Sunday, July 08, 2007

Insight: Threats keep U.S. diplomats bottled up

The Columbus Dispatch ran provides insight on the direct and indirect effects of security restrictions on US diplomats.

Responding to threats abroad, US diplomats have quite evidently been obliged to adopt meaures to mitigate the risks, ranging from severe travel restrictions, to bunkering themselves into 'fortress-like compounds'. These measures affect embassies and consuls in 28 countries currently. To give soe scope to the restrictions: mission where employees receive danger pay has soared from 2 to 26 since the 1980's. Non-family missions, from 10 to 21.

These changes are having a clear 'operational impact': '"Security concerns have forced embassies to close publicly accessible facilities and curtail certain public outreach efforts, sending the unintended message that the United States is unapproachable," it said in the little-publicized April 26 report.

An internal review by the State Department in 2005 concluded that security concerns "often require a low-profile approach during events, programs or other situations, which, in happier times, would have been able to generate considerable good will for the United States."'

The indirect effects continue beyond negative perceptions of the US government- it is manifest primarily in the difficulty to recruit new staff, or to find staff willing to serve in higher-risk areas.

These insights can be constrasted with the realities of a separate article announcing the the re-opening of a US Diplomatic Unit in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa. There the intersection of internal security concerns and national security interests is better expressed: 'With its lawless, island-dotted Atlantic shoreline, Guinea-Bissau has become a major hub for smuggled Colombian cocaine on its way to lucrative markets in Europe and elsewhere, prompting calls for international action to stem the trade.... The instability, along with high-level corruption, makes it fertile ground for drugs and gangs, security experts say.'

Thanks to the Security Management Initiative for the post.