Monday, August 5, 2013

This map of U.S. embassy and consulate closures raises more questions than it answers

Data sources: Pew, State Department (Max Fisher/Washington Post)

The Obama administration’s decision to close more than two dozen U.S. diplomatic facilities initially struck me, like many, as equal parts security precaution and security theater; a reaction to both a legitimate terrorism threat, apparently originating from al-Qaeda’s Yemen-based branch, and to the political uproar in 2012 over a successful attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.

Putting the embassy and consulate closures down on a map, though, seems to elucidate some interesting trends, some which can be difficult to immediately explain. It helps to shed a light on the apparent U.S. thinking, but raises some questions as well.

To chart the closures, I’ve used a map that also shows the concentration of Muslim citizens in each country, based on 2010 Pew data. This allows us to immediately see the degree to which the closures do and do not span the “Muslim world,” as they’ve been commonly described this week. Red pins indicate the 19 still-closed diplomatic outposts, which will remain shuttered through Saturday. Yellow pins indicate the nine embassies or consulates that were closed over the weekend but reopened on Monday.
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