The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training: Oral Histories and Book Program

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The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training: Oral Histories and Book Program

By Stuart Kennedy


The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1986 to support the training of American diplomats and promote understanding of U.S. foreign policy. In pursuit of the latter goal, and of particular interest to members of SHAFR, the association records and transcribes oral histories of former foreign affairs practitioners, facilitates publication of books on diplomacy, and produces exhibits.

Oral Histories




Historians will soon have a new research tool at their disposal. The ADST is working with the Library of Congress to make its Foreign Affairs Oral History Program’s collection of transcripts available free over the internet at the library’s American Memory website (www.loc.gov). The collection, which includes some fourteen hundred individual oral histories, will be on line by the end of 2004, and new interviews will be added as they are completed. The ADST has already issued a CD-ROM, Frontline Diplomacy, which contains the first nine hundred transcripts; it can be purchased from the ADST and is also available at a number of university libraries. The full collection, in the form of transcripts on paper, has been deposited at the Lauinger Library of Georgetown University and is open to the public.

The Library of Congress website will give researchers from around the world immediate access to the transcripts. Both the CD and the website have excellent search engines to facilitate exploration of the collection by keyword.

The following are examples of subjects that can be pursued through the ADST’s oral history collection.

Franco-American Problems

Oral history interviews have exposed aspects of the conduct of American diplomacy that are not available through official records. One theme that can be traced through several decades is the continuing "problem with the French." It is hardly news that American and French diplomats have frequently been at odds over various issues. A case in point was the conflict between the French and newly arrived American diplomats in postcolonial Africa. French authorities in the former colonies suspected that the Americans were trying to supplant them, and accounts of such suspicions are related in the transcripts.


My closest collaborator on the European side was the Belgian ambassador. The Belgian ambassador always thought that the French were up to something. And so he would be always sharing information with me about the latest perfidy that the French were up to. There's no question that on economic issues and a lot of other issues that the French and the Americans, and the French and everybody else, were really in an adversarial sort of relationship. And it was at a time when the Senegalese were anxious to break away from their sort of complete dependence on the French economically. And so the French were always very concerned about what the Americans might be up to, or anybody else.

--Walter C. Carrington (ambassador, Senegal, 1980-1981)



Arab-Israeli Conflict


The transcripts recount more than a half-century of efforts by American diplomats to bring peace between the Arab and Israeli peoples. Despite the skill and sacrifices of our Foreign Service officers and political appointees, the situation is worse than ever. Men and women Arabists speak frankly about their reasons for pursuing this particular area of concentration and answer the common charge that they are anti-Israel. The political pressures on Department of State personnel regarding support for Israel are spelled out in detail by those who have experienced them.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry and the intelligence service keep a dossier on every substantive officer in the embassy. Pretty soon you're put in one of the categories that they classify in: friend of Israel, or not friend of Israel. And not friend of Israel means that you're not actively supporting them on everything that they consider to be important. I was asked many times when I was in Israel, “Well, whose side are you on?” (as the chief economic officer out there). I said, “I'm on the side of the United States of America. That's where my allegiances are. I'm neither pro Israeli, nor anti Israeli. I'm pro American.” That is interpreted as being anti Israeli. Everything you send back to Washington, no matter how classified, has a very strong chance of finding its way into the Israelis’ hands. If you write it, you'll be identified to the Israelis as the author of the piece. And if they don't like it, they go after you, and frequently are successful in having you out of there.


--Samuel F. Hart (economic counselor, Tel Aviv, 1977-1980)

1990 Gulf War


There are interesting perspectives on the 1990 Gulf War in interviews with the principal officers in Baghdad, Amman, Tel Aviv, Riyadh, Dhahran, and the Gulf States, as well as senior officers in Washington dealing with the Middle East. During the war the major problems for American diplomats were keeping the Saudis firmly committed to the alliance and keeping American technicians from leaving the oil fields. Meanwhile embassy personnel in Tel Aviv worked to keep the Israelis out of the battle.

