There must be some logic to building the United States’ — and the world’s — largest embassy in the world’s 44th largest nation, coming somewhere after Nepal and Uganda.
But the logic seems apparent only to the Bush administration so work plods forward on our Vatican-sized fortress embassy in Baghdad. The massive $600 million project is behind schedule and nearly $150 million over budget. It was conceived in the heady days when the Bush administration believed we would be welcomed as liberators, the war would pay for itself and an efficient government of pro-U.S. Iraqi exiles would have taken over.
This monument to hubris was supposed to have been completed last month and the embassy staffers presumably moving in by now. The current embassy is one of Saddam’s old palaces and the staff housed in trailers vulnerable to the mortar rounds the insurgents periodically fire into the Green Zone.
The current military thinking in Iraq is that it’s more effective to disperse from the big bases to the neighborhoods and engage with the population. And it seems to be working. Maybe this is too dangerous for our diplomats, civilian advisers and aid officials but if they have to hole up in an inaccessible fortress shielded from ordinary Iraqis, why bother?
And if Iraq does stabilize and settle down you have to wonder what the Iraqis will think of having this American citadel in the midst of their capital. While U.S. policy planners may want a massive complex as a base to project our influence into other Mideastern nations, the Iraqis may not think it’s such a great idea.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack insists, “We’re not going to buy ourselves a turkey here.” Sounds like we already have.