Category Archives: Book Notes

Stocking Stuffers: Are you making a list, and checking it twice?

– Domani Spero

 

The Demilitarization of American Diplomacy: Two Cheers for Striped Pants
by Laurence Pope

The author’s retired friend from the Foreign Service emailed to say that he has been approached about running a very major embassy, yet again and Ambassador Pope asks what we’ve all been thinking, “What would we say if over and over the Navy couldn’t find an admiral on active duty to run a carrier battle group?”

Laurence Pope is a retired American diplomat who lives in Portland, Maine. He is the author of several books, including François de Callieres: A Political Life (2010), a biography of the first proponent of professional diplomacy. He was previously  the U.S. Ambassador to Chad from 1993 to 1996 and was the US Chargé d’Affaires to Libya following the Benghazi attack.  The author said in an interview with PDC that “At the State Department history is just one damn thing after another.  Its culture is profoundly hostile to ideas and theory, remarkable for such a smart group of people.  (That is why nobody has read the QDDR —my book takes it apart so you won’t have to.)“The QDDR is 242 pages long, this is shorter!

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Career Diplomacy: Life and Work in the US Foreign Service, Second Edition
by Harry Kopp

An insider’s guide that examines the foreign service as an institution, a profession, and a career, written by an FSO with a long and distinguished career in the U.S. Foreign Service. The second edition published in 2011 addresses major changes that have occurred since 2007: the controversial effort to build an expeditionary foreign service to lead the work of stabilization and reconstruction in fragile states; deepening cooperation with the U.S. military and the changing role of the service in Iraq and Afghanistan; and the growing integration of USAID’s budget and mission with those of the Department of State. We’ve previously written about this author here: Career Diplomacy | Life and Work in the Foreign Service, 2nd Edition – Now OutForeign Service, Civil Service: How We Got to Where We Are (via FSJ).

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Seriously Not All Right: Five Wars in Ten Years
by Ron Capps

We have previously blogged about the author here (see Call in the Civilians. Pray Tell, From Where?!Ron Capps | Back From The Brink: War, Suicide, And PTSD).

Seriously Not All Right is a memoir that provides a unique perspective of a professional military officer and diplomat who suffered (and continues to suffer) from PTSD. One FSO writes that this book should be required reading for everyone in A100, the orientation training course for all diplomats when they first begin their careers.

capps

 

The Diplomat’s Dictionary
by Chas Freeman, Jr.

On the caution of diplomats: “The training and life of a foreign service officer are not apt to produce men well fitted for the task [of innovating policy]…The bureaucratic routine through which foreign service officers must go produces capable men, knowledgeable about specific parts of the world, and excellent diplomatic operators. But it makes men cautious rather than imaginative.” (Dean Acheson, p.84).

The Diplomat’s Dictionary is an entertaining and informative collection, with lots of gems — from career diplomat Chas Freeman ( I don’t leave home without it). The 2010 expanded second edition contains 476 new entries, including definitions for selected up-to-date terminology and hundreds of additional quotations from across cultures and centuries. Chas. W. Freeman, Jr., has been a career officer in the U.S. Foreign Service, ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf War, and assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. He was a fellow at the United States Institute of Peace in 1994-95 and is also the author of Arts of Power: Statecraft and Diplomacy (USIP Press). We previously blogged about Ambassador Freeman here, see Ambassador Freeman on American statecraft — It’s hard to think of anything that has gone right.Protecting Diplomats Post-Embassy Attacks: More Fortresses or Rethinking Fortresses?Who’s Gonna be Kicked Around Next?).

 

 

The State Department: More Than Just Diplomacy
(The Personalities, Turf Battles, Dangers Zones For Diplomats, Exotic Datelines, Miscast Appointments, the Laughs — and Sadly, the Occasional Homicide) by George Gedda

This is a book by an AP reporter who covered the State Department for about 40 years and travelled with nine secretary of state to more than 80 countries. Bound to have lots of interesting stories and quips like “He’s the only guy I know who can strut while sitting down.” Bwa-ha-ha! Or when the then Cuba desk officer meet Fidel Castro. He asked if she was there as a spouse of a member of the American delegation, and she replied, “I’m head of Cuban Affairs.”  “Oh,” said Castro. “I thought I was.” The book has a people’s index so you can start there!

gedda

 

Realities of Foreign Service Life, Volume 1 & 2
by Patricia Linderman (Author), Melissa Brayer Hess (Author), Marlene Monfiletto Nice (Author)

It has been said that the Foreign Service is more than a profession; it is a way of life. As much as it is fulfilling to most people I know and a grand adventure to all, it is not for everyone. And if you have a spouse or a partner interested in pursuing his/her career, consideration on the trade offs you both are willing to make or what you are willing to give up must make for serious conversation. Here are a couple of books that anyone considering a career in the Foreign Service should read. The Realities books are published by the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW) a non-profit organization that represents Foreign Service spouses, employees and retirees. The AAFSW volunteers have been around forever, supporting multiple evacuations and assisting members of the Foreign Service community. Its tireless volunteers even supported somebody we know who was not a paying member of the group.

realities_aafws

 

Pomegranate Peace [Kindle Edition]
by 
Rashmee Roshan Lall

Rashmee Roshan Lall was The Times of India’s Foreign Editor based in London, reporting on Europe.  Till June 2011, she was editor of The Sunday Times of India.She spent a year in Kabul, Afghanistan, working for the US Embassy’s Public Affairs Section and six months in Washington,D.C., reporting on the 2012 American presidential election. This book is kind of We Meant Well,Also in Afghanistan, only it’s fiction. The protagonist’s boss quotes from Alice in Wonderland: ‘We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad. You must be or you wouldn’t have come here.’ And there’s Little Sam, “the Haiku poet laureate on the frontline of a war no one could properly explain any longer.” In the novel, Little Sam could churn out fourteen syllables for every mission objective, every ambassadorial platitude – Rule of Law; Transparency and Accountability in Government;etcetera, etcetera.