The Oral History Program will eventually contain accounts for Gulf War II. The association has already interviewed several people involved in recent negotiations in Baghdad and Kabul, along with two Foreign Service officers who resigned over U.S. Iraq policy in 2003. In this context it should be noted that the collection is designed to reflect a variety of views of past and current foreign policy and is not merely a forum for dissent.

Many things are possible as long as they're not in the public eye. Despite the fact that Saudi society has become even more conservative . . . the chaplain corps was more heavily represented in this war than in any previous one. But they were not identified as chaplains; they were called morale officers. Nevertheless, they ministered to the troops, on a sectarian or nondenominational basis, very effectively    Catholic, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and I believe there may have been a Buddhist or two.

The other problem, of course, was the continuing tension over the role of female troops, which, of course, is largely logistical. That is, the women tend to be very heavily represented in the logistical functions  truck drivers, loadmasters, and this sort of thing. Essentially, the Saudis agreed to turn a blind eye to this, and when problems occurred were quite good about intervening with those who objected to this to ensure that a problem did not develop.


--Chas F. Freeman Jr. (ambassador, Saudi Arabia, 1989-1992)

The Soviet Union and Berlin


There is a major archive of the experiences of officers who dealt with the Soviet Union from World War II to its dissolution, and the collection continues with the successor states. The art of the Kremlin watcher is explained by some of those who practiced it over the years, from 1945 to 1992. Officers who were stationed in Washington and Berlin document their management of the long Berlin crisis.

This is the period, incidentally, when Kremlinology got its start. When people learned to figure out what was going on in Russia from these abstruse signs that you got, bird droppings, so to speak, and one thing and another. I remember years later, Walter Stoessel, on his first assignment to Moscow, had to cover the cultural world. And he got onto it. At that point I was back in Washington reading some of these materials. I was struck by the extent to which Walter had caught on to this technique. He could tell you about a performance of “Swan Lake” at the Bolshoi and draw from it the correct political conclusions about what was going on inside the Kremlin. To people who don't know the technique, it seems extremely weird, but it's a perfectly valid thing that worked for a while. It went beyond just looking to see who was on Lenin's Tomb on the First of May or November 7.

--JamesMcCagar (vice consul, Moscow, 1942)


Vietnam

The work of nation building has been the stock-in-trade of the Foreign Service since the end of World War II, although that part of its mission is seldom recognized. Those who served in South Vietnam, as well as Laos and Cambodia, recount their attempts to help shape those nations. Embassy personnel tell war stories. The duty officer in the embassy building recalls being under attack during the Tet Offensive. Another officer describes how, during the collapse of South Vietnam, he had to evacuate a consulate general, with all of its Vietnamese staff and their families, by river. Relations between senior military officers and the young officers attached to the Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support program who reported on developments in the Vietnamese countryside were sometimes tense. Senior military officers did not want bad news relayed to the ambassador.


We were trying to make things as plain as possible to Ellsworth Bunker    what the situation was. He was getting a very limited point of view from the military and perhaps to a certain extent from the Agency. The Agency was trying to be honest in many ways but unfortunately they were under pressure from their powers that be back in Washington. I forget who was Agency Director at the time. George Jacobson, the mission coordinator and a retired Army colonel, and I would bring in some people to talk with the ambassador. We gave them false names for the ambassador's calendar or maybe didn't even put them on the calendar. Some of these were military officers like John Paul Vann who would come in under an assumed name because General Westmoreland would have hit the roof if he knew that Vann was talking privately with the ambassador. And the ambassador was appreciative of that. George [Jacobson] brought in his military contacts, and I brought in some of our provincial people. I think it helped to leaven the situation for the ambassador. We were all beginning to become very pessimistic as to how things were going to come out.  -- - --Gilbert H. Sheinbaum (political officer, South Vietnam 1964-1968)



China and Taiwan

The collection has broad coverage of diplomatic service in China from the 1920s to the present. Nancy Tucker of Georgetown University has assembled some of these oral history accounts into a book entitled China Confidential, which has been translated into Chinese. China watchers in Hong Kong recount their efforts to make sense of the erratic policies of Mao Tse-tung over the decades. Several people who accompanied Kissinger on his trip to China describe what they saw and heard, and embassy personnel stationed in Taiwan describe the distress that arose from the changing American relationship with the evolving democracy on that island. Liaison staff recount problems dealing with the Peoples’ Republic in the early years after offices were opened in the PRC.


