American Diplomacy
Eyewitness Oral History
Summer 2017

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Born in Los Angeles, California


University of California,
Santa Barbara: B.A.


London School of Economics: MSc.


Entered Foreign Service


Washington, DC
  Assistant Desk Officer for Jordan (NEA/ARN) 
Islamabad, Pakistan  
  Rotational Officer
  Political Officer
Washington, DC

  Staff Assistant to the NEA Assistant Secretary of State 1980
  Special Asst.; Special Advisor for Jewish Liaison: White House 1980
  1980 Liaison Officer for Reagan State Department Transition Team     1980
  Office of Congressional Relations 1981
Amman, Jordan
  Acting Chief of the Consular Section
Washington, DC
  Desk Officer for Jordan (NEA/ARN)
Brussels, Belgium
  Political Officer at the US Mission to NATO
  Deputy Director; Private Office of the Secretary General of NATO 1984-1986
Washington, DC
  Executive Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of State
Ankara, Turkey
  Deputy Chief of Mission
Washington, D.C
  PDAS, Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs
  Executive Secretary of the State Department 1993-1994
Ankara, Turkey
  Ambassador to Turkey
Washington, DC
  Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs
  Director General and Director of Human Resources 2000-2001
  Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs 2001-2005
Washington, DC
  US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan



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The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training
Foreign Affairs Oral History Project Information Series

Ambassador Marc Grossman
Interviewed by: Charles Stuart Kennedy
Initial Interview date: January 30, 2006

Copyright 2017 ADST


Q: Today is the 30th of January 2006. This is an interview with Marc Grossman done on behalf of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training and I’m Charles Stuart Kennedy. You go by Marc?


Q: What happens, why are some Marcs spelled with a C and some with a K? Do you have any idea?

GROSSMAN: My dad always said it was his contribution to culture.

Q: Okay. Well, we’ll start talking about him but first, when and where were you born?

GROSSMAN: I was born in September of 1951 in Los Angeles, California.

Q: Where in Los Angeles?

GROSSMAN: In East Los Angeles. My parents lived in Pico Rivera, or then, just Pico.

Q: Okay. Let’s talk about your, sort of your background. On your family’s side, let’s talk about the father’s family, the Grossmans. Do you have any idea where they came from?

GROSSMAN: We have a vague idea. Both of my father’s parents, my grandmother and grandfather, were immigrants to the United States. They came separately from Chernowitz, which is now Ukraine but my father believes at the time of their immigration it was Romania. I think they came to the United States in the 1920s. They moved to New York, met in the US and settled in the Bronx. They then moved, first to Arizona and then to California in the 1940s, where my grandfather used to sew. There was a style at the time; women wore sweaters with a mink collar.

Q: Oh yes.

GROSSMAN: My grandfather sewed the mink onto the sweater. My grandmother was a homemaker. I remember that she wrote English in a wonderful, unique way. They lived into their 80s; in fact, until after I joined the Foreign Service. They both died when I was in Pakistan.

Q: Well now, did your grandmother and grandfather, this is, that pair …


Q: Did they come from Chernowitz, both of them?

GROSSMAN: They were both adamant that they were not interested in talking about their histories. We tried as grandchildren on a number of occasions to do oral histories with them. They were glad they’d left where they left and as soon as they passed the Statue of Liberty they had no interest in the past. I think that part of that reluctance was that the rest of the family was destroyed in the Holocaust; I think they felt some residual, not guilt exactly, but they felt that they had been saved and everybody else had not.

Q: How about on your mother’s side?

GROSSMAN: They were both born in the United States I am pretty sure. My grandfather always said that his father had been a defector from the Russian army during the Russo- Japanese War; he somehow found his way to the United States. I have no way of knowing whether that’s true or not. But they also ended up in New York and then moved to California. And so my mother and father met in California as teenagers in the 1940s.

Q: Now what did your father do for work?

GROSSMAN: My father was an elementary school teacher and then a speech therapist. He was the first person in that family to go to college. He had wanted to become a librarian, but he became a teacher, then specialized in speech therapy and taught for 40 years for the El Rancho Unified Schools in Pico Rivera.

Q: And on that of your mother?

GROSSMAN: My recollection is that, when I was in elementary school she went back to UCLA and got a degree and teaching certification; it was also her dream to become a teacher. She very sadly died when I was 13, in 1964.

Q: Do you have brothers or sisters?

GROSSMAN: I have a sister. And I have two stepbrothers and a stepsister from my father’s remarriage.

Q: Younger or older?

GROSSMAN: My sister Aviva is five years younger and lives with her family in Santa Cruz, California.

Q: Well, how Jewish did you find your family? I assume your family was Jewish.

GROSSMAN: They were, they are, yes.

Q: Orthodox or?

GROSSMAN: No, a Conservative Jewish family. I went to Hebrew school and was Bar Mitzvahed; my sister was Bat Mitzvahed. I remember that when I got ready to join the Foreign Service, my grandparents were really worried about it; they were very consistent in telling me that this was not a profession for “ people like us.” They had heard all of the stories of the State Department blocking refugees from Hitler and opposing the creation of Israel.

Q: Well then, you grew up where—in Pico?

GROSSMAN: I spent the first five years of my life in Pico Rivera. Then my parents moved across into Orange County, into La Habra, and I mostly grew up there. I went to elementary school and high school there.

Q: What’s La Habra like? Where is La Habra sort of in, let’s use Pasadena, San Marino; is it in that area?

GROSSMAN: No. La Habra is—if you think about Whittier and then you think about Disneyland in Anaheim—La Habra’s in between Whittier and Disneyland.

Q: What was it like as a kid there?

GROSSMAN: My recollections of it are positive. It was a time of the “great coming out” of California during the 1950s and everybody seemed to be able to do essentially what they wanted. My folks didn’t make much money, but I can remember that, because we were in California, they had a house and, if you wanted to go to the beach, you went down to Huntington Beach. And if you wanted to go to the mountains you went up to the mountains. Most of the rest of the extended family was there and the weather was perfect and it was a safe place to be. It also seemed that everyone in the larger neighborhood was more or less equal; we did not see many rich people or people who were poor.

Q: And it is nice and flat so you can bicycle everywhere.

GROSSMAN: We bicycled everywhere and a bunch of us did a lot of bike riding. In fact when I was, I don’t know, 14 or 15, four of us tried to ride from border to border in California. We pushed off from the north. We made it down as far as Big Sur and it was too much traffic and too much craziness and we had to get bailed out by an uncle from San Francisco, but it was quite a trip while it lasted.

Q: What was the environment of the family? Would you sit around the dining room table at night and talk about things or what?

GROSSMAN: Yes, I think so. My recollection is that there was a family dinner and, again, because I was the son of two schoolteachers, there was emphasis on education and in what was going on at school. Whenever I got in trouble at school—which was not often, but sometimes— my parents backed the teachers, no matter what.

Q: Well that was the era, too, when parents did back the teachers.

GROSSMAN: That’s right. My parents followed politics, especially after we moved to La Habra, that’s Orange County, and at the time there was a lot of the John Birch Society and, there was debate about liberals and conservatives and, “who was who,” and so they were part of that conversation.

Q: Where did your family fall in the political spectrum?

GROSSMAN: They were Democrats, admirers of Roosevelt. It was a very union- oriented family—my grandfather was a union member; my dad, I think, to the best of his ability worked to organize teachers. They did not have a union but I can remember him working very hard to make sure they had a dental plan. One year they were all organizing to try to get paid, instead of ten checks a year, twelve checks a year; same amount of money. It was tough on 10 a year; you’d see that last paycheck on the first of July and the next one wouldn’t come until the first of October. My dad worked as a camp counselor and camp director and in my grandfather’s children’s shoe store in Oxnard in summers to make ends meet.

Q: How did you find school? What’d you like, what didn’t you like? What was good, what wasn’t?

GROSSMAN: I liked going to school. It was a time, as you maybe remember as well, of huge expansion in the education system in California and so as an elementary school student I went to four or five elementary schools, as they kept building and consolidating and moving us around. Same kids, but we moved from school to school. I found then as I find now I gravitated to the social sciences and to history much more than the sciences or math. But I liked it and I did okay.

Q: Were you much of a reader?

GROSSMAN: Absolutely.

Q: Can you recall any books, particularly early on, that sort of grabbed you?

GROSSMAN: I remember my dad gave me a series—I can see them now but I can’t remember who published them —one was about Ethan Allen, the Green Mountain Boys. Another was a short history of D-Day. We went to the library constantly. I can remember we had a very astute seventh or eighth grade teacher who, in order to inculcate the joy of reading, encouraged us 12 and 13-year-old boys to read all the James Bond novels.


Q: Well where did the student body come from? What sort of a student body was it at the elementary school would you say?

GROSSMAN: The elementary schools were, I remember it this way anyway, people basically like us. People who considered themselves middle class but were probably financially lower middle class. Our neighbors were plumbers and electricians. I remember the gentleman next door was an estimator for a construction company. At that time, as Orange County expanded, it seemed to me to have expanded equally. So neighborhood after neighborhood looked the same and you met people who I thought were generally from the same economic class. It wasn’t really until high school that I can remember meeting people who had more or less money. A friend’s father owned the Volkswagen dealership, for example.

Q: Was there any Hispanic or African-American representation in the school?

GROSSMAN: La Habra High School was a mixed student body of Anglo and Hispanic and some Japanese-Americans. In La Habra anyway, at the high school there were few, if any African-Americans. The main groups there were Anglos and Hispanics.

Q: Then were you at all keyed into news and newspaper, TV, radio at all?

GROSSMAN: My recollection is being quite interested in the news about Vietnam. Certainly when I was in high school; I remember having a map of Vietnam in my bedroom and trying my best to follow that story. I don’t think I had any views on it one way or the other until I got to college, but certainly in high school I remember following the story, so I must have had some connection to it. We got a newspaper every day and I certainly can recall my folks talking about the news.

Q: Did the Cold War intrude much or was that anything that ... ?

GROSSMAN: I can recall the “getting under the desk drills” at school, especially during the Cuban missile crisis.

Q: Duck and cover.

GROSSMAN: Yes. But like a lot of people my age my first great recollection of an event is Kennedy’s assassination.

Q: How about the movie industry? Did that grab you? Were you a movie buff or not?

GROSSMAN: No. I like to go to the movies and it was certainly part of our life but it never grabbed me in any special way. Hollywood and the stars seemed far away from La Habra, at least to me. The Los Angeles Dodgers were a much bigger story.

Q: Well then, you went to high school, again at La Habra?

GROSSMAN: At La Habra High School, yes.

Q: What was that like?

GROSSMAN: It was a big suburban high school; again, with mixed Anglo and Hispanic population. I did okay there. I was lucky, I was introduced there to speech and debate and I was on the debate team and the speech team. The team had a coach named Ray Benkendorf who took an interest in me. Some days, I wasn’t interested in doing much else except speech and debate, but I was good at it and he recognized that and it is what helped me get through high school.

Q: How about girls in high school in those days? Was this much of a concentration of young boys or not?

GROSSMAN: Oh sure. I think we were lucky in that the speech and debate team was mixed— girls and boys—and so we were able a little bit like kids do today; we moved around in a group. And I liked that. There were a number of women, girls, on that debate team, and boys and we went here and we went there, and so it was more of a group operation for us, which was good.

Q: Yes. Then, while you were going to high school, you would have graduated in what year? This would have been about?


Q: ’69. This is red-hot Vietnam in those days.

How about in high school? Did Vietnam begin to loom high as far as what you were going to do or not?

GROSSMAN: In terms of what I was going to do?

Q: Yes.

GROSSMAN: In 1968 what loomed large in high school was (Democratic Senator) Eugene McCarthy’s run for President, which was related obviously to Vietnam but was about McCarthy.

Q: That was ’68.

GROSSMAN: ’68. I remember also the day that Robert Kennedy was murdered in Los Angeles. It was an appalling day at our house. My family was sympathetic to what Robert Kennedy was doing. I remember being very struck by the debate over whether people should vote for McCarthy or vote for Humphrey in November and being horrified that people would vote for McCarthy on a principle, which allowed Richard Nixon to win.

Q: Nixon was a California, Southern California boy.

GROSSMAN: Well, I’ll tell you a story. The subdivision that we lived in backed onto a Nixon property.

Q: Yorba Linda was it?

GROSSMAN: No, as I remember it this property was not in Yorba Linda. Nixon’s mother, Hannah Nixon, lived in La Habra. She used to pay a group of us kids to rake leaves. She’d pay us a quarter to rake leaves. The other funny recollection is that, and I don’t know if you had one in San Marino, there was a drive-in burger place called Nixon’s in Whittier, which I can remember going to.

Q: I go back, I was born in 1928.


Q: And so drive-ins, I think, were just ... and San Marino wasn’t that fancy.

GROSSMAN: In 1968 there was of course Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, which had a big impact on me. One because of him and what he stood for and what he was trying to do for America and, secondly, because I think—I’m not sure but I think—that we were supposed to come to Washington for a national speech and debate tournament which was cancelled because of the rioting here after Dr. King was killed.

Q: Well, with your mother and father both college graduates, was it difficult in the time from 13 on without your mother?

GROSSMAN: It was. My dad remarried when I was 16 to a wonderful woman so ...

Q: So that, so you weren’t particularly left in a limbo as far as maternal care or something like that?

GROSSMAN: No. My dad did a heroic job for the three years and then he remarried.

Q: Yes. Well, I take it from this background that you were pointed; you were going to go to college. Was that … ?


Q: Right from the beginning?

GROSSMAN: I don’t think there was much question about it and, of course, at that time California public education was one of the greatest systems ever and it was free. And so there really was not any reason, if you could get certain grades or have, like I did, an invitation to come and do speech and debate; there was no reason not to.

Q: Yes. Incidentally, in debate, did you find that you liked to basically take the affirmative or the negative? Did you find one was a little more appealing than the other?

GROSSMAN: No, it really depended; each year the topic changed. I don’t remember the topics but I can remember that there were some topics that were better than other topics and I think it changed from year to year.

Q: Yes. Well then, where’d you go?

GROSSMAN: I went to UC (University of California) Santa Barbara. I did not have a sterling transcript when I came out of high school, except in speech and debate, and I applied to a number of the UC campuses but, luckily again, the speech and debate coach at UC Santa Barbara, Kathleen Corey, took pity on me and they did a deal; they looked the other way at my transcript if I would do speech and debate for them for two years.
Also, I had an older cousin, Myra, who was at UCSB and was happy there.

Q: How was UC Santa Barbara? GROSSMAN: It was fantastic. I loved it. Q: This must have been in ’69.
GROSSMAN: I went there in 1969 and graduated in 1973. There was a lot of ferment there, not just over the war but campus issues as well. There was a huge disruption in 1970, the Bank of America was burned down in Isla Vista. Sadly, a student was killed in 1970 there. And let us not forget those killed at Kent State. 1970 was a very tough year not only to try to get an education but also to try to understand what was going on around us. But I went there and I lived the first two years in the dorms and met a lot of different kinds of people and I thought college was great. My grades skyrocketed and I met my commitment to Kathy Corey and then stopped competitive speech and debate, but it was exactly where I needed to go and what I needed to do.

And again, luck plays its role. I took a class as a sophomore from a professor called Michael Gordon in the political science department and he sparked my interest in international relations and political science. He was good enough to pay attention to me for the year I was a sophomore and the year I was a junior. And the year I was a junior he pushed me to go abroad on a UC education-abroad program. The year I was a senior I went to the University of Birmingham in England.

Q: Well at, I think, maybe I’ve got it wrong but I interviewed another Foreign Service Officer, Joe Wilson, and I think he went to UCSB.


Q: He went there for the surfing; at least that’s what he said.


Q: Because he was a skier and a surfer but I mean, not a student. He ended up when he graduated; he became a master carpenter, I think.

GROSSMAN: There are there several of us that I know of from that time whom I know about who went to UC Santa Barbara. We always joked that it was a Foreign Service affirmative-action program to get people from UCSB. There’s Joe Wilson, as you said, and Don Hayes, Leslie Gerson and Barbara Bodine. We’re the old-time UC-Santa Barbara contingent.

Q: Did you surf?

GROSSMAN: Only body surfing. I played a lot of Frisbee.

Q: What happened, you mentioned a Bank of America burning down. What was that about?

GROSSMAN: There were two things going on there at the time. The first was over the firing by the Chancellor of an anthropology professor. I remember the chant, there was a huge petition that he should stay and they got 7,776 signatures, and the great chant of the students was, “7776, no more bureaucratic tricks.” I don’t think he ever got rehired, but it was sort of the first ferment there at that campus. Then the invasion of Cambodia was 1970 and, I don’t know for what reason, people believed that the Bank of America was somehow financing the war in Vietnam and, in particular, financing the war in Cambodia. There was a branch of the Bank of America in Isla Vista, which is a community full of students next door to UC Santa Barbara. There were a number of nights of rioting in Isla Vista. The bank was torched and burned to the ground. And …

Q: Well, did you get involved in anti-Vietnam demonstrations at all?

GROSSMAN: I was not involved in any of the violent stuff. I just didn’t think that was right. I was involved in some of the teach-ins. At one point I can remember organizing busloads of students to go and lobby the California state legislature in Sacramento to take a stand against the war. I think Dr. Gordon was an influence who just said, you’ve got to think about this in a broader way and you know, there’s a way to protest this and there’s a way not to. And I was never attracted to the violence. I took from those days a fear of anarchism and nihilism. I did participate in a campus report on police overreaction.

Q: Well did you see sort of the rise of certain student leaders who seemed to be mainly out to exert their charisma or whatever you want to call it? In other words, you know, young people trying on their ability to raise the masses and all that?

GROSSMAN: I think so although my recollection of it is that a lot of the violence—and there was a lot of violence, night after night, tear gassing and police in Isla Vista and on the campus—was mostly nihilism. There was at that time, of course, a whole delusion that there was a revolution going on and it was Europe in 1968 and Berkeley. I read The Port Huron Statement and other documents and some spoke to me and others did not. I can remember going to a campus meeting one day to see (former Students for a Democratic Society/SDS leader) Tom Hayden speak, who was on the semi-sensible end of this. I remember seeing Abbie Hoffman, who was not so sensible. It was a time you had a lot of decisions to make about what you were going to do and how you were going to participate.

Q: Well did you, in a way lose any of your friends to sort of the seduction of this nihilism, drugs, dropout-type thing or something? Was this hitting your group or not?

GROSSMAN: Less so. There were a number of people who experimented with drugs. I did not. I don’t think anybody I knew pursued it to the point of dropping out or destroying himself or herself. In a way, the worst excesses of this passed my group of friends by or passed us over. The lucky people mostly shed that lifestyle and moved on.

Q: How about campus Marxism? I mean, some of those professors, it still hangs on. There’s an illusion about having this, the Marxist approach to things, which has been big in our campuses all over the world for a long time, and how about at your place?

GROSSMAN: There was Herbert Marcuse, at UC …

Q: At San Diego.

GROSSMAN: Yes but he was part of the UC circuit and I think people read a lot of Marxism. I had a class taught by a wonderful professor on anarchism and Marxism. But he was fair, and he let people make up their own minds. But again, I go back to my compliment to Dr. Gordon here, who was always there to say, “Yes but,” or “Yes, have you thought about this?” He was a very realistic person surrounded by some people who weren’t so realistic.

Q: This of course was some of the problems because students are, you know, vulnerable; they’re looking for answers.


Q: And Marxism often seems to have, you know, has a rather pat answer, you know, and reality is, we all know, it just doesn’t come out very well.

GROSSMAN: Yes, but Dr. Gordon or the others who were also having us read (British academic and professor at the London School of Economic) Leonard Shapiro’s book on the revolution in Russia, the creation of the USSR and the rise of Stalin. We read plenty of other books about what a disaster communism was and would be. And so my recollection is that, although there were Marxist Socialist talkers, there were plenty of people at that time who were saying, “Just hold on a minute and think about this and look at the destruction that this horrible ideology has wrought, through Stalin and through Lenin, and you’ve got to think about this.”

Q: Was Ronald Reagan the governor?


Q: How did he sit with you all?

GROSSMAN: Well, two things I remember about Reagan were, of course, when I went to UC Santa Barbara it was free. There was no tuition and Governor Reagan said, “Well we can’t afford that anymore and people should start paying some tuition.” And it was like the world was going to end; my recollection it was $65.00 a quarter. But he established the principle and it went through and we paid some small tuition from there on. The other thing was that UC Santa Barbara was, as you can imagine, a very environmentally conscious campus and nobody considered that Ronald Reagan was overly environmentally conscious.

Q: He was not a tree hugger.

GROSSMAN: And yet he was also part of life there because his ranch was in the hills up above Santa Barbara on some of the most beautiful property in the world. And Santa Barbara was the Western White House when he was President.

Q: How did the town-gown relationship work in Santa Barbara?

GROSSMAN: It was mixed. The geography led to more separation than there needed to be. UC Santa Barbara is on an 800-acre promontory about 10 miles outside of Santa Barbara. And then Isla Vista, where lots of students lived, is right next door. So if you didn’t have a car you didn’t go to Santa Barbara much. I think that led to more—not
exclusion, that’s not the right word. It led to more separation than there needed to be. UC Santa Barbara could be a little universe all by itself.

Q: Did you experience at all, either in high school or at the university, any anti- Semitism? Or was this almost a thing of the past?

GROSSMAN: My recollection is that I experienced it in junior high school. Why, I don’t remember. I think I was sent home for fighting either in seventh grade or eighth grade over somebody who’d called me names. So I remember that, but I also remember the opposite, which was at that time Sandy Koufax was pitching for the Dodgers and I can remember him not pitching in a World Series game because it was Yom Kippur.

Q: How about Israel? You know, I’m thinking of your family and sort of from that perspective. Did Israel play much of a role or not?

GROSSMAN: It did. My parents, I believe, met in a Zionist youth organization or had some connection to that. They were both—and all the grandparents of course—were very interested in Israel. I can remember collecting dimes for trees for Israel. The 1967 war was a very intense time at our household.

Q: It was called the Six-Day War.


Q: Well then, at the university, you were international relations?

GROSSMAN: Political science.

Q: Political science.


Q: By the way, how was political science at that time? Because my impression, I’m stating my prejudice, political science has gone beyond the bounds or something as far as quantification of everything and all that.


Q: Had that virus hit?

GROSSMAN: There was a big academic debate over normative political science and statistical political science and my recollection is that the UCSB department was split between those people who were at the statistical end of this and those people who were not.

Q: Well the computer was just coming in.


Q: It really wasn’t a computer but it was a counter. I mean, card machines.

GROSSMAN: There were cards, right. I can remember the library would give out for note-taking tons of used IBM cards and I can remember taking notes for research papers on the back of them. That was as close as I got to a computer at that time.

Q: Were you at all attracted to the quantitative ... ?

GROSSMAN: Never. My quantitative abilities are balancing my checkbook and that’s about it. Our daughter is the math person in our household.

Q: Well then, were you, you were going to graduate in ’73, was that it?

GROSSMAN: Correct.

Q: What were you pointed towards?

GROSSMAN: Well, I go back to 1972, when I was a junior; again full credit to Dr. Gordon. He took me into his office one day and said, “You’ve got some potential there somewhere, you’re at this University of California campus where there’s still a lot of ferment and you need to go someplace more rigorous and learn to write and learn to read critically.” And so the University of California had an education-abroad program that was generally for juniors. Dr. Gordon helped me get an exception and I went abroad as a senior. He encouraged me to go to England, where he had been at university. In August or September of 1972, the beginning of my senior year, I found myself on a charter flight from Los Angeles with all the other UC program students, on my way to London and then to the University of Birmingham. So I spent my senior year as a final-year student at the University of Birmingham in the political science department.

Q: Okay. What was the University of Birmingham like at that time?

GROSSMAN: Birmingham is a redbrick university and an amazing place. Birmingham was then primarily an engineering and science school.

Q: Representing sort of the industry.

GROSSMAN: Absolutely. But there was a wonderful political science department there and I was warmly welcomed and had a great year there. I tried to learn how to read critically and to write and to speak in an organized manner. And I also had a huge opening to the world. I’d never been abroad. I’d never been out of California really. I’d been to Arizona once and I’d been to Oregon but I’d never really been out of the state.

Q: Never been to Tijuana?

GROSSMAN: Not sure about Tijuana, but my dad was reminding me a few days ago that we’d been on a family trip to Ensenada.

Q: I went there once and decided, when I was 10, and made up my mind; I didn’t realize it but I never sought after a Latin American assignment.

GROSSMAN: I was able to see something different in Britain and the UK. Then in December of 1972, we had off from school in December—from the 15th of December to January the 15th—and four of us, or three of us, we flew from London to Rome and we got there, I don’t know, the 15th or 16th of December. We hitchhiked from Rome to Florence to Venice to Trieste to Rijeka to Split. We then went from Split to Dubrovnik where I spent a memorable New Year’s eve. Then we took the bus up to Titograd—it must have another name now! —where it was snowing and then we took the train from Titograd to Athens. About the 15th of January we flew from Athens back to England; it was a real eye-opening trip.

Q: So you were there, this is 1970?

GROSSMAN: This would have been Christmas-New Year’s ’72-’73.

Q: Well, since I don’t recall you, I was Consul General in Athens at the time, so I take it you didn’t get into trouble.