It’s war, but we spend like peacetime
Blood, treasure,
Strewn. Yours, mine.

The protagonist who is also a former journalist, manages a  Pomegranate Grant, which had been previously approved with the following rationale: ‘Pomegranate production can sustain the Afghan economy. This Afghan-led grant proposal will persuade farmers in the highly kinetic Kandahar area to change from the habit of poppy production.’ “The grantee,” the author writes, “lived in Canada all his life and seemed unwilling to change his address of record.” Jeez, that sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

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The Foreign Circus: Why Foreign Policy Should Not Be Left in the Hands of Diplomats, Spies and Political Hacks [Kindle Edition] by James Bruno

Via Amazon: An ambassador orders his staff into the lawless interior of a civil war-torn country as guerrillas are targeting foreigners for assassination. Hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S.-bought weaponry are channeled to Afghan religious fanatics, the future Taliban. White House players leak classified information to the media, then blame the leaks on career civil servants. Diplomats succumb to the temptations of exotic overseas sexual playgrounds. Political hacks and campaign money bundlers are rewarded with ambassadorships in a diplomatic spoils system that hearkens back to the Robber Baron age. Computer nerds Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning steal a veritable Croesus of sensitive national security information and give it away free to our adversaries.  What’s wrong with this picture? Everything.

We previously blogged about the author here: Ex-Diplomat With Zero Acting Experience Wants to Join Cast of The Bold and the Beautiful. James Bruno is also the author of  Havana Queen, Tribe, Chasm and Permanent Interests.

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FSO-Author Writes About Publishing in the Foreign Service; Update to 3 FAM 4170 Coming Soon?

– Domani Spero

 

The June 2014 issue of the Foreign Service Journal includes an article, Publishing in the Foreign Service by FSO Yaniv Barzilai, who is serving in Baku on his first overseas posting. He is the author of 102 Days of War—How Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda & the Taliban Survived 2001 (Potomac Books, 2013).  Below is an excerpt from that article with a prescription for the improvement of the pre-publication clearance process in the State Department.

There is plenty of room for improvement in the pre-publication clearance process. First and foremost, State must do a better job of adhering to the regulations it has set forth in the Foreign Affairs Manual. Anything short of that standard is unfair to everyone involved. 

Second, the department should establish clear guidelines on how it distributes material internally and across the interagency community. That threshold should have nothing to do with terms as vague as “equities.” Instead, offices and agencies should have the opportunity to clear on material only if that material is the result of “privileged information”: information that employees acquire during the discharge of their duties that is not otherwise available.

Third, State needs to ensure that former employees receive treatment comparable to current employees. A significant gap exists between the attention given to current employees by PA and that former employees receive from A/GIS/IPS/PP/LA. 

As that lengthy acronym suggests, former employees are relegated to an obscure office in the Bureau of Administration when they seek pre-publication clearance. In contrast, the PA leadership is often engaged and provides consistent oversight of the review process for current employees. This bifurcation not only creates unnecessary bureaucratic layers and redundancies, but places additional burdens on former employees trying to do the right thing by clearing their manuscripts. This discrepancy should be rectified.

These short-term fixes would go a long way toward improving the pre-publication clearance process for employees. In the long term, however, the State Department should consider establishing a publication review board modeled on the CIA’s Publication Review Board. 

A State Department PRB would codify a transparent, objective and fair process that minimizes the need for interagency clearance, ensures proper and consistent determinations on what material should be classified, and reduces the strain on the State Department at large, and its employees in particular.

Ultimately, State needs to strike a better balance between protecting information and encouraging activities in the public domain. The pre-publication review process remains too arbitrary, lengthy and disjointed for most government professionals to share their unique experiences and expertise with the American public.

Read in full here.

We totally agree that a publication review board is needed for State. Instead of parcelling out the work to different parts of the bureaucracy, a review board would best serve the agency.  We have some related posts on this topic on the Peter Van Buren case as well as the following items:

The rules and regulations for publishing in the Foreign Service can be found in the infamous Foreign Affairs Manual 3 FAM 4170 (pdf).  Last June, AFSA told its members that for more than a year it has been negotiating a revision to the current Foreign Affairs Manual regulations governing public speaking and writing (3 FAM 4170).

“As mentioned in our 2013 Annual Report, our focus has been to accommodate the rise of social media and protect the employee’s ability to publish. We have emphasized the importance of a State Department response to clearance requests within a defined period of time (30 days or less). For those items requiring interagency review, our goal is to increase transparency, communication and oversight.  We look forward to finalizing the negotiations on the FAM chapter soon—stay tuned for its release.”