What we benefited from was a sort of first-hand, visual kind of feel, and having for the first time working level contacts with Chinese counterparts, which in Hong Kong you don't have. However, our lives were very circumscribed; the lives of all diplomats were circumscribed    though technically we were not diplomats. We couldn't travel very much; Chinese officials were very withdrawn and circumspect about what they talked about. I was there from 1973 to 1975. I think the reporting we did was a contribution, but in many ways the reporting from Hong Kong was better. They had more people, they had files and they were getting bits and pieces of information from different parts of China    people who left China, travelers, provincial radio broadcasts. So there were a number of things that they in Hong Kong saw in better perspective than we did sitting in the Liaison Office. I think what we did was a contribution but it didn't supplant the China watchers in Hong Kong.

--Herbert E. Horowitz, (economic counselor, Beijing, 1973-1975)

Jonestown, Guyana


American diplomats have been observers of many horrific events--wars, disasters, pogroms and plagues--but once in a while they find themselves unwilling participants in such events. One of the most terrible of these was the mass suicide of over nine hundred American citizens in the People’s Temple cult in Guyana. Congressman Leo Ryan of California flew to Jonestown to check on complaints that some cult members were being held there against their will. He found that to be the case and along with the embassy’s deputy chief of mission and a group of newsmen went to the small airport near the temple to leave the area.

[Members of the cult were on a] cart that was being towed by the tractor. They had various guns  shotguns, 22s, 306 and various other things, but no automatic weapons. And they began firing. The congressman was obviously a target. He and I ran around the front nose of the aircraft. The tractor which had the cart from which people were firing at us was between the airplane and the bush on the one side of the airstrip so those people who were closer to the bush could run off into the bush, while those of us at the airplane and in front of it didn't have much of a place to go. We decided to independently run across the tarmac to the protection of some houses and trees on the other side. About at that stage the NBC television tape ends with the murder of the cameraman. It was all filmed from the time the firing began. He was obviously a target. I got to the other side of the airplane and decided that there was just no way that I could possibly make it across another seventy-five yards of open territory and decided that I would play dead. As I was about to artistically fall to the ground, and indeed I must have almost been on the ground, somebody shot me. [In Indiana where I am from you only shoot birds on the fly you don't shoot them on the ground.] Somebody got me with a 22 long. As I later learned I wasn't badly hurt. It had entered my left thigh and lodged up near the spine  it is still there, it is more dangerous to take it out than leave it alone.


Anyway, I was on the ground there. Staccato firing continued for what seemed like a long time, but probably couldn't have been more than a couple of minutes. I had thought that the reason I didn't want to run across the tarmac or try to go any further was because I thought we were in a cross fire between the big truck that was parked on the other side of the tarmac from the tractor. I had thought that we were being fired on from that truck. Later only one other person thought we had been fired on from that truck, so I don't know whether we were or not. Anyway, I was convinced we were and that I would never make it past that truck.


I lay on the ground and the firing stopped. I was trying to pretend that I was dead. I couldn't decide whether I would be more convincing playing dead with my eyes open or closed. Finally I decided that I at least would like to see those bastards. I heard feet on the loose stones of the dirt on the tarmac and a shotgun went off. More steps and the shotgun went off again. Ryan had obviously been hit more than once. I had seen those five or six feet from me curled around the wheel of the airplane landing gear apparently for protection. The shotgun continued for five shots including right next to me  Ryan. I was waiting for the next shot which never came. To this day I do not know why. I suspect that it was a five shot shotgun and the last one was used on Ryan.

The steps went away and I lay on the ground until finally I heard the vehicles drive away. There was no conversation, no shouts that I recall.

