2008: The Way We Were in Bullet Points

  • Foggy Bottom tweet show

  • Multiconfessional democracy

  • Popularity contest

  • Stand the test of time

  • Iraqi Tax

  • War Supplemental

  • Stretched

  • Unfunded mandates

  • Stepping up to the plate

  • Forward deployed

  • Tired old quotes

  • Prime candidate

  • Expeditionary

  • Directed assignment

  • Global Repositioning

  • Transformational Diplomacy

  • Quote/Unquote
    aka: air quotes

Can it be that the world is self-selecting then?
Or has time transformed every mind?
If we had the chance to do it all again
Tell me, would we? could we? should we?

\~/ Stay safe, have fun, I’ll see you next year!

Insider Quote: What We Need to Know

Wretchedness is a good teacher, though, and gradually something happened. When Ahmed, the impoverished student cramming under my streetlight, confided colorful details about Islamist movements at his university, when Mohammed the biologist discoursed on overexploitation of fish stocks, and when a royal third cousin gossiped about companies controlled by His Sherifian Majesty, it was not because my French accent had improved (though it had), but because I was no longer a stranger.

Diplomats must persuade non-English-speaking politicians to take the risk of telling us what we need to know rather than what we want to hear.

John Brady Kiesling
Why Don’t We Talk Anymore?
Utne Reader March / April 2007

Why the Legacy Tours? Rutherford B. Hayes Memorial BP Station

Photo from Diplopundit’s Archive

Ever wondered why our elected leaders and very important folks go on legacy tours/interviews or even write their own books? Or have their surrogates defend their record, spin us if needed to shore up their legacy?

I‘ve always thought that this has to do with claiming their “correct” place in history, but in a visit to Ohio in 1999, a much simpler reason surfaced and gave me a better appreciation of this legacy shoring up business. In Delaware, Ohio – specifically on #17 E. William Street.

Downtown, on US 36/William Street, a half-block east of Sandusky Street, there is a plaque on the north side, directly in front of the BP station. The plaque marks the birthplace of Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th President of the United States, now a gas station owned by British Petroleum.

Joe Mcelwee on Paying homage to a land of presidents did this same route in 2004:

Dozens of gas stations are operated in this bustling community, but I looked for the BP station on East William Street. Adjacent to the pumps stood a monument behind a phone booth flanked by bushes. Etchings on the slab indicated that Rutherford B. Hayes was born here in 1822. I filled my tank and headed inside.

“People stop here to see the president’s birthplace?” I asked the clerk. He studied me from behind the counter.

“Nope. They just want gas.”

“What happened to Hayes’ house?” I asked.

He shrugged.

The Washington Pugilist (December 19, 2008) recaps history for many of us who may not remember:

“In one of the most controversial presidential elections in the nation’s history, the Democratic candidate won the nation’s popular vote but lost the election. Everyone remembers the details; a Florida election that was “too close to call;” accusations of fraud and the destruction of Democratic ballots; and southern blacks forced at gunpoint to the ballot boxes to vote Republican. Don’t remember that last part, you say?

Well, you can’t be blamed for forgetting the 1876 election of Rutherford B. Hayes. His somber, bearded face adorns no currencies or mountainsides, nor are there famous national monuments in his honor. His homestead, in Delaware, Ohio was demolished, so that a gas station could be erected. The birthplace of our nation’s 20th 19th president is now marked only by a modest memorial plaque, standing with humility and honor in the parking lot of a BP.”

And so – can you really blame the living for their legacy tours, interviews, forthcoming books, centers, temples of worship, er libraries, and whatever else is in their “no BP station preventive insurance” checklist?

The Rutherford B. Hayes Memorial BP Station stands in great contrast to the memorials made in his name in the small country of Paraguay where he is still revered as a great hero. Paraguayans celebrate a holiday in President Hayes’s honor, named a city, department or province, soccer team, sports club, national holiday, and museum for him. He is reportedly also commemorated in textbooks, monuments and folklore. Why? Our 19th President was the arbitrator in a boundary dispute between Paraguay and Argentina after the War of the Triple Alliance where Paraguay suffered some 300,000 military and civilian casualties in 1864 – 1870.

On November 10, U.S. Ambassador Liliana Ayalde participated in a ceremony at the Paraguayan Ministry of Foreign Affairs to introduce a new Paraguayan stamp that pays homage to President Rutherford B. Hayes and the 130th anniversary of the Chaco territory arbitration in which President Hayes decided in Paraguay’s favor.

Bill Clinton already has a boulevard named after him in Priština; a Clinton statue is also in the works. Kosovo Albanian authorities have also recently decided to name one of the main streets in Priština after outgoing U.S. President George Bush. Listening to these legacy talks fill one’s head with endless wonder – what will the natives build in Afghanistan and Iraq?

I am, of course, curious if the “no BP station preventive insurance” plan also has global coverage.

PSA: Ballpark Figure Needed for London

Winfield House, State Department Photo

Somebody in Georgia is interested in the ambassador’s gig in London, and the following search phrase kept landing in this blog:

insider what does an ambassador have to spend at court of st james’s

Insider’s initial response: Like J. P. Morgan says, “If you have to ask how much it costs, you can’t afford it.”

