Monday, September 24, 2012

Did I Miss Much While I Was Gone?

In retrospect, I could have picked a better month than September to tour the Middle East. Then again, when your business is to dig wider moats around our Fortress Embassies, you need to go where the work is.

The question of what really happened in Benghazi (and there is a good summary of the knowns and unknowns here, by Domani Spero) will get unpacked in due time by the Accountability Review Board, I'm sure. But what happened everywhere else is already perfectly clear.

The mob attacks in Tunis, Khartoum, Sanaa, Cairo, Chennai, Jakarta, Islamabad, Lahore, and of course Karachi - my favorite! - followed the same old pattern. Where the host government fulfilled its obligation to protect the integrity of diplomatic premises, the mobs were kept back. Where the host government did not do so, our missions had to rely on physical barriers - their walls, doors and windows - to keep the mobs outside.

Physical barriers themselves are not absolute protection, of course, but are there just to delay the attackers until the host government acts, if it ever does.You cannot keep people out of embassy compounds for long if the local authorities don't show up. However, you can keep people out of your embassy office building for a good long time, maybe even long enough for them to give up and leave, if the building was built for that purpose.

By a stroke of good luck, the most serious attacks occurred at embassies that had been constructed in the last ten years and therefore met current security standards (see the list of completed projects here, on the Office of Overseas Buildings Operations website), or at ones that were built during the old 'Inman' program in the 1980s. In either case, those buildings were designed and built at great cost to resist exactly the kind of attacks that occurred.

Good ol' Fortress Embassies! What they lack in aesthetics they make up for in their ability to wear down the typical rioter. 

How many more times do I have to hit this damn window?

I'll be very interested in seeing how the Accountability Review Board plays out, and, in particular, whether it recommends continuing the stream of capitol construction money that Congress has provided to OBO every year since it was recommended by the last big ARB in 1999, the one on the embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam (read its report here).

That investment in new, secure, embassy buildings paid off very big for those USG employees who were inside the safe havens in Tunis, Khartoum, and Sanaa last week.


James said...

Your post has peaked my curiousity. My latest (and hopefully last) work incarnation is running the field operations of a demolition company. Though I do not use mob violence as a project technique, there are several general contractors who believe quite differently. "Tunis, Khartoum, Sanaa, Cairo, Chennai, Jakarta, Islamabad, Lahore, etc, quite exotic. Careful though you could sent to reall dangerous places (Gary, Ind. Johnstown etc).

Anonymous said...

No TSB, nothing new here. The NFL ratings are thru the roof with the introduction of amateur refs. Now every team is a contender and every game a thriller! In last night's game even the refs sought refuge in the locker room before the game was over!gwb

TSB said...

I'm glad to hear nothing much has changed!

Mob violence as a demolition technique? Well, the crew would work cheap, but they have a tendency to set fires that get out of control.

James said...

"Well, the crew would work cheap" Quite right, but as you astutely pointed there are drawbacks. Job site safety meetings and coordination with other trades becomes somewhat problematic. It also adds a another dimension to critical path method of scheduling.

Anonymous said...

TSB: When you harbor the FBI's most wanted for 16 years you can bet they will throw the book at you!.. (of course that would be wrong.) gwb

Anonymous said...
TSB:How does this guy rate a top secret clearance? Does it look like L-3 Communications is a little sloppy with the latest technology? gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB: Tnx to our rogue state blogger
Van Buren we have some clues that Benghazi was an attack on the CIA guys there. And Tomdisptach has a great summary of the tragedy of the Obama FP legacy: "The Managers"
who's job was to manage the Bush Legacy. gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB: Assange has been assigned the same category as US Military's most wanted. Do you think Obama has signed the order yet? gwb

TSB said...

GWB: Van Buren is a little confused over the details of guard contracting in Libya, but otherwise, I have to agree with him.

The Chinese carbon fiber caper is kind of odd, but I take it the crime involved violating export control laws instead of technology theft. And the kind of material the ChiComs were buying from L3's oriental gentleman is normally made by a Japanese company, according to the story I read. Maybe the ChiComs were looking for a bargain by shopping in the USA.

Anonymous said...


Consensus estimates now are that Egypt needs $1 billion cash monthly just to buy food over the next year. (Pretty thorough article by Spengler who predicted this last year.) Hillary's $450 million isn't going to go very far.

Anonymous said...

TSB: Here is your "eye roller" of the week. If you have a shot of Colin Powell rolling his eyes it would go good with this. gwb

TSB said...

GWB: I like the intensity in Bibi's stare! Eye of the Tiger.

Egypt needs one billion dollars a month in food money? I see Egypt's military is spending around one billion dollars to buy two attack submarines from Germany. Maybe they plan to use the subs to raid cargo ships for food?