--Richard A. Dwyer (deputy chief of mission, Guyana, 1978)

Pakistan and Bangladesh

In diplomacy, conflicts and tensions are not restricted to relations between countries. At times strong feelings develop within an embassy staff or between posts in a country. The classic example of such conflict is the ongoing tension between the U.S. consulate general in Jerusalem, which reports on developments in the West Bank and Gaza, and the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv. Another instance arose during the war between East and West Pakistan, which resulted in the birth of Bangladesh in 1971.


The March 23, 1971 invasion came just three and a half months before I left. The Pakistani Army was very brutal when it moved in. It made a large number of arrests and shot many students. The consul general  Archer Blood  in Dacca sent in a "protest" telegram  Dacca 231. This was an LOU [LIMITED OFFICIAL USE] or OUO [OFFICIAL USE ONLY] message signed by every member of the staff of the consulate general. Essentially, this message said that the U. S. has no major strategic interest in South Asia. Therefore, our national values should prevail  our concern for human rights and democratic freedoms. It urged U. S. condemnation of the Pakistani military crackdown and called for support of self determination in East Pakistan.

When the message came in, I happened to be with Ambassador Farland. The message was sent to the Department of State in Washington, with a copy to the Embassy in Islamabad. Farland shrugged his shoulders and said, "Hmmm." Sid Sober [Deputy Chief of Mission, Islamabad], however, took a very different view. He was very upset. The next day a cable came back from the Department, reclassifying the Dacca cable from OUO or LOU to NODIS [No Distribution Outside the Department of State], which was the highest restriction. Arch Blood had classified the cable somewhat disingenuously. At the very end of the cable he said that he had not signed the cable, because he did not think that it would be appropriate for a consul general, but he added that he had the highest respect for the members of the staff, whose views he shared. In fact, the cable was distributed in about eighty-five or ninety copies and was sent all over Washington, which I assume was Arch's intention.

There followed a period of very, very bitter and bad feelings between our people assigned to East Pakistan, who were evacuated later, and our embassy people in West Pakistan. There were also tensions within the embassy. The Dacca staff felt that we were backing the Pakistani government in Islamabad in its repressive activities in East Pakistan, which wasn't really the case. The embassy didn't share those views, but understood that the Dacca staff would be much more agitated since some of its Pakistani friends had been arrested and killed. The crackdown happened very fast. It was made worse by the fact that when the consulate general staff in Dacca had to be evacuated, originally the intention was that our people would fly from Dacca to Bangkok on an American aircraft which the U.S. government would charter. At the last moment the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said that they didn't want the consulate general to be evacuated via Bangkok. They wanted them to fly out by way of Karachi on a Pakistani aircraft. We didn't argue with the Foreign Ministry; our concern was to get our people out of Dacca.

We weren't thinking about whether they flew on an American carrier or a Pakistani plane to Karachi. We really didn't consider that. However, our people in Dacca were furious. The Americans in East Pakistan were furious that they had to fly to Karachi, which was quite far [around fourteen hundred miles in the direct line]. They later said that, on the way to Dacca, the Pakistani airliner had ferried Pakistani troops that had come to butcher their friends. It was as if they were Jews leaving Eastern Europe on a train returning from the "gas chambers." When the people from the consulate general in Dacca arrived in Karachi, they were greeted by Sid Sober. There was a lot of tension and a bad scene ensued. The Dacca staff was very unhappy with the way they had been evacuated. They felt that the embassy had let them down and that we should have fought with the Pakistani government.


--Dennis Kux (political officer, Islamabad, 1969-1971)



Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus

Similar disagreements sometimes exist between American embassies in countries where feelings run high. Greece, Cyprus and Turkey are good examples. These disputes are not common, but they do exist. Sometimes these posts work well together and sometimes not, depending on the personalities in charge. The oral history transcripts bring diverse outlooks to life.

Disagreements between Foreign Service posts are not the only example of how policy and personalities play a role in the development of American foreign policy. Sometimes there are conflicts between the Department of State and another branch of the government, most often the Pentagon, and those are fought in the corridors of Washington.


