The employee parking lot is on fire. Protesters are on the roof of the Chancery. We immediately begin to do what we know to do. Destroy classified. I hear the sound of sledge hammers pounding away, comforted to know that my colleagues are destroying the classified material. The sound of the hammers echo through the Embassy, making the walls vibrate. Find out that sound isn't coming from within. The protesters are at our windows and are intent on getting in. They are attempting to set fire to the Chancery, dousing the building with gasoline and setting it on fire. My mind flashes back to the images from Benghazi, just a few days prior. I visualize the caskets of my dead colleagues on board the C-130 in Tripoli.

A faint smell of smoke begins to waft through the safe haven, where I'm sitting with 103 of my colleagues, some of whom are panicking and crying. I'm trying very hard to project calm and confidence. The fire alarm goes off. Someone decides to go get everyone's cell phones so we can start calling our loved ones. I sent three quick emails from my blackberry -- to my ex-husband: "In safehaven. People are on the compound, on roof. Tell the kids I love them so much. If the worst happens don't let them forget me.", one to my parents and my sisters, and one to my very special person. I'm worried sick about my motor pool team, stuck in an outside building.

I'm worried sick about my friends like L, as they continue to face danger, as well as my friends back in the Department, now no doubt second-guessing every decision they have made as they tried to do more with the less they were given and wondering whether they will be the sacrificial lamb in this tragedy.

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