Undiplomatic Banner
7th August 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:55 pm

Ten Years Ago Today. . .

. . .America’s entry into the age of terror began when truck bombs destroyed part of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.  It was the first major attack by al Qaeda on the United States, killing at least 212 people and injuring somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 more.  Among the dead were 44 individuals working at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi — 12 Americans and 32 foreign nationals. (Diplopundit has a list of those killed and injured.)

During my years at Freedom House, I was a frequent visitor to both embassies.  A few of the people I worked with either died or were injured that day.  I hope you’ll join me in remembering them and honoring their service.

During my travels to Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania, I was a frequent guest in the home of Kiki Munshi, who then served as the USIS public affairs officer Dar.  It was that residence, which I remember as a lovely beachfront idyll far away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Dar, that subsequently became the temporary U.S. embassy — not because it was large, but rather because it was remote enough to be secure.

It was also ten years ago today that American foreign policy changed irrevocably — and not just because the Clinton Administration started to focus on al Qaeda.  The embassy bombings had a second and equally important impact:  they marked the day that U.S. Embassies turned into remote fortresses, and that the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) began to dictate how our diplomats interacted with the world.

That is not to say that Embassies weren’t built like bunkers before that day, or that previous attacks had not had an impact.  But after the Dar and Nairobi bombings, DS pushed for new embassy construction to focus on isolation from rather than proximity to the local populace.

That change, which virtually guaranteed the isolation of our diplomats, has had almost as much to do with America’s increasing isolation as the Bush Administration’s bad policy decisions.  Our foreign policy professionals don’t walk around foreign capitals anymore.  The nearly simultaneous destruction of our public diplomacy capacities also hasn’t helped.

One other thing strikes me about this day.  Can you imagine the tenth anniversary of 9/11 passing without notice?  But that is exactly what is happening today.  Is that because Americans have no appreciation of the foreign service, or because the vast majority of casualties were not Americans?  Either way, that too is a tragedy and disgrace.

I’ll have more tomorrow on the how the bombings have changed the foreign service.

This entry was posted on Thursday, August 7th, 2008 at 6:55 pm and is filed under foreign policy, war & rumors of war. It is tagged under , , , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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