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Embassy Security- A Balancing Act

Written by on Thursday, January 10th, 2013

One of the current political footballs relates to the concern over the attacks in Libya and embassy security.  Providing adequate protection for diplomats and not alienating the host country is a difficult balancing act that must be approached with thoughtful planning and diplomatic awareness.

In the Benghazi embassy bombing, it was discovered that the newly formed Libyan government did not want high security contractor teams guarding the US Embassy to avoid a Blackwater-like incident that occurred in Iraq when 17 Iraqis were killed by a Blackwater security detail. To avoid a potential backlash from the Libyan government, the US opted for a team of unarmed Libyans that were contracted through a small British contractor company. In addition to the Libyan guards, the embassy was augmented with a small force of Diplomatic Security Service that were ill suited for the attack that would ensue.

President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton


The need to appease the Libyan government greatly diminished the security footprint in the embassy at Benghazi and needlessly exposed Americans to the terrorist attack. The balancing act of supporting diplomatic objectives in foreign lands and providing the same diplomats with security is a difficult challenge. Too much security as in the Blackwater incident in Iraq and the administration is labeled as warmongers with a “thirst for blood” and not enough security and it costs American lives.

Patrick Kennedy


Of note, Patrick Kennedy was the under secretary of state for management during the Bush administration and was criticized for his poor management when the overly aggressive Blackwater incident occurred in Iraq. Ironically, he has the same job for the Obama administration and is being criticized for poor management for failing to provide a more aggressive security posture for Benghazi.


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