Quickie: Nordlinger’s Negroponte at Large

Jay Nordlinger of the National Review Online had a sit down with John Negroponte and came out with Negroponte at Large, a five part series. A few selected excerpts below:

The best diplomat around:

“Dimitri (his father) was “a little horrified that I went to Vietnam, and a bit more horrified that I went to Central America — to Honduras. And he was thrilled that I eventually went to Mexico as ambassador. He wrote me a letter at the time saying, ‘You’re finally getting the kind of recognition you really deserve.’ What he meant was, ‘You’ve finally done something I heartily approve of’! He didn’t live to see me become . . . you know . . . I retired [from the Foreign Service] in 1997, and he died in 1996. My mother in 2000. Neither lived to see me come back into government. “My mother was disappointed I retired from government. She said, ‘All my Greek friends told me you were the best diplomat around!’

On non-partisanship:

“I frankly didn’t really identify myself as anything in particular, because I considered myself a career diplomat. Go back to Cecil Driver, and his basic course in political science,” which was heavy on the British system. “The British civil servant doesn’t play politics. So he kind of groomed us to think that way.”

On the UN, where he was ambassador from 2001 to 2004:

“The U.N. is what the members make of it. This is particularly true of the Security Council.” What Americans sometimes forget, Negroponte continues, is that “we almost always get our way in the Security Council. The veto power gives you an enormous amount of leverage.”

On the WMD:

“We rehearsed this whole thing, talking back and forth, questioning this and that.” Powell “made a good-faith effort,” but U.S. claims “turned out to be wrong, so there we are.”

On the State Department being a nest of left-leaners:

“I think it’s essentially a myth. Government responds to leadership, and I don’t necessarily mean political leadership at the top. Everyone’s got a leadership responsibility, up and down the line, including career Foreign Service officers. We have a responsibility too. With the right kind of leadership, you get good performance.”

On his role models on diplomacy:

Negroponte says that he has two role models, where diplomacy is concerned. And they were “almost antithetical,” in background and temperament. The first is Ellsworth Bunker (1894-1984). Scion of a wealthy family, scion of Yale. He was the epitome of the gentleman diplomat (American version). Bunker was ambassador to India, the OAS, and, critically, South Vietnam.

“He kept his cool,” says Negroponte, “in 100-degree Saigon heat. He was just calm, gentlemanly, and dignified — always.”

The second model is Philip Habib (1920-1992). He was the son of Lebanese Christians in Brooklyn — “I think his father ran a delicatessen,” says Negroponte. Somehow, Habib went to college at the forestry school of the University of Idaho. As a diplomat, he was high-strung, somewhat fiery — but superb. “Phil was a mentor to a lot of us,” says Negroponte. “He was Mr. Foreign Service in his time. He also demonstrated that, with competence, efficiency, and presentational skills, you could be influential in policy circles, as a career person. He proved that.”

Check out the multi-part article below: