Catherine Philp at Times of London:
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.
The new embassy, on a former industrial site behind Battersea power station known for its gay clubs, will be designed by Kieran Timberlake, the Philadelphia architect.
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
In fact, let’s admit it. IT’S A FORTRESS WITH A FUCKING MOAT. It doesn’t say “welcome to a little piece of America, one of the best ideas the world ever had and a country that welcomes the tired and poor and afraid.” It says “if you even look at us funny we’ll pour boiling oil on you from the roof. Raise the drawbridge! Release the Mongolian Terror Trout!”
It’s pretty funny, really.
Both funny and sad, really. I remember when I was a teenager reading Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, which is about a small prison colony on the Moon fighting for its independence against an oppressive Earth government. Suffice to say, there were many parallels to the American Revolution deliberately dropped in there. But one thing that stood out in my mind, then and now, was the fact that it was the Americans who were the most gung-ho about crushing the Lunar Rebellion, decrying them all as criminals and terrorists. When I was a teenager, I thought it was ridiculous to think that the Americans would be the most bloodthirsty group. Now as an adult living through a period of absolutely, clinically paranoid levels of safety-consciousness in all aspects of American culture, from putting leashes on toddlers to being terrified of second-hand smoke, pushing for concealed carry when violent crime is at an all-time low, suspending students for carrying plastic knives for their lunch, and shredding civil liberties in the name of a dubiously defined “war on Terror”, I see Heinlein’s point.
I really think that Americans should pay more attention to the following Spanish proverb: “Vivir con miedo es como vivir en medias.” — “A life lived in fear is a life half-lived.”
Vince Veneziani at Clusterstock:
At the very least this sounds like an excuse to visit. American taxpayers mind as well enjoy their London largess.