Because the US is apparently flush with cash, we will shortly close our London embassy where our security measures have annoyed our neighbors to build a new one in a former industrial area — for over one billion dollars. The much-derided Green Zone embassy in Baghdad cost just over half that amount, and our new Islamabad embassy will cost close to $850 million. The obvious conclusion: our diplomats require more expensive security in London than they do in Baghdad or Pakistan, a weird and unexplained decision.
However, our embassy in the “Battersea wasteland” will have one ultra-high-tech feature that the others lack … a moat:
The United States has unveiled plans for its new $1 billion high-security embassy in London — the most expensive it has ever built.
The proposals were met with relief from both the present embassy’s Mayfair neighbours and the residents and developers of the Battersea wasteland where the vast crystalline cube, surrounded by a moat, will be built.
The decision to abandon the former site in Grosvenor Square by 2016 came after a prolonged battle with residents angered by the security measures demanded after the September 11 attacks. More than a hundred residents took out a full-page advertisement in The Times to oppose tighter measures that they said would leave the area more vulnerable to attack. …
A moat 30 metres (100ft) wide and rolling parkland will separate the building from the main road, protecting it from would-be bombers and removing the need for the blast barriers that so dismayed the people of Mayfair.
The State Department sought to play down the cost of security measures, noting the expense of London building work. But the price puts the London embassy above the US’s most fortified missions, including the Baghdad embassy, which cost $600 million (£390 million) but required a further $100 million of work on air conditioning, and the Islamabad embassy, still under construction, which has cost more than $850 million.
A moat? Let’s take a look at some of the other security measures we can expect at our new, high-tech embassy, such as its anti-missile defense system:
Its security team:
And let’s not forget the architectural process, explained in the first 45 seconds:
The new embassies in Baghdad and perhaps in Islamabad make some sense; the US didn’t have a defensible embassy in Iraq before 2003. In Pakistan, undoubtedly the US embassy has pressing security concerns that could require relocation. But our embassy in London certainly doesn’t fall into the same security-risk profile as those, and we don’t have a billion dollars to burn on a new one. Or, to put it another way, it seems presumptuous to ask the Chinese to build us a new embassy in London, with or without a moat. And how long before the stagnant waters of the moat become an environmental and aesthetic problem for the US in Battersea? (via HA reader CKD)
Update: HA reader Pat M points out that Battersea Park would be just about due east from Heathrow Airport on one of the approach/departure vectors … and a big shiny glass cube in the middle of nowhere might make a rather easy target for visual identification.