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February 8, 1999
John Service, Old China Hand par excellence, died February 3. Born in China, he entered the Foreign Service in the 1930’s with a rare combination of integrity and expertise. By 1944 he had accurately diagnosed the weaknesses of the Chiang Kai-shek regime and predicted the advent of a Communist state. In the American special-interest democracy, it’s not enough to be right. Service’s reporting to General Stilwell leaked to the Chinese Nationalists, who unleashed their American lobby. FDR felt compelled to shoot both the messenger and the recipient. Service and Stilwell were recalled. Marginalized by the incident, Service was finally axed by one of most unsavory figures in American history, Senator Joseph McCarthy, who denounced him in 1950 as a collaborator with Communism. Cravenly dismissed by Truman and Acheson on December 13, 1951, he was vindicated by the Supreme Court in 1956. Vindicated, but not rehabilitated. He retired from a consular position at Liverpool in 1962.

In 1999, forever repetitive history wants to strike again. This time the scene is the Middle East, and the relevant lobby is even stronger than the one manipulated by the Chinese Nationalists. Congress has appropriated funds to destabilize the Saddam regime in Baghdad, and the White House has signed the hill into law. Out in the Gulf, the U.S. military commander, Marine General Anthony Zinni, has publicly questioned the wisdom of the destabilization effort. No perceptible reaction as yet from the White House, but a vehement one from New York Times columnist A.M. Rosenthal: He wants Zinni fired.

Rosenthal presumably thinks Saddam is a threat to Saudi Arabia and Israel, and he’s probably right, but it would be very hard to demonstrate that Saddam is a threat to the United States. Even if he was, any cloak-and-dagger venture to dump him, successful or not, would most likely make Middle East matters worse.

Right or wrong, Zinni should be allowed to speak his mind without reprisal. If Washington had listened to the China Hands instead of the lobbyists, the nation might have been spared two bloody wars. If it listens to impartial on-site observers like Zinni, the nation might avoid another “triumph” like Mossadegh’s ouster in 1953 Iran.

Curtis F. Jones
U.S. Foreign Service, Ret.
Chapel Hill, NC, USA


February 19,1999

I just read Mr. De Atkine's article "Soldier Scholar or Cocktail Commando." His analysis of the long-standing problem the military services have in developing and promoting pol-mil officers is right on.

My experience with this phenomenon goes back to my first Foreign Service assignment - with CORDS in the Mekong Delta. I recall my military colleagues, who were assigned to MACV (the military advisory group), receiving occasional visits from HQ personnel types who went to great lengths to convince them they were just as good as soldiers assigned to USARV (the combat troops). My colleagues knew better: MACV was not where military careers were made in Vietnam.

I've seen the same thing in each of my tours: military advisors and defense attache staff who enjoyed pol-mil work facing early retirement because their specialties and interests didn't fit within military service priorities. Actually, the Army is far ahead of the other services because it at least has a program to develop pol-mil officers -- the Foreign Area Specialist (FAS) program. FAS has produced some absolutely outstanding officers, few of whom went on to flag officer rank. In my last assignment, as Ambassador to Turkmenistan, I had the opportunity to work with several outstanding officers from the George C. Marshall Center in Germany who filled in as Defense attaches on long-term TDYs. Unfortunately, at least two of those officers have left or are leaving the Army because they foresaw no promotion possibility.

The situation faced by the officers assigned to Ashgabat illustrates how the problem for pol-mil officers in the military has been exacerbated by the downsizing of the services. Whereas during the '70s and '80s pol-mil officers might aspire to the rank of Colonel, or at least Lieutenant Colonel, in the '90s they are increasingly missing promotion to field grade (or reading the writing on the wall and resigning) and leaving the service as Captains.

As usual, every cloud has a silver lining. One beneficiary of this phenomenon has been the Foreign Service, to which a number of former FAS officers have been attracted. With the foreign affairs agencies' budget problems, gaining people with language and area expertise developed at the Pentagon's expense is a nice bonus.

I enjoyed Mr. De Atkine's article very much. I only wish there was some likelihood it would have an impact on the attitudes reigning in the military services.

Ambassador Michael W. Cotter

The writer recently retired from the US foreign service after serving as American Ambassador to Turkmenistan.

February 9, 1999

I am a Master's student in Political Science at the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. While attempting to find some information on the internet regarding the impact of ethnic groups on foreign policy, I was led by a search engine to some sort of discussion page, and ultimately to your e-mail address. I thought that you might be able to help me.

I am working on a research paper which should be a comparative analysis of the impact of ethnic groups on foreign policy in the United States and Canada. The library here at the CEU is not on a par with those in North America and information is very difficult to come by. Any hints or help or direction on your part would be extremely welcome and appreciated.

Josip Dasovice
Email: p98daj01@student.ceu.hu

Readers with research suggestions or advice for Mr. Dasovice are encouraged to contact him directly at his email address.

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