Every now and then something happens that makes the realities of my immediate future a little clearer. The bombings yesterday in Karachi do exactly that. Were i posted in Karachi, what would i be doing now? Would all of my colleagues at the consulate be okay? i would almost certainly know someone who saw the attacks, even if they were uninjured. If i were in Islamabad (and there is a small but existing chance of going there next summer), i imagine that i would have had a very long night trying to deal with this.
Many of our speakers have emphasized that the Foreign Service of today is not the one that they joined in the 1980s. 700 positions around the world are unaccompanied, meaning that the US government is not willing to accept the liability of an employee's family's safety in such locations. Thus, the families remain in the United States while the employee goes to post for an abbreviated tour. Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq are among these places. To put that number in perspective, there are only about 11,000 Foreign Service officers in the service. Never before has our government been so forthright about putting its diplomats so close to harm's way, and this has consequences, both good and bad, in terms of diplomacy and security. The Karachi consulate was bombed in 2002, killing two people. Nine people died when the Jeddah consulate was stormed in 2004. It could happen to my post next.
i can't focus on previous death tolls in places where i might go. What's the point then? i'm just mentally crippling myself. Awareness, however, is a good thing, and the Karachi bombings brought home a little more clearly what i will face, first-hand or indirectly, in my career.