This long awaited update to 3 FAM 4170 has been in draft mode since 2012 (see State Dept to Rewrite Media Engagement Rules for Employees in Wake of Van Buren Affair. We’ll have to wait and see if 3 FAM 4172.1-7  also known as the Peter Van Buren clause survives the new version.

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 2014 Call for Entries: Books of Distinction Award on the Practice of American Diplomacy

– Domani Spero

Passing this along via the American Academy of Diplomacy — calling for entries to the 2014 Douglas Dillon Award for Books of Distinction on the Practice of American Diplomacy:

Since 1995, the American Academy of Diplomacy has celebrated distinguished writing about US diplomatic efforts and achievements with an annual award. Last year the prize went to John Taliaferro’s biography of Secretary of State John Hay, All the Great Prizes, published by Simon & Schuster.

The deadline for submission of nominations for this year’s award is Friday, August 15, 2014. A committee of Academy members will review nominated books and determine the winner, with concurrence by the Academy’s Board of Directors. The award for the winning entry this year includes a cash prize of $5,000. The awards are customarily presented at the Academy’s Annual Awards Luncheon ceremony in the Benjamin Franklin Room at the US Department of State in the late fall.

Eligibility Requirements

Eligibility is limited to books written by American citizens and published in the United States within the period of September 1, 2013 to August 15, 2014. The Academy seeks to honor books, and their authors, dealing with the practice of American diplomacy with emphasis on the way US foreign policy is developed and carried out, rather than international theory, studies of broad foreign policy issues, or analyses of intelligence and security operations. Biographies, autobiographies, and personal memoirs that relate to diplomatic practice and process are welcome. Both official diplomatic relations between governments and non-official “Track Two” and other activities that supplement government-to-government diplomacy fall within the scope of this competition. We are particularly interested in books that focus on the opportunities diplomacy offers as well as its limitations.

Publishers should submit five (5) review copies to the following address:

American Academy of Diplomacy
Attn: Aimee Stoltz
1200 18th Street, NW Suite 902
Washington, D.C. 20036
Telephone: 202-331-3721
Email: astoltz@academyofdiplomacy.org

 

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Ghost of Tom Joad: Peter Van Buren’s Book Readings in the DC Area

– Domani Spero


Retired FSO Peter Van Buren is back in the DC area this week with a couple of book readings from his new work, the Ghost of Tom Joad, A Story of the 99 Percent.

 

 

Washington DC

Visit Busboys and Poets for an evening of reading, signing, and possibly some drinking.

The event is May 20, from 6:30pm, at the Busboys and Poets store at 5th & K Streets. The full address is 1025 5th Street NW, Washington, DC 20001, Tel. 202-789-2227. Nearest Metro stations are Gallery Place/Chinatown and Mt. Vernon Square/7th Street-Convention Center. More event info http://www.busboysandpoets.com/events/event/author-event-with-peter-van-buren

Arlington, Virginia

Visit One More Page Books  for reading, signing, and more drinking (they sell wine and chocolates).

The event is May 21, from 7:00 pm, at One More Page Books, 2200 N Westmoreland Street #101 Arlington, VA  22213, 703.300.9746. The nearest Metro is East Falls Church. More event info http://www.onemorepagebooks.com/events.html.

 

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Old Bugaboo of Packout Bothers You? Pick Up This Foreign Service Companion

— By Domani Spero 

*You Might Be in the Foreign Service If…

√  The sound of packing tape makes you cringe.

√  Every time you stay in a hotel, the kids ask if it is their new home.

√  You look at everything you want to buy with a view to: A., how much does it weigh and B., will it explode without a transformer.

√  When you return home, you have a nervous breakdown in Walmart because there are too many choices.

√  You come back to the States for home leave and your 3-year-old yells, “Look, Mama, they have McDonald’s in AMERICA, too!”

Miving Your Hosehold_AAFSW

Every day, somewhere in the world, one or more of the 13, 787 Foreign Service employees and unknown numbers of family members are in the process of moving.  The largest rotation often happens during the summer transfer season, typically after school is out.  This is one of the most stressful part of the Foreign Service, one that we don’t think ever gets easier with time.

If you want to know what moving is like every few years, pick up The Foreign Service Companion Moving Your Household Without Losing Your Mind. This  is a 180-page book divided into five sections: The Big Picture;The Nitty-Gritty; Kids, Pets, and Moving; When Things Go Off-Script and Taking Care of Ourselves.

Eva Groening, a 30-year veteran of FS life with seven consumables posts writes that “moving begins, at least in your mind, the day you learn you will be leaving “here” and going “there.” Then this gem:

“Barter is a wonderful thing – some roach killer for a few tubes of toothpaste? A box of corn starch for a package of chocolate chips?  I treat expiration dates as mere suggestions, but bulging cans go in the trash immediately. 

Ana Gabriela Turner, a spouse who naturalized in 2012 writes about foreign born spouses: culture shock particularly for those moving to the United States, the naturalization process, to work or not to work and other challenges. She forgot to add obtaining a driver’s license as one of the necessities for foreign born spouses navigating their new lives in the United States.

