Fletcher in the News

Prof. Alan Henrikson Explains The Nuances of Diplomatic and Consular Security

The World

Alan K. Henrikson is the Lee E. Dirks Professor of Diplomatic History and the Director of Diplomatic Studies at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.

Criticizing Security in Libya Remains Romney Tactic

The second presidential debate takes place Tuesday night. The topics are slated to be a mix of questions concerning both domestic and foreign policy matters. One issue that’s almost certain to come up is the killing of US ambassador Chris Stevens and three other US diplomats in Benghazi, Libya last month.

Within hours of the attack on the American consulate there, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was blaming President Obama for a failure of leadership. The Obama Administration fired back, criticizing Romney for politicizing the attack. And so it’s gone, leading up to the Vice Presidential debate last week.

Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan said, “Our ambassador in Paris has a Marine detachment guarding him. Shouldn’t we have a Marine detachment guarding our ambassador in Benghazi?”

To which, Vice President Joe Biden responded, “The Congressman, here, cut embassy security in his budget by $300 million below what we asked for.”

So, was there enough security in Benghazi? And if not, could more have been provided?

“It’s extremely difficult to know what is necessary and what is proper in situations like this,” said Alan Henrikson, the director of diplomatic studies at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Prof. Henrikson said under international law, the host country is responsible for security at embassies and consulates. If the host country, in this case, Libya, can’t fulfill that responsibility, then it would fall to the country with the consulate, the United States.

“So this is a very difficult balance for countries that have embassies and consulates overseas to strike,” said Prof. Henrikson. “This is a very serious problem that is affecting almost every country that has embassies and consulates abroad right now.”

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