GROSSMAN: We were really lucky; we didn’t get into any trouble the whole way. But it was a real eye-opening experience for me. And when I was done at Birmingham, in the summer of 1973, I said I’m not ready to go home yet. I applied and, amazingly enough, got in and then did a Master’s degree at the London School of Economics, ’73-’74.

Q: Well let’s talk about Birmingham first.


Q: How’d you find the, sort of the approach to learning for you? I mean …

GROSSMAN: I loved it.

Q: But can you compare and contrast what you were getting at Santa Barbara?

GROSSMAN: I needed the three years at Santa Barbara in order to have taken advantage of the fourth year at Birmingham and then LSE. Santa Barbara was more, “Here’s what you’re supposed to read and here’s what you’re supposed to know and here’s what the test is going to be about,” and that was okay. But I was ready, it turned out, for a system where it was more, “Well, go read the library and think about what’s interesting to you and write about it and we’ll critically work through what you’ve written.” I can remember at one point getting interested in John Locke and reading books about rights and there was an amazing little institute there at Birmingham on Shakespeare studies. But they had a bunch of books about John Locke, so I knocked on the door and explained myself and they said, “Well come on in.” And so I spent a week reading about John Locke in the Shakespeare library. I was ready for that and I loved it.

Q: Did the students have any misconceptions about the United States? Did you find yourself sort of the American representative there?

GROSSMAN: Yes. Most of the people who had better grades than me wanted to go to Oxford and Cambridge and London so yes, I was one of the very few Americans there and I spoke and acted as an American, being respectful of their culture.

The other thing that was lucky for me was that at that time, 1972-’73, basketball was just coming to England and so anybody who was an American and could play even marginally, as I did, was immediately recruited for the university team. I played for the University of Birmingham’s basketball team for year, which was great because it allowed me then to have a real connection to the British people who were on that team. We traveled together; we ate together, we practiced together. And that, I think, got me connected to that society in a better way than had I been an outsider.

Q: Well Birmingham, being in the heart of the industrial area, did you get a feel for the class system, labor versus conservative, and all that?

GROSSMAN: Absolutely.

Q: What did you see?

GROSSMAN: First, at that time, people’s clothing told you about their class. People wore different kinds of uniforms to work. Porters had a uniform and cleaners had a uniform and the people at the cafeteria had a uniform. You could tell by peoples’ accents and their shoes and where they’d been to school. I can remember friends who were from the north; I would go to the market and come back with an orange and an apple and they were astonished because they had one orange a year—they got it in their Christmas stocking. Eating lettuce and fruits and vegetables was a foreign thing to them. In the dorm, mashed potatoes were a vegetable. What a difference today.

Q: Traveling in those days was something. I remember going to a salad bar around that time and what they called a salad bar I couldn’t believe it.

GROSSMAN: I was amazed at class. The second year I was there, at LSE in London, there was the miner’s strike and the three-day week and Mrs. Thatcher was, I think, elected. The argument was about class and Labor Party tradition and new ways of thinking about the future. I found in myself a fascination for how people chose to govern themselves, how they made choices about their lives. I should say, just to go back to Birmingham, at that time the car industry was very successful and so Birmingham was a comparatively rich town. While I was there they built a fantastic new library in the city. There was music and a theatre.

Q: Did you have any feel in your classes, both in London and in Birmingham; about that it was sort of an almost transitional thing where the working class is beginning to not think as much as powerless? In other words they were sort of coming into their own and the class distinctions were going down or was there still pretty much …

GROSSMAN: No I would have to say I didn’t start to really feel that until ten or so years later in England. You’ve got to give Mrs. Thatcher a lot of credit for that in her way. She made it ok to be an entrepreneur. My recollection of ’72-’73, ’73-’74 was of a very stratified class society, at least in my observation.

Q: Well I can remember as a Foreign Service Officer if you called the British Embassy and that would be particularly key to this but it wasn’t hard to tell whether I was talking to somebody from the consular or administrative side or the political or economic side by his or her accent.


Q: I mean it was …

GROSSMAN: I fell in with a group of people who were northerners from Middlesbrough, Redcar, Liverpool, and so it was pretty interesting to see all that too.

Q: Did you feel they were having … sometimes as an American you have this wonderful aura of not belonging to either so nobody …


Q: … you get a pass, don’t you?

GROSSMAN: Yes, you did.

Q: Well then you went to the London School of Economics?


Q: From when to when?

GROSSMAN: 1973-’74.

Q: And what were you doing there?

GROSSMAN: I did a Master’s degree in international relations.

Q: Again, where stood international relations in the quantitative versus the cognitive or whatever you want to call it?

GROSSMAN: LSE was still a very normative kind of international relations place. There were some people who were working on the quantitative side but, by and large, the people who were there, Professor Northridge and Susan Strange, Michael Banks and Philip Windsor, they were all non-numbers people.

Q: Well, both at Birmingham but particularly at LSE, how was Margaret Thatcher viewed there from the people you dealt with?

GROSSMAN: I don’t remember at Birmingham. I remember at London people were amazed by her. But because I had at that point, I think, really started to focus in on international relations, other than the three-day week, which had a big impact on my life

Q: This is because of the coal.

GROSSMAN: Coal miners’ strike. I don’t remember too much debate about her in particular. There was a huge debate at that time about their society, because here was this three-day week and it was a crisis; we were cold a lot of the time, and people could not work, and what was going to happen? I can remember people writing letters to the newspaper, especially from Australia, people would write in and say things like, “We hear there’s a three-day week in England. How do you get them to work the extra day?” They didn’t know where they were headed, what their society was supposed to be about.

Q: What was your focus at LSE?

GROSSMAN: The way it worked was we went to lots and lots of classes for the first third of the year. The second third of the year was mostly seminars and the last third of the year was writing a big paper and then getting ready for final exams. And so, I remember the first third I went to every class I could get myself to. I just listened and listened. Then in the second third I had a seminar led by Professor Michael Banks. I started to then be interested in how you could take certain theories of international relations and apply them practically. I think I did my thesis on trying to figure out how normative international relations theory might work in practice. I am sure it was awful. But I was really helped by a part-time professor there who was part-time at Chatham House and part-time at LSE named Susan Strange. Her thing was trying to bring economic theory and connect it to international relations theory. I found her fascinating and I remember her being a big help on my final essay. Then there was a huge, rigorous exam set right at the end; it was the last thing that we did in June.

Q: I assume that there were an awful lot of students from abroad, particularly from Africa. Were there or not?

GROSSMAN: A lot from Africa, a lot from South Asia—Indians and Pakistanis—and then a very large number of Americans; that Master’s program was very attractive to Americans. It was funny to be back among Americans again. But I made friends there that I still have, especially Jim Jacobs who lives in Denver. Another example: there’s was Pakistani student who lived in the same dorm as Jim named Salman Ali Sheik, whom I’m still in contact with, and here’s the weird thing about it. His birthday is exactly the same as mine, 9/23/51. But even stranger, his father’s birthday is exactly the same as my dad’s.

Q: How was life there?

GROSSMAN: It was great. I applied too late—luckily for me it turned out—to get into a dorm so I sublet a room in a house; an apartment in London near the Warrick Avenue tube station. And luckily the guy I sublet from, Ray Corness, had a circle of friends who we still to this day consider among our closest friends. And so I was incredibly lucky to have fallen in with real Londoners, real people who lived there. They all were five to eight-years older than I was; they had jobs, so they had real lives which were interesting to observe. Life was, pretty attractive. What did I have to do? I went to school. It was very stimulating. But it was a funny time in England where in this apartment we lived in you still had to put coins into the radiator to get heat or light and we had a pay phone in the flat.

Q: A geezer or whatever?

GROSSMAN: Sometimes, at 10:30, if nobody would put money in the meter, it would go off and everybody would be searching around for ten pence coins to put in the damn machine so we could have electricity.

Q: Yes. Did you get any feel for the London School of Economics’ approach to newly emerging countries? I sometimes felt that this is, the LSE brand of socialism and all this, that it probably was more destructive than Marxism.

GROSSMAN: I was there in the first years of change, where they had gone out and hired to be the boss of LSE Ralph Dahrendorf, who was a German Eurocrat. He was a more managerial-type person, and he was the Director. So I think they were consciously making an effort to change both the image of the LSE and the way they thought about the world.

Q: The Gods were no longer the …

GROSSMAN: Sidney and Beatrice Webb. People paid respect to them and their ideas, but they had become historic figures by that time. And Dahrendorf, not disrespectful to the past, had the job of putting LSE on a different path. By the time I got there wasn’t much socialist, Marxist stuff left.

Q: Did you get any feel for the attitudes of the Professors towards the Soviet Union at the time?

GROSSMAN: My recollection is that for some people they lost their naiveté about the Soviet Union with the invasion of Poland and the invasion of Czechoslovakia.

My recollection is that many people were rightly shocked by 1968—by the Soviet actions—and I don’t think felt the same way afterwards.

Q: Was there the equivalent, I mean were you aware of at that time something like the French intellectuals, the chattering class, were they at all a factor or something, sort of the intellectuals who would get up and pontificate and all that?

GROSSMAN: Sure. But I always considered that part of the reason to go there was because the system there was that every day or every week they published lists of lectures and you could turn up to anything, you could take any class you wanted. All you had to do was turn up. And so it was a great smorgasbord of being able to wander around and listen to people.

Q: I would think that your time in high school and half time at, two years at Santa Barbara in debating and all would have served you well in the British system, which puts a high …


Q: … premium on debate.

GROSSMAN: Yes it did.

Q: Did you have any interest in sort of the Third World, Africa, Asia and all that, at the time?

GROSSMAN: No, I can’t say that I did. My interest, through Salman Ali Sheik and others and through his friends, was interest in India and Pakistan.

Q: Did you have any reading, looking at, contact with either the Foreign Service or American diplomacy? Did you have any feel for this?

GROSSMAN: I did. I was dating at that time a British woman and we wanted her to visit the United States, I guess for the summer, and of course we went one day to the Consular section of the American Embassy in London and we were treated so rudely. I just couldn’t believe the way we were being treated. I finally said, “Wait a minute, I’m an American, you can’t do this to people.” I was asked to leave. The next thing I remember was standing on the steps there, down the side of the Consular section going, “What the hell happened, what happened to me?” It was my first time at an embassy. It was a negative experience and it colored my attitude toward how we treated our clients for the rest of my career. She got the visa in the end.

Q: Well what, going for your Master’s and all, what was going to be the result of all this in your mind?

GROSSMAN: I was sure I was going to go to law school. I took the LSAT in England, in the spring of 1994 at the building of the English Speaking Union.

Q: That’s the …

GROSSMAN: The law school, LSA …

Q: Aptitude.

GROSSMAN: I went and took it one Saturday morning. I finished that test and I put my pencil down and I said, “There’s no way, this is not for me.” But I didn’t know what else I was going to do. I passed the LSAT and I applied for law school and I got accepted at the University of San Francisco. But when I went to actually send them the money and say, ” I said, “It’s not for me”. ”

Q: So you were out in ’74?


Q: ’74 you were out in the cold.

GROSSMAN: Well, not quite. I had two things. One was that in all the summers that I was at college I had worked for a firm called the Jewel Tea Company, the Jewel Home Shopping Service. I was a door-to-door salesman, a door-to-door solicitor. I worked hard at that each summer and made money on commission. When I went back to California in 1974, I first took an opportunity to work for a politician whom I really liked in Santa Barbara named Gary Hart— not the Gary Hart of Colorado but the Gary Hart of California—and he was running for the State Assembly. I did research for him on issues and wrote speeches and did all the kinds of things a low-budget campaign would do and I worked there through the summer of ’74 until Election Day 1974 and he got elected. So then the question was whether I wanted to go to Sacramento with him and I declined. I wanted to stay in Santa Barbara. I got back in touch with the Jewel Tea Company and I was hired as an area manager and I drove a delivery truck in Santa Barbara and then I went back to door-to-door soliciting.

Q: What did you sell door to door?

GROSSMAN: They sold what at the time seemed like everything. The thing that always makes people laugh is that we sold aerosol spray butter.

Q: God, I remember … Did you really?

GROSSMAN: I’m sure the FDA would not allow this today but yes; we sold aerosol spray butter, and a lot of cleaning products, all kinds of stuff. And the deal was that when you solicited door to door you were looking for new customers for the route driver who had that area.

Q: Yes.

GROSSMAN: And so you were looking for people who would buy and then continue to buy over a couple of weeks and then, as the route driver, you saw people every two weeks. This was hard work and I always thought that being in the Foreign Service was— compared to selling things door-to-door in Bakersfield in the summer, all on commission—was pretty great.

Q: Well, 1974 was one of those tipping points in our society where all of a sudden households were finding they needed the wife to work, too.

GROSSMAN: Yes, exactly right.

Q: So were you feeling the beginning of the impact?

GROSSMAN: No question about it. In fact we were instructed, when we were doing the door-to-door soliciting, that we could not start knocking on doors until 9:00 in the morning and we had to stop knocking on doors at 4:00 in the afternoon, because so many women who were the customers of the Jewel Tea drivers had gone into the workforce.
The drivers now had to see them between 7:00 in the morning and 8:30 and they just couldn’t take any more customers at those hours of the day. So we were searching for those people who had not chosen to work outside the home. It was a very strict rule; the drivers wanted us to fill the middle of their day. We had to knock on hundreds of doors in order to get enough people at home to make enough pitches in order to get enough sales. But it was, for me, a very important experience. One because it taught me a lot of self- discipline, because this was really hard, you were all by yourself every day and it was hot and some days it didn’t go very well.

Q: You were doing this in Bakersfield?

GROSSMAN: Not only Bakersfield. In the summers we solicited what seemed like every door from San Luis Obispo to San Diego. Then one summer I ran routes in Bakersfield— it taught me a lot about human nature. When you knock on doors, you have to first have
the discipline to knock on the doors because if you didn’t knock on the doors you didn’t make any money; remember: it was all commission. You started each day with zero. And you met a lot of people and you saw how people lived and I’ve really never forgotten it.

Q: I would think, particularly because obviously you had to knock on a lot of doors, one of the hardest things must be particularly for lonely people and all that. I mean, this would be very hard to say, “Thank you, but I really have to go.”

GROSSMAN: When we were soliciting for new customers the rule was we never stepped inside anybody’s house for precisely that reason, it just took too long. When I was driving a route you had to get into their house and you just had to learn who was going to buy and who wasn’t going to buy and how much time you had and you just had to keep moving. I worked full time for Jewell for a couple of years, from 1974 and I joined the Foreign Service in 1976.

In 1974, I don’t know when, I went to a lecture. It was at a really fancy hotel in Santa Barbara, and I heard Ambassador Thomas Hughes speak at a conference sponsored by the local World Affairs Council. Hughes was at that time President of Carnegie, but he had just finished being I think the DCM in London. I thought, “Wow, what a great sounding thing.” So I went to the placement office at UC Santa Barbara and I said, “Does anybody know anything about this thing called the Foreign Service?” And they said, “Here’s this card that you could mail in and sign up for the test.” I sent in the card and I took the test in a building at UCSB and lucky me I passed. And here we are. I should say that I have had the occasion to thank Mr. Hughes for his speech.

Q: Well back to the time you were a door-to-door salesman, were you able to make a living?

GROSSMAN: I was. Jewell hired me the year after I was a sophomore at UCSB. So in the summer after I was a sophomore, and a junior and a senior, I solicited door to door and I was lucky enough at it that I never had to work during the school year. I made all the money I needed for the year during those three months in the summer.

Q: What do you attribute your salesman technique? This is, you say, hard work. Did you enjoy it or was this just hard work?

GROSSMAN: The first day after our formal training in a classroom, they had a very good training program; they dropped me off on some streets in La Mirada, California. I started out knocking on doors and I couldn’t do it. I just could not make a sale. I can remember about 10:00 in the morning sitting on a curb there in La Mirada almost weeping in frustration. They were smart, the people who trained us. They picked us all up then for lunch on that first day and they said, “How are you doing?” And I said, “I’m doing terrible, I can’t do this.” They said, “Sure you can do this.” And one of the trainers then went out with me for the afternoon and I saw how somebody else did it. But the first couple of weeks were misery. But I kept at it. And then I started to love the challenge of it. I wanted to know how many doors I could get to and I checked each day to see if it was true that you had to knock on 40 doors to meet 20 people to make three pitches to get one sale. I liked the independence of it. I liked the people I met. I thought it was fascinating to have people open doors and I liked to see who was on the other side of the door. This curiosity about what was on the other side of the door turned out to be a very Foreign Service trait.

Q: Well were there sort of “no go” places? I was thinking African-American neighborhoods and all this. Were there places that one kind of avoided or Hispanic neighborhoods or … ?

GROSSMAN: I’m embarrassed to say that this may have been true but I can’t remember.

Q: I’m sure it had to be.

GROSSMAN: What happened was on a Friday night they would tell us—there were four of us, usually two guys from Iowa and two guys from California, we lived in a motel. On Friday night they would say, “Monday morning we want you to be in, for example, Atascadero, California. Check in at this motel and at the motel you’ll find an envelope and it will be from the route driver who will have circled for you the streets on which he needs more customers.” I didn’t think about it other than we got there, that’s where the guy needed customers, so we went out and did it.

Q: Well I would think just because of language that Spanish-speaking areas would be …

GROSSMAN: Yes, that’s probably right. But we were directed by the route driver. He needed customers on Monday in this neighborhood because that’s where he worked on Mondays. So that’s what we did. And on Tuesday we did this and Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and Friday they told us to go someplace else.

Q: Well. To finish this off, did you find that your door knocking paid dividends later as a Foreign Service Officer?

GROSSMAN: Oh yes, I did. I have never had a problem walking into a cocktail party and trying to find someone to talk to. I learned to talk to anybody. Second, it made me very concise in my argument. Because when that door opened you had two sentences to get the person interested in the rest of it. You needed to know your headline. Third, it made me realize what a privilege it was to have a good job. I wouldn’t have wanted to knock on doors for the rest of my life and so I always felt privileged that I got lucky and had a decent paying, mostly indoor, job.

Q: Did you ever have any physical confrontations and all that?

GROSSMAN: No, the only physical confrontation ever was with dogs and we always made friends with the mailmen in the neighborhoods. At that time mailmen carried a pepper spray for dogs, so we would always swap them cakes or something and somebody would give us a pepper spray. We were told, especially when we were younger and went door to door, the rule was don’t go inside, if you don’t go inside the house your chances of being in any kind of trouble are really low.

Q: Well then, you took the written exam. How did you find the written exam?

GROSSMAN: Well, I passed.

Q: This must have been in ’75 or so?

GROSSMAN: I think the written exam was in ’74 because it took a long time as I recall getting all the steps completed. Then I had an oral interview.

Q: Yes, when did you have the oral interview?

GROSSMAN: I don’t remember; it would have been I think in ’75. It was at the Federal Building in Los Angeles and again, a piece of kismet which will follow though our conversation here, the chair of my oral interview panel was Ms. Elaine Smith, who was at that time the desk officer for Turkey at the Department of State. We kept in contact and she attended my swearing-in as Ambassador to Turkey.

Q: Yes, I knew Elaine. As a matter of fact, I think around that time I was giving the oral exam up in San Francisco I think.

GROSSMAN: Yes well, she was the chair of my panel and I can remember after our interview I walked outside and they called me back in and said I’d passed.

Q: Yes. It was at that time when that’s what we were doing.


Q: Do you recall any of the questions?

GROSSMAN: I remember one question really well. They asked if I could describe a main problem in Latin America. I had just read a book about multinational corporations in Peru I blathered on about multinational corporations in Peru.

Q: They were confiscating; they were nationalizing.

GROSSMAN: I can’t remember. But I had read this book, so I talked about it. And then they said, “Well that’s very nice, but how about Cuba?”

Q: Had there been any residue left over from your experience on the steps of the London Embassy or not? From the consular, being expelled?

GROSSMAN: No, that didn’t return to my life until I had a chance to be in charge of a Consular section and I made sure we did not act in that way.

Q: Well were you able to, during your time as a salesman, were you sort of in a limbo, were you able to keep up with the world or anything like that?

GROSSMAN: I did. Luckily Santa Barbara being a university town and a town where a lot of interesting people retired, there were discussion groups and conferences now and then. I can remember going to the library and reading the newspaper, Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy. The big splurge was The Economist; it came to the house as a subscription.

Q: Did you ever run across a real Foreign Service type at all, retired or anybody of … ?

GROSSMAN: No. The only person I ever saw who was an FSO (Foreign Service Officer) was Thomas Hughes.

Q: Well you came into the Foreign Service when?

GROSSMAN: In March of 1976.

Q: What was your A-100, your basic officer course, what was the composition of it would you say?

GROSSMAN: Well, there were 34 or 35 of us. There were people of all ages—people who had had jobs, people who were married and seemed like real adults and others of us who were just starting out in a professional setting. The group of people I was with impressed me.

Q: How’d you find the training?

GROSSMAN: I had really nothing to compare it to. Being in contact from California with the people who were supposed to help was hopeless. It turned out all of us had very similar experience. For example, we got a list of hotels we could stay in. When I drove around, most of them are closed or were George Washington University dorms. The list must have been years out of date. The first days were spent filling out forms in a huge dark auditorium in Rosslyn. I thought I’d made a big mistake. I remembered all this when I became Director General and we tried to make the entry process as smooth and welcoming as possible.

Once we got going, I thought that they did a pretty good job. My career development officer was Tom Macklin. He took a real interest in me. We were 34 or 35 in the class and there were about that many jobs. My goal in life at that time was to see the Taj Mahal. I looked on the list of posts that were open and there was one in Islamabad, Pakistan. That was as close as I could get to the Taj Mahal. So when they came around and asked people what post they wanted, I said, “I’d like this job in Islamabad.” They said, “You would?” I said, “Yes, that’s what I’d like to do.” They said, “Fine, you’re it.”

I went from A-100 to a holding assignment because Urdu language training didn’t start until August, and I really lucked out. I was, for four or five months, the Assistant Country Officer for Jordan, which made me the most junior go-fer in NEA/ARN (Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs / Office of Lebanese, Jordanian, Syrian, and Iraqi Affairs). I did all kinds of things. In that summer, our Ambassador in Lebanon, Frank Meloy, was murdered. It was my first brush with the sometimes terrible price paid by the Foreign Service and the way people rallied to serve. I tried to help out the remarkable group of officers in NEA/ARN. I served on my first Task Force; one night I was put in charge of the Task Force from midnight to 8 am. I met Henry Kissinger in the Task Force area. I got to see amazing FSOs in action: Maury Draper was the Office Director and Tom Carolan was the Jordan Desk Officer. Wat (Tyler) Cluverius IV was there to help.

Roy Atherton was the Assistant Secretary at that time. I really had a chance to see what it was like to be an FSO in Washington for those four months, and then I started Urdu.

Q: Well, did you get to look at any particular issues or anything you were dealing with regarding Jordan at the time?

GROSSMAN: As Assistant Country Officer, I got all the stuff Tom Carolan didn’t want to do, which was all plenty interesting to me—commercial relations and disputes and I got to meet some Jordanians. Tom also taught me how to write for the bosses on the 6th and 7th floors. He was a marvelous writer. I worked on a big case I can remember where we were trying to return 40,000 automobile tires to the US that had ended up in Syria that weren’t supposed to be there. I did all kinds of things for that office. But what I really saw was the great tragedy of that summer, Ambassador Meloy’s murder.

Q: What was the feeling towards Lebanon at the time? Were you getting people throwing up their hands or saying, “What the hell are we going to do here or not?” Lebanon was in the middle of a civil war.

GROSSMAN: An honest answer to your question is because I went back a few years later to NEA/ARN as the Jordan Desk Officer, it all just sort of mixed up. That first year in 1976, I was so junior I just ran around and did what I was asked to do.

Q: Well, did you feel you were in the right place? I mean …

GROSSMAN: Yes, absolutely.

Q: In ’76, we weren’t too far away from Vietnam. Did you get any feel for Vietnam and
… ?


Q: Tom Macklin and I were in Vietnam together and I was wondering whether, that’s back in ’69-’70, but did you get any feel for the repercussions of Vietnam?

GROSSMAN: Yes, in the sense that it had clearly been for the Department an incredibly trying time. But because I fell into NEA and NEA was a full-time job, I focused on the road ahead. My connection to the repercussions of Vietnam come later, first when we confronted refugee and other questions in Turkey and the Balkans and I had the chance to work with people like (Richard C.) Dick Holbrooke, Les Gelb, Lionel Rosenblatt, Craig Johnstone, Ken Quinn and Mort Abramowitz, and much later when I tried to learn the right lessons about taking action and seeking permission later from Rich Armitage.

Q: Well did you get any feel for, I realize the short time, it is very junior at the bottom of the feeding chain and all that, but did you get any feel for the people you were dealing with and relations with Israel?

GROSSMAN: No, not during that short time. That will come later when … the only time I really ever experienced any anti-Semitism in the State Department was when I became the Desk Officer for Jordan. And a lot of the old NEA types were horrified that somebody Jewish could be on the Jordan desk.

Q: It was a residue of history and the Arabist fantasy.

GROSSMAN: I can remember walking down the hall one day, I think it was during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, and having an old NEA hand push me up against the wall and say, “What are your people doing?” For a minute I had no idea what he was talking about. And I thought, “You mean over in NEA/ARN? The staff aides? Are you talking about, the Jordanians?” And it wasn’t until 40 or 50 seconds into this conversation that I realized he means, “my people, the Jews.” And I said, “Stop. You can’t talk to me like that. We’re in a federal government building, I’m an American citizen; you can’t talk to me like that.”