Ed Dyer is part of a trailing household currently assigned to Harare, Zimbabwe writes about the Azimuth Check,  a bearing point or why you need that home leave.

Danielle Dumm, a traveling, writing, shutterbug mama currently in New Delhi, India writes that storing your household’s most important documents and most treasured media in digital form has never been easier and tells you How to Digitize Your Life.

FSO Janet Heg from US Embassy Kabul writes about Packing for an Unaccompanied Tour, what to put in your “Go Bag” and passes on an advice for “shoes that are not only comfortable but also allow you to run in an emergency.”

Michele Hopper, a mom of four who “lives by a well-stocked pantry” writes about Shopping for Consumables and advises readers that  “A full pantry of familiar foods eases even the most difficult day.”   True dat.  Also, how can one not enjoy having a grocery store in your very own home?

FSO Sadie Dworak writes about losing her faithful 10-year-old shih tzu, Hattie during her assignment to Saudi Arabia. A heart-wrenching experience at home but particularly overseas where so many things can go wrong.

Then there’s Public Diplomacy Officer Marlene Monfiletto Nice’s Packing Out is Hard to Do to the tune of Neil Sedaka’s “Breaking Up is Hard to Do.”

Don’t take my plates away from me, My pots and pans, my cutlery,
Got more entertaining to do,
And packing makes it hard to do.

Remember when we first arrived,
It took so long to get the house just right, Now I can’t wait to start anew,
But packing up is hard to do.

But our favorite contribution is hands down, The Slacker’s Guide to Moving by “Ima Spouse Oh”

An international move could be compared to a hurricane: You know it’s coming, you look at maps and worry, and you do the best you can to get ready, whether that means securing patio furniture or downing huge tropical drinks.

The list of things that you “should do” before a move can darken your mood faster than a chocolate shortage. For instance, the first chapter of the State Department’s Foreign Service Assignment Notebook fills 13 pages with preparation suggestions.

This Slacker is here to tell you that you can skip pretty much every- thing in that chapter and still arrive at your destination. In many cases, spending more hours on your move will not actually result in a better experience at post.

Somebody described this book like having folks over and chatting about packouts. If so, then we’d all be happy to have jugs of coffee with EFM, ‘Ima Spouse Oh’ and her pearls of wisdom.  Do you know that you can have things moved in “as-is” condition?  “Yes, the trusty toaster oven arrived complete with crumbs and blotches of melted cheese.”

We had a full laundry basket and a trash can moved in “as-in” condition. Both survived the transfer.

Looking for work before you get to post? Forgetaboutit. “All of the local work Ms. Spouse Oh eventually found was obtained once she started meeting people face-to-face. She decided to change from a job “hunter” to a job “gatherer”: The work is sitting there, she just has to show up in the right place and load it into her basket!”

Mrs. ‘Ima Spouse Oh’  is also huge on delegation, unless “it’s too much effort:”  “Ask the movers to unpack the boxes. Claim you have to work and let your spouse handle everything…. Go on vacation and let the Foreign Service officer in the family manage the move –that’s what would happen if he/she were single anyhow! Just promise not to complain about how things were done if you did not help do them.”

Hah!

The only thing missing in this book is when a spouse is ditched by the FSO overseas, and how that packout in the midst of a separation or a divorce can be extremely messy.

The Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW) has put together this Foreign Service Companion Moving Your Household Without Losing Your Mind.   The book edited by Kelly Bembry Midura and Zoe Cabaniss Friloux.  Kelly blogs at wellthatwasdifferent.wordpress.com.  The editors and authors are volunteers. Your purchase will benefit the programs of the AAFSW.  We understand that this is part one of a series planned for publication, we look forward to the rest of the books in the series.

*You Might Be in the Foreign Service If… excerpted from the book.

(^_^)

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Book Notes: Alison Krupnick’s Ruminations from the Minivan

Alison Krupnick is a former world-traveling diplomat, turned minivan-driving mom and writer. As a Foreign Service officer with the State Department (March 1986-September 1995), she served in India, Thailand and Vietnam and in Washington, D.C. on the country desks for Egypt, Sri Lanka and the Republic of Maldives. Her writing has been published in Harvard Review, Brain, Child, the magazine for thinking mothers, Seattle magazine, Crosscut and other news and trade publications, literary journals and anthologies. She is the author of the blog Slice of Mid-Life (http://www.sliceofmidlife.com). Alison lives in Seattle with her husband and two daughters. She is also the author of a newly released book, Ruminations from the Minivan: musings from a world grown large, then small.

Book by Alison Krupnick

Book by Alison Krupnick
(image used with permission)

Below is an excerpt from the book (republished with permission).  This story, Benefit of the Doubt was originally published in the Harvard Review.