Kathimerini is the primary [newspaper in Greece] and the other Vima. Both were papers of very influential persons. We tried to influence them; but they were way above us. They were going to write it as they saw it and it was their view. Eleni Vlashos was particularly sound and represented the center right. Our problems were with individual newsmen who kept pestering us for details. The English-language paper, the Athens News, was very difficult. In one period back in 1963 they were getting inside interviews about Greece with the Pentagon back here in Washington, with top generals, American generals who didn't know when to shut up about our nuclear capacity in Greece. They were a bane in our side; we attempted to get the Pentagon to shut down those generals because it was causing a lot of trouble, but no success.

--Herbert Daniel Brewster (political counselor, Athens, 1961-1965)

Spanish Base Negotiations


Disagreements between the Departments of State and Defense often came about because of base negotiations. Several American bases were located in Spain before Spain joined NATO, and maintaining those bases was a diplomatic problem.

I think, when our military had to examine what the Spaniards were demanding, they had to make the decision of which was more important  Torrejon or Moron. You could have Rota and Zaragoza, but you couldn't have Torrejon. Zaragoza was the only all weather bombing range we had in Europe. It was essential.

At that time we had not told the Spanish that we were prepared to go from Torrejon. Obviously blood, sweat and tears were being produced in Washington over getting the Pentagon to agree that's what they would probably have to do. I wasn't really involved in that. It was all done in Washington.

I was very fond of Bob McCloskey [the special base negotiator]. It never struck me as if he had a great grip on all of this, but I may be wrong on all of that. Obviously here in Washington when it came to the business of dealing with the Pentagon, it wasn't just Bob McCloskey who got involved. There was the Deputy Secretary, the Assistant Secretary of EUR, Political Military Bureau, etc. So it was then the weight of the institution that was being brought to bear on the whole Pentagon. I don't doubt that they had quite a time to get the Pentagon to agree to this. But I always found these negotiations frustrating because again to try to get our government organized into action with somebody making a decision about something could be awfully painful.

We had not yet gotten to the point of telling the Spanish we were getting out of Torrejon, and when the time actually came to do it, I don't know what would have happened  whether we would have done so or not. If the Spanish had said that there would be no facilities agreement of any sort unless you do “this,” that was the price we were apparently prepared to pay. But in the final analysis at that time we did not have to make that agonizing decision. Indeed, it is the price we are prepared to pay today but in different circumstances because Spain is part of NATO. The Italians rallied around and gave us additional facilities and now you have the whole changed situation in Europe anyway.


But I think one of the most difficult things of all is that negotiations with foreign governments are difficult enough, but negotiations within one's own government are sometimes hopeless.

--Wells Stabler (ambassador, Madrid, 1975-1978)

Personalities of American Diplomats


For scholars whose interests lie in the workings of diplomacy on the personal level, the collection has many accounts of how American diplomats viewed each other and rated each other’s effectiveness.

Tom Enders [Assistant Secretary for Latin American Affairs, Ambassador to Canada and Spain], he’s a dominant personality. He’s six feet seven or so. He has the Harvard, Yale, Groton, monied, New England, pedigreed type of background that Foreign Service people at that time were rumored to need. He was married to an Italian countess, Qaetana. He had money; he had position; he had brilliance; he had physical presence; and he had an enormous amount of arrogance. And those things, by and large, stand you in good stead in the Foreign Service.

Charlie Bray (Ambassador to Senegal, Director of the Foreign Service Institute) was of a different cut. Charlie Bray had a nice touch. Not that he wasn't smart, and to some degree, I wouldn't say that anybody in the group I've talked about is arrogance free, but Charlie's arrogance was not so palpable and he camouflaged it pretty well. Charlie achieved his ends by persuasion, by humor, by other things which were total anathema. . . . I mean, they were just something Tom Enders would never consider. Tom Enders was dominant. Charlie was much more the other kind of person. I think Charlie went to Princeton, I'm not sure; so he certainly wasn't from the outback, but a different style.