Q: Well it was …

GROSSMAN: So, the first time around I didn’t bump into it, but the second time around absolutely.

Q: We’ll pick that up when we get there. How’d you find, you took Urdu from what, ’77?

GROSSMAN: Well, it would have been the summer, August of ’76 to spring of ’77. I went to Pakistan in early ’77.

Q: How’d you find it?

GROSSMAN: I discovered I have no aptitude for language.

Q: Welcome to the club.

GROSSMAN: I took the MLAT, and it was pretty low, 59 or something. I was paired in Urdu class with an Army Major named David Lemon. He was a FAO (Foreign Area Officer) on his way to India. I liked him very much. I’d never really met anybody from the military before, so that was also good.

Q: What, how long was the course? GROSSMAN: Twenty-four weeks. Q: And then?
GROSSMAN: I went to Pakistan.

Q: Where in Pakistan?

GROSSMAN: To Islamabad. I was the junior rotational officer in Islamabad.

Q: And you were there from?

GROSSMAN: I got there in March or April of 1977 and I stayed there until, June 1979. There had just been a failed election in Pakistan, there was rioting and a lot of unrest. It was a pretty interesting time to be a junior officer. Like in NEA/ARN, I got to see some great FSOs in action. I was there for the last five or six weeks of the tenure of Ambassador (Henry A.) Byroade, a historic character. The DCM (Deputy Chief of Mission) was Peter Constable, the Political Consular was Howie Schaffer, the Deputy Political Consular was Arnie (Arnold) Raphel. I went there as a rotational officer. I started my rotation in the economic section, working for Tezi (Teresita C.) Schaffer.

After a few months, the junior officer in the political section got removed by embassy management for violating the DCM’s instructions not to meet with the opposition. They decided I might be able to do the political job, so I was reassigned to the slot. It was a real education to work for Arnie Raphel and Howie Schaffer and Peter Constable and Ambassador Arthur Hummel when he arrived later in the year.

Q: When you arrived there who was the president or prime minister?

GROSSMAN: The prime minister was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. I can’t remember what all of the issues were, but it was a very divided country; lots of demonstrations in the streets after what everyone called a failed election, which had taken place just before I got there.

Q: In what manner?

GROSSMAN: There was a lot of cheating and it hadn’t really come to any conclusion and so there was some feeling that Bhutto was not fully legitimate. Bhutto was also pursuing a nuclear program, which put the US and Pakistan at odds.

At some point later that summer, Howie Schaffer got PNG’d (persona non grata) or left Pakistan before he got PNG’d. Howie was talking on the phone to our Consul General in Karachi, Bob Moore, and he said something like, “the elephant never forgets.” They were talking about the election, talking about Bhutto. But the Pakistani security services had tapped the phone and so, the next day or two days later in parliament, Bhutto says, “I have a transcript of a conversation between the Political Counselor at the American Embassy and American Consul General, ‘the elephant never forgets.’ Well, I say to the elephant that we will never forget.” Bhutto made it into a huge thing because he had interpreted it that we would always oppose Bhutto. So Howie, I can’t now remember whether they PNG’d him or whether everybody on the US side thought, “This is probably best if he just sort of moves on.” For months Arnie Raphel was the Acting Political Counselor and there was plenty of work to go around. I became a great admirer of Arnie Raphel and it was a privilege to work for him and with him. I learned how to be an FSO abroad from that group of people. Herb Haggerty then arrived to become the Political Counselor. He was a true South Asia expert and was great to me. Arnie went back to DC to work for Secretary (Cyrus Roberts) Vance.

Another great story from that time was that when Arthur Hummel arrived to succeed Byroade, let’s say in June, Bhutto was up to his eyeballs in his domestic politics and all this fighting and rioting. Ambassador Hummel wanted our July 4th party to be a vin d’honneur. I had to ask, what does that mean? I had never heard of such an event. The plan was to invite everybody to the Ambassador’s residence at noon on July 4. So it gets to be the end of June and Hummel still hasn’t presented his credentials because Bhutto never has time to receive Hummel. Then it gets to be the 1st of July, the 2nd of July, and everyone’s saying to Bhutto, “You can’t go to the American Ambassador’s Fourth of July party until the American Ambassador has presented his credentials.” So July 2nd goes by, July 3rd goes by, and Hummel says to us at CoB (close of business) on the 3rd of July, “I guess you better go home, they’re supposed to call us at some point to go down and present credentials; I’ll let you know.” About 3:00 in the morning he gets a call from the prime minister’s office, “Come right now and present your credentials.” I’m sorry about it, but no one thought the most junior person should come along. Anyway, they went to Rawalpindi at 3:00 in the morning on the 4th  of July, Hummel presents his credentials.
They have about an hour meeting. Hummel comes home.

I go to work and find out all this has happened. We all then go over to the Ambassador’s residence before noon on the Fourth of July and my job is to greet people at their cars and then walk them up to the Ambassador and try to introduce them. After a while the Ambassador sits in some alcove and it was up to more senior people to bring distinguished guests to him. The house is full of senior Pakistani government, military and opposition people. Arnie at one point goes up to General Zia and says to the then Chief of the Army Staff, “Would you like to meet Ambassador Hummel?” And Zia says, “No, I don’t think so.” Then Arnie says, “Well, okay.” Then he says to Zia, “I know you’re looking to buy a C-12 Beechcraft for the Army, we’ve got one in the country over the next few weeks. Would you like to take a ride?” Zia looks at Arnie and says, “I’m going to be sort of busy over the next few weeks.” So at 2:00, this vin d’honneur is over; everybody goes home.

Next morning we wake up, it is now the 5th of July. There’s martial music playing on the radio; there’s been a coup overnight. So I call the political FSNs (Foreign Service National), two wonderful people, Imtiaz and Amman. And I ask, “What the heck is going on?” “Well, there’s been a coup, General Zia’s now in charge of the country, Bhutto’s in jail.” And I said, “Well, when did you know about this?” “Oh, we knew about it in the middle of the night.” I said, “Well, why didn’t you call us?” And they said, “Well, why
would we have called you since you all did this?” I said, “What are you talking about?” And they replied, “Well, Hummel went to see Bhutto at 3:00 on the morning of the 4th of July and gave him some demands, all of the conspirators were together from 12:00 to 2:00 on the 4th of July at the Ambassador’s residence, where they clearly made some plan and then there was a coup. So why would we have called you?” None of that was true, of course. It was a great lesson in the power of conspiratorial thinking.

Q: What was the feeling among you all when the coup came? Was this any good thing, a bad thing or what?

GROSSMAN: Fair question. I think in some senses Pakistanis were relieved that there was going to be order. But many Pakistanis and Americans recognized that it was a blow to democracy. And of course Zia took Pakistan in directions no one predicted at the time.

Q: Were you getting, I mean, this was before it happened or maybe discussions afterwards; was Bhutto’s anti-Americanism a sort of handy political ploy to have somebody to be against or was it ingrained or what?

GROSSMAN: I think a little bit of both. If you go back to the LSE problem. He was a British-educated socialist-view person who was very suspicious of the United States. We were also opposed to his nuclear ambitions. But I think he also found the United States was a very easy whipping boy for him and his political party.

Q: Did much change when Zia came in?

GROSSMAN: Yes. Lots and lots of politicians were in jail. I think the parliament was suspended, I can’t remember. The military really ran the country. And so, yes, there was a big change. Then, of course, over time the most important issue of all became Bhutto’s execution. He was tried and then Zia ordered his execution.

Q: That seemed so out of line with the way things happened in there. I mean, the execution. Of course, this happened in Turkey too but those are about the only two examples I can think of coups where they—in sort of major countries.

GROSSMAN: Well it was disastrous and I can remember Ambassador Hummel going, with instructions and without instructions, to Zia saying, “You can’t do this, this is the wrong answer to the question,” and using (Turkish Prime Minister Adnan) Menderes as the example; the execution of Menderes has haunted Turkish society ever since.

Q: Yes.

GROSSMAN: I can remember him going over there time and time again trying to convince Zia that an execution wasn’t the answer, but they did it. I was sent out that day to try as best I could to judge public reaction. My reporting then was that 50 percent of the people were in tears and 50 of the people were giving each other candy. I was amazed, especially as an American, to see people celebrating the execution of a leader.

Q: Yes. Was Benazir Bhutto at all a factor in those days?

GROSSMAN: No, she was, a student in London and in the US I think, at that time. So we were conscious of her but I don’t remember her being a political factor. Her mother, Bhutto’s wife, was a political factor.

Q: How did you find Pakistan? You’d been studying political processes and you had a Pakistani friend and all. Did you find it more a what? A tribal situation or a … ?

GROSSMAN: It was feudal and tribal.

Q: Feudal.

GROSSMAN: Pakistan was a feudal society. It was also tribal. Baluchistan was certainly a tribal society and the North-West Frontier was as well. There were also great landlords, like the Bhuttos, who were a great landlord family from the Sindh.

Q: Well, one of the things that is so apparent as time has gone on over a period is that Pakistan just doesn’t seem to have been able to really settle things.

India has made the breakthrough apparently.

GROSSMAN: Part of Pakistan’s problem is that Pakistan is still unsure why Pakistan is Pakistan. For a while Pakistan was the homeland for Muslims in South Asia. But then Bangladesh breaks away and so, why Pakistan? What do you believe in? India now has a very large Muslim population, so Pakistan is not the “homeland for Muslims” in South Asia. When I lived there 1977-79, I thought often about how lucky we are to have had more than one Founding Father, in the sense that if you don’t like Jefferson you can like Franklin or Madison or Hamilton. If you don’t like Franklin you can like Washington.
Pakistan had one person, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and that was it. He was a great man, but if you didn’t like Jinnah or he didn’t grab you, there wasn’t anything else to believe in.
So part of their problem is that they just never were able to unify around some concept of who they were and what they’re all about.

Q: Well Jinnah was rather an austere figure and not very lovable.

GROSSMAN: But he had an idea; he was an intellectual and he helped create the state, and then he died before he could inculcate his vision.

Q: As a junior officer and all, how did you find the corruption factor?

GROSSMAN: In Pakistan?

Q: Yes.

GROSSMAN: As a junior officer it wasn’t the corruption so much; it was that for the very first time in my life I was confronted with millions and millions of poor people. All of us kept asking ourselves: how are they ever going to get out of this cycle of misery? I know there are poor people in America, but for me the numbers in Pakistan were overwhelming. It was a big splash of reality to wander around there as a junior officer and say, “What’s going to happen here? What do you do? What’s the responsibility of the United States?”

Q: During the time you were there was there a stance—standoffish, hostile or what— towards mainly a Zia government in that early period?

GROSSMAN: It was, no, it wasn’t standoffish except for the fact that the nuclear issue covered over everything. It was Bhutto who said that Pakistanis would “eat grass,” if
that’s what it took to invest in the nuclear program. Zia was more cagy. Zia always wanted us to prove there really was a nuclear program. I can remember the first time I ever met Bob Gallucci. Gallucci was flown out as a young INR nuclear specialist accompanied by a photo interpreter, and they went to see Zia. And they said look, here it is.

Q: They showed the pictures.

GROSSMAN: They showed the evidence. They said, “This is what’s happening in your country.” Zia said, “Oh no, can’t possibly be.” And that was the time when the Pakistani nuclear scientist, A.Q. Khan, was on the cocktail circuit in Islamabad and presumably giving details of the Pakistani nuclear program to countries like North Korea. Zia was
much cagier about it and I’m sure wanted the program to continue and was just harder to deal with. But you know at that time we had cut off all assistance to Pakistan; the nuclear issue dominated everything.

Q: Was there, did you get any feel for the Islamic movement in Pakistan at that time?

GROSSMAN: A little bit. As the junior political officer I had a chance to meet people from the Jamaat-e-Islamia party. They were headquartered in Lahore and I can remember going there to call on them and listen to them about how an Islamic State was the answer to Pakistan’s questions. You’ll also recall at that time that Zia himself turned out to be a much more religious figure than anyone had expected and banned alcohol in Pakistan after he became what was called the Chief Martial Law Administrator. Islam and its role in society and government began to be a front-and-center issue there in the year after the coup.

Q: Well as a Political Officer what were you doing when, I take it political movement was pretty well stifled, wasn’t it?

GROSSMAN: We were able to get out and about. The embassy leadership encouraged it. I can even remember calling on people on house arrest.

Q: Knocking on …

GROSSMAN: I can remember one time going up to meet a very interesting retired air force officer named Askar Khan, who taught me a big lesson about America. He was under house arrest. I don’t know why, but I got permission to go see him. He was up in the North-West Frontier somewhere; we talked and we talked. He finally said to me, “You know what I love most about America, what I admire most about America?” I said, “No, what’s that?” He said the peaceful transition of power. He said, “On the 20th of January, someone leaves and someone comes and nobody goes to jail, and here I am in house arrest.” And I never forgot that.

Q: Do you have any feel about the military, where they were coming from?

GROSSMAN: Well, again, I think it was surprising that Zia turned out to be so Islamic. People would have guessed that the military was not so Islamic, or not so religious. They were very restricted in terms of contacts.

Q: Did you get any feel, at least from accounts of other people you talk about, the power of the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) or whatever it is, the intelligence service?

GROSSMAN: No, at that time I did not. I either wasn’t part of it or it wasn’t a focus for me. It is possible that the Ambassador and other people did.

Q: And it may have developed more later, too.

GROSSMAN: That could be. Because don’t forget it was in February, 1979 that (Ambassador Adolph) Spike Dubs was murdered in Afghanistan and that many things in the region started to shift. It was not until Christmas of ’79, after I’d left Pakistan, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. The 14th of February of ‘79 was the first takeover of the Embassy in Tehran and also when Ambassador Dubs was murdered.

Q: Yes. Well, before we move to that, were the Saudis at that point doing their support of the madrassas and all that sort of stuff or not?

GROSSMAN: I confess I don’t know. Our big external focus was the Iranian revolution. We watched, we were next door and we listened to what was going on in Iran.

Q: Well was there concern for the Khomeini revolution and all that, in Iran that it might spill over and were you thinking that ...

GROSSMAN: In Pakistan, I don’t remember thinking so at the time.

Q: How about Afghanistan?

GROSSMAN: Before the February 1979 events, I’d been to Afghanistan two or three times. We used to swap houses with junior officers in in Afghanistan. I used to drive up there in a little Datsun station wagon. You’d fill the gas tank in Islamabad; drive to Peshawar, and in Peshawar there was a guy who’d sell you aviation fuel. You’d fill half your tank with 110-octane aviation fuel, and get up the hill to Afghanistan through the North-West Frontier and Peshawar and the Khyber Pass. When you got to Afghanistan, all they had was Soviet gas and it was 70 octane. So you’d hope that some of the 110 was still in there and you’d get half or three-quarters of a tank of 70, hoping that the

combination would make 80. But I loved being in Kabul and making that drive. You were surrounded by history and mystery.

Q: You didn’t feel under any particular concerns about the threat of terrorism or that sort of thing?

GROSSMAN: No. It is amazing to think of today. Within the bounds of reason, we were pretty much free to go and do what we wanted. I went with my DEA colleagues to the Swat Valley, for example. And many other places in Pakistan as well.

Q: How about social life? Was there sort of the ruling feudal class; were they still going under military dictatorship?

GROSSMAN: I think so; I would imagine. I don’t know enough; a number of people who opposed Bhutto were probably quite happy with military rule, at least in the
beginning. You could see that in the way some Pakistanis celebrated Bhutto’s execution.

Q: I’ve talked to people who served there at that time going out to the country with one of their contacts and they talk about how many villages they own and all that.

GROSSMAN: I can remember being in the Swat District one time; we went for tea with the Wāli of Swat, how could you resist such a thing? While we were there, a man knocked on the gate and they conversed and the Wāli reported that the person had just come by to see if the Wāli wanted anybody killed. I don’t know whether that’s true or not or whether that was done for the visit, for the visiting impressionable American, but that was sort of an amazing comment to hear.

Q: What was your impression of Ambassador Hank Byroade?

GROSSMAN: Unfortunately I was only there sort of five or six weeks with him, but he was an historic character. I’d read Stillwell and the American Experience in China and knew a little bit him. I am sorry I did not have a chance to really work with him

Q: How about Art Hummel?

GROSSMAN: Art Hummel was a marvelous man. When he got to Islamabad he was a great teacher. When I became an Ambassador, I tried to remember how he acted and how he led his team. Ambassador Hummel would come down the hall, stick his head in and say, “Marc, are you doing anything?” I’d say, “No, sir.” He’d say, “I’m going to see the foreign minister, come along and take notes.” We’d get in the car and go over to see the foreign minister and then, on the way back, he’d say, “Why don’t you write the cable up about my meeting with the foreign minister?” I did my best and I’d get it back corrected. He’d call you in and explain, teach. He’d say, “Better this way than that.” He had an ear for the Washington audience that I tried to emulate.

I remember the first week he was there, I didn’t know what he was doing, I didn’t know it was a technique; he came by—we worked Sunday to Thursday so let’s say it was Thursday—and he said, “Marc, on Saturday I’d like you to make an arrangement with the motor pool to get a car and a driver and I want you to take me to three interesting places in Rawalpindi, and then I’ll buy you lunch.” That sounded great. So I made arrangements with the motor pool, I took him to three interesting places in Rawalpindi because a friend of mine and I had often visited Urdu Bazaar, which was where all the books were sold and there were amazing paper things that they made. We went to the Fine Picture Framer, a lovely man who framed pictures, and then we went to the fort. Ambassador Hummel said, “Those are three interesting places, I’ll take you to lunch.” So we went to the Intercontinental Hotel. Hummel told me the story about how (former Secretary of State) Henry Kissinger said that he, Art Hummel, was the “meanest man in the Foreign Service.” He said, “I don’t seem so mean, do I?” I said, “I don’t think so.” Anyway, I dropped him back home and I took the car back and, a couple of weeks later, he said, “Do you know what I did?” I said, “No, I don’t know.” He said, “I wanted to see whether you, as the most junior officer in the place, had enough contacts to get a car and whether you’d ever been to Rawalpindi before and whether you knew anything about this country.” He was a great teacher and a great person.

And Mrs. Hummel, Betty Lou Hummel, was just also a great person and leader. They really led a community.

Q: Well then you left there in?

GROSSMAN: The summer of ’79.

Q: And things, I thought we’d stop at this point.

GROSSMAN: That would be great.

Q: And we’ll pick it up. But just to set things, when you left all hell was going to break loose, including literally at the Embassy.


Q: Within a relatively short time.

GROSSMAN: November. It happened in November.

Q: But were you feeling under any concern that you were on the lip of a volcano or anything like that?

GROSSMAN: No sir. I can’t say that we did.

Q: Well then, summer of ’79, where did you go?

GROSSMAN: I became one of two staff assistants in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. I became a staff assistant to (Harold H.) Hal Saunders.

Q: Okay, we’ll pick it up then.

GROSSMAN: That would be great.

Q: Before we go, did you get any feel for that time, the sort of New Delhi-Islamabad, the two embassies were not always on the best of terms or, I mean, I think of (John Kenneth) Galbraith.


Q: How were things then? How were Indian-Pakistani relations viewed?

GROSSMAN: My recollection is that while I was in Pakistan there was one of those little tiny warming trends; where there was actually Pakistani diplomatic representation in India and vice-versa. I can remember meeting the Indian representative to Pakistan and I knew the Pakistani representative over there through Arnie. I think Ambassador Hummel and whomever was the Ambassador to India—sorry, I don’t remember—had committed themselves not to get into squabbling between the two embassies. I can remember being sent over to India to meet with the political section there and to spend a few days, and I can remember them coming to Islamabad so that they knew people. The two Ambassadors worked quite hard not to get into these games.

Q: Every once in a while it flares up; it is silly. But it is localitis. Did you see the Taj Mahal?
GROSSMAN: I got there two or three times and it was like the Grand Canyon, one of those few things that’s even better in person than the most beautiful picture.

Q: One other one, I’ve got this then we’ll stop.


Q: Arnie Raphel, he’s quite a figure in the Foreign Service. Unfortunately he died in an airplane crash with Zia when he was Ambassador there. But what was your impression; how did he work with you?

GROSSMAN: He worked with me by trusting me; he worked with me by teaching me. He was great to work with and for because he was smart, committed and wanted every day to be fun. He had time for junior people. There is a reason the Department has a leadership and mentoring award named for Arnie. Arnie Raphel was a bottle of champagne. Arnie had a gift for bureaucracy; he had the gift to be able to write quickly and clearly; he could talk your ear off, and he oozed charm. He was a wonderful human being and I miss him.

Q: Well he also used to lecture at FSI (Foreign Service Institute) on how to deal in a bureaucracy.


Q: Which was something many Foreign Service people don’t have.

GROSSMAN: Right. I took that on after he did it and there’s an old, funny old video of us, of Arnie and me, talking to this course. He was a master at it. When he came back from Pakistan and was Secretary Vance’s Executive Assistant all during the Iran hostage crisis, I don’t know what we would have done without him. This is an institution that has missed him since the day he was killed.

Q: Okay. Well, once again we’ll pick this up in 1979 in the summer when you came back to go into NEA.


* * *

Q: Okay. Today is the 6th of February 2006. Marc, 1979, NEA, was it just a normal assignment; did you lobby for it or what?

GROSSMAN: I did not lobby for it but I know people lobbied on my behalf. Peter Constable, who had been the DCM in Pakistan, came back and was the principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs for Hal Saunders, who was the Assistant Secretary. Since I’d served with Peter in Islamabad, I think he arranged for me to come back and be one of the two staff assistants, which I did. I started in the summer of 1979 and I was paired, happily, with Edmund Hull, who was my partner as staff assistant for the year that we did that.

Q: I’m interviewing Edmund when he comes down from Princeton.

GROSSMAN: He and I were partners in that enterprise for a year and we sat in a little tiny office next to Hal Saunders’s office and tried to do our best.

Q: Well tell me, how was Hal Saunders? I mean, this is your first chance to look at somebody who’s up there doing things and what was your impression of how he operated? Then we’ll talk about what was the situation.

GROSSMAN: I was struck by how quiet and determined Hal was. The other thing that really impressed me was that, day after day, he did his best to avoid being driven by everybody else’s agenda. He tried each day to focus on the five or six that he needed to accomplish that day. He drove in in the morning; he had an old-fashioned green flip pocket notebook. I’d never seen one before but he was a great user of those. On his way to work he would write down the three or four things that he had to get done that day that he wanted to accomplish. He was also a great user of the Dictaphone; he would dictate his priorities. When he got to work he would very carefully set that green notebook out and come back to it all day, trying to make sure that he was doing what he needed to do. Now, obviously that didn’t work out all the time, because there was what the Secretary wanted to do and what was going on in the world, but I was very impressed and tried also to remember how he had set priorities each day. I tried always to emulate that.

As an FSO and certainly as a junior person, I used to run in every once in a while to his office and say, “You’ve got to read this cable” from embassy X or Y. And he’d say, “Marc, I’m the Assistant Secretary of State, I’ve got a lot of people here to read cables for me. In fact, it is one of your jobs, it is one of the jobs of the desk officers and the Country Directors and the DASes (Deputy Assistant Secretary). I can’t deal with cables, except in exceptional circumstances because I’m trying to get other things done.” What he taught me was that cables are important, but that they should not drive your life. They are tools. You’ve got to remember Hal’s connection to Kissinger. In Kissinger’s memoirs, there’s this wonderful section that talks about the difference between Floors One through Six at the State Department and the Seventh Floor. Kissinger observed that Floors One through Six are consumed with cables; cables come in, cables go out and it is kind of a perfect system—that people spend their days working on cables. What’s interesting on Floor Seven are letters, testimony, all the things that are not priorities for everybody else in the building. You could see Hal struggling against that every day. And he gave Edmund and me huge latitude; he relied on his DASes. He had a strong enough ego to delegate. He wanted the Country Directors and the desk officers to do their jobs; he was a great leader in this way. The other thing was that he was a very personable, quiet, moral man who listened intently. He always wanted to know from us when we’d heard that someone’s wife was sick or someone’s child was ill or someone was having a problem, so that he could reach out to him or her. I think part of his great empathy came from the death of his first wife. He was very attuned to the human aspects of the work we all did together.

Q: Could you explain what were the major issues in Near Eastern Affairs that were driving things?

GROSSMAN: Well obviously there was a pre-Iran hostage time, November 4, 1979, and a life post-November 4, 1979. I have only the vaguest recollections of what was going on from July to November. There was a peace process going on and Israel-Palestine and North Africa issues, but obviously November the 4th, 1979, made all the difference.
November of 1979 was not just the Iran hostage crisis but our Embassy in Pakistan burned down. In early December, our Embassy in Libya was taken, and so it was, as you say, it was quite a time. And my recollections after the 4th of November obviously are clearer than they were beforehand.

Q: Well, let’s, before we get into sort of the details there, how did you find being a staff assistant? Did you try to throw your body between your principal, Hal Saunders, and all the other people who must have been coming at you, particularly on this? Because this was not just a State Department crisis; this is a national, even a world, crisis.

GROSSMAN: It was a world crisis.

Q: And I would think that, particularly the White House and Congress and all, would be pounding, “You’ve got to do something!” This must have been a very difficult time even at your level.