I am standing in the lobby of the former Majestic Hotel trying to make a break for it. At the hotel entrance, a throng of fans is waiting for my companions and me. They’ve been waiting there all day, ever since they broke away from the roped off area at the airport and began to chase us. Chase us on foot, chase us by bicycle, chase us on mopeds. They chased us as we left the decrepit airport and drove into town. They chased us as we passed billboards for state-run enterprises and posters with Soviet-style artwork celebrating the workers’ struggle that look out of place in this tropical environment. They chased us as we attempted to enter the hotel. They chased us and they called out to us by name and tapped us on the shoulders, trying to hand us scraps of paper with names and numbers written on them. Now, hours after our arrival, we want to go to dinner. But if we leave by the front door we will be mobbed. We are ushered out of the hotel via the service entrance and manage to slip away to Maxim’s, a nearby restaurant. We are given a private room. We enjoy a dinner of crab farci, while musicians serenade us with traditional songs of old Vietnam. Then I have a moment to digest what has happened. This is the closest I’ll ever come to knowing how it feels to be a rock star, I think. Nobody has ever wanted me so much in my entire life.

It’s December 1988. Twenty-seven years old, fresh from a year of intensive Vietnamese language training, I have arrived in the former South Vietnamese capital of Saigon, renamed Hồ Chí Minh City by the post-war Communist Vietnamese government. I am part of a team of U.S. government officials. Our mission is to interview and decide whether to grant visas to Amerasians (the wartime offspring of Vietnamese women and American men); former prisoners of Communist “re-education camps;” and beneficiaries of immigrant visa petitions filed by family members already in the United States. We do so as part of the Orderly Departure Program (ODP), which was created under an international agreement to stop the dangerous flow of “boat people,” who had been risking their lives to flee Vietnam. The United States has had no diplomatic relations with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam since 1975, no Embassy where Vietnamese people can simply apply for a visa. The ODP makes it possible for qualified applicants to meet face-to-face with a U.S. government official in Vietnam. The alternative is to take their chances with escape, which, even if successful, could leave them languishing for years in one of the many overcrowded refugee camps of Southeast Asia.

For nearly four years, I will participate almost every month in these ten-day interview trips, which are physically exhausting and emotionally draining. Despite my extensive training and the fact that I have experience conducting visa interviews in India, the stakes are higher in Vietnam. As I find myself in the uncomfortable position of making decisions that will literally change another person’s life, the responsibility to do the right thing, sometimes with very little to guide me, is daunting. Ultimately the guilt that I have not done enough, that nobody can ever do enough, that we are being asked to do too much, will take its toll on me.

Click here to read more about the Orderly Departure Program from Vietnam which was established in 1979-1994 to provide a safe and legal means for people to leave Vietnam rather than clandestinely by boat.

We asked Alison to sum up what it was like being female and single in the FS during the time she was in and below is her response:

“I felt that there was a double-standard for single female FSOs during my era, especially in the developing world.  Several of my male peers dated and eventually married local women, but dating locals was frowned upon for female FSOs and I felt our behavior was more scrutinized. The opening chapter in the book (Junior Officer) touches on this.”

Why she left the Foreign Service in 1995?

I left the Foreign Service to marry an American traveler I met in Vietnam 1991. After we each returned to the U.S. in 1992 (him to Seattle, me to D.C.) we had a three-year, pre-Internet long distance relationship. This was at the time that Sleepless in Seattle had come out and I think I saw that film at least twice on trans-continental flights.  He was reluctant to follow me into the Foreign Service, so I tried some creative solutions so we could be together (including creating a Pearson appt. in Seattle, which the Department assigned to someone else).  Finally, since we had never spent more than two weeks in the same place, an understanding boss gave me a few months of LWOP, just prior to my having to bid on my next overseas assignment.  Summer is deceptively dry and beautiful in Seattle.  The weather and my boyfriend convinced me that Seattle should be my next “assignment.”

We also wanted to know what made her write this book. If this book is mostly about her experience during her FS years or is this more about her transition back to life outside the FS/the beltway. Here is what she said:

My experience in the Foreign Service was life-changing and continues to influence me. The book is divided into four parts. The first part deals with my Foreign Service life and pre-Foreign Service international awakening.  I was living in Paris in 1979-1980, a pivotal year when the U.S. hostages were taken in Iran and  the U.S. boycotted the Summer Olympics in Moscow.  I decided to study international relations at Monterey Institute of International Studies, and later join the State Department,  to make sense of situations such as these and  because of my exposure in Paris to a wide range of nationalities and their impressions of Americans and of U.S. foreign policy.

Other sections of the book are about post-Beltway life. I often joke that being in the Foreign Service is like being in a leper colony and it can be challenging to transition out of the fold.  Few outside of the community understand the unique facets of this life, or fully appreciate the role FSOs play in promoting international understanding.  During my early years with kids I didn’t travel internationally, was acutely frustrated by this and missed being a player on the world stage.

I eventually figured out that just because your world shrinks, your world view doesn’t have to. The Internet and the massive changes in information technology have made it much easier to stay informed and connected from almost anywhere.

If you’re in the DC area, you’ll get a chance to see Alison when she visits to promote her book sometime this year.  The book is available at amazon.com here. The Kindle edition should be available in the next few weeks.

domani spero sig

 

 

 

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Submission Call– In the Line of Fire: American Diplomacy in a Dangerous World

Charles Ray, a 30 year Foreign Service veteran who previously served as U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe (October 2009August 2012) and Cambodia (December 2002July 2005) has a new book project that FS folks may be interested in.  Below via:

I am currently working with the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) on updating a book on “Diplomacy in a Dangerous World.”  To that end, I am seeking stories from Foreign Service Officers (active and retired), their families, former Marine Security Guards, and other people who have served in U.S. diplomatic establishments abroad regarding the sometimes hazardous situations American diplomats face on a daily basis as they perform their vital missions.

