What’s Wrong with American Foreign Policy in One Embassy

Sometime in the middle of our unfolding Iraq agony beginning 20 years ago, the State Department decided it needed to build a new embassy compound in Baghdad at a total cost approaching $1 billion. No one seemed to ask why our mission in Iraq, which we assumed wouldn’t last forever, needed what looked like an outpost for a permanent colonial empire rather than a mere security necessity. What security necessity—both in the short term during a violent insurgency, and the longer-term problem of countering terrorism—requires a billion-dollar embassy compound, not to mention why that large an outpost would be a permanent necessity?

The same was true in Afghanistan. While denying from the beginning that the United States was engaging in “nation building” in either Iraq or Afghanistan, we built a $700 million embassy compound in Kabul, where State Department contractors began giving seminars to Afghan women about feminism and other exotic subjects.

One wonders if our mega-embassies overseas are more about securing the political status of the Deep State at home more than securing America’s interests overseas. The latest example of State Department empire-building is found in Beirut, Lebanon, where the U.S. is completing construction of another $1 billion embassy, as reported in The Economist. It will cover 43 acres, and surrounded by high walls.

The Economist notes: “Is that an embassy or a military base?” asked people on Twitter when photographs of the development were shared. Like the existing embassy, it sits in Akwar, a leafy suburb, far from the city centre. Security is plainly the dominant factor, as it now is across the world. . .

I well recall that Beirut was the locale for several terrible terrorist attacks on Americans in the 1980s, and as such it is reasonable to demand formidable security, but how is tiny Lebanon worthy of an embassy of this size and expense—especially if, as The Economist reports, most of the people working in won’t get out much? Exactly what value-added to our foreign policy and intelligence needs will a palace of this size provide that a lower-profile presence can’t?

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