GROSSMAN: It was difficult mentally and physically and substantively. At that time there was no special assistant in NEA and that meant that the two staff assistants were not just pushing paper, but we really were the two special assistants in that way. Sometimes we spoke for Hal and sometimes we covered for Hal and other people in the front office; we did all kinds of things. Edmund was a huge talent, obviously, and we did our best and we did our best for Hal and everyone in NEA.

I remember mostly the physical aspects of it. When the Iran hostage crisis started, Edmund and I worked ten days on and two days off. The person who came in at 6:00 in the morning worked until about 4:00 in the afternoon; the other person came at 10:00 in the morning and worked until it was over, which was sometimes 8:00 and 9:00 and 10:00 at night. We discovered that it was too much trouble for the night person to leave, notes and readings and a list of what was going on for the person the next morning, so the night person became the morning person. So you’d leave there at 8:30 or 9:00 at night and then come back at 6:00 the next morning and then stay through. Saturdays and Sunday you were on your own because the other person needed a break. By the ninth or tenth day of that in a row—again, all during the Iran hostage crisis Saturday and Sundays were full working days—we were desperate to leave and to go away. Hal and Peter Constable and Henry Precht and so many others never got any time off. And we always remembered the hostages, who were prisoners 24/7. I’ll never forget, we realized obviously there could have been terrible things happening over the weekends and at one point we wrote down for each other, because on your off weekend we wanted to just get away and have nobody call you, the only person—and we kept this for a year—who knew where the other guy was, was the other staff assistant. We made an agreement that I would never call Edmund or Edmund would never call me on our weekend off, unless there was a full scale Arab-Israeli war and conflict between India and Pakistan, which included aerial bombing. So that’s the standard we set because you were desperate for some time off.

The substance of it, the pressures on Hal and the DASs were immense and we tried very hard to deal with it by both protecting Hal’s time but not protecting him from people or from the substance. That wasn’t our job. We weren’t Assistant Secretaries and we weren’t Deputy Assistant Secretaries. We tried to help him get his work done. You can imagine people would say, “Did he get my memo?” This time was especially hard for the NEA people who were not working on Iran. Hal and I and Edmund worked out a deal where there was a part of his desk on the upper right hand corner where we would put things that he knew he never had to look at, but it was so that we could then honestly say to people “it was on his desk.” And there was a section in his briefcase, which we packed up every night for him to take home, in the back, that he never had to look at so we could honestly tell people in the bureaucracy, “he took it home”. We got quite adept at making his signature and putting his initials on things and I think people would have been pretty astonished at the amount of material that was signed out of the front office of NEA by two FSO-7s, but we had his confidence, because he gave it to us, and it would not have worked otherwise. The human capacity to do all this work just wasn’t there unless it was there by the team.

Q: Well, were you monitoring his calls in those days or had that stopped?

GROSSMAN: No, that stopped; we certainly didn’t monitor his calls. My recollection is that when Secretary Vance came that ceased. That’s not to say that in some of the calls he made, especially during the negotiations with some of the very strange people he negotiated with trying to get the hostages out, there wasn’t somebody on the line from the Ops Center (Operations Center), when we were talking to the French intermediaries or the Argentines or all the other amazing people who came through our lives that year. But I never monitored a Hal Saunders phone call that I can recall.

Q: Yes, I think Kissinger did. Now, it was basically a benign way of doing this but the idea was that you would take the notes of say, okay, “Things to do,” and stuff like that.


Q: Commitments made, which is not a bad idea.


Q: I mean, if somebody, if the person you’re working for doesn’t take pretty good notes...

GROSSMAN: Hal was very good at immediately telling us what needed to be done and we were quite good at then making that known throughout the bureaucracy.

Q: Well, here you were, a very solid subcontinent person, I mean … Having served two years in the Foreign Service in Pakistan, did you find that Pakistan and that part after that burst of Islamic fury against our Embassy, did that fade off the scene?

GROSSMAN: No, it did not. Because you’ll remember at the time both (National Security Advisor Zbigniew) Brzezinski and (Robert William) Bob Komer, who was at the Defense Department, talked about the Crescent of Crisis, which extended really all the way through into Pakistan. It was a lucky break that the morning, our Embassy was stormed in Islamabad, Peter Constable and I had some mental picture of the place. There was a huge amount of effort then that went on in Pakistan afterwards, because it took months to bring everybody out, deal sensitively with all the families. Ambassador Hummel then made the very important decision that, over the period of the next year, all of those people who had been trapped in that vault needed a transfer because they would never look on Pakistan and Pakistanis the same way again. So my recollection is that there was quite a lot of effort put into Pakistan after the Embassy was burned down. Of course, it was also because the Russians were then in Afghanistan—the Soviets had invaded Afghanistan that same December—and so that area continued to get a tremendous amount of attention.

Q: I realize you were the fly on the wall, but did you get any feel for Brzezinski and the NSC (National Security Council) at that time? Because Brzezinski had really his own agenda in a way; a different approach say than Vance. Did you get any feel for this?

GROSSMAN: As I think back on it, I am not sure how to answer because I only saw what I saw. You’d sometimes see, for example, the comeback copy of the night notes that the Secretary would send over to the President, obviously only on the Middle East. But the comments that were written on them from Brzezinski were always, I thought, quite remarkable. I think it is important to note the role (Robert E.) Bob Hunter played in this, because Bob Hunter was at that time the Iran guy and the Middle East guy over at the NSC, and he and Hal worked out a very good relationship; they were talking all the time. And so, the real crisis arrived over Desert One and Vance’s resignation. As I look back on it now, it certainly wasn’t any worse than any other State Department-NSC relationships I would have the chance to see.

Q: Did the fact that so many of our Foreign Service colleagues were trapped in Iran, were you getting reflections of this from within, particularly the NEA staff and all that? Were people getting emotionally involved in this thing?

GROSSMAN: Everyone was fully emotionally invested. These were our colleagues and it was very scary, but I think Hal and Secretary Vance and everybody, very much including (Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs) David Newsom, had decided early on that their objective was to get these people out alive. And that was the object every day; we were going to do everything we could to make the end of the crisis come out so that 52 people walked out of that Embassy or the Iranian Foreign Ministry alive. That became everybody’s calling and everybody’s mission and so everybody did whatever they could to make that a reality. Of course the leader of that on a day-to-day basis was Henry Precht, who was the Office Director, and he would use the overriding objective as a motivating tool. Sometimes I can remember being the afternoon person and packing up at 4:00 and Henry would come in and only half-joking say, “You can’t go home now; we still have 52 hostages in Iran. What will they say when I tell them that you went home at 4:00 in the afternoon?” And his commitment to this, day after day after day after day, was inspiring.

To go back to the question about the NSC, I think the NSC and maybe this was their job, they saw this more as a strategic issue. Secretary Vance and Hal certainly and Henry Precht, they saw this as also a human issue. Not that the strategy wasn’t important and that you had to get this all right by acting in ways that both met the daily crisis and considered our long term interests and our strength in the region and sending the messages that no one should ever do this to us again, but I think our leadership never forgot the human face of the hostages. I believe President Carter also wanted the hostages out alive.

Q: Again, you were new to this particular scene, but did you see sort of a diminution during this of the Arab-Israeli problem? Because this has always been the center of American NEA, and the rest, particularly Iran and Afghanistan, Pakistan and all, were always Number Three or Four on the list, it was Arab-Israeli; I mean, was there a feeling of unease of the people who used to be center stage in NEA?

GROSSMAN: Because Hal was determined that this was a crisis that had a human aspect to it, everyone in the bureau knew what was job #1. As I said before, there was a feeling among the peace process experts that they were being neglected, but they knew in their hearts what had to be done. In fact, the people who were working on the peace process, the DASes—Maury Draper, Mike Sterner, Joe Twinam, took this as an opportunity to get on with their jobs and be their own bosses. I never found Maury, whom I had worked for in my short stint in NEA/ARN, looming over me saying, “When’s my time with Hal and why don’t I get more attention?” He was a professional; every one of them was a professional. They recognized that this was “all Iran all the time,” and, as I say, like any good FSO they took this as an opportunity to do what they were supposed to do.

Q: Did you have time yourself to talk with other people, to kind of ponder what the hell the Soviets are up to getting involved in Afghanistan the way they did? It just sort of struck me as a bit of a conundrum.

GROSSMAN: By that time, we had the 4th of November; you had then the Embassy in Islamabad; you had the Embassy in Libya. I was not doing much contemplating. I can remember Christmas Day being at somebody’s house on Capitol Hill for a celebration and getting the call from the Op Center that the Soviets had invaded Afghanistan and I was surely out of the pondering business at that point. I just got in my car and I went to the State Department and we just put it on a list of all the other things that we had to do. I considered the Soviet invasion to be an imperialistic act that had to be reversed. That was enough for me at the time.

Q: You were over it.

GROSSMAN: I was, yes.

Q: Were you there when there was aborted attempt to rescue the hostages?


Q: Well, how did that play from your perspective?

GROSSMAN: Well, two things. One is that I learned an interesting lesson in the days in advance of the action. Edmund Hull and I were privy to what I would have considered 85 or 90 percent of the secrets of the Iran hostage crisis. But we were never privy to the planning of that mission and rightly so. But I’ll never forget the week or so before the attempt. Suddenly there would be these FLASH messages that would come unclassified and they would be weather reports of areas in Tehran and weather reports of the stadium in Tehran and weather reports of here and there. We went to see Hal and we said we don’t want to know what’s going on, but this is weird and somebody had better fix this because if there’s something going on the fact that these weather reports are moving FLASH—which means everybody pays attention to them and because they are unclassified—is unbelievably stupid. And it was interesting because he was never able to solve that problem; somehow the weather people kept reporting the weather over what we now know were the key sites—FLASH and unclassified. I learned that you need to watch every detail if you want to succeed; sometimes it’s the small things that trip you up the most. Second, was the tragic nature of the whole outcome. It was a humiliation as an act of arms (I became a supporter of a strong military on that day and the need to spend enough money to make sure we had one) and then of course, for us, it resulted in Secretary Vance resigning; for the institution it was a real day of shaking. I can remember Hal going upstairs and coming back down and telling us that the Secretary was going to resign. I’d never been involved in anything like this. It was like living in a novel.

Q: Did you get any feel for President Carter during this time?

GROSSMAN: Not really. I was very far down the food chain. Hal went to meetings and came back and gave us guidance.

Q: One last thing on sort of the Iranian thing, you mentioned all these peculiar people who came up with solutions.


Q: I mean, as soon as you get into trouble, these people come out of the woodwork.


Q: And I think we got a lot of them around Iran before things happened. But what was your, what was sort of the feeling, that these were serious people or everybody was getting their finger in the pie or something?

GROSSMAN: It was hard to know, because we had a French lawyer and then a French- Argentine lawyer pop up and say they could help. You should ask Edmund about it.
Edmund at one point traveled, I think to Paris, to join a meeting (he spoke French) with somebody and I remember he chose an assumed name to travel under: Elijah Halsted. Hal’s view was you shouldn’t leave any stone unturned. If some mysterious person turned up, it was worth the conversations to find out if that was a way to free the hostages. I should note that another hero of this time was Stephanie Van Riegersburg, who was at that time the Department’s French and Spanish language translator; at all hours of the day and night she’d sit in the Ops Center and translate conversations between Hal and various people. And so, who knew who could help us? We never compromised anything by trying all avenues.

Q: Were you also picking up any feel about what was happening in Iran? It was a pretty chaotic time then.


Q: We didn’t know who was running the show.

GROSSMAN: That’s right. Well, you had Peter Constable go out with Brzezinski I think to Algeria to meet with Iranians before the hostage crisis and we’d get messages back and forth from factions in Iran, but who knew who had responsibility there and what games were being played? Obviously with our eyes and ears cut off, you didn’t know who was up. Everybody else hunkered down and you had the people in the Canadian Embassy and it was all kind of … I remember it as being very, all very opaque and all very scary.

Q: I guess this is all consuming wasn’t it? Or was there anything else we haven’t covered during this year that you were …?

GROSSMAN: All-consuming mentally and physically. As I say, then Pakistan came and I can remember the Ops Center calling early, early in the morning, and saying the Embassy in Pakistan had been overrun and luckily, as I said, I had some mental picture of it. They said, “How can we get more information?” And I said, “Call the Canadian
Embassy, they’re across the street, call the British Embassy, they can see our compound.” The collapse of any order in that region was what we tried to manage for the year.

Q: Well then, when, in the summer of ’80, is that when you left?

GROSSMAN: No, oddly enough, Hal arranged an opportunity for me that had me leave the staff assistant job a few months early, in the summer of 1980. I did not know this at the time, but there had been all through the Carter Administration a special advisor for Jewish Affairs. There had been a number of people in that job and in the summer of 1980, President Carter appointed a Covington and Burling lawyer, Alfred Moses.

Q: I’ve interviewed him.

GROSSMAN: Well, then you know then that he was looking for a special assistant from the State Department to work with him at the White House. He got in touch with Hal, and I was assigned to him. I felt I was abandoning Edmund and I felt like I was abandoning everybody, but Hal said this was a really important thing to do and it was the right thing to do for the State Department and he asked me to do it. So I did it. And so I transferred to the White House in the early summer of 1980.

Q: Well was there any concern, just with the title and all, this sort of rested on your ethnicity and religiosity or something. Did you feel, this was kind of pushing you into an area that, you know …


Q: … who wants to be identified, particularly in a service like ours?

GROSSMAN: There was actually quite a lot of that. I was very reticent to do this. Eighty percent, because I felt I was abandoning Edmund and I was abandoning my job; 20 percent because it seemed like tokenism to me. I don’t know if Al told you, but at the end of his time there, which would have been in January of ’81, he wrote a memo to the Office of the President, because Carter obviously was leaving, saying that there should never be such an office at the White House again. Al was not naive. There will always be someone at the White House whose job it is to be in touch with various ethnic groups.
But we were in what was called “the ghetto.” We were in the East Wing, and there was a special advisor for Jews, a special advisor for Hispanics, a special advisor for women, a special advisor for African-Americans. I came to conclude that it just wasn’t right. The White House was for all Americans, and it shouldn’t be chopped up like that. So, although I was really interested to do it and it was fun to work at the White House and the relationship I developed with Al Moses has lasted to this day and I consider him a mentor and a friend—it was a very weird experience.

Q: Well, of course, the politicians love to chop people up into workable groups: this issue will get these people an oar, this economic issue will go after the metal workers, or what have you.

Well, let’s talk first about Moses. How did he operate?

GROSSMAN: He was completely different from Hal. My first encounter with him was a disaster. He wanted to travel to the Middle East early in his tenure and so I was making arrangements. I was still working for Hal, trying to do two things at once. And I, of course, did what you would expect me to do. I sent cables out to the various Ambassadors saying, “The President’s new special advisor for Jewish liaison wanted to come and visit.” And I got this phone call from Al Moses who said, “How dare you send these cables; I will travel when I want to, Ambassadors have nothing to do with it”, and on and on. He hollered at me and I said, “Stop.” I said: “One, Ambassadors are the President’s representatives abroad and you’re not traveling to any of these countries without them knowing about it. Two, if you do this without their permission, along with the sort of paperwork I’m trying to do, and some auditor comes along, you’re probably going to get stuck for all this money. And three, don’t ever yell at me again. I can be motivated in a lot of ways, but do not yell at me again.” I was sure that would end my assignment. It turned out that this was exactly the right thing to do because Al Moses is a litigator; he loves to go to court. And I used to love sitting with him in his office and he’d say to people on the phone, “Well, I’ll see you in court.” And he meant it. He loved to go to court. And so that’s just his way. He respected me, thank goodness. As I say, I came to admire him greatly in so many ways. And of course he later became Ambassador to Romania and I am quite sure guarded his prerogatives as the President’s representative.

His first question about everything is, “What’s the right thing to do?” And that was really interesting to me because he was a dollar-a-year federal employee, so he didn’t work all the time over at the White House, he kept an office at Covington and Burling, which was at that time was right across Lafayette Square. So sometimes I’d go over there to visit him, and I’d take him papers and talk to him on days he didn’t come to the White House. And I got to see a little how these big law firms worked and how the young associates got treated. It reinforced my decision not to go to law school. But he worked hard and he was very well connected. And he taught me a lot of important things. One of the things he taught me, which I’ve kept to this day, was he said, “In Washington, the most important thing is you’ve got to return all your phone calls every day. Do not leave the office until you’ve returned all your calls. You don’t have to talk to everybody, but you have to return all your calls.” He was a maniac at this but it was a terrific lesson and something I’ve done ever since.

He also taught me to embrace the various diasporas and communities that influence US foreign policy. Their ability to influence policy is one of America’s strengths. Most FSOs think the “lobbies” are a pain and have no place. I learned differently from Al. These lessons and experience came in very handy when I was the Jordan desk officer and still had my contacts in the Jewish community and when I was in Turkey, working closely with Turkish, Greek and Armenian Americans.

Al and I worked a lot of different things. One of the things I am most proud of is that we were able to lead the effort to change the State Department’s regulations so that many more Jews and Baha’is came out of Iran. We worked and worked on this problem and we got new regulations written.

Q: How did that work? What did you have to do?

GROSSMAN: Well, luckily, and Hal was right about this, one of the things that helped me was that I had just come from NEA, so we were able to enlist the help of Hal and others. I can remember similarly working with then Congressman Solarz to get more Jews out of Syria and, I think, on to Israel.

About three-quarters of the way into my time with Al Moses, he got pulled off to defend Billy Carter. I can’t remember the details, but Billy Carter got into some trouble and so there were some very big walls set up between Al and me so that I had nothing to do with his work for Billy Carter. It meant he had less time to spend on being the Jewish liaison. And then there was the election, which meant (properly) more walls went up between the political and the career people. I can remember the last few months being pretty desultory. I had a nice office at the Old EOB (Executive Office Building) and it was an amazing experience, and I made a lifelong friend in Al, but it kind of petered out at the end.

Q: Well did you get any feel for the Jewish community?


Q: Because I take it this hadn’t been particularly your bag as a kid or anything else.

GROSSMAN: As I said earlier, many of the people whom I met then and the organizations I became familiar with helped me a lot when I became the desk officer for Jordan and then certainly, interestingly enough, many returned to my life when I was the Ambassador to Turkey. At that time, meeting Abe Foxman at ADL (Anti-Defamation League) and understanding the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations, and having some contact with the AJC (American Jewish Committee) and the B’nai B’rith, certainly their Washington reps, all helped me be a better FSO.

Q: Well one of the things about almost any ethnic community in the United States is they tend to break into groups almost immediately just by definition. Did you see this and if you did, how did it seem to play?

GROSSMAN: Well it played out in the sense that there were people who were right and left and center, and American politics was living right in front of you. As I mentioned, it made me not afraid of the role of ethnic politics in our foreign policy. So when I was the DCM and then Ambassador to Turkey, I reached out often to Greek Americans, thinking, “They’ve got a stake in this and I should know them and Armenian Americans as well.” And so I actually like all that; I like the fact that people organize themselves and use the democratic process and have their say. When Turkish diplomats would say, “You should not listen to—what they called—alien factors,” I’d say to them, “No, listen, you’ve got this wrong, these are not alien factors. This is America, these people are Americans and this is what makes us great.” And I had my first insight into that those months I worked for Al.

Q: Was AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) around at the time and was it a major player?

GROSSMAN: Yes. I was doing other things at the time, but I believe that one of the reasons that Al’s predecessor had left was a disagreement over the F-15 sale to Saudi Arabia. I remember AIPAC being heavily involved in that. I remember meeting them for the very first time at that time as well.

Q: Well where, in the White House, where did this and the other group, where did they fit in?

GROSSMAN: Al said he was a sub-cabinet officer, which at that time meant nothing to me, but as I say, my recollection is that the liaisons were in offices in the East Wing near Mrs. Carter’s office, and we were down a corridor and they were all excellent people.
Ann Wexler was the women’s liaison and Esteban Torres was the Hispanic liaison. There was an African American liaison as well.

Q: Well, what were you doing?

GROSSMAN: One of the things I did was try to keep up with NEA news for Al. I remember going to the State Department and getting cables and taking them across the street in those locked bags and he’d read them over in his White House office. Then I’d very carefully take them back to the State Department in the locked bag. He traveled to Israel and to Jordan and to Egypt. I can remember foreign Ambassadors coming by. I went to New York and spoke at synagogue meetings. Al surely did more things than I did and, of course, once the campaign started and he was doing Billygate, things slowed way down for me. Again, once the campaign started, career people were very effectively walled off from anything that had to do with the campaign. I can remember sitting in October and November doing nothing. I felt terrible because the hostage crisis continued.

Q: Well in effect, the office is everything to do with the campaign, wasn’t it?

GROSSMAN: Yes, and that was true of Al.

Q: But I mean just being in that office. I can see why you wouldn’t be doing anything because that’s in a sense sort of the whole idea of the thing, wasn’t it? I mean, this reaching out to various groups.

GROSSMAN: Right, right.

Q: Every President does this in one way or another.

GROSSMAN: Right. But the fact that I was a career officer and a federal employee meant that once October came, they just said, “You just sit over here and stay out of the way.”

Q: Well then, what happened to you afterwards?

GROSSMAN: Just after the election and Carter’s loss, Ray Seitz, then the Deputy Executive Secretary of the State Department, called me. He said, “I have a job for you, come see me.” So I went to see Ray who said, “I want you to be the liaison officer for the Reagan transition team to the State Department.” And I said, “What’s that mean?” He said, “There’s going to be a transition team and there’s going to be somebody in charge of it and they’re going to sit down on the first floor in the transition space and they’re going to need to interact successfully with the building. A new President has been elected and it is our job to help him succeed. I’m going to assign you to sit across from a liaison officer from the State Department, that person’s going to be Tony Wayne,” who was then an executive secretariat Line Officer. Ray said, “The two of you are going to sit in an office”—and they’d already figured all this out—“you’re going to sit in an office with desks that are looking at each other and the transition team is going to make requests and they’re going to come to you and you’re going to give them to Tony and Tony’s going to farm them out in the building. Then they’re going to come back to Tony and Tony’s going to give them to you, and you’ll give them to the transition team. Go pack up your desk at the Old EOB, and come on over because this is going to start pretty soon.”

So I can remember going back and I told Al and Al said, “Fine, there’s nothing more for you to do here.” And I took a Xerox copy paper box and I put my few things in and I walked from the White House to the State Department and I went down to the first floor and I put my things on my new desk. And, just like Ray Seitz had promised, Ambassador Robert Neumann turned up one day and he was the Reagan Transition Director at the State Department. He introduced himself and luckily I knew his son who was an FSO. Robert Neumann was a kind and charming gentleman. Tony Wayne showed up and we decided we would do our best come what may.

The first few days were quite amazing. Ambassador Neumann came to work and he then brought in as his deputy, Ambassador Carlton Coon. And so the two of them sat and tried to figure out what they were supposed to do. And each day more and more people would come to join the transition team. Tony and spent our days trying to find offices and telephones and help for all of these people who showed up, people from the Hill and people from here and people from there. And letters started to pour in. It was the first time I really saw an underside of the State Department and the Foreign Service because FSOs, would come down and slip their CVs under the door and say “I was really a Republican all these years.” And this thing just grew and grew and grew and it was very chaotic and hard to manage.

Bob Neumann and Carl Coon were doing their best. There were some serious sharks in that group of people who arrived. It went on like that for some weeks—I can’t remember how many weeks—and then one day, I think in December in the afternoon, we’re sitting there trying to do what we’re supposed to be doing. It was freezing in our office. Tony and I were both sick the entire time. Poor Tony; I remember it was a cold winter and all the pipes burst in his house. We were sick as dogs; we couldn’t understand what was really happening. Then one day, as I say, after lunch, it was a Friday, Al Haig shows up. He instructs Tony and me to gather everybody in the big office. Tony and I went around to everybody and said, “General Haig would like to see everybody in this big office.” Everybody piles in there and you can imagine they all thought they were going to get their assignments—Assistant Secretary this and Undersecretary that—and they pushed into this room. By the time Tony and I got there we were squeezed up against the back wall. Haig looked out at this crowd and he looked at his watch and he said, whatever time it was, he said, “It’s Friday afternoon. I want every single one of you to go home and tell your wives and your children and your family that you have served America, that you have served America well. But, as of right now, this transition team is finished and I want every one of you to clean out your desks and get out of here, except for those two guys in the back.” And everybody whipped around and there’s Tony and me. He repeated that he wanted everybody else out of there by COB (close of business).

This was really interesting. Truly, people had come in there expecting to get their assignments. Three remarkable things then happened. First of all, we were suddenly kind of big shots because Haig said, “Except for those two guys.” So we went back to our office and wondered what we were supposed to do now. Second, it turned out that for a number of people in there—(Richard R) Rick Burt, Richard Perle, Richard Haas—they had been tipped off about all this in advance, they knew they were coming back on Monday. So they wandered by and said, “This actually doesn’t apply to us.” And we said, “Well, how the heck do we know that?” And they said, “Just trust us.” But by that time we didn’t trust anybody. Then (Robert Carl) Bud McFarlane arrived. He was terrific and we asked, “Can you help us here, because there are these people who say that they are supposed to come back on Monday.” And he’d say, “Yes, yes, yes, yes to these specific people.” So there was theater that had taken place. And the third thing was all the people who were just shocked to be kicked out had no place else to go. And here we were, FSO- 7s or sixes or whatever, and now these big names were pleading with us to let them stay the weekend. And we’d say, “Oh yes, yes, you may, that’s fine.” The human clash in all of this that was really something to see. And on Monday morning Al Haig came and
there was a slimmed-down transition team and they got ready and took over on the 20th of January. Tony became Haig’s Foreign Service special assistant.

