While Washington plays “Guess the next Secretary of State”, Robert Worth has a marvelous NY Times Magazine piece, where he quotes a former Ambassador to Kenya:
“The model has become, we will go to dangerous places and transform them, and we will do it from secure fortresses. And it doesn’t work.”
Here is Worth:
By the time I became a foreign correspondent in 2003, the “Fortress America” model was entrenched. In Lebanon, where I lived for several years, the U.S. Embassy had long since moved to a well-guarded compound in the hills a half-hour north of Beirut. In some ways it seemed more like a prison; diplomats based there could not leave without advance permission, and when they did, they were often surrounded by guards. Most journalists scarcely bothered to talk to them, because we assumed they knew the country far less well than we did.
He also paints a thoughtful portrait of Chris Stevens, the US diplomat killed in Libya, and what lessons not to draw from that experience.
I can add one anecdote to the mix: in Sierra Leone the other embassies apparently call the US fortress “Mordor”.
Read it all. I would love to hear from diplomats in the comments, especially Americans, anonymously or not.