Power to the People: Taking Diplomacy to the Streets | Freedom House

Power to the People: Taking Diplomacy to the Streets

February 26, 2015 

By Mark P. Lagon and  Sarah Grebowski

TODAY, AMERICAN diplomatic compounds around the world resemble armed bunkers, resting behind higher and higher walls, literally and figuratively, than ever before. After the tragic 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in which Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was killed, politicized criticisms of how he perished led to calls for fortress diplomacy. Whatever intelligence or operational failures occurred in Benghazi, a clear-eyed view of the tragedy would recognize that Stevens was doing precisely what American diplomats must—talking with local players. Stevens clearly understood that his mission required him to talk to Libyans, to venture beyond the high-walled safety of the embassy.

In fact, lowering the metaphorical walls guarding U.S. diplomacy by developing a strategy of engagement with civil society is overdue. “America must always lead on the world stage,” President Barack Obama stated at West Point in May 2014. “U.S. military action cannot be the only—or even primary—component of our leadership in every instance.” He went on to allude to soft-power tools, arguing that the United States forms alliances “not just with governments, but also with ordinary people.” To read more, check out the full article at The National Interest. 

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