Q: Well you mentioned in this team, people that came in there were some sharks. This was not a benign change of station …

GROSSMAN: No it was not.

Q: … where you’re caught between Carter and Reagan.


Q: I think of all the Administration changeovers, this is one of the most profound.

GROSSMAN: No question about it.

Q: And there must have been people in that transition team who were, “Take no prisoners.”


Q: And sharpening their knives.

GROSSMAN: Some said: “Get me a list of all the Democratic FSOs so we can get rid of them.” It was really an eye-opening thing and it was a very important lesson as a young officer to see it and to learn to resist this kind of politicization of the FSO corps.

Q: I have to say, Marc, that you really got thrown into all this. People like myself were issuing visas and going to prisons; here you were in this thing, you’d really gotten this exposure.

Well how did some of these sharks treat you and Tony?

GROSSMAN: It was mixed. Some people assumed we were so junior that we didn’t have any political views and could help them understand the State Department and the Foreign Service. Others treated us with great suspicion because we were Foreign Service Officers. We’d go by and they’d close the door. One particular team member in the first group wanted to have a huge number of telephone lines in his office. I think he monitored other people’s calls. He didn’t want to have anything to do with us. Other people came and
thought we were, I don’t know, dogs’ bodies. I can remember one person, who became an Assistant Secretary of State, dumped all of his laundry on my desk and said, “Take this to the dry cleaners.” I said, “Take it to the dry cleaners yourself.” And he said, “Well, I’m so and so.” I said, “I don’t care who you are. Get your shirts off my desk.” And so it was kind of a very odd collection of people. I admired the way Bob Neumann tried to manage this but he was undercut. It took Bud McFarlane to bring order.

Q: Did you find, was there a significant number of staffers from the Hill?


Q: From sort of the right wing of the Republican Party?

GROSSMAN: They’d won the election. They’d won and they were coming to take their due.

Q: This is where they …

GROSSMAN: They were coming down to make sure that the people’s will, as they understood, was going to get followed.

Q: Well now, was anything out of this coming out about what was our policy towards China or Poland?

GROSSMAN: Constantly.

Q: Was this more the issue, or what job am I going to get?

GROSSMAN: Both. That’s one of the things that was most interesting about it. For some of the new people, those were not separate questions. As they promoted their policies they were also promoting themselves. Fair enough. That’s how I got to see how our government really operated; there was an election, Ronald Reagan was President and so I got to see it at the real knocking-heads level. Lots of the people who then came with Haig became the Assistant Secretaries and Under Secretaries as he joined the State Department.

Q: How did you find the worker bees like yourself, all, and myself but within the Department? Was there a problem of their learning how to work with this new crew, or not?

GROSSMAN: Less than I would have thought. As we speak here today, I’ve come to think that the idea that the Department leans Democratic is wrong. I think that many Foreign Service Officers are moderate Republicans. I think that Ronald Reagan got plenty of votes at the State Department, in the same way that I think that President Bush 41 got plenty of votes at the State Department. Also, I was pretty impressed, especially being at the low end of this, by how seriously people took their oath to serve the President. I can remember Haig called Tony and me in one afternoon and he said, “I want to make a good impression here. What are the three or four things I can do to send a signal out to the State Department that I want the people here to feel that they’re working for somebody who cares about them?” I can remember saying to the general, “You’re going to throw me out of the office for saying this but you know what you can really do to make a huge difference?” This was early in January. He said, “What?” I said, “Could you please turn the hot water back on in this place?” You may have been overseas but at the time because of the energy crisis, President Carter had turned off all of the hot water in the buildings. And Haig said, “We’re not going to wait.” He said, “Just go get somebody to turn the hot water on today please and say we did it.” Some people were scared because that first group of people who came before Haig was so aggressive, but I think mostly once Haig got there and once Bud got there, people recognized in them people interested in serving the nation with backgrounds we could understand.

Q: Well for one thing they’d been dealing with Haig for a long time.

GROSSMAN: He had been part of the government.

Q: Well, did you get any feel immediately after the Administration came in? Because the one place where there was blood in the corridors was in ARA(Bureau of Inter-American Affairs); at least that’s the impression I get. People told get out right away and all this.

GROSSMAN: Well yes, but you know the other place—and it hurt me in particular—was that Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher and Hal Saunders were in Algiers until the 20th of January and I thought the way they were treated on the 20th of January— they were just called up and told that they were no longer federal employees—was really poor.

Q: Well who was making that call, was this ... ?

GROSSMAN: I don’t know the answer to that question. I think that many of the people who came with Haig felt that these negotiations with Iran had been a terrible sign of weakness; they wanted it to be over with. And you remember that day, the 20th  of January; there was a split screen on TV of Reagan being inaugurated and our people coming home. I think both Mr. Christopher and Hal never got the credit they deserved for helping bring our people home.

Q: Well then what happened to you on January 20th?

GROSSMAN: On the 20th of January I actually went home, I took the day off. My job was done. I remember watching all of this on the TV. I had made a commitment to become the desk officer for Jordan in the summer of ’81. It was a commitment I wanted to keep. I felt that I’d done enough staff work, having been the staff assistant at NEA, Al’s staff assistant essentially, and then the transition team, so I wanted to be a desk officer. But there was a question of what I was supposed to do between February and the summertime. And I don’t know how it happened actually, I think through NEA, but for some reason the NEA slot in H opened up.

Q: H being?

GROSSMAN: I’m sorry, the Office of Congressional Relations. So somebody, and I don’t remember who, proposed that maybe it would be useful if I spent my time between February and the summertime filling this position in H, in Congressional Relations, so I did. I went up there and I did the NEA account for some months. That was interesting because I’d never had anything to do with Congress and I met some people and got to go to the Hill a lot. My big issue at the time was the sale of, I think, tanks to Morocco. I can remember helping with the testimony, arranging briefings. I did a lot of interesting things, met a lot of interesting people. Then Nick Veliotes was named as the Assistant Secretary for NEA at some time in that period and he came home to take over from Hal and he brought with him …

Q: He had been in Jordan?

GROSSMAN: He had been the Ambassador to Jordan. And he brought with him to be his staff assistant Molly Williamson, who’d been the Chief of the Consular section in Jordan. Again I don’t remember who thought this up, but somebody came to me one day and said, “You know it would be a very good thing for you to go take the job as the chief of the Consular section in Jordan for eight weeks while you’re on your way to becoming the desk officer for Jordan, because you’d get to see Jordan, know Jordanians.” I said, “Yes,
that’s fantastic.”

Q: That’s a great idea.

GROSSMAN: They said, even better than that, “Since we have no money to put you in a hotel, and since there won’t be an Ambassador there, why don’t you live in the residence?” So in the spring of ’81, I went to Jordan for six or eight weeks. I was the Acting Chief of the Consular section. I was not a very good Consular Officer, but I learned a lot about Jordan; I got to live in the Ambassador’s residence. I had a roommate there, he was a summer intern, Gordon Gray, who then turned into a Foreign Service Officer and was our DCM in Egypt and is now back in NEA as a DAS. I walked back and forth to work. But the great thing was that they knew I was going to be the desk officer for Jordan and (Edward P.) Ed Djerejian was the DCM at that time to Jordan. He was wonderful to me. So I got to meet all kinds of people and I traveled around and I went to Israel and I went to Syria. So by the time I washed up as the desk officer for Jordan in the summer of ’81, I knew a little something about the country and I had lived in the country, even for a short time, which was terrific.

Q: What was the situation in Jordan when you were there? You know, in the spring and so on of ’81? Was much happening?

GROSSMAN: Not that I can remember. Again, I had the kind of a low-end view of this. But I remember it as being safe and fun and there were lots of visitors from Washington. I don’t remember any great crisis at that time, except for me trying to run a Consular section.

Q: What was the problem, of visas mainly?

GROSSMAN: Yes. Luckily there was a young FSO, Jo Ellen Powell, who was just spectacular and the FSNs were great.

Q: Did you get any impression of how we viewed King Hussein at the time?

GROSSMAN: King Hussein at the time and all through my time as desk officer was considered a true ally of the United States of America, both in his heart and in his head. I think at that time certainly the embassy’s job was to pay attention to King Hussein.

Q: Well then you came back and you were the Jordanian desk officer from when to when?

GROSSMAN: That would have been from the summer of 1981 to the summer of 1983. (Richard Noyes) Dick Viets was the Ambassador to Jordan at that time; Ed Djerejian remained there as the DCM. It was a wonderful office, NEA/ARN, which I don’t think exists anymore. The Office Director was (W. Nathaniel) Nat Howell, the Deputy Office Director (James F.) Jim Collins. The Lebanon desk officer was (A. Elizabeth) Beth Jones. The Syria desk officer was (C.) David Welch. The Iraq desk officer was (Francis J.) Frank Ricciardone (Jr.). And I was the Jordan desk officer. It was a great place to work as you can imagine. And Nat taught a great lesson in management.

Nat was a great thinker and a wonderful writer, and what he wanted to do was sit in his office and think about what our policy was supposed to be and guide our policy. He had no interest in the bureaucratic rough and tumble. That’s the lesson. He said, “You always choose people in your office, especially your subordinates, to do the things that you don’t do well or don’t want to do. So what I’ve done is, as you can see, hire a whole load of former staff assistants. You all love the operational aspects and running around and
getting the clearances and doing the bureaucratic fighting and going to meetings and I’m going to let you do all that. And if you ever need my help you just have to come and ask me. But I want you to take your guidance from me; to do what I tell you to do, but I’m not interested in running around all day and you are.” It was a wonderful thing and I’ll never forget; he gave us a huge leash. I was really the desk officer for Jordan. The other thing I remember was if you walked into his office he would always be sitting there with his huge beard, smoking his pipe, and you’d say to him, “Nat, I’m in a little trouble, and I need you to call,” and by the word “call” his hand was reaching for the phone and it was on its way to his ear. He wasn’t going to say, “Well, tell me about it and let’s debate it.” If you went in there and said, “I need help,” he was dialing. And I appreciated it and I never forgot it.

Q: Jim Collins?

GROSSMAN: Jim Collins. I think he went on to Jordan to be the DCM. Beth became the Deputy Office Director. David Welch became the Lebanon desk officer just in time for the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, and Molly Williamson then came and joined us as the Syria desk officer. So it was still one of the greatest offices I’ve ever had the good fortune to work in.

Q: Well the big thing during the time you were there, was this the Israeli invasion of Lebanon?

GROSSMAN: Of Lebanon, 1982.

Q: It happened that year?

GROSSMAN: It did. That’s when, as I say, David Welch became the Lebanon desk officer, just in time for the Israelis to invade Lebanon.

Q: Well in the first place, how did this affect, or did it, Jordan?

GROSSMAN: My recollection is, other than being a petrified bystander, it didn’t affect Jordan very much at all.

Q: Well I suppose it’s one of these things, stand aside.

GROSSMAN: Right and hope it doesn’t head in their direction.

Q: How did this invasion affect the people in NEA as you saw it? Because this was when essentially Sharon sort of took the bit in his teeth and seemed to be running ahead of his own government.

GROSSMAN: Well, of course it affected people in a lot of ways. One is that the invasion was seen by most people as a terrible mistake. Sabra and Shatila couldn’t have been any more disastrous really. I am sure you have interviewed Ryan Crocker about his experiences. You had also at that time Secretary Haig resign. Phil Habib was trying to get Arafat out of Lebanon and to Tunis. It was a time of high activity. I can remember night after night and day after day on the task forces up there, and so it was a little bit like 1979; for some months you know everybody just did what they were supposed to do.

I got married that year and I can remember being very grateful to everybody that we were able to go on our honeymoon.

Q: How did you meet your wife and how did that happen?

GROSSMAN: Mildred was a Watch Officer in the Ops Center. She had joined the Foreign Service in 1976. Her first post was Copenhagen. From there she went to Ops. It was 1979 and I spent a lot of time in the Ops Center that year. We went out on our first date on the 3rd of November 1979. And who knew? It had taken us a long time to get this date set up because I was working as a staff assistant and my hours were long. She was working in the Ops Center and she worked 8:00 to 4:00, 8:00 to 4:00, 4:00 to 8:00, 4:00 to 8:00, midnight to 8:00, midnight to 8:00, and then had three days off. So we finally figured it out, went out on our first date on the 3rd of November 1979 and then did not go out again for weeks. The early part of the relationship was defined by the Iran hostage crisis. She remembers (CBS anchorman) Walter Cronkite chronicling for her how many days into our relationship we were as he told the nation each night what day of the
hostage crisis it was. So that’s how I met her.

Q: Did you sense at this time—you’d been around NEA—a change in the mood toward Israel, as before it has been “poor little Israel,” protecting itself and all of a sudden it turns into more of a less benign force or something?

GROSSMAN: No. I must admit and this I talked about before—I said we would come back to it on a previous tape—this was the only time I ever really kind of noticed any
anti-Semitism in terms of my daily job. Nick Veliotes did quite a courageous thing in ’81. There’d never been, as far as we knew, any Jewish person who had been a desk officer for an Arab country, and so I was the desk officer for Jordan. And Nick had to do a lot of work with the Jordanians, telling them this was going to be okay. He also very astutely took (Theodore H.) Ted Kattouf, who was an Arab-American Foreign Service Officer, and assigned him to the Israeli desk. And so Ted Kattouf and I were the first experiments in this that I know of. When the Israelis invaded Lebanon, I found that that old-fashioned, Arabist, NEA dislike of Israel, dislike of Jews, the mixture of the two things, really welled up. As I said, I was walking down the corridor one day and one of the people in NEA came up to me and with real venom in his voice said, “What are your people doing?” I looked at him and I thought, “What have the Jordanians done today? I don’t think anything.” I looked at him completely dumbfounded and I said, “I don’t think the Jordanians did anything.” And he said, “Not the Jordanians, the Jews. What are your people doing?” I couldn’t believe anyone was speaking to me this way in a corridor of the State Department of the United States of America. I told him, “Don’t ever speak like that again.” And so I thought at the time that this was not just a policy matter. It was also, I am sorry to say, a resurrection—if I could use the word—of all the bad things about NEA, of all the things about NEA that people had warned me about, and the reason Jewish people had stayed away from NEA for all those years. It was a very disturbing thing. Luckily Nick had none of that, Hal certainly had none of that, so it was an outlying attitude but it certainly was there.

Q: Well how, with the Jordanians, with their embassy and also when you were in Jordan, did you find any sort of, because this is the new thing, because now the whole thing is so mixed up, it’s like women giving jobs. It’s no longer an issue.

GROSSMAN: It was then.

Q: But since you were sort of a trailblazer in this part of the world did you feel you were being sort of judged both when you were in Jordan and on the desk?

GROSSMAN: The Jordanians decided—and I think Nick was a huge part of this and so was Dick Viets that they would live up to their rhetoric about, “We don’t like Israel but Jews are okay,” and by a wide margin, they did. I never had any trouble with any senior Jordanians that I knew of. I called on the king in Amman and whenever the king came to Washington he couldn’t have been any more gracious to me. The Jordanian ambassador, who was at that time a retired general, was terrific. I was also greatly helped out by Jack O’Connell, a retired station chief in Amman, who was the Jordanians’ lawyer in town and who at every turn invited me to his house, talked to me, and I think his confidence in me played back into Jordan that I was okay.

And then of course the other side was you had a few people in the Jewish community coming in and saying, “How dare you, how could you do this?” And, “You must be a self-hating Jew to be the desk officer for Jordan.”

Q: You know, it is terrible when you get caught up in these. It is like being an Uncle Tom or something.

GROSSMAN: It did not bother me that much because my leadership always had my back. I’ll tell you a funny story. King Hussein came to visit President Reagan for the first time I think it was in the end of ’81. At that time—I don’t think we do it anymore—the Office of Graphic Services, with the support of the relevant bureau and the Historian’s Office, did these beautiful displays down at C Street, in this case of Jordanian culture and geography, for the important visitor to admire.

Q: Yes and they put it up in the reception area.

GROSSMAN: Under the flags as you walked in. And then the VIP would come in and they’d look at it and say, “How wonderful.” But it also allowed people at the State Department to get a feel for Jordan or other countries. So as you can imagine, weeks in advance this thing starts to take shape and they do a fantastic job. They’ve chosen beautiful pictures and movies and all this great information. A few days before the king arrived they call me down and they say, “We need to talk to you, we’re going to put a map on one of these boards, a map of the area because we’ve got to show where Jordan is, but we know how sensitive lines on maps are in this region.” So we’re looking at this map and it’s a map, like you’ve got up on your walls here. And we’re looking, looking, looking, to make absolutely sure that the dotted line for the West Bank is the right color and in the right place. We all agree, this is a great map. So they put this map on a backing and they put it up.

The morning King Hussein is supposed to come to the State Department, my job is to go to the end of the red carpet and wait there for Secretary Haig and then introduce the king to Secretary Haig. Then Haig’s is going to show him this wonderful display. I go down there a few minutes early, as you can imagine, and I see that there are dozens of people looking at the map and there are TV cameras taking pictures of the map and I think, “This can’t be good.” So I went to the back and nobody knows who I am, so I shout into this crowd, “Hey, what’s the matter with the map?” And somebody shouts back, “Some idiot has forgotten to put the words Israel on here. There’s no word so Israel is not identified on this map, there’s no word Israel on this map. This must be a message from the State Department.” I thought, “Oh my goodness.” So I quick call Graphic Services and say, “Get somebody up here with a thing that says Israel, put it on the map.” We’d looked at this map for hours, but nobody had stood back and seen that there was not the word “Israel” on the map. So I go out there and I’m now sweating and thinking, “I’m finished, I’m done, because I have approved this map, I did this.” So Haig comes out, “How are you, Marc?” I said, “Well sir, not very good.” He said, “What is it?” I said, “I have a confession to make.” I told him the story. He said, “That’s bad.” I said, “Yes sir, it’s really bad. Therefore, I would recommend to you that you not walk by the map; go the other way to the other elevators to your office. I wouldn’t show King Hussein this map.” He said, “Got it.” He was really mad. So the king gets out of the car, I do my thing, Haig manages beautifully, “Oh Your Majesty, look at this, look at this picture, look at this, come to my elevator.” Whoosh. So I run upstairs, I confess to everybody that I can confess to and everyone says, “Just fix it.” I say, “We’ll fix it.” So Israel gets put in.

So that night on the 7:00 news it is the lead story. “State Department today shows this map, State Department showing that they hate Israel.” It goes on. So the next day, I don’t know who was the spokesman for the State Department at that time, calls me up and he says, “So what should our press guidance be?” I said, “I believe our press guidance should be: we made a mistake and the person who made this mistake regrets this very much. ” And he says, “Well, is that true?” I said, “Yes it is true, because you’re talking to the person who made the mistake and I am really sorry.” And so they did. But what was interesting was that then all day I took calls from all the Jewish groups. “Who did this?” I said, “Me.” And they said, “How could you?” And I said, “Because I made a mistake.” And I explained what had happened. By the end of the day it was all over, because in a way I had credibility with them from working with Al Moses. I said, “I don’t hate Israel, I made a mistake.” But it was a horrible day.

Q: Well you mentioned going around with King Hussein from time to time. How did you find him? What was his, well, his persona?

GROSSMAN: He was charming and warm. We went one day, I think it was on that same trip maybe, I can’t remember, but I had the good fortune to go out to California with him. I don’t know why I was there, but he was always very nice to me and he loved Big Macs. And on the way out to the Andrews (Air Force Base) airport …

Q: You’re talking about a McDonald’s, the fast-food hamburgers?

GROSSMAN: Right. We were on our way out to Andrews for a flight to Los Angeles and we had said to the Jordanians, ”What kind of food should we put on this plane going to LA?” And they said, “How about some Big Macs?” On the way out there we’ll stop at the McDonald’s, which is just across the street from the front gate at Andrews, and we’ll buy 100 Big Macs. Thanks to the protocol office wizard Gahl Hodges, we had the good sense to call out there in advance and we said, “Look, we’re going to come up, there’s going to be this huge bunch of limousines, they’re going to come screaming up and we want 100 Big Macs and 50 shakes and fries.” Gahl stopped off at this McDonald’s and we got big boxes full of Big Macs and put them on the plane and everyone happily ate Big Macs across the country.

But I can remember, in terms of the king’s human characteristics, my dad lives in Los Angeles, and we were staying at a fancy hotel with the royal party and I thought it would be fun for my dad to see a motorcade take off at one point. I wasn’t going wherever the king was going. My dad and I were standing out in front of this hotel watching the cars line up and the security agents do this and do that—and the king came out and noticed and came over and I introduced my father to him and then off they roared.

Q: How did you find Jordan used its embassy and the king or the king used the embassy? You know, some embassies are pretty effective and some aren’t. How would you evaluate at the time you were dealing with the PR of Jordan?

GROSSMAN: I think it was okay. They, of course, started with a huge advantage, which was that King Hussein was a very well-respected figure in the United States. But they had an ambassador, Abdul Hadi Al-Majali, who was a former high-ranking military officer.
He saw his job as to put the best face on Jordan. I remember he bought a nice house out in Potomac or McLean or somewhere and tried to make a lot of contacts with people.
Again, Jack O’Connell was a very good face for Jordan around town. We tended on the substance to do our business in Amman between the American Ambassador and the king and I think, given the fact that the king was the king and the king was most of the time in Amman, that was how it was going to be.

Q: Also, the king was extremely receptive to groups, wasn’t he? Many of the big delegations that went to Israel would end up in Jordan.

GROSSMAN: Yes, yes. They were always very good about seeing who needed to be seen.

Q: Did you find any relationship at least overt, maybe covert, between the Israeli Embassy and the Jordanian Embassy?

GROSSMAN: Not that I know of. Especially in the first year of the Reagan Administration you had Ariel Sharon taking the position that the right policy was to overthrow King Hussein, put Yasser Arafat in Amman, and presto, there’d be a Palestinian state. And there were some people at the White House, certainly at the junior levels at the NSC, who agreed with that. One of the hard things for the first few months of the Reagan Administration was getting the White House to understand that, from our perspective anyway, you couldn’t just overthrow King Hussein, put Yasser Arafat there because Sharon said so; that was not the answer to the question. And it took until King Hussein’s state visit to the United States, which I believe was in December of 1981, for the White House to come around to understand that this was a sovereign state headed by an ally of the United States.

Q: It was sort of horrifying when you think about it, the idea of putting Arafat and all the problems …


Q: Yes.

GROSSMAN: But it was a held view in Israel at the time and it was a held view of some people at the White House at that time.

Q: I would have thought the mix of Hussein and Reagan would have been very good.

GROSSMAN: It was very good. President Reagan was fantastic to King Hussein when he came. I’d never been involved in a presidential visit before. Reagan was fantastic; the welcoming speech he gave at the arrival ceremony was spectacular, written I recall by Dana Rohrabacher, who’s now a congressman from California. And I think Reagan and the king did hit it off. After that we didn’t have that problem anymore of, “Let’s overthrown King Hussein.”

Q: That must have raised the hackles of you and everybody else in the NEA as far as the Sharon plan or something.

GROSSMAN: We thought the idea of us overthrowing an ally of the United States like that, especially an ally like King Hussein, that wasn’t what a great country did. And it wasn’t going to be the answer to the question anyway even if you did it.

Q: No, it would have been terrible.

GROSSMAN: They took a position that there already was a Palestinian state. Their bumper sticker was, “There’s already a Palestinian state, it is called Jordan.” I didn’t understand it then; don’t understand it now.

Q: Were there any other issues that you could put together for us during this time?

GROSSMAN: Well, there was the Reagan Plan for Middle East peace which again, like all other plans that Arafat turned down, would have been a good deal for Palestinians. I can remember going to Jordan on a number of occasions, trying to help sell that policy. Then, as we were talking before, once the Israelis invaded Lebanon that was “all hands on deck,” in terms of the State Department. I spent hours and days and nights being a Task Force director and doing all the other things we’re supposed to do.

Q: Well for the desk officer having the Assistant Secretary having just come from being Ambassador to Jordan made it, you didn’t have to explain or …

GROSSMAN: Right. Later on, I hope that the Turkish desk officer felt the same way about me when I was the Assistant Secretary; they didn’t have to go through all the explanations.

Q: Well you left there when? GROSSMAN: Left the Jordan desk? Q: Yes.
GROSSMAN: I left the Jordan desk in the summer of 1983.

Q: And whither?

GROSSMAN: I went to US NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) for a year. I was a one of the many Political Officers at US NATO. I had to decide what to do as I came to the end of my time as the Jordan desk officer. And the decision was about NEA. I understood that the only way to make your way in NEA was to go study Arabic. Sadly, I have no capacity for languages. My MLAT is on the bottom of the scale. The idea of spending two years learning Arabic, I just couldn’t do it. I thought it would be a waste of taxpayers’ money. So I decided that maybe after all those years in NEA—first Pakistan and then the NEA front office and then NEA/ARN, it was time to do something different. At that time in EUR (Bureau of European Affairs), they were looking for people to go to NATO and I put in my bid. Ray Caldwell, who was then the Office Director, said well, you’ve never served in Europe before, why should we have you? And I said let me come talk to you. So I went over and visited with him. Ray was great to me. And (Ambassador Robert Dean) Bob Blackwill, with whom I had worked with on some Jordan issues when he was in PM, was then a DAS in EUR and worked really hard to get us to Belgium. I took a job as the Political Officer there and Mildred was the chief of the Consular section. So we went to Belgium in the summer of ’83.

