It has been more than two weeks since the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, that resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, yet the attack remains front-page news. One reason is that it has become unusual for a U.S. ambassador to be killed. After the 1968 assassination of John Mein in Guatemala -- the first ever U.S. ambassador to be assassinated -- several others were killed in the 1970s: Cleo Noel Jr. in Sudan in 1973, Rodger Davies in Cyprus in 1974, Francis Meloy Jr. in Lebanon in 1976 and Adolph Dubs in Afghanistan in 1979. However, following improvements in diplomatic security during the 1980s, no U.S. ambassador has died as a result of a hostile action since Ambassador Arnold Raphel, who was killed in the plane crash used to assassinate Pakistani President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq in August 1988.
Another reason for the continued publicity is that it is an election year. Since foreign policy is an area where Republicans believe President Barack Obama is vulnerable, Stevens' death has become highly politicized. In any event, the Benghazi attack remains in the headlines. Unfortunately, as one goes beyond those headlines, there are many misunderstandings that have persisted in both the media coverage and the public discussions of the incident. There simply are not many people who understand how diplomatic facilities work and how they are protected.
With that in mind, and because other U.S. diplomatic facilities remain in harm's way due to the protests occurring throughout the Muslim world, it is an opportune time to again discuss diplomatic security.
First, whenever discussing the security of diplomatic facilities, it must be understood that, by treaty, the responsibility for the security of diplomatic facilities lies with the host government. This clear responsibility was codified in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which took effect in 1964.