Insider’s less snarky response after I’ve had coffee – I’ll ask around.

Can’t say how much you spend as top diplomat in London representing the United States at the Court of St. James. But over in Rome, our man there did 220 dinners, lunches and receptions since 2006, which amounts to some 6 representational functions per month. I’m quite sure he has spent out of pocket, just can’t say how much out of pocket or, if one gets a tax deduction for spending on behalf of Uncle Sam (best consult a professional on the tax thingy).

f anyone out there has ever been an Ambassador to the Court of St. James and has Winfield House as your digs, would you please let us know? I think a ball park figure would be much appreciated.

Insider Quote: On Why You Need an Escape Clause

The couples I see with the most success are the ones with an escape clause. Before they even fill out their first form, they sit down and say, “We’ll give it a fair shot for two years, if either of us is unhappy we’ll go home.” Truth is, life as an FS spouse can be stifling. There aren’t a whole lot of outlets or opportunities, just the endless rounds of Embassy life. So don’t enter into a Foreign Service marriage unless you’ve got a commitment that you can go home if you aren’t happy.

Shannon Stamey

Ex-Wife of a U.S. Diplomat
August 29, 2007 │A Cautionary Tale

DS: I think this piece should be required reading for all those contemplating life in the Foreign Service but most especially if you are the accompanying spouse or partner. An escape clause is a wise counsel, please write it down.

The Hard Lessons of the Meandering Memos

As planning for the invasion went forward, the Departments of Defense and State produced remarkably similar assessments of what could go wrong. In October 2002, Secretary Rumsfeld and his aides wrote a “Parade of Horribles” memo discussing 29 possible catastrophes. In retrospect, the memo proved remarkably prescient. Number thirteen was not finding weapons of mass destruction…

In mid- December, Secretary Powell received a twelve-page warning—co-authored by Ryan Crocker, eventual Ambassador to Iraq—titled “The Perfect Storm.” This memo presciently warned that the struggle for dominance after the fall of Saddam would likely inspire violent clashes between and among Iraq’s sects, tribes, and ethnic factions, possibly leading to the country’s fragmentation.

Neither the “Parade of Horribles” nor “The Perfect Storm” memos were shared with the National Security Council’s Executive Steering Group on Iraq and neither Rumsfeld nor Powell summarized the concerns they raised for officials working on day-to-day Iraq planning

Oct. 2002
Hard Lessons, Chapter 1 pg. 13
From ProPublica

Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience
The draft of a federal report by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. Annotations are based on the review’s findings. The draft was provided to reporters at The New York Times and ProPublica by two people outside the Inspector General’s office who have read the draft.

The Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) is the successor to the Coalition Provisional Authority Office of Inspector General (CPA-IG). SIGIR was created in October 2004 by a congressional amendment to Public Law 108-106 (55KB PDF), triggered by the June 28, 2004, dissolution of the CPA.

You can read online the 508-page draft report here.

Foreign Service Blogger Index

I just published the “Foreign Service Blogger Index,” page currently listing 99 blogs by Foreign Service officers, specialists, family members and a couple by ex-FS members. Most blogs are open and accessible to anyone but a few are restricted to invited readers only (those blogs are marked on the list). The index will be updated regularly and the link to it will be permanently posted in the Foreign Service Blogs in the left hand column of this blog. If I missed your blog please let me know.

I have also moved my collection of Think-Tanks and FS Organizational Resources from the left hand column to a web page accessible here. The link will be permanently listed under Web Links in the left hand column of this blog.

Finally, a new addition to my links – is a collection of Leadership & Organizational Life blogs and resources online and an updated Online News and Magazine collection, both appearing in the left hand column of this blog. I hope this pruning helps you get around here better.

Update: 12/26
AFSA has put together a Foreign Service Blogger Index recently. I have decided to no longer update my blogger index which I have pulled down shortly after Madam le Consul’s The Consul Files was shut down.

Video of the Week: Learned on the Firing Line

Leadership Lessons Learned on the Firing Line
Anne M. Mulcahy
November 9, 2006
Running Time: 55:02

Anne M. Mulcahy was named CEO of Xerox in 2001, and chairman in 2002. She previously served as president and chief operating officer, and president of Xerox’s General Markets Operations. Mulcahy began at Xerox as a field sales representative in 1976, and progressed into senior management positions, including vice president for human resources. She subsequently served as vice president and staff officer for Customer Operations. Mulcahy earned a B.A. in English/Journalism from Marymount College in 1974. She is a member of the boards of directors for Citigroup Inc. and Target Corporation, among others.

