Artful Diplomacy: 80,000 stockpiled tons of frozen chicken for F-16s?

Ben Berkowitz wrote a special report on weapons and the art of diplomacy here.  I’m sure this would make for some uncomfortable reading out there. And for diplomats who had to rope in sponsors contributors for the official USG 4th of July receptions, this is the answer begging for questions.

But the thing about F-16s and 80,000 stockpiled tons of frozen chicken sure gets your attention.

I must say that had this deal went through, some lucky guy would have been put in for the Charles E. Cobb, Jr. Award for Initiative and Success in Trade Development which recognizes outstanding contributions toward innovative and successful trade development and export promotion for the United States, including “energy and imagination in assisting U.S. manufacturers, retailers and distributors, banks investment firms, venture capital organizations, travel agents, airlines, and other exporters of U.S. goods and services.”  The award includes a certificate signed by the Secretary and $5,000.

Or the Herbert Salzman Award for Excellence in International Economic Performance for outstanding contributions in advancing U.S. international relations and objectives in the economic field. This award includes a certificate signed by the Secretary and $5,000.

Or who knows? Perhaps even the Secretary’s Distinguished Service Award. This one is presented at the discretion of the Secretary in recognition of exceptionally outstanding leadership, professional competence, and significant accomplishment over a sustained period of time in the field of foreign affairs. Such achievements must be of notable national or international significance and have made an important contribution to the advancement of U. S. national interests.

Probably needed to calculate how many F-16 American jobs =80,000 stockpiled tons of frozen chicken. Did not work out. Now, we’ll never know.  Excerpts from Weapons and the art of diplomacy:

NEW YORK (Reuters) – When Lockheed Martin wanted to sell C-130 military transport planes to the government of Chad in early 2007, the U.S. embassy in N’Djamena was ready to lend a hand.
The embassy in Chad is hardly an outlier. A review of thousands of pages of diplomatic cables from the last decade, obtained by WikiLeaks and provided to Reuters by a third party, paints a picture of foreign service officers and political appointees willing to go to great lengths to sell American products and services, and to prevent similar sales by other countries.

To be sure, that has been a big part of their job since the end of the Cold War. Nor do the cables point to any wrongdoing. But in some cases, the efforts were so strenuous they raise the question of where if anywhere the line is being drawn between diplomacy and salesmanship.

“The U.S. Government has broad, though not unlimited, discretion to promote and assist U.S. commercial interests abroad. We, of course, cannot do so in contravention of local laws,” a State Department spokesman said in response to queries on a series of cables.
Seasoned diplomats point to a shift in the early 1990s, after the introduction of what was sometimes referred to as a “Bill of Rights for U.S. Business” by former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger. A career foreign service officer, Eagleburger wanted corporate America to have a say in matters of interest internationally — a big change from how things had been done.

“Until (then), U.S. diplomats were not particularly encouraged to help U.S. business. They were busy fighting the Cold War,” said one former U.S. diplomat in Asia. “All of a sudden, we were given new direction: if a single U.S. company is looking for business, we should advocate for them by name; if more than one U.S. company was in the mix, stress buying the American product.”
Marcelle Wahba, the career diplomat who was ambassador to the United Arab Emirates at the time, said such interactions were what was expected of American diplomats by the turn of the 21st Century.

“For the ambassador, I can’t think of a time when a month went by when a commercial issue wasn’t on my plate,” she said in an interview with Reuters. “Some administrations put more of an emphasis on it than others, but now I think, regardless of who’s in power you really find it’s become an integral part of the State Department mandate.”

One cable that underlines the persistence of U.S. diplomats trying to close a deal involves weapons and lots and lots of frozen chickens.

In 2005, the Thai government started shopping for new military fighter jets among Lockheed Martin, Russia’s Sukhoi and Sweden’s Saab.[…] For the embassy in Bangkok, winning achieved two goals: helping Lockheed and keeping the Russians from selling planes. There was, however, a small complication with the terms — the Thai government didn’t want to pay cash. Instead, it proposed trading 80,000 stockpiled tons of frozen chicken.
“By the time I was retired from the Foreign Service, which was 1998, things had changed fundamentally and being an active participant in the commercial program and promoting trade using the prestige of the ambassador and receptions held at the embassy or at the ambassador’s residence was an important part of what I did,” said Tom Niles, the former U.S. ambassador to Canada, the European Union and Greece.
“We might have been a little bit late to the game. The Europeans understood the crucial role of foreign trade in the growth and development of their economies before we did,” Niles said.

Wahba, the former UAE ambassador, concurred.

“Oftentimes European ambassadors, that’s all they’re there for,” she said, adding it would be hard to see the reason otherwise for some countries to have embassies in the first place.

Read this pretty interesting report in full here. Sorry, I still can’t get my head around the 80,000 tons of frozen chicken, can you? I mean — would we have known if that chicken in the local grocery store was swapped for F-16s? Most probably not. It’s not like that’s the best c’mon to pitch stockpiled frozen chickens. 

In How to Run the World Parag Khanna writes, “It’s only a matter of time before an uber-corporation issues its own passport with pre-negotiatied visa-free access to countries large and small.” You think? Note the “new diplomacy” and the corporate logos here?



Officially Back: Marc Grossman, Our New Man in Af/Pak

US Under Secretary Marc Grossman meets with Fo...Image via WikipediaAs expected, Secretary Clinton, during the launch of the Asia Society’s Series of Richard C. Holbrooke Memorial Addresses made an official announcement on the new Special Representative for Af/Pak. No other than the much rumored Marc Grossman, a retired American diplomat with almost three decades of experience with the State Department.  Ambassador Grossman was Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (2001-2005), Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (1997-2000) and U.S. Ambassador to Turkey (1994-1997)

Until this appointment, he was also the Vice Chairman of The Cohen Group (TCG), a group put together by former SecDef William Cohen “to provide enterprises large and small the help they need to compete and succeed in the global market place.”

Below an excerpt from his TCG bio: Read the full entry here. Try not to blink when you see the names of other members of TCG team:

A native of Los Angeles, California, Ambassador Grossman graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara and later received an MSc. in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science. As a result of his outstanding service to his country, Ambassador Grossman is the recipient of numerous honors and awards. He attained the Foreign Service’s highest rank in 2004 when the President appointed him to the rank of Career Ambassador; he received the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award the following year.

Here is Secretary Clinton during the launch of the Asia Society’s Series of Richard C. Holbrooke Memorial Addresses in New York on February 18, 2011:

As promised, we are launching a diplomatic surge to move this conflict toward a political outcome that shatters the alliance between the Taliban and al-Qaida, ends the insurgency, and helps to produce not only a more stable Afghanistan but a more stable region.

Now, of course, we had always envisioned Richard Holbrooke leading this effort. He was an architect of our integrated military-civilian-diplomatic strategy, and we feel his loss so keenly.

But Richard left us a solid foundation. Over the past two years, he built an exceptional team and a strong working relationships with our allies and regional partners.

And today, I am pleased to announce that the President and I have called back to service Ambassador Marc Grossman, a veteran diplomat and one of Richard’s most esteemed colleagues, as our new Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ambassador Grossman’s first tour in the Foreign Service was in Pakistan. He knows our allies and understands how to mobilize common action to meet shared challenges. He played a crucial role in the Dayton talks, and Richard described him in a memorable book that Richard wrote as “one of the most outstanding career diplomats.” Ambassador Grossman has followed in Richard’s shoes before when he served as Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs in the ‘90s, and I am absolutely confident in his ability to hit the ground running.

Now, Ambassador Grossman and the rest of his interagency team will marshal the full range of our policy resources to support responsible, Afghan-led reconciliation that brings the conflict to a peaceful conclusion, and to actively engage with states in the region and the international community to advance that process.

As I said, important groundwork has already been laid, both by Richard and his team, and by the Afghans themselves.

Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty has an interesting item on this appointment:

Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute who specializes in national security and defense issues, says the administration first and foremost wanted someone with established diplomatic credentials.
“I’m not going to suggest that he’s the last choice they wanted to make either, but he is perhaps the fourth or fifth person they tried,” O’Hanlon adds. “And what that suggests is they wanted someone of a certain stature. All the names that we’ve seen floated were people who had been undersecretary or deputy secretary — not so much sort of the young, workhorse regional expert, but more the established, silver-haired diplomat — and that’s the personality type they went for.”