The working title of the book I plan to write is “In the Line of Fire:  American Diplomacy in a Dangerous World.”  I plan to structure it as follows:

  1.  Embassies under attack:  stories of attacks on diplomatic establishments from the point of view of those who were inside the facilities.
  2. Off-duty danger:  stories of hazardous situations faced by our diplomats in their countries of assignment even when not on duty.
  3. Not all danger is physical:  in addition to the dangers of physical attack, our diplomats face moral, ethical, and emotional dilemmas continually.  I would like to include a section in the book on the non-physical crises these people deal with.
  4. The ultimate sacrifice:  no story of the dangers our diplomatic personnel face would be complete without a tribute to those who have lost their lives while serving abroad.

If you have a story that you’d like to share, or you know of someone who has, please contact me at charlesray.author@yahoo.com.  You can either provide a brief synopsis of the story, including the names of those involved, or the story itself either in the body of or as an attachment to your email.  If you have clear digital images, and the rights to their distribution, I would also be happy to look at them.

Most people in the U.S. are unaware of the dangers our diplomats face, except on those occasions when something terrible happens and it appears in the press.  I hope, through this book, to fill in the blanks and show that it’s not just the incidents like the terrible tragedy at Benghazi, but that it is a part of the everyday life of an American diplomat.

Ambassador Ray’s other books are available at amazon.com here.

domani spero sig

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Canadian Caper, CIA Exfiltration, Ben Affleck’s Argo and Hurt Feelings

In 1980, PBS aired a 54:02 video about the escape from Iran by 6 Americans who were United States Embassy employees.  The “Canadian Caper” as it is known is the rescue effort by the Canadian Government and the Central Intelligence Agency of six American diplomats who evaded capture during the seizure and hostage taking of the United States embassy in Tehran, Iran on November 4, 1979.  If you watch the video below, you will note that there is no mention of the CIA.  The closely guarded secret of the CIA’s role was only revealed in 1997 as part of the Agency’s 50th anniversary celebrations. Two years later, in the Studies in Intelligence (Winter 1999-2000), the CIA’s former chief of disguise, Tony J. Mendez (played by Ben Affleck in Argo) wrote A Classic Case of Deception: CIA Goes Hollywood. You can read it online here.

The six rescued American are as follows:

Robert Anders, 34 – Consular Officer
Mark J. Lijek, 29 – Consular Officer
Cora A. Lijek, 25 – Consular Assistant
Henry L. Schatz, 31 – Agriculture Attaché
Joseph D. Stafford, 29 – Consular Officer
Kathleen F. Stafford, 28 – Consular Assistant

The Ben Affleck film, Argo reportedly borrows from the memoir of Tony Mendez, “The Master of Disguise,” which originally details how he devised an incredible escape from Tehran for American diplomats posing as a Canadian film crew.  According to Mendez’s website, http://www.themasterofdisguise.com/ Warner Brothers and George Clooney optioned the rights to his book “The Master of Disguise” following a May 2007 “Wired Magazine” article on Tony’s rescue operation during the Iranian hostage crisis.  The script was written by Chris Terrio who reportedly also drew on that 2007 Wired Magazine article and called the movie “a fictionalized version of real events.”

In addition to The Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA (William Morrow and Company, 1999. 351 pages), Mendez has also just released the book Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled off the Most Audacious Rescue in History (Viking Adult, September 13, 2012. 320 pages).  That’s 320 pages of details on how the escape came down from the perspective of the chief exfiltrator.

In any case, Argo had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 7, and who was not invited? For godsakes this is Toronto as in Canada!  Ken Taylor, the former Canadian ambassador to Iran who sheltered the six Americans, that’s who, and our next door neighbors were not too pleased.

Via The Star:

Friends of Ken Taylor, the former Canadian ambassador to Iran, are shocked and upset by the way he was portrayed in Argo …. The ultimate put-down comes with a postscript that appears on the screen just before the final credits, savouring the irony that Taylor has received 112 citations. The obvious implication is that he didn’t deserve them.

A separate piece had this quote from the former ambassador:

“The movie’s fun, it’s thrilling, it’s pertinent, it’s timely,” he said. “But look, Canada was not merely standing around watching events take place. The CIA was a junior partner.”

Ambassador Taylor was awarded the United States Congressional Gold Medal in 1980. In his remarks on presenting the medal, then President Reagan described not only “Ambassador Taylor’s courage but also the contribution of all the Canadian Embassy personnel in Tehran and the Canadian Government in Ottawa.” 

According to Reuters, both Affleck and writer Chris Terrio maintain that the broad thesis of the film is based on actual events, although traditional Hollywood dramatic license includes a climax scene where Iranian police chase a jumbo jet down a runway.  In his presscon after the TIFF premier, Affleck was quoted saying: “Because we say it’s based on a true story, rather than this is a true story,” he said, “we’re allowed to take some dramatic licence. There’s a spirit of truth.”

Things could still have gotten messy but did not.  Affleck apparently changed the offending postscript at the end of the movie, which Taylor’s friends regarded as an insult both to him and to Canada, was removed and replaced by a new postscript: “The involvement of the CIA complemented efforts of the Canadian embassy to free the six held in Tehran. To this day the story stands as an enduring model of international co-operation between governments.”

