It’s Not Just Baghdad

Our embassies used to be beacons of hope and freedom. Ever since 9/11, or perhaps even the 1998 bombings, however, they’ve turned into fortresses—something more at home in Baghdad than Berlin. Now we can say that is quite literally the case. And so a new generation of Europeans can learn of an America paranoid, afraid of every shadow and utterly unsure of its place in the world. Wonderful.

Sphere: Related Content

Your Ad Here

16 Responses to “It’s Not Just Baghdad”

  1. on 01 Jun 2008 at 1:49 am Lee

    One hears this stupid point too commonly made. I note that in the making, it’s always the United States who is bemoaned for breaking with some alleged tradition of open embassies (which never actually existed). Current practice in security is merely change by degree. The real change is not security at embassies, but the transformation of embassies into general purpose targets by transnational terrorists. Something even the quite heavily fortified Moscow embassy of Cold War days could operate without fear of. Mislaid blame, predicated on invented historical assumptions, as always from Mr. Foust.

  2. on 02 Jun 2008 at 7:29 am Joshua Foust

    Nice try Lee. People who perfer, you know, evidence and history instead of bluster however, have to argue their case instead of crossing their arms and petulantly declaring it to be so. An architectural historian, for example, has argued:


    Since al Qaeda bombed the American missions in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, the State Department has been aggressively replacing obsolete or vulnerable embassies with ones designed under a program it calls Standard Embassy Design. The program mandates look-alike embassies, not the boldly individual designs built during the Cold War, when architecture played an important ideological role and U.S. embassies were functionally and architecturally open. The United States opened 14 newly built embassies last year alone, and long-range plans call for 76 more, including 12 to be completed this year. The result will be a radical redesign of the diplomatic landscape—not only in Baghdad, but in Bamako, Belmopan, Cape Town, Dushanbe, Kabul, Lomé, and elsewhere.

    If architecture reflects the society that creates it, the new U.S. embassy in Baghdad makes a devastating comment about America’s global outlook. Although the U.S. government regularly proclaims confidence in Iraq’s democratic future, the United States has designed an embassy that conveys no confidence in Iraqis and little hope for their future. Instead, the United States has built a fortress capable of sustaining a massive, long-term presence in the face of continued violence… As much as the situation there may deteriorate—the fighting already includes missile and mortar attacks in the Green Zone—the biggest problem may not be the embassy’s security; indeed, it is the most impenetrable embassy ever built. Rather, the question is, with its high walls and isolation, will it be hospitable for conducting American diplomacy?

    That is the question on hand with building our embassies like fortresses. In a world where symbols matter, these symbols send the wrong message. But what does she know, she’s not a blogger.

  3. on 02 Jun 2008 at 8:28 am Lee

    Always defending the wrong flank, Joshua. I clearly didn’t dispute that the United States is employing enhanced security features in the design of its embassies. The question was the locus for that expansion, after you supplied a very specific one. In your own words, enhanced embassy security is motivated by a new “America paranoid, afraid of every shadow and utterly unsure of its place in the world.” I called this stupid and it is.

    I say enhanced embassy security is motivated by the fact that embassies have become targets for attack and thus mandate countermeasures for defense…and to be perfectly frank about it Joshua, you’re a consummate opportunist when it comes to such criticism. Had we employed no new procedures for security in our embassies, I’m in no doubt you’d be on here protesting the negligence of the state to defend our personnel and facilities.

  4. on 02 Jun 2008 at 8:37 am Joshua Foust

    Oh grow up. No one is saying we should abandon security. But adding security to a building is not a straight benefit line — you reach a point at which securing the building comes at the cost of degrading that building’s purpose. When our embassies in European countries — this is about the Berlin embassy, recall — look like they were designed for Kabul we are starting to send the message of a paranoid, militant nation.

    Israel is probably more aware of securing its official buildings against terrorism than we are.
     But their embassies and consulates are not the ugly monstrosities ours have become. There is a lesson in that.

  5. on 03 Jun 2008 at 12:56 pm Lee

    >>>Oh grow up.
    >>we are starting to send the message of a paranoid, militant nation.

    Well, I’ve a plan for how we can counteract this sad impression. Why don’t you start a competing private embassy for the United States. Call it Joshua’s Shiny Happy Goodwill Beacon of Hope Embassy of America. Say, set up shop in downtown Damascus or in Sudan, with no blast walls, armed guards, or crash-proof fences. Just a big ole US flag and an open door to let that beacon shine. If you agree this is a smashing plan to engender positive sentiment in a world we’ve myopically and needlessly painted a hostile hue, seize the day…and perhaps we’d better say our final goodbyes before you depart. I’ve got a feeling we might not get another chance.

  6. on 03 Jun 2008 at 1:09 pm Joshua Foust

    Perhaps we should use our critical reading skills to remember that this is BERLIN, not Damascus, not “downtown Sudan,” not Baghdad, not Kabul. Berlin. Building our embassy in Berlin the same as our embassy in Baghdad does, in fact, send the wrong signal, and it pisses everyone off quite needlessly.