Senior administration officials confirmed to “The Washington Post” and “The New York Times” that among the candidates considered were Nicholas Burns, former undersecretary of state for political affairs under President George W. Bush; Strobe Talbott, former deputy assistant secretary of state under President Bill Clinton;  former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Frank Wisner; and former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta.

O’Hanlon says Grossman has “probably as many [attributes for the job] as you’re going to find in any one person” and says his deep knowledge of how the State Department works is going to come in handy as he tries to integrate the various government bureaucracies that come into play in the White House’s Af-Pak strategy.
So why does he think Grossman said yes when others said no? “It’s exciting to be engaged in some of the most challenging and yet some of the most important foreign policy issues we face today, to be in a position of leadership on those issues,” he says.

“Given all the negatives, professionals like Grossman believe that they can make a positive difference and they’re willing to give it a shot.”

Grossman will get his shot as soon as the State Department finishes its background check.

Read the whole thing here.

It’ll be interesting to see who follows Ambassador Grossman to the Af/Pak interagency team.  When the late Richard Holbrooke put together his group, the then DCM at the US Embassy in Manila, Paul Jones (now US Ambassador to KL) was pulled into Af/Pak and became his number #2 and other guy at the SCA bureau. Ambassador Grossman had nearly 30 years with the State Department.  He worked with a good number of folks. Ambassador Ricciardone who is on a recess appointment in Ankara was previously Grossman’s DCM there. Another old Turkey hand, Scott Kilner, now Consul General in Istanbul was Grossman’s Econ Counselor in Ankara.

I’m sure we’ll see some new faces in that interagency team.

Related Post:


Nominations Confirmed: Ambassadors Shields,Spratlen, Brown, Carden for ASEAN and Postel for USAID

On March 3, 2011, the Senate confirmed, by unanimous consent, the following executive nominations for the State Department:

Brunei Darussalam
Daniel L. Shields III, of Pennsylvania, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Brunei Darussalam.

Kyrgyz Republic
Pamela L. Spratlen, of California, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kyrgyz Republic.

Sue Kathrine Brown, of Texas, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Montenegro.

David Lee Carden, of New York, to be Representative of the United States of America to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, with the rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.

Eric G. Postel
, of Wisconsin, to be an Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, vice Jacqueline Ellen Schafer, resigned.

POTUS on #Libya: U.S. military aircraft to aid Egyptians return home; USAID to send humanitarian assistance teams to border

At the Joint Press Conference with President Calderón of Mexico today, President Obama addressed once more the situation in Libya and the humanitarian needs developing at the borders with third country nationals unable to leave the country.  Here is the Libya part of the speech:

The United States, and the entire world, continues to be outraged by the appalling violence against the Libyan people. The United States is helping to lead an international effort to deter further violence, put in place unprecedented sanctions to hold the Qaddafi government accountable, and support the aspirations of the Libyan people.

We are also responding quickly to the urgent humanitarian needs that are developing. Tens of thousands of people —- from many different countries —- are fleeing Libya, and we commend the governments of Tunisia and Egypt for their response, even as they go through their own political transitions. I have, therefore, approved the use of U.S. military aircraft to help move Egyptians who have fled to the Tunisian border to get back home to Egypt. I’ve authorized USAID to charter additional civilian aircraft to help people from other countries find their way home, and we’re supporting the efforts of international organizations to evacuate people as well.

I’ve also directed USAID to send humanitarian assistance teams to the Libyan border, so that they can work with the United Nations, NGOs and other international partners inside Libya to address the urgent needs of the Libyan people.

Going forward, we will continue to send a clear message: The violence must stop. Muammar Qaddafi has lost the legitimacy to lead and he must leave. Those who perpetrate violence against the Libyan people will be held accountable. And the aspirations of the Libyan people for freedom, democracy and dignity must be met.

The American Forces Press Service reported that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has ordered the U.S. Africa Command to take the lead for defense planning regarding the situation in Libya. The report estimates that 180,000 people have fled Libya, many gathering along the border with Tunisia and states that DOD will continue to work in close coordination with the State Department and other agencies as needed.