Ambassador Taylor and his wife were invited by Affleck to Los Angeles and attended a private screening of Argo on the Warner Bros. lot. They were also invited to the Washington DC premiere during a private screening at the Regal Gallery cinemas in downtown Washington on October 10, 2012.  Click here for a video of Affleck addressing a packed auditorium during the screening that included embassy staff, lawmakers, former CIA and former hostages.

Ambassador Taylor and his wife have reportedly taped a commentary for the extra features on the DVD version of Argo, but this will not be released until 2013.

Meanwhile, the film has now also upset the British diplomats who helped our diplomats in Iran.

I should note that among the six Americans featured in Agro, one is still in the Foreign Service. Joseph D. Stafford, III is currently assigned as Charge’ d’ affaires at the US Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan.  Except for a brief mention that he joined the FS in 1978 and that he had earlier assignments in Algiers, Kuwait, Cairo, Palermo, and Tehran, there’s no mention of that daring scape from Tehran in his official bio.

But Mark J. Lijek, one of the Argo six has written a detailed memoir of his experience in The Houseguests: A Memoir of Canadian Courage and CIA Sorcery.  The book is available in digital edition at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

After Tehran, Mark J. Lijek went on to assignments in Hong Kong, Kathmandu, Warsaw, Frankfurt and several tours in Foggy Bottom. On his website, he writes that the Iran experience remained a constant in his life but that while media interest came and went, he never forgot the selfless help provided by Canadian Embassy personnel during the crucial months following the takeover.  He writes that remained in touch with several of the Canadians and served as the US-side coordinator for the periodic reunions hosted by the Canadian side.  He and his wife, Cora, apparently also continued their friendship with Tony Mendez who masterminded their rescue. Both have been involved on the margins with the film which he calls “a dramatized version of Tony’s escape plan.”

Click here for Mark’s photos in FB from his Escape From Iran Album and the Argo Six Hollywood experience.

If you want to have a rounded view of what happened behind the Argo rescue and the hostage crisis, you may also want to read a couple more books:

Our Man in Tehran: The True Story behind the Secret Mission to save Six Americans during the Iran Hostage Crisis and the Foreign Ambassador Who Worked with the CIA to Bring Them Home by Robert A. Wright

Guests of the Ayatollah: The Iran Hostage Crisis: The First Battle in America’s War with Militant Islam by Mark Bowden

 

 

 

 

 

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The Foreign Service is like your husband’s crazy college girlfriend … Va Va Voom — oh, but …

One of our favorite Foreign Service writers, Kelly of Well, That Was Different has her blog fingers right on the button on this.   When the Foreign Affairs Fudge Factory (by John Franklin Campbell) or The Theory of Public Bureaucracy (Politics, Personality, and Organization in the State Department)  (by Donald Warwick) ever gets updated for the 21st century, there definitely needs to be a section for the crazy old girlfriend’s schizophrenic outbursts and not too endearing qualities. Kelly writes:

The Foreign Service is like your husband’s (‘scuse the masculine, but that’s how it is for us) crazy college girlfriend. She is sexy as hell, which is how she seduced your husband in his young and foolish student days. But, she is also bipolar and totally narcissistic.

She can be really nice when she wants to be, or more accurately, when it’s in her interest to do so. Every couple of years, she comes knocking at the door, all charming and cute, with slick promises of promotion, money, and other goodies, and chances are, your husband will be suckered once again.

She even has long periods of sanity sometimes—at least I think I remember one of those. (It lasted about 8 years.)

The manic phases are interesting. Sometimes, she even gets a wild hair and builds a huge mansion in, like, the worst neighborhood on the planet, then expects everyone to be totally excited to work and live there.

But look out when she is on a downswing. You are just cannon fodder then, and she’ll be seriously pissed if you don’t toe the line. She gets especially cranky when she’s running out of money, or someone is giving her a hard time. She doesn’t take criticism very well. In fact, her general approach is to deny that there is a problem. Being basically insane, she may actually believe this to be true.

 

Tee-he! Can’t help but appreciate the sustained simile.  Continue reading In Which I Am Shocked To Discover That I No Longer Absolutely Loathe Foreign Service Bidding.

 

 

 

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Summer Reading: The Dictator’s Handbook, A Practical Manual for the Aspiring Tyrant

In a December 2011 article in NPR, Alan Greenblatt writes that 2011 has been a rough year for dictators pointing out that several of the world’s longest-serving autocrats have either died or been ousted from power: North Korea’s Kim Jong Il who died from heart failure and the leaders ousted in the Arab Spring: Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, Moammar Gadhafi of Libya, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen.

The piece also quotes Nicolas van de Walle, a government professor at Cornell University saying, “It’s not only that there are fewer dictators, but there are virtually no dictators left who don’t talk the language of democracy and turnover of executive power.”

He is absolutely right, of course. That’s right out of Chapter 10 of the The Dictator’s Handbook, A Practical Manual for the Aspiring Tyrant by Randall Wood and Carmine DeLuca. The chapter includes a helpful section on Working with the Foreign Diplomatic Community, specifically on how to deploy the charm offensive.

