Enemies at the Gates

Security Lessons from a Foiled Embassy Attack

The U.S. embassy in Singapore.

Washington faced a 3 AM moment a few months ago when it learned about the assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and the murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the other Americans who were with him. This was not the first one, of course, nor will it be the last. I was introduced to the idea of the 3 AM moment in 2001, when I was undergoing the two-week training session on embassy leadership in preparation for becoming the U.S. ambassador to Singapore. One of the exercises involved something of a trick question: What is the most important article of clothing for an ambassador? Is it white tails, for state weddings and funerals? Perhaps black tails, for formal dances and banquets? Maybe even an ordinary business suit for ministry calls? In fact, the answer was pajamas and a bathrobe. Simply put, most every ambassador eventually finds himself or herself managing a crisis from the ambassador's residence at 3 AM. Best to have some good PJs and a respectable robe on hand.

The U.S. embassy in Singapore might not have seemed a likely post for crisis management, but when the United States and its allies went into Afghanistan after 9/11, a majority of the U.S. forces that went to war were routed there via Singapore. There is no hard evidence that al Qaeda knew how important the country was to the U.S. mission, but we know that in response to the allied invasion of

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