Mulcahy has drawn a number of lessons from her harrowing turnaround tale. Leaders must “listen with a bias toward responding,” even during prosperous times, so they can learn about deep-seated problems and jump on them proactively. This means seeking out critics for “the straight scoop.” Simplify the corporate structure and communicate “a few clear priorities” – in person, if possible. She notes that previous Xerox managers had relied on a “classic, Powerpoint slide solution to organizational effectiveness” but it “was a nightmare when you went around the world and couldn’t find anybody who had clear responsibility for anything.” Make sure you’ve got the right people for the right jobs — diversify and make sure to hire “people who are different and smarter than you are, with skills you don’t have.” And if the organization is struggling or failing, articulate a vision of the future that employees and customers can buy into. Finally, lead with humility. Great leaders burn with ambition for their companies, not for themselves.

MIT World is a free and open site that provides on demand video of significant public events at MIT. MIT World’s video index contains more than 500 videos. Browse the Videos

TelCons: Have Teeth, Will Bite

The National Security Archive, a
n independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University posted on December 23 the Kissinger Telephone Conversations: A Verbatim Record of U.S. Diplomacy, 1969-1977. The entire transcripts are available here but you need a ProQuest account to read.

The Archive says that “The transcript of the April 15, 1972, phone conversation is one of over 15,500 documents in a unique, comprehensively-indexed set of the telephone conversations (telcons) of Henry A. Kissinger—perhaps the most famous and controversial U.S. official of the second half of the 20th century. Unbeknownst to the rest of the U.S. government, Kissinger secretly taped his incoming and outgoing phone conversations and had his secretary transcribe them. After destroying the tapes, Kissinger took the transcripts with him when he left office in January 1977, claiming they were “private papers.” In 2001, the National Security Archive initiated legal proceedings to force the government to recover the telcons, and used the freedom of information act to obtain the declassification of most of them. After a three year project to catalogue and index the transcripts, which total over 30,000 pages, this on-line collection was published by the Digital National Security Archive (ProQuest) this week.”

And here’s the part that should give every bureaucrat pause, “Kissinger never intended these papers to be made public, according to William Burr, senior analyst at the National Security Archive, who edited the collection, Kissinger Telephone Conversations: A Verbatim Record of U.S. Diplomacy, 1969-1977. “Kissinger’s conversations with the most influential personalities of the world rank right up there with the Nixon tapes as the most candid, revealing and valuable trove of records on the exercise of executive power in Washington,” Burr stated. For reporters, scholars, and students, Burr noted, “Kissinger created a gift to history that will be a tremendous primary source for generations to come.” He called on the State Department to declassify over 800 additional telcons that it continues to withhold on the grounds of executive privilege.”

What you do, say or write is public record, whether you like it or not. Some 29 transcripts are posted in the NSA website in PDF format. Below is a couple that most probably did not make into Mr. Kissinger’s books:

III. After the “Halloween Massacre”: Secretary of State Only

Documents 24A and B: “The Guy That Cut Me up Inside this Building Isn’t Going to Cut Me Up Any Less in Defense”

A. With New York Times columnist James Reston,
3 November 1975
B. With Treasury Secretary William Simon,
3 November 1975

A few days earlier, Kissinger learned that President Ford had shaken up his cabinet: Kissinger was fired as national security adviser, replaced by his deputy Brent Scowcroft; James Schlesinger was fired as Secretary of Defense, replaced by White House Chief of Staff Donald Rumsfeld, and William Colby was to leave the CIA, with George H.W. Bush taking his job. Engineered by Donald Rumsfeld and presidential aide Cheney (who subsequently became White House Chief of Staff), the purpose of the “Halloween Massacre” was to strengthen Ford’s political position as the 1976 campaign approached. Speaking with Reston, Kissinger was not sure what caused the turnover, but Kissinger thought that in the case of Schlesinger, that the President had “had enough” of what he saw as Schlesinger’s back-stabbing in the media. A conversation with William Simon was even franker. Simon had disabused reporters that Kissinger had somehow engineered the cabinet change; indeed, he believed that things would be “worse” for Kissinger with Rumsfeld at the Pentagon. Kissinger agreed: “the guy that cut me up inside this building isn’t going to cut me up any less in Defense.”

Hey! I’ve heard of these old dogs before … you think new tricks gets better or worse with age?

A Review Team for the FRUS Fracas

Just before DC shut down for the holidays, the following statement was released on the FRUS fracas:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met yesterday, December 22, with members of the Historical Advisory Committee (HAC) to discuss the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series and concerns expressed by some current and former members of the HAC about the series. Secretary Rice stated her strong support for the FRUS series and underscored its importance to academic and general audiences. Secretary Rice also told the group that she had asked an outside Review Team to provide recommendations about how to ensure the FRUS series remains the gold standard for diplomatic history scholarship.

Members of the Review Team, Professor Warren F. Kimball (Rutgers University), Professor Ron Spector (George Washington University), and Ruth Whiteside (Director of the Department of State Foreign Service Institute), will report their recommendations to Secretary Rice and Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Sean McCormack.

I supposed that is good news – the intention is there to be fully present until the last moment. But wasn’t the Assistant Secretary the same one who walked out of that contentious meeting? You’d think that the Review Team’s report would go to 66 and to the guy who oversees the Bureau of Public Affairs. Seems a conflicted setup, is all … but maybe it does not really matter now; bound to get another review soon.

Related Post:
Domestic Disturbance in the Public Affair’s Shop