What values did they have? The values of the people, I would say, were mixed. When we sat around and talked about why did you join the Foreign Service, you probably got about as many different answers then as you would today. One person said, "It was the best job I could get." Somebody else talked in romantic terms about, you know, travel and all that stuff. There were a few who talked about looking for a career that would afford excitement and perhaps a chance, once in a while, to do good, who were in the Foreign Service essentially because they thought a life of public service, in the best sense of the word, was something they had found rewarding. There were some who saw it as a way station, maybe, to something else they wanted to do. . . .

I'm an overseas person. You know, people expect, particularly at the senior level, Foreign Service officers to have two different sets of skills, which in some cases are really mutually exclusive. On the one hand, when you're overseas, you're expected to behave toward the host government, the host country, the host people, as a diplomat, in which you are an interpreter, you are a compromise seeker, you are an honest broker, you are a message carrier. You're a lot of things that involve essentially being warm and fuzzy, keeping your intellectual ethics and integrity and your interpretive and analytical skills going all the time, but being of a personality type that you might call “B.”

In Washington, the successful bureaucratic infighter, the successful person who gets things done around Washington, is an entirely different type. You're expected to be an infighter, a nut cutter, a fast maneuverer, a sleight of hand artist, and all this stuff, particularly if you're in the State Department, because we frequently come to the battle poorly armed in terms of domestic constituencies and resources, et cetera, if it's a policy battle over, say, trade policy, or something like this. So, in order to get things done in Washington, you're really expected to have, if you're a successful bureaucratic operator, a totally different set of skills.


--Samuel Hart (ambassador, Ecuador, 1982-1985)

The Foreign Service and Social Change


As the collection grew, more time was spent in interviews on the background of American diplomats, career and non-career. Political appointees are now questioned about their work outside diplomacy, in politics, business, the media or academia. Foreign Service officers describe what they did before entering the service. After the 1950s relatively few came from what might be called the social elite, although they did well in school. Their schools were not confined to the Ivy League or the top schools on the West Coast. During the Cold War few of the men and women who reached senior rank in the Foreign Service had parents who graduated from college. This has changed, as a new generation has come to the fore and college degrees have become commonplace.

For those interested in gender studies or in minority representation, the collection has numerous accounts of the problems the Foreign Service had in coming to terms with changes in American society.

Frances [Wilson, Executive Director of the Economic Bureau] had invited me to her office. We were all terrified of Frances, but she congratulated me on my engagement [to Peter Constable, another young FSO, later Ambassador to Zaire], and I was touched. My goodness, how nice. And then she said, "When do you plan to resign Miss Greer?" And I said, “I don't plan to resign.” Now, I have to tell you, I was quaking inside. But I had heard about this "requirement", that female Foreign Service officers had to resign when they got married, no matter who they married, foreigner, American, Foreign Service officer, it didn't matter. You had to resign. She looked at me quite severely, I mean you did not say no to Frances Wilson. And no women had ever done this, in the history of the Foreign Service. I said, "You can't force me to resign. If you want me out of the Foreign Service, you have to fire me." Wow! She said, "Miss Greer, you are required to resign." And I said, "Show me the regulation. Show me the law. Where is it?" Well, there wasn't one. This came as a shock. I was quite prepared for her to pull out a book, and show me some regulation, and at that point I would fight it as far as I could. There was none. There was no regulation. It was custom, plain old custom, buttressed by two practical limitations. One, you did not have to grant maternity leave to women in those days. So you had in effect to choose between family and work. And second, there was a restriction on the books about family members working together at the same post. So, again, you would have to choose, and if your spouse was sent to Mexico City, you couldn't go there, and the department would not lift a finger to help you out. They would probably just send you off to Burma. And in those days transportation was difficult. So this was not something you would do lightly. But we were in Washington, and I said, this makes no sense. I am not going to be a different person after I am married. Nothing is going to change. And I am going to continue to do this job. Well, she had a fit. "I'll have to go check on this." "Fine, you go check on this." I was very calm externally, but thinking, "Elinor, what have you done." I think even Peter was a little nervous about this. But we wanted the second income, and I liked what I was doing. And it just didn't make sense.


