Ambassador Stephen Bosworth, 76, Dies; Our Man in Manila During the People Power Revolution

Posted: 4:20 am EDT
Updated: 10:30 pm PDT with SecState statement
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Ambassador Bosworth had an extensive career in the United States Foreign Service, including service as Ambassador to Tunisia from 1979-1981 and Ambassador to the Philippines from 1984-1987. He also served in a number of senior positions in the Department of State, including Director of Policy Planning, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Affairs.   Ambassador Bosworth served as the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Korea from November 1997 to February 2001. Most recently, from March 2009 through October 2011, he served as U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy for the Obama Administration.

Ambassador Bosworth entered the Foreign Service in 1961.  He served at S/P from 1983-1984. During the time he was at policy planning, most of that time, according to this ADST oral history, he was no longer in the Foreign Service. He said he retired and came back as a Schedule C employee of the Department of State.

Ambassador Bosworth received his A.B. in 1961 from Dartmouth College. He attended George Washington University from 1965 to 1967. He was born December 4, 1939, in Grand Rapids, MI.

Ambassador Bosworth was interviewed for ADST’s oral history project in 2003. Below is an excerpt of him talking about the late Philippine dictator, Ferdinand Marcos:

Washington was more or less backing us on that. Shultz was backing us very heavily. He saw very clearly that the long term relationship with Marcos had been changed here. Marcos had to change or our relationship had to change, otherwise we were placing our longer term interests in the Philippines at risk because it was not in our interest as having propped Marcos up beyond the time which his own national constituency didn’t any longer want him.
[…]
For the next two days my role consisted primarily of 1) keeping Washington fully informed and 2) warning Marcos directly on the phone that he should not move by force against Enrile and Ramos in a military camp. He should not do anything that would jeopardize the safety of hundreds of thousands of Filipino civilians who were out in the streets supporting Mrs. Aquino and demanding Marcos’ resignation. Finally, over the next couple of days the situation played out so that we issued a statement, the U.S. from Washington, which then transmitted, to Marcos and others saying in effect the time has come you should leave.

[…]
His first words to me were I’m terribly disappointed. You don’t understand. Your government doesn’t understand. This is a military coup and I have to resist it. I said, well, we don’t agree that it’s a military coup any longer. We think that it is something bigger than that. Anyway, these are my instructions. I then got back to him the next day. He was in the palace with his family and his grandchildren. We offered him three alternative routes out. Basically by land and by sea and by air. He opted for the air route and he sent some of his minions and his baggage out by boat. We took him out by helicopter. We took him to Clark where he spent a few hours and then we put him on a plane and he went out first to Guam and then to Hawaii. Of course, he died in exile.
[…]
It was very important to us and to President Reagan in particular that we not allow him to be harassed, that we would give him safe haven basically in the United States, but we wouldn’t let him go back to the Philippines.

1024px-Stephen_W._Bosworth_with_Ferdinand_&_Imelda_Marcos_in_Leyte_1984-10-20

Stephen W. Bosworth, left, US Ambassador to the Philippines, talks with President Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda during the reenactment of General Douglas MacArthur’s landing at Red Beach on October 20, 1944. Ambassador Bosworth’s wife is on the right. (DOD Photo by SSGT Marvin D. Lynchard, USAF via Wikipedia)

About Corazon Aquino:

Mrs. Aquino comes to power and a great upsurge of national spirit and good feeling. The U.S. for a time at least was, we were heroes, because we had taken him out. I remember going down to call on her the day after Marcos had left. She was not yet living in the palace. She was in her office in her family’s building. As I came out having exchanged statements of good feeling with her and her principal aides, a big crowd of people on the outside all started cheering for the U.S. and me. It was really kind of an extraordinary experience since I previously used to go into my office at the embassy driving through large crowds of demonstrators all saying, Bosworth go home. Some of them had little clips underneath that Bosworth go home saying and take me with you. Filipinos had a sense of humor if nothing else.
[…]
I remember the embassy country team the morning after she had been inaugurated and sworn in as president. I said, you know, we’re all going to look back on yesterday as the end of a fairly easy era in U.S. Philippines relations because one of the positive things about dealing with a dictatorship is that if it is an effective dictatorship it can run the relationship quite effectively. You may not like what it costs, but when we have a problem we can work it out fairly efficiently. Of course, with a sprawling newborn democracy, that was not possible and the relationship was frequently quite messy.

People as more important than an org chart:

In the end foreign policy is made by people coming together and talking and making decisions. I think there is undoubtedly an influence from domestic constituencies. This is particularly visible in the area of economics and finance, but it is true in all areas. I think each administration, every administration that comes into office determined to somehow organize in making the foreign policy better, there’s always the notion that somehow you can fix problems through the organization chart. In the end I’ve become convinced that people are far more important than the organization chart. It’s how people relate to one another to the degree of which individuals have a vision of where they want to go and are willing to be relentless in their pursuit of those goals. Stamina is in many ways a more important requirement for senior policy makers than is intellectual brilliance. You just have to be prepared to wear them down. Now, I think also the ability to articulate particularly in writing, I’m sorry, orally, what it is you’re trying to do. It’s very important in our system because you’ve got to bring a lot of people along. You have to bring the executive branch along and you have to bring the congress along. You influence the congress not just directly, but through various interests groups and constituents and I think this has been a weakness of the State Department over the years that it has not been very effectively engaged with the American public and has not been seen by large elements of the American public as being in U.S. interests. I think that’s a false accusation, an incorrect accusation, but it still holds.

Training a contemporary diplomat:

I think there is still a tendency to put people in stovepipes. Either an economic officer, or political officer or a consular officer and the opportunities for doing work outside those specializations or cones as I guess they’re still called. The opportunities are relatively limited. I think one of the characteristics of my own time in the State Department has been the, I had as you indicated, the benefit of an extraordinary wide range of experiences, not just regionally, but also in terms of function and a lot of negotiating experience, multilateral as well as bilateral. That as I look back on it has been largely a product of serendipity.
[…]
I mean nobody I was never aware of anyone sitting up on the sixth floor of the State Department and say we’re going to put Bosworth here for a couple of years because that means that ten years from now he will have these capabilities. I remember when I was working for George Shultz when I was director of policy planning. He once said to me, I asked him what the differences were between running a company like Bechtel and running the State Department. He said, it’s just a question of how I spend my time. He said, at Bechtel I used to spend probably about half my time on long term strategic planning for the company. About a third of my time making sure that we had senior executives available next year and ten years from now capable of implementing these plans. That means giving them the kinds of experiences they would need over time to become senior executives with the company. The rest of my time I spent dealing with customers in day to day activities. Here in the State Department I spend 95% of my time dealing with the crisis at the moment and very little of my time worrying about personnel policy, almost none and too little worrying about long term planning.

Read his full oral history interview below:

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