  7. on 03 Jun 2008 at 1:28 pm Lee

    >>Perhaps we should use our critical reading skills to remember that this is BERLIN

    Berlin works too. There’s no terrorists in Germany, that’s for sure. I figured we’d just get to the heart of the matter and put you in the place where our callous militaristic, Islamophobic symbolism has done the most damage.

    >>“downtown Sudan,”

    The trouble with accusing people of errors in “reading comprehension” is that one always ends up making their own in the process. I think there’s an internet rule for that somewhere.

    >>>it pisses everyone off quite needlessly.

    It does eh? Anyone pissed off by thicker doors or blast walls at the US embassy, was pissed off at the United States to begin with. That I can assure you.

    But it’s a funny thing to argue. We might point out that at least I’m only concerned about the threat of bombings. You’re afraid of the symbolic impression inconvenience or protection might make. I might contend that’s a rather more severe form of paranoia.

  8. on 03 Jun 2008 at 1:32 pm Joshua Foust

    Uh huh, so your sloppy phrasing is now my problem? Fine. This isn’t a question of protection from terrorism — I’ve said this repeatedly here. The question is whether or not this is an excessive form of protection, so extreme that it negatively impacts the role the Embassy is meant to play. From the local press, which is what that link discusses (did you bother to read it?), it does. As much as you seem to hate thinking about, you know, our relationship with our allies, that matters a great deal.

  9. on 03 Jun 2008 at 2:11 pm Lee

    >>>so your sloppy phrasing…
    >>>did you bother to read it.

    I think it’s fair to say that no one has ever won an argument yet by questioning the spelling, phrasing, grammar, reading comprehension or intelligence of their critic/opponent. Didn’t you learn that in debate class at high school?

    >>that matters a great deal.

    It matters not at all. You want some genuinely unwelcome press attention? Try a truck bomb at a poorly secured embassy.


  10. on 03 Jun 2008 at 2:15 pm Joshua Foust


    By your logic, all of our embassies should be impenetrable fortresses, cut off from their communities and the governments they’re attached to.

    What a mindless argument.

  11. on 03 Jun 2008 at 2:15 pm Joshua Foust

    Because, and I forgot to add this, turning embassies into diplomat prisons kind of defeats their purpose. Unless you’re Ralph Peters, then it seems fitting.

  12. on 03 Jun 2008 at 2:40 pm Lee

    >>>impenetrable fortresses….turning embassies into diplomat prisons

    In all candor Joshua, you are exaggerating and sensationalizing this issue to epically preposterous proportions. This isn’t commentary on security in architecture, this is frankly ideological. I’d hazard the reason is plain enough: because the notion of an embassy as a paranoid prison camp, nicely conforms as physical metaphor to your oft stated criticisms of broader US foreign policy and its alleged failings. With that recognition, we can further suggest that the only “symbol” to be seen here is the one you’re creating for the embassies, to advance your views.

  13. on 03 Jun 2008 at 2:51 pm Joshua Foust

    That, and historians, journalists, architects, and diplomats.

    Ooooh, a conspiracy of ideologies! All to hate America and make sure our diplomats get blown up! How daring!

  14. on 03 Jun 2008 at 3:01 pm Lee

    >>>That, and historians, journalists, architects, and diplomats…

    Josh, the entire world could agree with you and it would not validate your argument on its own merits. Appealing to external authority by saying “look someone agrees with me somewhere” is to confess an inability to defend your own case. If you want to rely on someone else’s authority bring them here, appoint them as your proxy and let them contest my criticism. Until then, it’s left to you to make your own argument, irrespective of who and how someone else might. Now, while I think your argument thusfar has been transparent and silly, surely it’s not that indefensible.

  15. on 03 Jun 2008 at 3:54 pm Joshua Foust

    Actually, Lee, that’s called “appealing to authority,” and meant to demonstrate that my opinion on this is not completely outside the mainstream as you seem to be saying. Thus far I’ve demonstrated the complicity of expert opinion, and even offered counterexamples, while you’ve petulantly crossed your arms and declared the whole idea stupid because we have to defend against truck bombs.

    That’s fine to a certain extent, but it certainly doesn’t speak to your willingness to discuss the issue rather than call me names. Unless and until you can make a cogent argument beyond “you are stupid,” we’re done here.

  16. on 03 Jun 2008 at 4:21 pm Lee

    >>…that my opinion on this is not completely outside the mainstream as you seem to be saying

    I’ve done nothing remotely resembling this. It is a matter of complete indifference to the merits of your argument whether your opinion is shared by the entire planet or by yourself alone. Indeed, as you may recall, my initial remark was that one hears “this stupid point too commonly made,” which I’m sure you’ll agree is not exactly an accusation of novelty.

    >>issue rather than call me names

    I haven’t called you names either. I’ve said unkind things about your argument, but there’s an enormous difference between the two. Now, if you were to persist in failing to recognize that when all of my remarks are laid out in front of you on this page, I might be persuaded to change my mind.

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

Get rewarded at leading casinos.

online casino real money usa