It was with sadness and concern that I read about the attacks and deaths of U.S. Diplomats in Libya and Egypt.
My concern is partly personal because my daughter works as a diplomat in a U.S. Embassy in a foreign country. The attacks raised the issues of safety that are always somewhere in the back of my mind, but that bubble forth whenever I read or hear of things like the recent bomb threats at the U.S. Embassy in Belgium, the 2011 evacuation of family members of the embassy staff in Bahrain, the threats earlier this summer to a consulate in a Mexcian border city, or the closure of the U.S. Embassy in Yemen in 2010.
These reports are fairly commonplace, as are the threats. Overlooked by me for years, they now jump out of inside pages of newspapers, or call me in from the kitchen to listen to the end of a TV news report that made mention of an embassy. Almost always leaving me thankful that my daughter's post is in what appears to be a poor, but stable, country, with the biggest threat coming from mosquitos and malaria rather than violence.
Still, I can't overlook the fact that her country shares borders with countries that aren't so stable; that make the news on a fairly regular basis; and that tend to dwarf her small country when I look at the world map that hangs in my office. It is those countries and the ever changing borders and make-up of the world's people that keep me forever on the alert and abreast of world news and the violence that abounds.
Until this week, I've been fortunate not to have to deal with articles of actual deaths brought closer to home, allowing me to derive some amount of comfort, instead of just fear, from the reports of closures and evacuations, which I like to view as a removal of diplomats from danger.
But danger is neither always obvious nor predictable, and the deaths yesterday have dimmed that small comfort.
As has a posting this morning noting that, in the last half century, more U.S. Ambassadors have died in the line of duty than generals.
Perhaps this shouldn't have come as such a surprise. In most foreign countries, embassies and consulates and the foreign service officers that work in them are the face of the United States. They are the easy target. The "homeland" that sits within striking distance of anyone who wants to make a point or settle a score.
And, although the embassies and diplomats enjoy some security, their duty can't be carried out in a vacuum, and isn't. They are there to represent the United States, to show the face of our people, not behind armored tanks or bullet proof vests, but most often with open and outstretched arms. Unlike generals, who don't always find themselves on front lines, the diplomats are our feet on the ground in nearly every country around the world.
In a time when the U.S. does not enjoy world-wide respect and is not universally thought of as a protector or a peace maker or an ally, it is not always a comfortable or safe place to be. Even on days like yesterday when no imminent danger was known.
And so, to my duaghter and to every other diplomat and worker in a U.S Embassy or Consulate, I say to you with the same outstretched arms that you hold out to the world every day, "Thank you and stay safe."