Middle East Unrest Reminds of Dangers of Foreign Service

By Derrick Ward
|  Thursday, Sep 13, 2012  |  Updated 10:40 PM EDT
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The assault on the U.S. consulate in Libya that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the protests at embassies in Yemen and Egypt are a reminder of the risks that come with diplomatic service, but for many foreign service workers and students in Washington, the work is a calling and situations like this only strengthen their resolve. News4's Derrick Ward reports.

Derrick Ward

The assault on the U.S. consulate in Libya that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the protests at embassies in Yemen and Egypt are a reminder of the risks that come with diplomatic service, but for many foreign service workers and students in Washington, the work is a calling and situations like this only strengthen their resolve. News4's Derrick Ward reports.

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The assault on the U.S. consulate in Libya that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the protests at embassies in Yemen and Egypt are reminders of the risks that come with diplomatic service, but for many foreign-service workers and students in Washington, the work is a calling and situations like this only strengthen their resolve.

At the State Department, flags are at half-staff. The disturbing images from across the globe remind of the dangers of diplomatic service in some parts of the world but are nothing new to veterans of foreign service.

“I was a subject of two assassination attempts while I was ambassador,” former Ambassador to Morocco Marc Ginsberg said. “All of our diplomats are constantly under danger."

Students at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service are mindful of that, too.

"It’s certainly something to think about as I consider a possible career in the foreign service,” Jennifer Steffensen said. “You need to go in knowing that there are risks involved."

“My parents have told me a few times about the potential dangers there, but that’s part of working toward something that’s important,” Kathy Ingram said.

While there's talk of the challenges, there's not a lot of discouragement, even among those looking at Middle East postings.

“I’ve heard in the last couple of days a great desire to talk about what is the defamation of religion, what’s the proper role for the United States, can we actually identify who we think are moderate Muslims?" said Mark P. Lagon, visiting professor at Georgetown.

The personality that goes into foreign service often accepts the challenge of modern day diplomacy.

“Some of the stars gravitate to some of the most dangerous jobs or the toughest negotiations,” Lagon said.

“These are dedicated American who are trying to do the best they can, and they are unarmed," Ginsberg said.

In some foreign hot spots, there may not always be much of a distinction between the soldier and the statesman, but among the toughest tasks they can face abroad is overcoming some of the stereotypes those in other countries may subscribe to about Americans. Therein lies a duty for some.

“They have a duty to serve their country and try to dispel myths out there,” Steffensen said.

“Let’s hope the fences don't get larger and the security forces don’t become so much thicker that it’s harder to do modern diplomacy, which is communicating,” Lagon said.

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