Maybe other oral histories will illuminate this. Allegedly the issue was taken to the secretary, then John Foster Dulles. Personally, I don't believe this, but it obviously went up fairly high. And the answer came back. "Well, okay, you don't have to resign. But you have to submit a letter of resignation without a date." So I did that. I suppose I could have refused to submit the letter. But one of the things about negotiating is you've got to recognize the deal. When you've got it, take it. We got married. We took a short honeymoon and I went back to work. And then, of course, we started our family right away, and there was no such thing as maternity leave, so at that point I did resign.

Now, just an interesting footnote. The following year, or later that year, another young woman joined the Foreign Service, Melissa Foelsch [Wells, ambassador to Mozambique]. She married but was not asked to resign. Years later, when I got to know her better, we were trading stories and she said, "You know, they never asked me to resign and that was amazing." She chose a different path, which was to have a child and do it on a combination of annual leave and a little bit of sick leave, and come right back to work. I wouldn't have had the physical stamina to do that. And then she and her husband, then a Foreign Service officer, took separate assignments. They eventually got divorced but they got back together again. But she never left the service, ever. It was interesting.

[When the Foreign Service changed its attitude towards married women, Elinor Constable returned to her career.]

--Elinor Constable (ambassador, Kenya, 1986)


The Historical Record

For the diplomatic historian, the paper record is going to be sparser and sparser as e-mail and the telephone have become the major means of communication between the State Department and its posts abroad and as travel between Washington and various hot spots becomes faster and easier. While oral history will not give the full or even the most accurate story, it does enable the historian to get inside the diplomatic process and to understand what these public servants do and have done.


[During the October War of 1973] you worked continuously. You had people calling you from everywhere. In a fast moving situation, the telegrams only tell part of the story. And you can’t record telephones. That’s why if people say, “Well, what are you hiding?” Well, you’re not hiding anything, it’s just that you frankly are more concerned about doing your job and doing it right than the historical record.

--Nicholas Veliotes (Deputy Chief of Mission, Tel Aviv, 1973-1975)

Volunteers Needed to Interview Foreign Affairs Specialists


The oral history program is constrained by a lack of travel funds and can use help in interviewing retired diplomats and others concerned with American foreign affairs who live beyond the Washington, DC area. Members of SHAFR would make ideal oral history interviewers. We can send interviewing guidelines and are available on the internet for consultation in preparing for an interview. This is an excellent opportunity for those who write about the diplomatic process to interact with those who have experienced it. Please contact stukennedy@erols.com.

Book Program


In 1996, the ADST and DACOR (Diplomatic and Consular Officers, Retired) created the Diplomats and Diplomacy Book Series to increase public knowledge and appreciation of the involvement of American diplomats in the events of world history. By 2004 the series included twenty-two volumes published by a variety of university and other scholarly presses. Currently, six manuscripts are under review by publishers, and eight others are under consideration for the series. Margery Boichel Thompson, the ADST’s publishing director, coordinates the book series, acquires manuscripts, has them reviewed, advises authors, and negotiates with publishers. The association’s online book and CD-ROM store is at www.adst.org. All books published through 2002 are described and reviewed there. Most series books are by or about American diplomats. Many seek to demystify diplomacy by telling the story of those who have conducted our foreign relations. Two series books -- Herman J. Cohen’s Intervening in Africa (Macmillan/St. Martin’s 2000) and John Boykin’s biography of Philip Habib, Cursed is the Peacemaker (Applegate Press, 2002) -- won the American Academy of Diplomacy’s Douglas Dillon Award for Distinguished Writing on American Diplomacy. Books by Dennis Kux on U.S.–Pakistan relations and Robert Hopkins Miller on diplomacy in the Vietnam War received special citations from the academy. Among series bestsellers are Jane Loeffler’s Architecture of Diplomacy (Princeton Architectural Press, 1998) and Ulrich Straus’s The Anguish of Surrender: Japanese P.O.W.s in World War II (University of Washington Press, 2004).





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