[ExI] why do we need them?

Michael DeVault me at michaeldevault.com
Sun Aug 4 18:34:53 UTC 2013

Any time I see a discussion of embassies and their utility in the modern world, I'm reminded of the scene early in "The West Wing" when the president recounts that a Roman citizen could walk across the planet without fear of harm or molestation, "cloaked only in the words 'civus Romanus.' I am a Roman citizen." 

Embassies serve, in my mind, three vital security roles:

1.) Security through diplomacy: they are a signal to the host nation, "We respect you enough to take part in you, as you take part in us." At the same time, they also provide a very ready tool to show disproval. "We're closing our embassy and kicking yours to the curb at Reagan National. Time to pack."

2.) Security through espionage: In spite of what we techno-geeks might think, the best intelligence still comes from boots on the ground, interfacing with people who either have a beef with the current regime or fear the current regime. Embassies provide a ready tool to access that information--some of which is quite vital to our own security. (An important object lesson lies in the reality that we did not have an embassy nor any significant intelligence apparatus in Afghanistan from 1989 until 2002.) The rules of Embassy operations--it's our soil, not theirs, for example; diplomatic pouches for another--provide useful means to protect innocent people and to extricate people and/or information as necessary. (Our own citizens includes, as this thread has demonstrated already.)

3.) Security through commerce: In a global economy, it's important to have face time with the individuals responsible for setting economic and trade policies that impact markets in one's own nation. Example: China, where the U.S. Ambassador has a significant hand in ensuring the steady flow of goods and services back and forth between the two countries. Ambassadors have very real power to speak and negotiate on behalf of their nations. Losing that tool would potentially hamstring negotiations between nations.


On Aug 4, 2013, at 11:08 AM, David Lubkin <lubkin at unreasonable.com> wrote:

> In the less-safe parts of the world, an embassy is a refuge for its country's
> citizens. I face arrest, being beat up by thugs, don't have the fare to get
> home — a consular office is a place of physical safety and access to
> one's country's capabilities.
> In theory, that could be accomplished with a private, global, personal
> security insurance policy, but it'd be challenging to run one that could
> survive in a country where it was needed. (See, however, the Weapon
> Shops of Isher.)
> More dated: When I was in Israel, struggling with textbooks in Hebrew
> through high school, it was very useful that the American embassy had
> a lending library that was intended to offer everything that would be in
> an American high school's library. Before applying to colleges in the
> US, I took the SAT and Achievement Test subject exams at the
> embassy.
> The former use was already phased out for budget reasons while I
> was there. (Luckily, I was able to snag the most useful books thanks
> to a friend who worked there.)
> The latter use is still necessary, although it could easily be done
> under private auspices, as it is in the US.
> -- David.
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