American diplomacy has changed dramatically in the past few decades, and has taken on a more conflict-prone direction, according to this New York Times piece.
When Ronald Neumann began his Foreign Service career in the early 1970s, he sometimes carried a pistol to protect himself. It was a reasonable precaution. American diplomats in those days lived without benefit of blast walls or security advisers, even in volatile countries, and consulates were at times housed on the ground floors of apartment buildings, with local families living on the upper stories. Neumann worked with a freedom that is scarcely imaginable for many diplomats today; he could go anywhere, by himself, and talk to anyone. In the early '80s, when he was the deputy mission chief in Yemen, Neumann got wind of a threat to burn down the embassy building in the capital, Sana. The Arab world was in turmoil at the time, after an Israeli invasion of Lebanon and months of mounting violence. Much of the anger was directed at Americans. The embassy was easily accessible to any passer-by, an ordinary house in a residential neighborhood with no police protection. But Neumann — whose boss was out of the country at the time — did not close it down. Then things became more serious: there were rumors that angry Palestinians in Sana were planning to attack Neumann's house. Neumann, a taciturn Vietnam veteran, took it in stride. "I brought a shotgun home from the embassy and locked the front gate," Neumann told me. "My wife asked me if there was anything else we could do. I told her no. So she said, 'In that case I've got some curtains I've been meaning to wash; I might as well do it now.' I remember thinking, This is probably how they handled it when the Indian raids went down in the old West; just stay inside and mend the saddles."
Three decades later, after serving as an ambassador in three countries, Neumann found himself marveling at how much his profession has changed. "The dangers have gotten worse, but the change is partly psychological," he told me. "There's less willingness among our political leaders to accept risks, and all that has driven us into the bunker."