U.S. to open ‘Fortress America’ in Baghdad next month
STR/AFP/Getty Images U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker announced last Friday that American diplomats and staff will finally begin moving into the largest embassy in the world as early as next month. A fortress-like compound in Baghdad’s Green Zone, the new 104-acre, $736 million embassy dwarfs tenfold its counterpart in Beijing (what was previously America’s ...
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker announced last Friday that American diplomats and staff will finally begin moving into the largest embassy in the world as early as next month. A fortress-like compound in Baghdad’s Green Zone, the new 104-acre, $736 million embassy dwarfs tenfold its counterpart in Beijing (what was previously America’s largest diplomatic mission) and comes complete with a 9-foot-high protective wall and its own defense force.
According to the ambassador, it’s a much-needed move:
It’s been a difficult few weeks, rockets are bouncing off your buildings, and maintaining focus can be an occasional challenge.”
Crocker’s announcement came at the tail end of the bloodiest week in 2008 for the United States in Iraq –- a week that saw the deaths of 19 more U.S. soldiers, escalating violence in Sadr City, and the discovery of a second mass grave just outside the capital.
But this quest for security may come at a price, as Jane Loeffler, architectural historian at the University of Maryland, noted in her FP article about the embassy, “Fortress America“:
Once inside the compound, Americans will have almost no reason to leave. It will have a shopping market, food court, movie theater, beauty salon, gymnasium, swimming pool, tennis courts, a school, and an American Club for social gatherings… Traditionally, at least, embassies were designed to further interaction with the community in which they were built. Diplomats visited the offices of local government officials, shopped at local businesses, took their suits to the neighborhood dry cleaner, socialized with community leaders, and mixed with the general public. Diplomacy is not the sort of work that can be done by remote control. It takes direct contact to build goodwill for the United States and promote democratic values.
Loeffler also notes that the embassy’s upkeep is likely to cost as much as $1 billion yearly. Yet another sign that America could be in this for the long haul.
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