21 February 2008

Razing of the US Embassy in Kosovo

US embassies have long been targets of dissatisfied nationalists and terrorists. Will the recent razing sit in the pantheon of historically significant embassy jackings and destructions? No.

What sets one incident apart from another has little to do with death counts or act of terrorism versus civilian uprising. Rather, an incident becomes important when foreign policy changes as a result. The declaration of Kosovo's independence is undoubtedly a significant event, though the bombing of the embassy is only auxiliary to that.

If we consider the 1979 takeover of the US embassy in Iran and the 1998 bombings in Dar Es Salaam and Nairobi, we see that foreign policy changed course. The 1979 incident precipitated the hostage crisis, Carter losing the election, and US realignment in the Middle East. The 1998 bombings were Al Qaeda's debut to the global stage. Although Clinton did little in response besides lobbing a cruise missile, the intelligence wheels began to turn and then with the events of 9-11, the past event gained significant notoriety.

A lesser remembered incident is the 1983 bombing of military barracks in Beirut in which over 200 American Servicemen were killed. The reason for the lack of stature of the event, is that despite the huge death toll, little changed other than US troop being withdrawn from Lebanon.

The 1998 and 1983 bombings were acts of terrorism, whereas the 1979 event was organized mainly by students. An incident need not be an act of terrorism to go down in history.

Typical act of vandalism
The removal of personnel from the Kosovo embassy in anticipation of possible riots further demonstrates this was a run-of-the-mill act of civil disobedience. And the destruction of the nearby McDonalds, makes this look suspiciously like just a normalcase of anti-Americanism. Perhaps we need only look down the street to understand this incidents lack of staying power.

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