Retired diplomat speaks of danger, importance of job | News

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Retired diplomat speaks of danger, importance of job
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ORANGEDALE, Fla. -- Joe Wagner retired from the U.S. Diplomatic Corp after 23 years. He is disturbed by the attacks on U.S. embassies.

"I think we need to seek them out and turn them over to the locals for justice," said Wagner.

Wagner, now a Florida State College at Jacksonville professor of international relations, has served in Northern Ireland and several other countries, and said the danger is always present.

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"It is a dangerous job. There are 230 plus names on the wall of the state department of diplomats killed overseas doing their jobs," said Wagner.

Even so, he said, America cannot afford to close its embassies.

"It would be counterproductive to do so," he said.

Keeping them open he said shows U.S. strength in the face of adversity.

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"The Middle East is important to us, strategically, resource-wise. It is a growing part of the world," said Wagner, "Islam is the fastest growing religion, and we need to maintain contact with these people and be represented there."

It is a feeling that is not easily embraced by many Americans. Mike Smock, a businessman, and the father of a son in the military, is concerned.

"Obviously, what happened over the last few days is a direct reflection of these folks not wanting us there," said Smock.

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And it gets close to home when he thinks about his son.

"My son is the Marines. He's stateside, thank God," he said, "But he's in the Marines and they're usually the first to go."

Two Syrian nationals who operate the Talleyrand Avenue convenience store but declined an on-camera interview,  described the events as "stupid."

It is not the word a former diplomat would use, but Wagner agrees.

"We may not understand it, but I think we have to reach out and develop relationships with the people there," said Wagner.

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