Q: And you were there until?

GROSSMAN: I was there until ’86. I spent one year at the US Mission. (David M.) Abshire was the Ambassador, Steve Ledogar was DCM and Bob Frowick was the political counselor. My first six or seven months there coincided with the last year in the long tenure of Joseph Luns, who was the Secretary-General (SG) of NATO. The Allies selected a new secretary-general, Lord (Peter) Carrington. It turns out that the NATO secretary-general has a chief of staff and a deputy chief of staff. The chief of staff had always been of the same nationality of the secretary-general. Luns had a Dutchman and Lord Carrington was bringing a British person with him, Brian Fall, a career U.K. diplomat. The deputy director of the NATO SG’s private office had traditionally been an American. So in the hubbub of the change, Ray Caldwell kindly recommended to Abshire, who in turn recommended to Carrington, that they interview me for this job. So some time in the spring or early summer of ’84, I interviewed with Lord Carrington and with Brian, and, lucky for me, they offered me a job. In the early summer of ’84 I packed up my things in the US Mission and moved down the hall and joined the NATO secretary-general’s office. Which might be a good place to stop.

Q: Okay fine. So I’ll put at the end as usual. We’ll pick this up in ’83 actually and we’ll talk about what you did when you were with NATO, US NATO.


Q: And then we’ll pick it up following when you worked for Carrington, we haven’t talked anything about NATO or anything else. Great …


* * *

Okay. Today is the 17th of February 2006. Marc, we’ll pick this up regarding how you got to NATO and I’m going to flip the tape here.

GROSSMAN: How I got to NATO?

Q: Well, was this as a regular assignment or … ?

GROSSMAN: Oh, yes, well I finished my job as the Jordan desk officer and the time had come really to make a decision about whether I was going to take Arabic-language training. I think we had a little discussion about how low my MLAT scores were. I was offered the chance to go be a Political Officer at NATO, I thought it was a good chance to get another Bureau, so I took it and I went to NATO in ’83, while Mildred became the chief of the Consular section in Brussels. I spent a year at the US mission to NATO; David Abshire was the Ambassador, Steve Ledogar was the DCM, and Bob Frowick was the political consular. I had a very interesting assignment and, it turned out to be for me, a very good portfolio for the future, which is that I was assigned to cover the Aegean, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, and also what was then called MBFR, the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction Talks. I was introduced to Greece, Turkey and Cyprus. I went to Turkey for the first time in 1983. I’d never been before, and it turned out to be a theme for the rest of my career. I also had a chance there, thanks to Bob Frowick, to be the US representative to something called the Senior Political Committee on MBFR. As a middle grade officer with no multilateral experience, it was a chance to go and sit behind the plaque that said “United States of America” and have to speak up in Alliance meetings and carry out instructions and negotiate around the table with allies and I thought it was a very good experience.

Q: Well speaking on the Mutual Balanced Force Reduction thing, what was the attitude or position of our delegation at the time, both officially and then unofficially, and then of your colleagues there?

GROSSMAN: MBFR had been a negotiation that had gone on for a long time. There was an attempt in 1983 to see if the US could energize it. Morton Abramowitz was the Ambassador to MBFR in Vienna; strangely enough after his career in Asia, he was appointed the MBFR Ambassador. But because Mort was Mort, he wanted to achieve something and so he spent several months going around talking with allies, trying to figure out a new negotiating position. I can remember him coming to NATO. I had a chance to go and visit him in Vienna and meet MBFR people there.

At some point during 1983, we did launch an initiative on MBFR, which immediately got mired down in various details and inter-Alliance infighting. Years later, MBFR transformed itself into the CFE (Conventional Forces in Europe) talks and finally came to an important conclusion.

Q: In the first place Haig was no longer the Secretary of State was he?

GROSSMAN: No, George (P.) Shultz was Secretary.

Q: Shultz. How about on the part of the President, Ronald Reagan and all? Did you get any feel, was there, was this sort of locally generated by Mort Abramowitz? I mean, talks are going or was there a push from the White House or from the top of the Department?

GROSSMAN: MBFR was not really a seventh floor concern at that time, so my recollection is that it was something that Mort generated and that it took him some considerable time and effort to get the White House and the State Department at senior levels to pay attention, and then to agree to go ahead. Remember, that first year I was at NATO, 1983, the Korean airliner was shot down by the Soviets and we invaded Grenada. So there were lots of other things happening. But Mort had an idea and the US did make an MBFR proposal.

Q: Well, where did the Brits and the Germans and the French fit into this at that time?

GROSSMAN: Certainly I can remember the British being interested in moving the negotiation forward. The Germans did as well because they wanted to be in some kind of negotiation with Russia, talking to Russia in some fashion, or to the Warsaw Pact. I think the French were always more skeptical and theoretical about MBFR, but I don’t …

Q: They were French.

GROSSMAN: I can remember sitting across the table from their representative, sometimes knowing that in terms of the substance of the position they were fine, but having to work my way through the theory of it to get there.

Q: Well, how about the Soviets? How were they at this point?

GROSSMAN: My overriding recollection of that first year at NATO was the shooting down of the Korean airliner, which was of course a terrible thing for the people on the plane, but also for US-Russian relations. We used NATO at that time both for consultations but also to try to raise the profile of the case. It painted the Soviets for what they were, which was at that time, among other things, reckless.

Q: During this ’83 to ’84 time, the Soviets had not yet or had they introduced the SS-20?

GROSSMAN: I believe they had. There was a huge effort led by Rick Burt and Allen Holmes and Richard Pearle and others to keep the Alliance unified. There were a lot meetings at NATO of senior level groups and they did a huge amount of consultation. It was in many ways a model piece of diplomacy, including, by the way, the extensive public diplomacy. The effort set up the deployment of the Pershing IIs (PII) and then, ultimately, the Zero Option.

Q: I understand at first when they were introduced, at least from our military side, we were saying well, it is nothing new. I mean, wherever the missiles come from, but it was a very big thing particularly in Germany.

GROSSMAN: It was a big thing in Germany; it was a big thing all over Europe to have those Soviet missiles deployed. It’s jumping ahead slightly, but as I look back on that period of ’84 to ’86, I think the fact that the Alliance held together and deployed Pershing II missiles against huge public opposition at that time, that the basing governments held firm. Someday, historians will look back and see it as a really important event, one of those things where the Soviets had to have said, “We’ve got to give this up, we can’t do business this way because here we deployed SS-20s, they’ve deployed Pershing IIs.” I imagine it looked to Moscow like the public was roaring out, saying, “Don’t deploy these missiles,” but NATO did it anyway. I think it was a huge victory for NATO and for the West and I can only imagine what they thought about it in Moscow. They must have taken it as a disheartening defeat.

Q: Yes. At that time how did you find the Alliance? I mean, just your general feeling? It was your first time, you’re the new boy on the block—clearly junior—but did there seem to be cracks in the Alliance or was it working well?

GROSSMAN: I remember it as being a great place to work. At that time NATO was 16 nations, and the diplomats from the other 15 countries were just the best. We all worked in the same building, saw each other at lunch and at committees. Friends and contacts I made there would be with me for the rest of my career. I also had a chance to work closely with our US military colleagues, which was an important education for me.

Q: Well then, you were only there a year. What happened?

GROSSMAN: Well, in the spring of ’84, Lord Carrington was elected to be the new secretary-general at NATO and, thanks to Ray Caldwell, who was then the Office Director for EUR/RPM, the NATO office in the Bureau of European Affairs, who was looking for an American to work in Lord Carrington’s office, my name got put forward
and I went and I interviewed in the spring of ’84. I interviewed with Lord Carrington and with his principal assistant Brian Fall. Luckily for me, I got the job. So I left the US
Mission to NATO in the summer of ’84 and went down the hall and became the deputy director of the private office for Lord Carrington, which I did from ’84 to ’86.

Q: Tell me about Lord Carrington—what you know of his background and how he operated.

GROSSMAN: Lord Carrington is one of the most amazing and wonderful people I’ve ever had the chance not just to meet, but also to work with. Obviously I knew his background as the Foreign Minister, the Defense Minister, someone who had negotiated the Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) settlement, someone who had resigned over the Falklands (Malvinas), and I just couldn’t believe my good fortune. I was petrified, wondering, “Am I going to be able to stand up to this?” But he was smart and gracious and purposeful and he worked very hard. One of the things that I really saw about Carrington was his public face was graceful and easy and “all this comes easy to me,” but he worked and he worked at it. For example, he gave among the best press conferences of anybody I’ve ever seen and it looked effortless. But we worked on those press conferences for hours in advance. If he was giving a press conference at 10:00, we would get together at 8:15 or 8:20 and go over the answers and over the questions and he’d try out the answers again and again until he was satisfied with them. We did it in Brussels, we did it in every single country we visited, and we took pride when it was over; we’d sit for a second and make sure we’d gotten all the questions and reviewed the answers to see what they sounded like. He was very well prepared for every meeting he went into, very well prepared for chairing the NATO sessions of ambassadors, and ministers or heads of state and government. I thought he was terrific.

Another thing was he did nothing without a purpose. Also, and I didn’t know at the time, but I was about to learn from him and from (Deputy Secretary of State) John C. Whitehead that these world figures, they don’t sleep. Carrington, and Lady Carrington as well, they would go out seven nights a week if they could. Black-tie dinners every night; it was the way he got his energy and one way he got his information and kept connected to people. And they’d come home at midnight or so and then he’d get up at 4:00, 5:00 in the morning, and he’d spent the period between 5:00 and 7:00 reading all the latest books—novels, non-fiction, everything. I would struggle into the office at 7:00 in the
morning and he’d swing by about 7:30 or quarter to 8:00; he’d toss the latest best seller on my desk. “So,” he’d say, “Marc, you read this book yet?” “Well no actually, I’ve not.” He said, “Oh well, I just finished it this morning.” And he’d push off and do his thing. He was terrific.

Q: Did he come in and with a sense of purpose and so okay, Luns was here too long?

GROSSMAN: Yes, but with great respect for Luns as well.

Q: And now is the time to, to pull our socks up and put it together? This must have …

GROSSMAN: Absolutely. It was very exciting.

Q: That was his purpose.

GROSSMAN: It was and it was a very exciting time. On the substance of it, he wanted to revitalize the sense of consultation at the Alliance; he wanted to give NATO a purpose.
He brought with him to be the assistant secretary-general for defense policy an amazing British civil servant, Morrie Stewart, who’d come from London from the MOD (Ministry of Defense) and we put together a Conventional Defense Initiative. Lord Carrington worked so hard to get the Pershing IIs deployed. I remember dozens of meetings with Dutch parliamentarians and Belgian parliamentarians and German parliamentarians in those NATIO offices and on his many travels, trying to make this thing go forward. He wanted to make the NATO Council of Ambassadors work, he wanted to make the ministerial meetings work, to change the way we did the communiqués so that they actually said something to people. He was all over this all of the time. We visited all of the NATO countries at least once or twice during the time I was with him; he wanted to be the public face of a very successful Alliance.

Q: While you were there being the fly on the wall and all, were there any countries or leaders that were a particular problem in this Alliance at that time?

GROSSMAN: Well, we had never-ending challenges with Greece and Turkey over exercises and demarcations on maps and just about everything else. Luckily for us, both the Greek and the Turkish ambassadors at NATO were good people, serious people, and we could work with them locally; but they sure got some tough instructions sometimes. I think the thing that held us back most at that time—’84, ’85, ’86—was just the constant bickering between Greece and Turkey. It just slowed everything down, made everything harder. You had to walk on eggshells around every possible initiative, every possible idea because, although you didn’t know it, three levels down it had some connection to somebody’s claim in the Aegean. That I remember as just being a constant headache.

Q: At one point there was a real controversy over a hunk of rock there. Was that during your time?

GROSSMAN: Imia/Kardak. That comes later, when I was the Assistant Secretary for European Affairs. Yes.

Q: I talked to Tom Niles about that.

GROSSMAN: My recollection is that deploying the PIIs and getting the CDI right were the hardest of the things that needed to be done. The other thing was trying to get finance ministers out of the purely finance apparatuses in their governments and recognize that defense ministers and foreign ministers just couldn’t come to NATO meetings and promise to make increases in defense spending without being able to actually do so. And that was quite tough. That was a challenge with the Conventional Defense Initiative. At that time Sam Nunn, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was really interested in NATO being able to protect its assets, so we, as part of the CDI, focused on getting built a large number of covered and hardened aircraft shelters all around Europe. On the PIIs, remember, at that time you had Greenham Common (the former airfield in Berkshire used for anti-nuclear protest), huge anti-PII demonstrations in Germany, Italy, and Belgium.

Q: Well it turned out, as I recall it, Germany said, “Yes, you can put these in here but we have to have the cover of another country.”

GROSSMAN: There were five other countries. There was Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, and Britain.

Q: Is Belgium ... ?

GROSSMAN: And Belgium; I’m sorry. Belgium, yes, so that would be the five.

Q: Well, the Brits were ready to do it, weren’t they?

GROSSMAN: Yes they were but they had the Greenham Common Women, so this was a hard decision for everyone. That’s why it was so important that NATO stay united.

Q: It was called the Ladies of ... GROSSMAN: Right, Greenham. Q: Greenham?
GROSSMAN: Greenham Common, yes.

Q: Greenham Common who were, I won’t say; well they were permanently camped there.

GROSSMAN: They were camped, they, as I recall, were very effective; they made their case. This was an issue of huge public debate—as it should have been. These five governments stood up to the public anxiety and led so that they could meet a strategic requirement to deploy these missiles. I think that the fact that they deployed them, as I say, was a huge victory for NATO, the West, and them. I also want to repeat my admiration for the public diplomacy campaign, which was carried out to make the case for the PIIs. And the fact that they were deployed opened the opportunity for the Zero Option to get rid of them. Had they never been deployed, it wouldn’t have worked out.

Q: As I recall, the big breakthrough was when Italy said, “Okay, you can put them in Sicily and down in the boot of Italy.”

GROSSMAN: Comiso, I think.

Q: How did the Italians play in this? Because often the Italians are, one tends to focus on farther north and all but the Italians ...

GROSSMAN: You know, I found then, and I’ve found since, that the Italians are great NATO allies. They had at that time serious defense ministers, serious foreign ministers. They’ve got their own troubles, like we do and everybody else does, but in a pinch the Italians are serious NATO allies and you can see, I think in the years since, in Afghanistan and all around the world, the Italians step up.

Q: Well what about the French? You know, you have this peculiar thing where the French were in the political side of NATO but not in the military side, yet at the same time our military people and their military people were hand in hand.

GROSSMAN: I’ll give you a wonderful example—I guess from ’83, I don’t mean to go backwards. But in 1983, the French had a military operation in Chad at about the same time or during that same period we invaded Grenada. One of the things that really struck me about the difference between French foreign policy and American policy was when the United States invaded Grenada, Ken Dam, who was then the Deputy Secretary of State, flew to NATO overnight and we had talking points and meetings and tried to convince everybody about what a great thing it was. I remember a couple of weeks later we were sitting in a NATO council meeting and Secretary-General Luns was going through his agenda and at one point he looked over to the French delegation and he said, “Mr. Ambassador, the Americans have really talked a lot about Grenada. Would you like to brief the council on French military activity in Chad?” The ambassador at that time was Jean Marie Merrion and his habit was to hold on to a load of pencils as he spoke and wave them around. And he picked up his pencils, he started to wave them and said, “Mr. Secretary-General, I do not believe that Chad is within the geographical scope of NATO and so I never wish to hear the word Chad spoken at this table again.” And that was that. I confess I thought, “Well good for him.” I know we have different responsibilities to lead and consult but it must have been liberating to take the attitude: “We’re doing what we’re doing in Chad and it is none of your business and I’m not getting gummed up consulting with you!”

Q: I might point out for somebody looking at this, the Chad operation was basically to stop the Libyans and unrest there; this was not an aggressive thing. This was the French just keeping these people, tribes, from murdering each other.

GROSSMAN: They deployed a serious force there and did a good job. But the contrast in the way of dealing with the Alliance was pretty evident.

Q: Yes, we do display all our linen, dirty and clean, far too much. It is a pain in the neck.

Did you, as an American in Lord Carrington’s place, pick up sort of a feeling that a
difference in a way Carrington or the Americans approached Carrington as far as, we’re talking about maybe overbearing, we’re overbearing or over explaining or not?

GROSSMAN: No. I thought the United States dealt with Peter Carrington in a perfectly sensible and fair way. David Abshire was the Ambassador; he did a very good job.
Whenever we traveled to the United States, Carrington was received by President Reagan and everybody else in town. Carrington was a world figure and people wanted to be near him and they wanted to be liked by him and they wanted to get his advice. So he was a great secretary-general of NATO. Whenever we came to the United States people dealt with him seriously. The other thing is, people admired him for having resigned over the Falklands (Malvinas). You know, not something that we do much of in the United States, but I think he was admired for what he did and they certainly admired the fact that he took this job on to be secretary-general of NATO when he didn’t have to and he wanted to make the Alliance successful. Carrington had come from a military background—he had been a military officer.

Carrington was a stickler for time. If something was supposed to start at 10:00, it started at 10:00. His view was that keeping to your time was a show of respect to the person who you had invited to your office, or you were going to see, or who was meeting you. He found it very disrespectful for people to be late. The first few times we went down to the council, which was supposed to start at 10:00 or 10:15, I can’t remember, he was there at 9:59 and he’s sitting there. Of course all of the other 16 seats are by and large empty because people had come over the years to know it was going to start late. That first time we went down there and he hit the gavel right on 10:00 and he said, “We’re starting,” and there was nobody there. But there were a number of third secretaries sitting in behind and he would say, “You, are you in the French delegation, are you in the British delegation, are you in the American delegation?” And people would say, “Yes sir.” “Well get in the seat; get in the chair, because we’re starting.” So when the ambassadors rolled in about 15 minutes late they found their most junior people sitting at the table carrying on this meeting with Lord Carrington. I’ll tell you, in a meeting or two people showed up on time. And I’ve carried this for myself since. It is a show of respect to the other person, and that’s right.

Q: Were there any particular ... well, did the SS-20 whole thing, did that play out within NATO itself?

GROSSMAN: Absolutely.

Q: I was wondering whether this was sort of one-on-one or ...

GROSSMAN: Oh no, it was all kinds of things. Lord Carrington believed from the start that the PIIs had to be deployed. I think probably if you’d look back to his speeches at the time and his calendar at the time, there were lots of other things to do obviously, but that was among the overriding themes. And, as I said, he had a conference room off to the side of his office and there would be days when Dutch parliamentarians, the Dutch foreign affairs committee, would be there, followed by the German defense committee, followed by Italian parliamentarians. He recognized that this was a war for public opinion and his appearances on television, radio, the travel, the schedules—were all designed to support that deployment.

Q: Was there a strong, I want to say leftist, tinge within any of the countries? I’m not saying they were on the side of the Soviets but you know they were, “Let’s not upset things,” and was there sort of a leftist pacifist type? Were there countries like maybe the Danes or somebody like that?

GROSSMAN: There were many countries properly conscious of public opinion—NATO is an alliance of democracies—and there was plenty of public opinion that said, “Don’t do this, it is a provocation.” But in the end, NATO took decision after decision as 16 member nations to proceed and so again, I look back on that time as a time courage shown by a lot of governments that turned out right. We would meet parliamentarians from various countries who thought the whole idea of deployment was crazy, but with meeting after meeting of heads of state of governments of foreign ministers and of ambassadors, the Alliance took that decision collectively. As I say, it showed the Alliance’s great power and must have had a huge impact in Moscow. It was a crucial lesson for me in staying focused, purposeful and calm.

Q: Well, was it right at the beginning seen as, I won’t say it’s a bluff but in a way it is, “Put up or shut up,” as far as the idea was to divide Europe and to make Europe separate itself really from the United States by threatening Europe by saying, “Look, we can hit you and they’re not going to retaliate and all?” Was it seen that if we deployed our Pershings and Cruise missiles this actually could lead to something better, or would it just be more weapons in the countries? In other words, did we see light at the end of the tunnel if we did this and called their bluff we could then move ... it would say, “Okay now let’s do some serious negotiating?”

GROSSMAN: I think there was that hope, but I think mostly the deployment of the cruise missiles and the Pershings was about the first thing you said, which was to make sure that the Soviets did not succeed in de-coupling the United States from Europe and that they did not succeed in having strategic rights over Europe and destroying NATO. Because as you say, what would have happened is Europeans would have concluded that that collective defense was not collective defense.

Q: What about the role of the French? I talked to one person, an American, who was one of the deputies in NATO who said his kids, who were quite young, thought there was a nationality known as “those goddamn French” because he would come home after work and slam his briefcase on the table and say, “You know what those goddamn French did?” I was wondering whether, but at your time, was there that ... the French taking a different tack?

GROSSMAN: The French live their own lives. They define themselves by their difference. But I think Carrington was committed to the fact that, A) they were an Alliance member, and B) at that time, don’t forget, they were on the right side of the PII and GLCM deployments. Although they didn’t deploy themselves, (French President François) Mitterrand made a speech in parliament saying that he hoped that the Germans and the others would. But you know, it was a struggle sometimes. The French come to the Alliance saying, “We’re not going to be dominated by the United States,” and, as I say, that’s how they live their lives. They would also, properly remind us that they had a functioning interagency system and had serious interests and policies.

Q: Sort of like the Canadians in a way. The Canadians, they’re focused on not being Americans.

GROSSMAN: But it is a different thing because the Canadians share a continent with us and Canadian defense is intimately connected to American defense: think of NORAD or what was called the DEW Line. France is a nuclear power. France can deploy forces on its own. They had (like we do, to be fair), a sense that yes, they wanted to be part of the Alliance but they had their own capacities. I never found myself getting that wound up about it personally. I’d go to France and think, “Well, here are people who are really proud people.” But they have something to be proud of. France has a real government and real people and a real inter-agency process. I think sometimes in the United States we think we’re the only people who have that.

One of the things that used to drive me crazy about the way the US worked in the Alliance was that we would spend months bitterly debating Policy X or Policy Y in the interagency. We would come finally to the inter-agency agreement. Then we would arrive at the Alliance, on a Thursday night, before a Friday decision had to be taken and we’d say, “Here’s what we’ve decided. We’ve had our inter-agency debate, and you’ve all seen it because it’s all been in public. It has all been available for you to read about, but we’ve finally decided and so this should be the Alliance’s decision as well.” And I thought that for some of those NATO countries, and especially the French, who would put up their hands and say, “Well, wait a minute. We also have an inter-agency process, we also have a democracy, and we also have the right to decide as a sovereign country.” Although that might be frustrating, it isn’t wrong. And I think that’s just something we had to keep in mind for ourselves.

Really, the number of times that that first year, especially on MBFR, that a decision would have to be taken by 10:00 on Friday, and my instructions would come after inter- agency warfare for months or weeks back in Washington, my instructions would come at 2:00 in the morning. We would spend the night photocopying them and trying to understand them and passing them around, and I would go to a meeting at 10:00 and say, “Well America has decided this and so we expect this to become the Alliance’s policy, too.” What you do is you set yourself up for people like the French to put their hands up and say, “Well, no, we’d like to talk about this.”

Q: No, I agree with you. But I always find it amusing in a way to think of these two sort of proud nations coming head to head, you know.


Q: It has been a constant battle since Citizen (Edmond-Charles) Genêt, (the French emissary to the United States who severely strained Franco-American relations) coming over during the French Revolution and all the problems (caused by him trying to involve the United States in France’s war against Great Britain).

GROSSMAN: You know, we’re the two countries in the world who think of ourselves as exceptions. And we want to be the exception to everything, and so do they.

Q: How did you see the military side and the political side? NATO is split into two and there’s NATO military of course, which most people think of when they hear NATO but then there is, say you were working the political side. Did these join at any place? Or how did this work?

GROSSMAN: Well they certainly joined in the secretary-general’s office because we all recognized that there was no strength politically unless there was serious militarily strength to back it up. That was absolutely true of the conventional defenses.
Conventional defenses are harder, they’re more expensive, and they’re more manpower intensive. Nuclear weapons are cheaper but as you could see for the PII and GLCM debate …

Q: You might explain what GLCM is.

GROSSMAN: Ground Launched Cruise Missiles. You could see that nuclear weapons were not the only answer to the question into the future and that, for future threats and for the health of the Alliance, there had to be conventional forces. So Carrington was very good at bringing together the political line and the military line through the Conventional Defense Initiative. Also there’s the NATO council that met in two organized fashions.
One is the North Atlantic Council—which is at 16 including the French—and then NATO also meets as the DPC, the Defense Planning Council, without the French, it met at 15. So there were often times when you’d have an hour’s meeting of the North Atlantic Council, the French would leave and then you’ve have a meeting of the DPC. That’s sort of the way that things were all brought together. The other thing Carrington did was he worked incredibly well with the SACEUR (Supreme Allied Commander Europe) at that time, General Bernie Rogers. Carrington talked to Rogers all the time, traveled with him, worked with him, so that there wasn’t any daylight between him and the commander of his military forces.

Q: How did we see the Soviet military threat at that time? Were we still talking about the Fulda Gap and all that?