For example, the Handbook suggests employing “the right talk”:

“Wax eloquent about democracy, transparency, decentralization, development, control of corruption, and accountability. This has worked astonishingly well for leaders who went on to practice none of those philosophies: Laurent Kabila (Congo), Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Meles Zenawi (Ethiopia), and Isaias Afawerki (Eritrea). Bill Clinton lauded these men as the “new generation of leaders” in the “African Renaissance” sweeping the nation.[26] They generally turned out to be nothing of the sort, and several of them figure prominently in this book.”

Secretary Clinton meets with President Yoweri Museveni who has been President of Uganda since 26 January 1986. He was re-elected on 20 February 2011 making him
the fifth longest serving African leader.
(Photo from August 2012 Visit via State Department)

Another suggestion is to cultivate “the right look”:

“It was true about getting put into power and remains true while you are in power; it’s true furthermore when it comes to getting funding: Westerners have a propensity for funding and supporting those leaders they feel are most like themselves. And they adore English-speaking technocrats with degrees from Western universities. If you have carefully groomed yourself on the way to power with the right accent (a British accent is well worth the trouble learning), the right look, and the right “persona,” you may be richly rewarded.”

Here is one who is not from Africa and has only been in power since 2004, but an English-speaking somebody the western world absolutely adores despite allegations of election fraud:

President George W. Bush and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai shake hands after cutting the ceremonial ribbon, Wednesday, March 1, 2006, to dedicate the new U.S. Embassy Building in Kabul, Afghanistan.
White House Photo by Eric Draper

But it’s not enough to have the “right talk” and the “right look” alone.  The aspiring dictator must also have the “right political philosophy” according to the Handbook:

It’s important to know your audience when you speak, as the right words can make the cash register go ‘cha-ching!’ During World War II, when the Allies were looking for support in Africa, several African leaders managed to persuade the West they were staunchly anti-Communist even as they erected neo-communist regimes at home. Likewise, when George W. Bush announced the American ‘war on terror,’ many African leaders otherwise well-skilled in the arts of terrorism where their own people were concerned – from Charles Taylor (Liberia) to Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe) and Omar al Bashir (Sudan) – came forward with wars against terror of their own. And they were well-funded by the Americans for it. Charles Taylor, to his (ahem) credit, even established an “anti-terrorist” unit that went on to terrorize the Liberians, and the warlords of Mogadishu formed a “Coalition Against Terrorism” in 2006, which the CIA amazingly agreed to fund.[26]

President Karimov greets General Petraeus at Oksaroy during the general’s visit to Tashkent on 08/18/2009. President Karimov is the first and only President of Uzbekistan, serving since 1990.
(US Embassy photo)

And last but not the least, the Handbook recommends “the right spouse”:

“One point in Assad’s favor was his charismatic and lovely wife Asma, raised in London and of course perfectly fluent in English. She became the “face” of what Westerners hoped was a more pro-West Syria. If you yourself are not the Western educated, fluent English speaker Western governments adore so much, it is a smart idea to marry one. She may have been the perfect spouse for other reasons as well, as she was mostly content to focus on shopping for luxury goods while her husband oversaw the extended slaughter of thousands of Syrians in 2011–2012.[102]”

The most apt part is probably what the authors call “cooperation diplomacy” with the following suggestion to all aspiring dictators:

“Couch all your relations with countries otherwise inclined to press you for reforms, in the language of “cooperation” and “dialogue.” Both are politically neutral, infinite, and respectful. Neither commits you to do anything you don’t want to do, and neither insists on reform. Dialogue can go forever, lead to nothing, and keep the money flowing.”

Randall Wood is an engineer and co-author of two books, Moon Nicaragua (a best-selling travel guidebook to Nicaragua) and Living Abroad in Nicaragua. He works for an aid agency and currently lives with his family in Senegal. He previously worked for  USAID, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and was a Peace Corps Volunteer.  Carmine DeLuca, a writer and history enthusiast, has long cultivated an interest in the authoritarians of every stripe. In part this fascination stems from his personal life – a Bonapartist father, an aunt named after the Battle of Adowa, and a grandfather and great uncle in Mussolini’s army.

I asked Randy what made him write this book.  He told me that living overseas and realizing that dictators are copying each other’s move, it started for him with a simple question — “if those douchebags are all working off the same instruction manual, what must it look like?”

And The Dictator’s Handbook, A Practical Manual for the Aspiring Tyrant was born (it took another three years of work, after his gov work “and when the kids were in bed (i.e. 8PM to 1AM on two cups of coffee)” before the book was published.  The handbook is extensive at 320 pages long, including 500 bibliographic references, 100 footnotes, and a full index. It is available both a paperback and an ebook.

You can check out and buy the book at: http://dictatorshandbook.net

Randy’s website is: www.therandymon.com.

The book also has an accompanying blog here: http://lounge.dictatorshandbook.net/

Indeed, the Dictator’s Handbook gives you a road map to tyranny, step by step. Chapters include Getting to Power, The Culture of Fear, Building Your Financial Empire, Managing Your Legacy and more.   The chapter on Strategies of Suppression: Dealing with Enemies is surprisingly quite familiar particularly if you have lived in third world countries plundered infamously so by dictators.

Domani Spero

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