Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Curious Presence Post

this is no doubt an Italian presence post

The first FSO I ever met was a very likeable, charming fellow named Jeff, and his equally likeable and charming boyfriend Phillippe.  Jeff was from Wisconsin, and Phillippe was French Belgian.  Jeff spoke German, though he had never served in Germany, and Phillippe, of course, spoke French, though they'd yet to be posted to a French-speaking country either.

Their first shot at a French-speaking post was, interestingly, a proposed American Presence Post (APP) in Morocco.  While this post eventually fell through, sending them instead to Ankara, Turkey, they still both spoke reverentially about the very notion of a presence post, and that planted the rather curious notion in my head of what a presence post is.

Formally, an APP is a very small kind out outreach-consulate in a country that has full American representation in larger cities.  America has an APP in Alexandria, Egypt, Busan, S. Korea, Medan, Indonesia, and Winnipeg, Canada.  We also keep 5 Western European APPs, all of which are in France.

The mission of every APP whose web site I visited this morning seems to entail encouraging U.S. investment in the region, sponsoring cross-cultural awareness programs, and providing limited consular services (not including visas).  They're not unlike, say, the Chili's Too in the Denver International Airport.  A purpose built menu with a limited selection but a very advantageous location.

This idea is brilliant and charming to me, but I wonder why we have so few, and why the few that we have are distributed so curiously.  Busan is sensible, being a large city with a port, and a fair enough distance away from Seoul to warrant its own post.  Medan is the largest indonesian city outside the island of Java.  Alexandria is very large, and no doubt a trade hub for Egypt due to its proximity to the strait and the Nile...  Those all seem pretty reasonable.

Winnipeg seems curious, being the 7th largest Canadian city, itself pretty close to the U.S. border, but evidently there is trade enough to justify it.  I just wonder if it was so difficult to move American industry into Canada in the first place.

The 5 APPs in France (as opposed to the 4 total APPs in every single country in the world that isn't France) seems very interesting.  They were all opened between December of 1998 and October of 2000, and I can only imagine that they all serve excellent coffee, but I've yet to find a good reason why there should be so many in France and so few everywhere else. 

So I reach out to you, friends who know infinitely more than me about the machinations of our beloved State Department -- what's the deal with the tiny consulates?


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