GROSSMAN: Yes, absolutely. I mean it was at that time the Pentagon was producing those very good—I thought at the time—annual reports on Soviet military power and so yes, there was a lot of talk about the threat. One of the interesting things that happened at that time was Brian Fall, who was Carrington’s chief of staff, was a real Russia expert— he had served in Russia and spoke Russian—and he conceived the idea of having at NATO a civilian advisor on the Soviet Union. He hired an American expert, Murray Feshbach, who worked at the Commerce Department, oddly enough, and he believed in understanding countries through statistics. He was the first person I ever met who would sit with you and say, “The Soviets are a threat, don’t get me wrong. But how much of a threat are they really?” And then he’d roll out these statistics. For example, “You know there are huge amounts of people with diseases in Russia and so maybe their army’s not really ready to fight.” Or he’d say, “Have you looked at shoe production in Russia? You know, they only produce these many shoes, which extrapolates into these many boots, so I bet you the Russian army actually isn’t very well equipped.” He would take us through these analyses of Russian statistics and he was the first person who I ever heard start to say, “They might not be 10 feet tall.” He wasn’t asking that NATO be dissolved, or that we do something different, but it was the first doubt that anyone put in my mind that maybe the Soviets were in fact very goofed up.

Q: In a way you mentioned the Defense Department’s assessment, which tended to, as a military has to do for both reasons why they’re there—for defense funds and also because any military has to look at it from a worse case position, what are they going to do about it? And to make the Soviets seem more threatening, or did you feel that?

GROSSMAN: No, I didn’t. From my perspective when you sat at NATO and that booklet would come out on Soviet military power each year, which I thought they did a serious job on, and because of the SS-20s, how else could you have interpreted what the Soviets were doing then but as a threat? And it was clear that they were doing everything they possibly could to make sure that the Alliance didn’t deploy the PIIs and the GLCMs, so I thought at that time this seemed very real to me. And again, it is easy to look back in hindsight and say, “Well, it was all a big Potemkin village,” but it didn’t seem so at the time.

Q: Well it was a Potemkin village, but the point being that there were real forces there, there was a huge army.

GROSSMAN: Yes. And one of the things ...

Q: And something could set it off. Beyond the ken of practical people, sometimes impractical people get in charge, as we’ve seen everywhere in the world.

GROSSMAN: Well the other thing is, they acted in Hungary; they crushed freedom in Poland. So I think the historical aspects of this ...

Q: Czechoslovakia.

GROSSMAN: Czechoslovakia. The historical aspects of this were, if you were on that European landmass, they weren’t so far away. And one of the things Carrington did was to remind people of the extent of the challenge. He travelled to all the farthest points in NATO. The other thing of course was, I don’t think you could come to many other conclusions about the Soviets if you went to Berlin. To me the Berlin Wall said it all.
You’d walk up and down that Wall and you’d look at the Wall and you’d see those guys on top of the Wall and you’d think, “This is a really bad, this is really bad.”

Q: Did Yugoslavia come up while you were there?

GROSSMAN: No, not that I can recall.

Q: You would have.

Q: Yugoslavia had not yet fallen down into the ...

GROSSMAN: No, I don’t really to have anything to do with Yugoslavia until my next assignment. Whitehead and I visited there a number of times, but I do not remember it in the three years I was at NATO.

Q: Was Spain in there at the time?

GROSSMAN: Yes, Spain had voted to integrate with the Alliance and it was during that time that the negotiation about how to integrate took place and, yes, the Spanish ambassador …

Q: (This is tape four, side one with Marc Grossman.) You were saying the Spanish ...

GROSSMAN: I remember the negotiation, they originally had come wanting a military arrangement like France, and it was very right of the rest of the allies to say, “No, we did this once; we’re not doing this again. You’re an ally or you’re not an ally.” And in the end, they mostly integrated into the military structure.

Q: Well, I would think though, to take a military structure such as I assume was in Spain, which must have been a pretty decrepit one by that time, facing no particular threat, and having a government that wasn’t militarily inclined and all. How did NATO look upon having this not very effective military force on their side?

GROSSMAN: Well, two things. One, I think NATO felt that having Spain completed a crucial piece of geography. Second, NATO membership was part of the major effort at that time to integrate Spain into the modern, transatlantic world. We forget now about Spain becoming a democracy, a normal country. They were headed for the European Union over time and headed into NATO and I think people felt that this was a very important step toward consolidating Spanish democracy, protecting Spanish democracy. And we forget now what a close call that all was really and NATO played a crucial role.

Q: Yes. Because there was the left that didn’t want to ... GROSSMAN: Didn’t want anything to do with NATO. Q: ... do with this.
GROSSMAN: Third, I think that the allies felt that, if the Spanish military wasn’t so great today, integrating them into the military structure would help it, not hurt it. Then, as I say, there was a great desire to make no more exceptions. It was in or out, and the Spanish made the right decision.

Q: Obviously NATO was instituted as an Alliance against the Soviet Union when it was initiated, but there is an old saying that it was to keep the Soviets out, the Americans in and the Germans down. I’ve always felt that, when the Cold War ended it still represented a glue that kept the French from looking at its borders and starting to rearm and worrying about maybe a German threat or the Portuguese worried ... In other words, was there a feeling that there was something bigger than just a military Alliance? This is a way of keeping Europe from getting into its civil war.

GROSSMAN: Yes and, in fact, one of the main pieces of Lord Carrington’s speeches was to remind people that 50 million people had died in World War II, 50 million people. That, although there had been wars and there had been problems in the world after World War II, NATO was the thing, in his view, that had kept Europe from having World War
III. He was very explicit about it.

I don’t think it would be fair, though, to look back—’84, ’85, ’86—and say, “Well, we had great ideas about the importance of NATO to Atlantic solidarity post-Soviet Union,” because I don’t think anybody could conceive that there was going to be a post-Soviet Union. So at that time, I remember the Italians would—and maybe they were more forward thinking than the rest of us—from time to time come and say, “Let’s revitalize Article 4,” whatever Article it was, the political article of the treaty, “and let’s have another Harmel Report.” Harmel, or the 1967 “Report of the Council on the Future Tasks of the Alliance,” was a seminal report in that it was the political and economic part of the Alliance. And we’d say, “Yes, yes, thanks a lot but we’re trying to get PIIs deployed and GLCMs deployed.” And so it wouldn’t be right to say that anyone was a great visionary about the other parts of the Alliance. We were very focused on improving conventional defenses and getting those nuclear forces deployed. In the end, of course, it was the other parts of the Alliance, including the political and out of area components, which rose to the top after 1989.

Q: Was anybody looking at, I’m not sure what it was called at that time, but the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe)? The Helsinki Accords, which turned out to be pretty critical in what happed in Eastern Europe and with the Soviet Union.

GROSSMAN: That’s a fair question. I don’t remember. I don’t remember OSCE coming into my consciousness until quite a bit later. And I don’t remember when Helsinki, CSCE (Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe), becomes OSCE. I just don’t remember.

Q: Well CSE, but it was basically the Helsinki Accords.

GROSSMAN: Right. But the organization was CSCE and then some very smart people, including Max Kampelman turned CSCE into OSCE at a conference in Madrid and that’s turned out to be a good thing.

Q: Well, it has indeed been important but this is something that is sort of simmering below the threshold of observation.

GROSSMAN: Again, we’ll jump ahead here but when we would go with Whitehead to Eastern Europe (after I left NATO), and meet dissidents in their apartments or hotel rooms and people would say, “Do you know what I carry in my wallet?” And we’d say, “No, what do you carry in your wallet?” And they’d say, “I carry the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights and I carry the Helsinki Final Act.” And people would pull it out of their wallets. They’d say, “What gives me hope is the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the Helsinki Final Act.”

Q: Well before we leave Brussels, let’s go back, I didn’t quiz you on what you observed ... you had the Mediterranean, the Turkey/Cyprus/Greece portfolio, these friendly brothers in arms and all. What were our concerns; how were things going there?

GROSSMAN: They were going very badly. When I was at the US Mission, there was a wonderful Air Force Lieutenant Colonel upstairs in the defense unit, Mary McLaren. She was also responsible for following Greece/Turkey/Cyprus issues, as I was, and we talked and talked about what initiative we could put together to solve this Aegean problem. We worked hard on it and we never got anywhere. So the best we could do was mitigate the damage that these people wanted to do to each other and to the Alliance. That’s a pretty minimal threshold, I recognize, but that was our goal most of the time, to cauterize that wound and get it surrounded, and then just hope that it didn’t do any larger damage to NATO. There were times when we’d have spent millions of dollars and hundreds of hours on the military side getting ready for an exercise and, at the last minute, the Greeks or the Turks would pop up and say, “You can’t have this exercise, because here on page 782 of the exercise plan there’s some cable that goes from this headquarters we don’t recognize to some other headquarters we don’t recognize and so this has to be cancelled and we’re not doing it.” So it was really, really, really hard. It was similar when I was in Lord Carrington’s office.

Q: Did you get any feel for Turkey? Later you were to go there.

GROSSMAN: I went for the first time to Turkey in November 1983; I remember it really well. I went there to see what the possibilities were for doing an MBFR (Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction) agreement. I went to first Istanbul and I stayed for a couple of days with a Foreign Service classmate of mine, Jim Swigert. He and his wife, Nancy Neuburt, were assigned there. It was rainy and cold and they both went to work and I just spent the day wandering around Istanbul in November of ’83. I was enchanted. Then I went to Ankara and the Ambassador at that time was Robert Strausz-Hupé. I’ll never forget the experience. I went to see him in his office and I laid out this great plan we had on MBFR, and he was quite old at that time …

Q: He was in his 80s, I think.

GROSSMAN: He was a professorial intellectual—all of the things I certainly was not and am not—and he looked at me and he said, “Young man, I wish you a lot of luck with your MBFR initiative, but this isn’t going to work,” and he gave me a five minute seminar on what a fool I was. Then we talked about Turkey and he told me about what he was doing in Turkey and what the USG (United States Government) was trying to accomplish in Turkey. It was snowing I can remember, and he was hosting that night a delegation of Members of Congress who were looking at drug issues. Strausz-Hupé was nice enough to include me in that dinner. So I went to the Ambassador’s residence for the very first time, in the snow in 1983, and little did I know that Turkey would be a big part of the rest of my life. I went back to Turkey with Lord Carrington on NATO visits, in Ankara. On one trip we to Trabzon and then what was the Turkish-Soviet border, now the border with Georgia.

Q: What type of government; was the military in or out?

GROSSMAN: It was a military government, but Turgut Özal had become the technocratic, appointed, prime minister. But the first time Carrington went, and I was lucky enough to be with him, it would have been ’84, ’85, and I can remember really clearly going to see Turgut Özal as the prime minister of Turkey. We were impressed and thought, “The civilians are going to come back here. It might not be today or tomorrow, but this is a person who believes in civilian rule.”

Q: Did the Soviets do any missile threatening with Turkey or was this purely a European- type thing?

GROSSMAN: Good question. I can’t remember. I remember the SS-20s being a central European issue.

Q: I would think so because it would have been almost a waste of missiles to ... the Turks knew, I mean ...

GROSSMAN: Well and I think the Russians would have concluded they weren’t going to carve Turkey away from the Alliance. The Turks were committed to NATO, there weren’t going to be large demonstrations at that time in Turkey saying, “Oh please, let’s be pacifists.”

Q: Well this is it, did you feel there’s a little difference in Greece, where I’ve often felt that, I spent four years in Athens, but that the Greeks were in NATO mainly so that the Turks wouldn’t get an advantage. I didn’t feel that their commitment to sort of the main cause of keeping the Soviets; that wasn’t their focus, it was Turkey.

GROSSMAN: Their focus was on the Aegean. But I think one of the great things about the Alliance and one of the great things about Greece being a member of the European Union and NATO, has been that their strategic thinking has evolved, at least somewhat. At the time, I think you make a fair description; they were much more focused on issues in the Aegean. But one of the good things about this interacting at the Alliance and around the table is that it forces you to lift up your sights. And so, again, this is a long- term project, but I think the interaction between Greece and Turkey today is a lot different. Maybe a small part of it is the fact that they have to sit at the Alliance every day.

Q: Again, NATO has many manifestations. The big thing is, it has kept this pretty rather squabbling area, Europe, from ... or putting their squabbles on the table as opposed to elsewhere.

GROSSMAN: You know, there’s a reason that people are banging on the door to get into this Alliance. When we get to it, I think it matters even more today.

Q: I agree. What about, well not just the Aegean, but also the Mediterranean? Were the Soviets, did they have sort of a forward policy at that time? I’m thinking about a navy and all or not?


Q: There had been a time when it looked like they might be trying to really establish themselves in the Mediterranean.

GROSSMAN: Not that I recall.

Q: Their Black Sea Fleet, you know. They would come in, but it was not a particular menace?

GROSSMAN: I don’t think so. I can’t remember whether it was that time or later, there was a discussion of, the (1936) Montreux Convention (Regarding the Regime of the Straits) and what ships can transit the Bosphorus and what the Russians were building. But I don’t recall it as a big thing at the time.

The other big thing at that time, now that I remember it all, was that there was a vicious and murderous Belgian terrorist group called the CCC, the Cellules Communistes Combattantes, and they were blowing up things and killing people. We all had to be really careful, Lord Carrington had to be protected. It was the first time in my career I had to vary my routes and times.

Q: Was this sort of like the Red Brigade in Italy; sort of local, homegrown ...


Q: .. .anarchist type thing. GROSSMAN: It was. But murderous. Q: Oh yes.
GROSSMAN: Homegrown but very murderous. They engaged in attacking those who were seen as “enemies” of communism, specifically NATO, the United States, international businesses.

Q: We’ve had the Japanese Army, Red Army ... GROSSMAN: Red Army Faction, or whatever they’re called. Q: ... and you had these little ones cropping up.
GROSSMAN: That’s right. And this was one of those.

Q: And really nasty.

GROSSMAN: Yes. The Belgians worked at it but it took them some time to bring this group under control.

Q: Yes. Well then, we’re moving to 1980 what? Four? I mean ...

GROSSMAN: ’86, 1986.

Q: ’86. Where did you go?

GROSSMAN: I left Brussels in ’86 and I was assigned to be the Deputy Director of the office in NEA called NEA/ARN—Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. And it was funny because I’d been there as a temporary officer and then I’d been the Jordan desk officer and now I was coming back to be the Deputy Officer Director. The Office Director was April Glaspie, who later became Ambassador to Iraq. I went on home leave from NATO and we bought a house in Arlington and I turned up at work. I was at work just a day or two in NEA/ARN when I got a call from the Executive Secretariat asking if would I be
interested in interviewing to be John Whitehead’s Chief of Staff, his Executive Assistant. Charlie Hill was the Executive Secretary at the time, I think, and Arnie Raphel had put my name to Whitehead. So I went up and I interviewed. (Wesley) Wes Egan was Whitehead’s Executive Assistant at that time, and he was moving on, and I interviewed with Mr. Whitehead and he offered me the job. It all seemed pretty straightforward to me until the personnel system heard about it. I was an 02 officer at the time and this was a senior job. It was a big stretch assignment.

Q: This was 02 under the new system? You know ...

GROSSMAN: Yes, under the new system. So I was a middle-grade officer. This was a job graded for an OC (Counselor) FSO. There was the usual donnybrook. Personnel said, “The sun won’t come up the next morning if he gets this assignment, how could this youngster possibly do this job, etc., etc.” But Whitehead stuck to his guns and I took the job. So I started with him in the summer of 1986, and I stayed with him as his Executive Assistant until January of ’89.

Q: Marc, because your career has been sort of working with the great men, mainly— much more so than many others—did you feel that outside of essentially where you had sort of tenuous roots in NEA with Pakistan and Jordan, here you’re moving up and yet you’re really neither fish nor fowl, but you joined sort of the Special Assistant class.

GROSSMAN: Right. I joined the Special Assistant guild, absolutely.

Q: Looking at this as a good deal or a bad deal or?

GROSSMAN: I looked at it as a great, huge, wonderful deal. In the Foreign Service there are, I don’t know how to put this exactly but, there are a number of internal unions or guilds.

Q: Oh yes, very much so.

GROSSMAN: I guess guilds maybe would be the way to put it: there’s a Staff Assistant guild and there’s a China guild and a German guild.

Q: I belonged to the Consular guild.

GROSSMAN: The Consular guild. My wife was a Consular Officer all of her career. There’s a Japan guild, the Chrysanthemum Club.

Q: An African. Well, you name it. GROSSMAN: It is human nature. Q: Yes.
GROSSMAN: I’m not a trained scholar, but I’m an “operator” in the military sense of that; not in the negative sense, I hope. I like to solve problems and I like to solve lots of problems every day. The other thing I like is, and you have to be happy with this to be in the Special Assistant or Staff Assistant guild, I like operating in the grey zone. I like operating in the area where it isn’t clear what is the best way to proceed. I like to be where politics meets policy and personalities have a lot to do with it and where the interests of the bureaucracy and the interagency has a lot to do with it, where it is a huge challenge to get anything done. I liked being in that area where you were in the grey zone because, for a young person, for a young officer, in the grey zone, your ideas are as good as anybody else’s. And for the three years I was with Whitehead I had more impact on policy and State Department procedure than many other 02 officers at the time. It’s not because I am so smart, but I was prepared to come every day and help John Whitehead solve his problems and get things done. The negative attitude people have toward people who do staff work aggravated me all through my career; people don’t have a clear view of what it takes to get it done.

Q: Well I think one of the problems that we know is that somebody has spent all their time in NEA, for example, out there in Islamabad or Amman or something like that, “Well damn it, I don’t want to see a Staff Assistant grab an Ambassadorship when he hasn’t sort of paid the dues.”

GROSSMAN: It depends on what you think dues are. I felt that the year I was the Staff Assistant in NEA, the year of the Iran hostage crisis, I paid plenty of dues. Not just did I pay dues, I learned a lot about leadership and I learned a lot about foreign policy. The three-some years I spent with Whitehead, and the years with Carrington too, laid the foundations for my time in Turkey, EUR, the DGs (Director General) office and P (Office of the Under Secretary for Political Affairs). Paying dues also means you have to learn the meaning of purpose and you have to learn the meaning of leadership and I had the chance to see it in a way that was unique. Arthur Hummel, Peter Constable, Arnie Raphel, Hal Sanders, Al Moses, Lord Carrington, John Whitehead, that’s a master class in leadership. For example, Whitehead was a great leader, but also a huge substantive person. One of the reasons he all got into Eastern European issues was he felt we could do something for the United States there. So the idea of, “there’s only one way to pay dues,” is wrong. There’s sometimes discrimination against people who do the staff aide thing and I think my promotions were probably held up over a number of years because some people look at the performance file and say, “Oh, this guy’s had an easy life, all he does is hang around.” But you know, perhaps for you and for my spouse as well, people who do Consular work for their careers, they don’t end up at the top of this heap in enough numbers and there’s no question consular officers pay dues.

Q: I know, I’m very much aware of that.

GROSSMAN: One of the things the Foreign Service and the State Department has got to get over is the class system that we perpetrate. It’s terrible.

Q: Well, let’s talk about Whitehead.


Q: He’s not a name that—those in the Foreign Service know Whitehead but I don’t think others outside ... Could you talk about where he came from and then how he operates?


Q: John Whitehead.

GROSSMAN: John Whitehead. He was an example of the post-WWII greatness of America. He served in the Navy in World War II. He drove landing craft in North Africa and in Europe and served, I am sure, bravely. He went to college on the GI Bill and in the ‘50s decided what he wanted to do was become an investment banker. He was a young man; he went to Goldman Sachs, where he spent 30 years, retiring after the last 10 years having been the chairman or co-chairman of Goldman Sachs. He is, if you’ll read the business literature of the late ‘80s, one of the most admired American business leaders ever. In the books by Tom Peters and others about the best run American corporations, Goldman Sachs and John Whitehead always figured prominently.

He told the story that he retired from Goldman Sachs and was trying to write a book. One day, he said, George Shultz called him and asked him to come down to Washington.
Whitehead claimed that he didn’t have any idea what it was about. So he came to Washington to see George Shultz and Shultz said, “John, the President of the United States wants to see you. Let’s go over and see him.” So they get into Shultz’s car and go over to the Oval Office and Reagan says, “I want you to be the Deputy Secretary of State. What do you think?” And Whitehead says, “Well you surely have the wrong person here.” And Shultz says, “No, we want somebody like an investment banker. We want somebody who can walk into a situation, quickly size up the pieces of it and make a decision.” And so Whitehead, good for us at the State Department, took this job.

Q: Who had been the ... GROSSMAN: Kenneth Dam. Q: Who?

Q: And was he just plain leaving or was it felt he wasn’t the man for the job?

GROSSMAN: I have no idea. Shultz hired Whitehead as the Deputy Secretary of State. He was there some months with Wes Egan, who made the transition from Dam to Whitehead, and then I came to serve as his Executive Assistant.

John Whitehead was among the most gracious people I ever met. He had eclectic tastes and interests. He had a wonderful collection of Impressionist paintings and sculptures, many of which he had installed in his office at State. I learned an enormous amount from him. He loved to decide things. He would say, “Marc, the only reason we’re on this earth is to decide things. And you’ve got to have the joy of making decisions.” He said, “I don’t want to do anything unless there’s a decision in it.” When people in the building could not come to a conclusion about this or that policy, he’d say, “Just bring it to me, let’s decide. ” He also taught me that not deciding is a decision. He said it was okay if you didn’t decide something or put it off if you needed more time or information or concluded, “this isn’t ready to decide,” as long as you recognized that that was also a decision. And for the State Department that was a great thing, because people started to realize that if they sent issues up to Whitehead, they would get decided. On some bureaucratic issues you don’t care what the decision is as long as there is one.

And the other good thing was that he encouraged me to decide what I could. We agreed that he did not want me to be in any of his meetings unless they were meetings internal to the State Department. Because, he said, “If you’re sitting in here while I’m meeting the foreign minister of this country or that country, it’s a waste of time. I want you out, then there’s two of us doing my work.” That was a great idea. I’ve tried to follow that for the rest of my career.

And the other thing he said was, “Look Marc, I want you to decide things. I want you to decide anything you think you can decide.” But,” he said, “here’s the thing. You’re going to make some mistakes, because if you make decisions you make mistakes.” And then he said, “But here’s the deal with me. If you make a mistake, I want you to walk into my office and say, “Mr. Whitehead, I’ve got three things to tell you. Number one, tell me how bad it is. Give me the whole story; tell me how bad this really is. Number two, tell me what you’ve done to fix it. And three, tell me what you learned from making this mistake, so at least you don’t make this one again. You’re going to make others, but don’t make this mistake again.” And if you could get those three sentences out he’d absolve you for what you had done wrong because he’d rather have you doing things.

He was often frustrated with the Department. Sometimes late at night, he’d look at me and—we’d have this conversation a dozen times over three years—he’d say, “Marc, how many people work at this building?” And I’d say, “10,000.” And he’d say, “Well, what I want to know is what are the other 9,975 people doing because it seems to me that I see the same 25 people every day on every subject as the only people willing to decide anything around here.”

We had a real interesting occurrence one day; it was at that time when Congress passed the new Inspector General’s law. (William C.) Bill Harrop was the outgoing Inspector General and a person from the Commerce Department, Sherman Funk, came to be the IG.

Q: Oh, I’ve interviewed him.

GROSSMAN: So the question was: Where was he going to sit? So a very senior person (not Bill Harrop) who had the responsibility to decide this question came to see me in my little back office behind Whitehead’s office and he says, “Marc, I can’t decide where Sherman Funk should sit. I have to see Mr. Whitehead.” And I said, “I’m just an 02 officer, you’re a very senior person. If you want to go see Mr. Whitehead to discuss this, I will arrange it immediately. But I don’t think this is a good idea for you and I just want to give you some advice here—decide this yourself—but I reiterate, I’m just a staffer and if you want to see Whitehead, we’re going in there. But think about this overnight, will you?” So this officer came back the very next day and he said, “I can’t decide, I’ve got to see Whitehead.” So in we go. Whitehead used to have a huge desk and he used to see people seated on either side. I was on one side and the officer was on the other. “What can I do for you,” Whitehead says. And the person starts up, “I’m having this problem deciding.” And Whitehead says, “Stop.” He said, “What’s your job?” He said, “Well my job is XXXXXX”. And Whitehead says, “Well, what’s my job?” He said, “Well, you’re the Deputy Secretary of State.” He looked at him and said, “I will back any decision you make.” This officer started to recite all the pros and the cons and (Whitehead) again said, “No, stop. I will back any decision that you make. Now please go out and make one. I don’t care what it is, I’ll back it.” I thought, wow, that’s fantastic. And so I adopted this line and I’ve used it a lot since; when I was a DCM, an Ambassador, an Assistant Secretary, and an Undersecretary. You have to be careful when you do it and you have to be careful to whom you’re talking and you have to be confident that they’re going to do right one way or the other. But it was incredibly empowering to watch him just say, “I’ll back any decision you make.” In terms of the leadership qualities, you could see why this John Whitehead made millions of dollars, and why people loved working for him. In the end, I had to decide where Sherman Funk would sit. I was extremely unpopular for a awhile.

Q: Well, do you have any thought about, in observing when he made decisions how he, what he used to make decisions? You know, you have to have information in order to make decisions.

