Christopher Stevens, the 52-year-old American ambassador to Libya who died as the result of an attack Tuesday by Syrian thugs on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, was a native Californian, a UCBerkeley grad, and a highly regarded diplomat. He was devoted to advancing America’s cause abroad by trying to do good. In Libya’s case, that included helping to resolve that country’s civil war, which resulted in the overthrow of the tyrant Moammar Gadhafi.
He represented the best of the foreign service. He was a professional, not a political appointee given a cushy job and the title ambassador in return for campaign contributions. He spoke fluent Arabic, and as a result was able to communicate directly with those with whom he was trying to work.
If anyone knew the risks of foreign service in Libya, it was Ambassador Stevens, who had served tours of duty there in lower capacities, including the one during the Libyan civil war, before being appointed to the top State Department job there.
We seldom think about our foreign service officers who serve abroad, but they know their duties can be dangerous, especially in postings in countries such as Libya where instability is the order of the day. Ambassador Stevens was the first sitting ambassador killed since 1979. That space of time, however, doesn’t speak to the fact that many have been the instances in which foreign service officers and their families have had to be evacuated because of clear and present dangers due to the inability or unwillingness of governments in the nations in which they serve to protect them.
Ambassador Stevens’ death was a fluke. The Wall Street Journal reports he happened to be visiting the consulate in Benghazi that day, which was housed in the villa in which he stayed and served as a special representative before the fall of Gadhafi. He apparently died of smoke inhalation.
It is a sad loss of a good man.