Why isn’t there a U.S. Embassy in Ohio?
A couple of other U.S. Embassy questions come to mind after the Pentagon dispatched about 100 Marines to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad last Monday due to the advance of the ISIS — the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria — who have expanded, territory by territory, their territorial takeover of Iraq.
Why weren’t the Marines there in the first place?
Why do we still have an embassy in Iraq?
Or for that matter, why in almost 200 countries, according to USA.gov, are there still U.S. Embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions when the check engine light has been on for almost 35 years?
That’s right. On Nov. 4, 1979, the Muslim Student Followers of the Imam’s Line took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran, initially capturing 66 American diplomats and citizens as 52 of them ended up being held hostage for 444 days until their release on Jan. 20, 1981.
Since then, 34 U.S. Embassies worldwide have come under some form of terrorist attack, with the most deadly coming during the simultaneous 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings that killed 224 people, including 12 Americans in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya.
The world has changed just a tad from 1779, when Benjamin Franklin established the first overseas U.S. Embassy in Paris. Modern times have diminished the role embassies and ambassadors have publically displayed over the past 235 years due to extraordinary improvements in travel and communications.
Not quite the extraordinary hover craft or the Dick Tracy two-way wrist watch improvements, but the U.S. Department of State did open a “Virtual Embassy” over two and a half years ago in Iran.
This came after the DOS launched an Iranian (Farsi) language Twitter account and Facebook page earlier in 2011, aimed at providing news to Iranians about U.S. government policies and encouraging feedback.
The “Virtual Embassy” is intended to complement the social media sites, or as then Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a video message:
“This is a platform for us to communicate with each other, openly and without fear, about the United States, about our policies, our culture, and the American people”
This message introducing the “Virtual Embassy” by Mrs. Clinton came almost a year before J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, was killed in Benghazi.
Truthfully, before the incident in Benghazi, the only U.S. Ambassador I could name besides the previous mentioned Benjamin Franklin was the movie star Shirley “On the Good Ship Lollypop” Temple Black.
If you’re wondering if her movie star status landed her in London, Paris or Vienna then wonder again.
“Curly Top” served her time as an ambassador in Ghana and Czechoslovakia.
So, are physical U.S. Embassies still necessary in foreign countries, or is it time for the USA to deter the temptation the embassies present of being attacked by extreme political or religious groups, or both, in the country they’re located in?
The time is right, after all it is the 21st century, to make the transition to the “Virtual Embassy” and bring our entire fleet of ambassadors and diplomats home but keep the physical embassies staffed by the citizens of the country they’re located in to update current situations via Twitter and Facebook like the DOS has setup in Iran.
If it should ever come to the point of negotiating which requires face-to-face meetings, then the United Nations can arrange a summit in a neutral site.
Knowing the United Nations, it would probably choose Baghdad.
Anyway, just like New York, New York, if the U.S. “Virtual Embassy” can make it in Iran they can make it anywhere.