But for its diplomats, the most important thing may be to leave it.
In the hills above Beirut, cranes swing above a vast new American embassy. Covering more than 43 acres, it will be the second-biggest diplomatic outpost in the world, surpassed only by America’s embassy in Baghdad. It is set to cost $1bn, about the same as the United States mission in London, the costliest the country has ever built. The immenseness of its scale suggests America has no plan to abandon its role in the Middle East. But it also highlights the superpower’s difficulties.
The new embassy in Beirut will be surrounded by towering concrete walls and barbed-wire fences. “Is that an embassy or a military base?” asked people on Twitter when photographs of the development were shared. Like the existing embassy, it sits in Akwar, a leafy suburb, far from the city center. Security is plainly the dominant factor, as it now is across the world. Even in London, considered a lot less dangerous than capitals such as Baghdad or Beirut, a moat runs around the embassy. America’s ten-story embassy in Cairo, built in 1980, is now surrounded by a cordon of concrete blast shields.