Date of Graduation

Summer 2014


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

Kerry Kartchner


fortress embassy, embassy security, public diplomacy, Beirut, Benghazi, Kenya, Tanzania, Iran

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


This thesis examines the impact of fortress embassies on public diplomacy, a topic critical to U.S. public diplomacy and embassy security policy. This thesis argues that security should not take precedence over the embassy's primary mission. In recent years, U.S. embassies have transformed into fortresses that send messages of fear and aloofness to foreign audiences. To explore the role of U.S. embassies in public diplomacy, this thesis analyzes their evolving role from post-World War II to today's fortress embassies. First, this thesis discusses the role of embassies as a tool of modern public diplomacy. Second, it addresses the current and future trends of U.S. public diplomacy. Third, it reviews the history of U.S. embassy design and its effect on U.S. public diplomacy. This thesis also analyzes the number and severity of attacks on U.S. embassies. This thesis provides evidence both for and against the fortress embassies using data analysis and testimony from Foreign Affairs experts. Finally, this thesis proposes a way ahead for the future of U.S. embassy security and public diplomacy based on the preceding evidence. This thesis uses three research strategies: 1) quantitative analysis of attacks against U.S. embassies from 1987-2012; 2) qualitative analysis of U.S. public diplomacy and security policy including the history of U.S. embassy design; and 3) five case studies of significant attacks against U.S. embassies; Iran, Beirut, Kenya, Tanzania, and Benghazi. Overall, fortress embassies negatively impact public diplomacy and the frequency and severity of attacks does not demonstrate a high need for fortress design. The U.S. should begin to transition from fortress embassies towards more open and transparent designs that better enhance public diplomacy efforts. KEYWORDS: fortress embassy, embassy security, public diplomacy, Beirut, Benghazi, Kenya, Tanzania, Iran


© Kyle Francis Harrigan

Campus Only