• Embassy to Nowhere

    April 27, 2012

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State, Iraq

    The American Conservative nails the symbolism:

    It would be too easy to say the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is a metaphor for the arrested development of our highly anticipated new “strategic partnership” with Iraq, but in many ways it is the most poignant symbol we have.

    But in case you missed it:

    Even neoconservative hawks saw this as a monumental mistake. “I think it’s ridiculous,” Michael Rubin, senior fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, told this reporter five years ago. “You should have put the [the embassy] on the edge of the city, where it does not disrupt the main business districts of the city. The symbolism is this is not an embassy, but a palace.”

    But it is OK, really, if we do say say ourselves:

    “We have a robust diplomatic presence,” assured Deputy Secretary of State Thomas R. Nides in a Feb. 8 briefing. “We have been fully and completely engaged on all of the political aspects” as well as training police, assisting with economic development, and working with the Iraq military through the Office of Security Cooperation (OSC). “We’re doing a better than fine job at accomplishing the goals we set out.”


    As for interacting with the Iraqi government, Nides said, “there hasn’t been a reduction in direct engagements, in fact I would argue it’s the reverse—our movements have been increasing over the last couple of years.” Official diplomatic “movements” have increased from 900 per month in the last quarter of 2011 to 1,200 in January of this year, he said. To get to that number, however, the department includes diplomats shuttling to and from the ministry buildings inside the International Zone, the spokesman admitted.

    And I get a chance to weigh in:

    Designed in 2003 as a symbol of America the Conqueror, the Baghdad embassy included buildings for an international school that never opened. A lawn was planted to beautify the embassy, outdoor water-misters installed to cool the air. Even the stark reality of the desert was not allowed to interfere with our plans. Instead, our failure to resolve the demons unleashed by the fall of Saddam crushed us, Van Buren added.

    Read the entire story now online at The American Conservative.

    And for a kind of companion piece, have a look at The irrelevance of America’s withdrawal from Iraq at Foreign Policy, which argues, well, that America’s presence in Iraq is irrelevant.

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