Sunday, September 23, 2012

The dangers of diplomacy

On September 11th, 2012, exactly eleven years to the date of the events that forever changed the dynamics of the world, not to mention altered the security of the United States and its long history as an “untouchable” country, the United States of America suffered another blow with implications that affected its national security.

With his death, J. Christopher Stevens became only the eighth US Ambassador to die while serving, and the first since 1988. His death came after what appeared to be a series of well executed attacks on the US consular office in Benghazi. At first, the attacks were declared to be a spontaneous response that created deadly results after the translation into Arabic of the trailer of the homemade film, “Innocence of Muslims.”

Reports on whether the attacks were pre-meditated have been conflicting, but regadless of the truth, several issues lie at stake here. First, is the failure of the local government and their inability to prevent the attack from growing to the magnitude it did. It will never come to fruition whether or not the attack could have been shut down in its planning stages, if it was indeed pre-planned. But it appears that Libyan forces were unable to gain control of the situation until after casualties had taken place. Further support from the American side was sent in from Tripoli, but even the back-up suffered hits, after the deaths of two security officers.

This has once again brought light to the dangers that diplomats face overseas and how they are sent into the most dangerous situations. In his book, "Diplomacy and the American Democracy," David Newsom writes about how terrorism has changed the face of American diplomacy and has increased the need for more security detail for the diplomats. But he also writes that even though diplomats realize the perils their job could come into contact with, they also know that they cannot do their job from inside a fortress or riding around in an armored car day in and day out.

The other issue that can be brought of out this situation is a heightened awareness to the role played by extremists. If these attacks were in response to the YouTube video, the cause and the effect of these events were by extremists. The man who uploaded the trailer, although American, was not a representative of the average American, nor the government. And the perpetrators of the attack, were extremist Muslims, who again, were not representative of their religion nor the Libyan government.

Questions to ponder:
1. Will American diplomacy continue to be in harm's way and what, if any measures can be done to curb it?
2. What is the role of extremists and how do you forsee them continuing to play a crucial role in foreign relations?

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