G: It was a combination of the information and the time available. Because Whitehead believed, and it seems right to me, that you’ll never have all the information you need. At some point you have to have information plus intuition, plus sometimes you’ve just got to do it; you’ve got to do something. I recall thinking about this at Emergency Action Committee meetings in Turkey. You’d have vague threat information but a community to protect: what were you going to do? He was a big believer that, at some point, those three lines intersected and even if you didn’t have all the information you needed, sometimes you had to decide anyway.

Whitehead was also a believer that, if the next day or a week later you got some new information and your decision looked wrong, you changed it. He was never hung up by, “you’ll look weak because you changed your decision. He’d say, “Marc, listen. If we didn’t make the right decision a week ago and we now know we can make a better
decision, let’s just make it.” He was self-confident in that way about deciding. And if it wasn’t right, we’d fix it.

Q: George Shultz came with much the same background.

GROSSMAN: Absolutely.

Q: Being out of business and also as a professor, but basically I take it that they melded well together?

GROSSMAN: Wonderful. They did very well together and it was why Whitehead was able to—we’ll come to this—do his thing in Eastern Europe and that’s why Shultz trusted him to solve a lot of really hard problems in the State Department. Whitehead would ask him for responsibility for things that hadn’t been solved in years. “Let’s solve them.” For example, he got committed to solving the housing problem for our employees at USUN (United States Mission to the United Nations). We worked on this for months.

Q: Could you explain what the problem was?

GROSSMAN: I recall that at the time the USG had gotten involved in some leases in NY that were not optimal and we were trying to work our way out of them. (Vernon) Walters was the UN Ambassador and Walters asked for Whitehead’s help with the Congress and with the Administration to try to find some way to decently house our people there. It was so expensive but couldn’t be declared a foreign posting. We were providing housing yet people were taxed by the IRS for the benefit because it was domestic. I spent hours trying to solve this problem, back and forth to New York and Capitol Hill, and we finally came up with a solution that nobody particularly loved, but we did move that ball forward. The point was, Whitehead was prepared to look for the hard things to do and do them.

Q: Well, we’ve talked mainly about sort of what we’d call administrative matters, which often are the hardest decisions in an organization to make, but what about the problem of Poland or any other country?

GROSSMAN: Well, I’d like to say one other thing on the way to that. Whitehead also took a very serious interest in the D (Deputy Secretary of State) Committee—he actively chaired the Committee—that’s the committee that chooses whom to nominate to the White House for Ambassadorships. He fought for the Department to have the best people to send over to the President and he fought hard against some of the less-qualified political appointees. The way they did it at that time was he went once a month to see Don Regan, who was then the chief-of-staff at the White House, and they would talk about Ambassadorships. Whitehead fought to make sure that the percentage stayed at Foreign Service two-thirds, political one-third. And he really demanded that the political appointments be decent and good ones. So he paid a huge amount of attention to Ambassadorships and felt that was one of his main responsibilities.

On the substantive side, he was very interested in North Africa and we went there, I think, once or twice. But among the reasons that he was so successful as an investment banker was that he was in some ways a visionary. We were talking one day and he said, “I’ve thought about this: Eastern Europe is the place we could really advance America’s interests, because the grip of the Soviet Union is clearly weakening on these countries; the dictatorships in all the countries are going to face a future where they’re just not going to survive. If we could peel some of these countries away from the Soviet Union now and make them a little more democratic, maybe we would do some good for the United States, good for the people in the region and complicate life for the Soviets simultaneously. This would all be good.” So we developed a concept to propose to Secretary Shultz. Earlier in his life, Whitehead had been involved in trying to rescue refugees from the Hungarian revolution of 1956. (Refugees became a life-long interest for his and he served many years as the Chairman of the International Rescue Committee). We went to see Shultz and he pitched Shultz and said, “I’d like to be in charge of our policy in Eastern Europe, because I have this vision of how we might do this. But I want to make sure a), it’s okay with you and b), that it won’t cross up anything that you are doing with Russia. Shultz considered this proposal and said, “Proceed”. So we did.

Q: By the way, how did the European Bureau ...

GROSSMAN: My next job, after helping square this up with George Shultz, was to go visit Ambassador Roz Ridgeway who was the Assistant Secretary for European Affairs at the time. I framed this to her as a “great opportunity coming your way; the Deputy Secretary of State would really like to be interested in Eastern Europe.” She very rightly was skeptical at first. As I learned myself years later as EUR Assistant Secretary, sometimes more “help” from the seventh floor is not what you need, but after she became confident that Whitehead was going to take her advice, work in complete sync with EUR and that Whitehead was not going to cross up what she and George Shultz were doing on the Soviet Union—which was really the most important thing—and that it really was an attempt to enhance the Bureau. She said, “Go for it.”

She was very helpful, and of course had been the Ambassador to East Germany, so she really knew this subject. We were also lucky because the DAS responsible for Eastern Europe at the time was (Thomas W.) Tom Simons, who got on wonderfully with Whitehead and who was a terrific person to work with and travel with.

I think Tom was, in fact, glad to have his neck of the woods highlighted, So as a team, we figured out how to make Whitehead’s vision operational. I can’t remember the exact sequence of events, but we went four times to all of the Eastern European countries over the next three years. We mostly went in the winter so nobody could say we were just gallivanting around. Whitehead worked hard on these trips. We saw some pretty interesting things. The thing we saw again and again was what a complete disaster communism was for every country out there and for all of the people except the dictators. Whitehead went to each one of these dictators; he’d sit with them and he’d say, “Listen. You don’t know too much about the world, really, and I know quite a lot about the world,” but in a more diplomatic way. And he’d say, “You’re doomed. Your way of life is doomed, your country is doomed, your authoritarianism is doomed if you keep on this way. And if you’d like to think about this in a different way and change your relationship with the Soviet Union and change your relationship with us and be more democratic in your country, there could be a real relationship between the United States and countries in Eastern Europe.” We went from place to place saying, “History is going by you here.” And they didn’t believe him. Of course, he was absolutely correct. I think back on that time: here was a person who really had a vision of what the future was going to be like.
What a privilege to be part of that.

We went to Yugoslavia; we went to Poland; we went everywhere and some of it was really exciting. He was the first person of that rank ever to meet Lech Walesa (then- Chairperson of Solidarity). John (R.) Davis (Jr.) was our Ambassador to Poland at that time. Whitehead wanted to see Walesa and the Polish government at the last minute said, “No,” and so Whitehead called in the Polish ambassador and said, “Well, fine, then I’m not coming to Poland and we’ll say why.” And they said, “Okay, you’ll see him.” I’ll never forget the night that Lech Walesa and the senior Solidarity leadership appeared at the door of the American Ambassador’s residence to meet John Whitehead. It was incredibly exciting. Then the next time we visited Poland we went to Gdansk and spent the night there, I think.

Q: That was Walesa’s home base; he had been in the shipyard.

GROSSMAN: The shipyard. We went there and I still have—I keep on my desk—a small brass medallion that Walesa gave me at that time. He had signed it. This was 1986. At the NATO Summit in Washington in in 1999, when Poland became a member of NATO, I sat near Walesa at the opening ceremony. What a turn of events. And John Whitehead had seen in coming.

We went once in Bulgaria, I can’t remember which trip, to see the at the time, Todor Zhivkov. We had lunch and we were in this huge room the size of three football fields and there were six or eight of us at lunch at a table in the middle of this room. Zhivkov had a high-pitched voice and he had this maniacal laugh which echoed in this big room. There were cameras all over the place filming the scene. Another reminder of what a disaster communism was for everybody. It must have been the third or fourth time we were in Romania and Whitehead looked at (President Nicolae) Ceausescu and he said to Ceausescu, “I’ve listened to you talk about the progress in Romania but I conclude that you’re either ill-informed or a liar because your country is a disaster. There’s no economic growth here; people are starving. You know, every bulb in Romania is a 40- watt bulb, if you could get one. There is no heat in your homes or offices.” (We would go to meetings at the Foreign Ministry in our overcoats). And Ceausescu said, “Oh no, we’re growing at five percent a year,” and on and on and on. Whitehead, “No, no. You’re either misinformed or you’re lying to me.” It was a really weird thing; a number of us were kicked out of the meeting five or six minutes before it was over. So we were sitting outside and, just as the meeting broke up, and out of another door runs Mrs. Ceausescu, who had, we understood later, been watching the whole meeting through a two-way mirror.

Roger Kirk was our Ambassador to Romania. He would set up meetings with dissidents. These sessions were both heart-rending and yet gave us nerve to proceed because there were people in each country who had the courage to fight the system. I can remember having lunch at Ambassador Kirk’s for the Romanian MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) people. He would tell us to never have seconds when the food came around, to leave that for the guests because they did not have enough to eat.

We often flew in small US Air Force planes around Eastern Europe. I can’t adequately describe how much I loved seeing the blue and white plane with United States of America painted on the fuselage at the end of those days in a place like a Romania or Bulgaria. As I say, we were in Hungary, Poland, East Germany, Romania, Czechoslovakia—still at that time, Yugoslavia—I think four times each, and Whitehead’s message to everybody was the same, “You’ve got to get on the right side of history or you’re going to be washed away.”

Q: I would have thought the Poles, because they had such a restive population and one that, it just wasn’t a complacent group, that they would have been more ... who was that

GROSSMAN: Wojciech Jaruzelski; it was still Jaruzelski, the general.

Q: Yes, but did he have ... ?

GROSSMAN: They thought they were the king fishes and they were going to stay there forever.

Q: What was happening in the Soviet Union at that time? Was Gorbachev in power yet and if so was he beginning to make his mark or not?

GROSSMAN: I don’t think so. You’d have to consult a timeline. I know we visited Russia at least once. I can remember on one trip to Europe, Whitehead was determined to go to the Berlin Wall and stand up and say the Wall was going to fall down; it wasn’t going to be there in the future. We couldn’t get any press to come and cover the event because everybody thought it was a crazy idea. I rustled up some US Army and embassy people to serve as a crowd. He really worked hard at this Eastern Europe initiative. He met all the relevant local Ambassadors in DC, including from the Vatican because the Pope played such a key role in Poland. He always had time for visiting US Ambassadors from the region.

It was interesting as Whitehead adapted to the diplomatic culture. On our very first trip we went to Hungary. Mark Palmer was the Ambassador. We’d done all the briefing books, as you could imagine. We get to Hungary and he goes to the first meeting with the Hungarians and he didn’t follow any of the briefing books any of the time, nothing. Mark Palmer was furious at me: why was he so unprepared? So after the first meetings I asked if I could see him privately and I said, “Excuse me, but are you going to do any prep for these meetings?” And he says, “Well, of course.” And I said, “Those guys on the other side, they’re serious about this and expect you to be.” He said to me, “Marc, there’s a big cultural difference you and I haven’t overcome.” And I said, “What’s that?” And he said, “Well at Goldman Sachs, the way it worked was, if you had an hour’s meeting there was a 15-minute briefing of the subject for the first 15 minutes of the hour and then there was a discussion for 45 minutes so you didn’t have to prepare that much in advance for meetings.” And I responded, “Well, our world is different from that. You have to read this material and then we can talk about it.” After that it we melded the two cultures and went on our way.

The other thing I can remember, he delegated like mad. We’d talk about the trips in the weeks before we were going, but mostly he said, “Getting this trip ready is your responsibility.” At that time, he flew first class to Frankfurt and then the Air Force would lend us a jet to go around in Eastern Europe. I can remember two or three times we would get on the plane and he’d sit in that first-class seat and I had one next to him and they’d close the door of the airplane and he’d say, “So Marc, where are we going and what are we doing?” It was at that time I’d take the briefing book out and I’d say, “Well we’re going to go here and we’re going to go here and we’re going to do this, we’re going to do that.” And sometimes he’d say, about halfway across the Atlantic, “Well I don’t want to do it that way. I want to do it the other way.” And I’d make my case for why I decided what I had decided. But once in a while, on some things he would say, “No, I want to do it this way.” So we’d land in Frankfurt and I would spend my next couple of hours making an adjustment or two. But it really taught me about delegating.

Q: How did he use our Ambassadors when he would, say, go to Hungary and all?

GROSSMAN: He wanted our Ambassadors to be in on everything. He was very good with our Ambassadors.

Q: Would he sit down with the Ambassador beforehand?

GROSSMAN: Yes. We never went anywhere where the first thing wasn’t a country team briefing/meeting. It was part of our culture melding.

Q: Yes. So he knew what he was going into?

GROSSMAN: Absolutely. And whenever they were back in Washington he always saw them, as I said. Once he decided to pay attention to this Eastern European initiative, he really paid attention to it. He was serious about it and I think accomplished a lot.

Q: Well was he able to help sow some seeds, with the Helsinki group and in Czechoslovakia?

GROSSMAN: I think so. I can remember dissidents carried in their wallets the Helsinki Final Act and the UN Declaration on Human Rights. The Final Act was a living, inspirational document for them. Also, Whitehead planted some really important seeds on our side by further exposing to more people what a disaster these places really were. And so, when some of us who went through this period—Tom Simons, myself, others—when it came time to revitalize NATO and invite these countries in, I had both an emotional and a substantive connection to this. I said these people have fought through terrible dictatorship and authoritarianism and now they want to be free and if they want to be free with us that would be good. So it had a series of long-term consequences.

Q: What about Ronald Reagan? He was obviously a great proponent of freedom; it wasn’t intellectual, it was more or less intuitive, I guess.

GROSSMAN: Right. Well, we went a couple of times over to brief the President. At one I think the President signed MFN for Hungary or Poland, I can’t remember which. I have a picture shaking hands with President Reagan which was pretty exciting.

Q: And that’s Most Favored Nation.

GROSSMAN: Trade status. The President was the person who presided over that ceremony.

Q: In a way this is going against the general concept that when push-came-to-shove the Soviets would move in and do a Poland, a Hungary or a Czechoslovakia, and that, this is the way it was going to be, kind of ...

GROSSMAN: John Whitehead wasn’t a traditional diplomat in that regard. He did not think that we should just let these countries be run by the Soviets or their dictators. The US should offer them an alternative: a better relationship with the West in exchange for reforms. And as I say, the meetings with Ceausescu and some of these other guys weren’t very diplomatic. He was a plainspoken businessperson a lot of times. But he was telling them was the truth.

Q: Well, what were the reactions of these leaders?

GROSSMAN: They were mostly astonished. They were astonished the first time around and then they were astonished the second time around. But Whitehead was convinced that one of the problems with our diplomacy is that people went places once and they never went back. He said, “I’m just going to keep going back, like when I was a banker, and I’m going to go back and back until they take me seriously.” And so, as I said, we went three or four times to a number of these countries and he just kept knocking on doors. I think for the dissidents we showed solidarity; for people who wanted more democracy we showed there were people in the West paying attention. It was a morale boost to our embassies that lived in dictatorships and authoritarian societies. And we went to meetings in Romania in our overcoats because it was so cold. It was a disaster— communism was a disaster.

Q: You know, it’s almost like a disease and there were still people who, particularly at universities but much more so in say, European universities and all, who were saying,
“Well, maybe there’s some problems but this is the way to go.” And African leaders were doing this and it’s still around but it’s dying out.

GROSSMAN: I had had an intellectual understanding of it, but seeing up close was transforming. A couple of times, when we went to Berlin, we crossed the Wall at Checkpoint Charlie. No more needs to be said. One time Whitehead went to a conference in Potsdam; I don’t even remember what the subject was. But for various reasons there was only room for him and a security officer there at Potsdam. Lucky for me, because I stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel in Berlin. But my job in the morning and in the afternoon was to go and visit him, and brief him consistent with information security and keep him up to date on world events and see what he needed. I had to do this early in the morning and it was not Checkpoint Charlie that you crossed, it was the Glienicke Bridge. I’ll tell you, there were mornings at 6:30 or quarter to seven when you’d be crossing over from the Western sector to the East. There’s nothing on either side when you are in middle of that span and you get up to these East Germans and you show your passport but you think, I could disappear from here and that’d be it. I can’t tell you how relieved I was each day to cross back over.

I’d like to say one other thing about my time with John Whitehead. We hired an amazing group of young FSOs and Civil Service people to be D Special Assistants. They did a fantastic job. Many went on to distinguished careers at State. The secretaries in that office were also remarkable. Mrs. Eva Henderson kept me going in the right direction. I also met Jim Timbie for the first time. I don’t know why, but he worked his arms control magic as a D staffer. He was a national treasure.

Q: Well tell me about one of the major problems at the time that you were there and that’s Yugoslavia. Or do you want to stop now?

GROSSMAN: Let’s stop.

Q: All right. We’ll stop now and we have just covered Eastern Europe but we have not covered Yugoslavia and what happened. Also, no real talk about Asia, what was going on there and if there’s anything in Africa or Latin America. And we’ll pick it up next time there.

GROSSMAN: Great. I’d also like to talk next time about polygraphing and Shultz’s polygraphing policy. I’d like to talk about that.

Q: Alright. I also would like to get sort of the internal things, talk about the different Bureaus and how they responded, too, from your perspective there.

GROSSMAN: And I’d also like to talk about Iran-Contra.

Q: Oh yes.

* * *

Q: Okay. Today is the 16th of June 2006. Marc, a couple of things: What were you getting on Yugoslavia at this time? Was there anything that particularly came up at this time or not?

GROSSMAN: Actually what came up at this time were. I guess from our perspective anyway, false signals. We were in all of the other Eastern European countries three or four times during those years, and I think we were in Belgrade three or four times as well. At the time, for us, as outsiders, it appeared that Yugoslavia had a good chance of holding together. I can remember going to meet the collective presidency and people seemed confident about holding things together. I also remember there was a very popular song at that time called Yugoslavia. Everywhere we went in Yugoslavia, in restaurants, in the hotel lobbies, there was this song playing. People would sing it and it was, it turned out, of course, to be perhaps the last anthem for a combined Yugoslavia— but it seemed to us at the time that there was a chance that it could all hold together. The other thing, it was the time of the production of the Yugo and oddly enough when I look back on it ...

Q: The Yugo being a Fiat.

GROSSMAN: I don’t know if it was a Fiat but it was a little car. Oddly enough, when I look back on it now there were all of these signs that pointed in the direction of unity. So while I think that Mr. Whitehead certainly, and to the extent the rest of us did as well, could see that there was huge change coming in the rest of Eastern Europe and that they were going to go through a real change, it wasn’t so apparent, actually, in Yugoslavia, at least on the level that we were working. It is another reminder to be modest about predicting the future.

Q: Well let me ask the question, when you’re talking about Yugoslavia was this pretty much from the Belgrade perspective?

GROSSMAN: Yes, although I can remember we visited Zagreb, we visited Dubrovnik, we visited a number of places in Yugoslavia and, as I say, either we missed it completely or we were not dealing at the right levels with the right people to get a sense of what was behind the curtain.

Q: How about Asia? Did Asia cross your radar at all?

GROSSMAN: It did not, really. I think once Whitehead made a decision to focus on what were then Eastern Europe and the Warsaw Pact, that’s really where we spent quite a lot of time. He certainly received people and tried to pay attention because he was the Deputy Secretary of State, but felt the place he could make the most difference was in Eastern Europe.

Q: What about Shultz and polygraphing? Could you explain what the issue was and what happened?

GROSSMAN: My recollection is that there was pressure from CIA and from the FBI for the State Department to adopt a polygraph system where all Foreign Service people would be polygraphed periodically for security clearances, for the updating of their security clearances. Shultz resisted this. He thought that polygraphing was not something that was American. He thought it was false science and certainly should never be used as an investigative tool for surveying large groups of people. There were months and months of debate about what was the right thing to do. In the end Secretary Shultz decided, I think greatly to his credit, to resist the Agency, to resist the FBI, and to say
there wouldn’t be blanket polygraphing of people at the State Department. As I recall he took a lot of grief for it. He did agree that if there was ever an investigation where things got down to one or two people, and if people agreed to be polygraphed then, fine. But just going out and polygraphing everybody—it didn’t work for him. I have stuck to this philosophy and decision for the rest of my career and life.

One of the things that occurred after that policy was instituted, there was a terrible leak of a cable about POW-MIA matters to the newspapers. And so DS (Diplomatic Security) instituted an investigation. This cable was very tightly held and there were only six, eight, 10 people—the drafter and the clearer and a number of us on the Seventh Floor and the Executive Secretariat—who had ever seen that cable. Sure enough, in they came, wanting to polygraph everybody. And Shultz said, “No, we’re not going to do that. This violates the rules.” There was a huge fuss over this. I felt that, in terms of not just the institution but also of people personally, he really protected people when it was hard. The interesting thing was, although we were all investigated and talked to and we all refused to take a polygraph, it turned out that none of the people who were on this list were in fact the leakers. It turned out to be somebody in the communications shop had taken the cable across the way to one of the POW-MIA advocates who were around at the Lincoln Memorial. So we would have all been polygraphed and I don’t know whether anybody would have been found guilty or not guilty by this, but in fact it wasn’t anybody on the list to be investigated.

Q: Well then, then we move to Iran-Contra. Were you aware; how did this dawn on you first?

GROSSMAN: It dawned on us when it was just Iran—the day had yet to come when the issue of Ollie North, Iran, the cake, the travel—burst into the public consciousness. But before the whole story came out, there was a remarkable meeting in Whitehead’s office because someone from the Administration, someone senior, had to go and testify on Iran in front of Lee Hamilton, who was then the chairman of the House International Relations Committee. There was a meeting in Whitehead’s office where everybody who knew anything about this said, “Well, I can’t testify,” and “I can’t testify,” and “I can’t testify.” Finally the conclusion by some of the career people at the State Department was that what they really needed was a political appointee who knew nothing about the whole caper to go testify. So Whitehead, who never shirked from a challenge, said, “Okay, if you want me to go testify.” I can remember saying to him later, “I think there’s something really wrong with this because if there wasn’t something wrong with this, all these senior people who know about this, they should be testifying. You don’t know anything about this. You’ve never followed these issues, you don’t ...” And he said, “Marc, I’m the Deputy Secretary of State, I will go and testify.”

We did the best we could to prepare him. I can’t remember the day of the week it was, but he went on an afternoon and testified and famously said that—when asked if he agreed with President Reagan that Iran was not a supporter of terrorism—Whitehead, to his great credit and wonderfully honestly said, “I hate to disagree with my President but…” He then went on to say that he thought that Iran was a place where they supported terrorism. He got in his car on the way home and he called me up and he said, “So Marc, did I make any headlines?” I said, “Well sir, you ought to know that Jamie McIntyre, who was with WTOP and then with CNN, was reporting, “The last threads of the fabric of any relationship between the State Department and the White House had been ripped apart by John Whitehead.” And so I said, “I think yes, there’s going to be some headlines here.” So he came back and we sat down and he said, “Well, what do you think?” I said, “I think generally when you disagree in public with the President of the United States, people notice.” And he said, “Well I had to.” I replied, “I understand that, but you shouldn’t be now surprised about what happens tomorrow.” So the next morning, huge headlines, “Whitehead disagrees with the President,” “State Department attacks the White House,” huge headlines in The New York Times, Washington Post, every place.

Shultz backed him 100 percent. Whitehead said, “I’ll write a note to President Reagan.” So he wrote to President Reagan, a handwritten note saying that he was really sorry to make this trouble but, “I did what I did.” I thought and he thought that he was going to be fired by the end of the day, that this was it, this was our last day, it was his last day in D and it was my last day as the Executive Assistant in D. We just sort of sat around waiting all day for someone to call up and fire us. And we went home that night and nobody fired us and we came in the next morning, and the next morning was the morning that the attorney general announced the Contra part of Iran-Contra. Within 24 hours, nobody remembered anything about what Whitehead did, everybody was then focused on the question of the Contra connection to the Iran issue. And he stayed the Deputy Secretary of State until the end of the Administration. That was good for the State Department, but I thought it probably cost him the chance to be the Treasury Secretary later in the term.

Q: Well tell me though; was it passing by you that something was happening?

GROSSMAN: We had no idea in advance.

Q: It was one of these things; I can sort of imagine somebody would say Ollie North and people at your level would roll their eyes because he was considered a cowboy? Or was he just a non-person?

GROSSMAN: Well for us, we didn’t really have anything to do, Whitehead had nothing to do with this, which is why all of these career people figured out he’d be the perfect person to testify. I was utterly amazed by it all. And I think Whitehead was too. He just couldn’t believe it. Again in a typical Washington way, there’s always somebody who’s in worst shape the next day than you are.

Q; It is interesting that something of this nature could ... You might explain what we’re talking about, as far as we knew North had been doing, for the record.

GROSSMAN: Whoever’s doing the history will have to go back and read all that. I was focused on its impact on Whitehead at the time.

Just one more thing for whoever’s looking at this, there’s a wonderful anecdote in Whitehead’s autobiography where he goes over later to see President Reagan and figures he’s just going to get hollered at for disagreeing with the President. There’s this charming story where Reagan tells Whitehead, “You know John, I was watching the TV the other day and I heard somebody say they disagreed with the President and I wondered how who heck is that? And I turned to the TV, John, and it was you.” And Mr. Whitehead apologized and they moved on from there.

Q: Well did you feel the NSC, National Security Council, was taking action away from the State Department? Was that sort of the impression that you got, or that things were bypassing the State Department?

GROSSMAN: Well, that’s certainly what it was when it all came out. But it was certainly something that Shultz fought against all the way through his time in office.

Q: Well then, after the Iran-Contra thing was disclosed, did that change, at Whitehead and Shultz’s level; what were they doing regarding Iran-Contra? Was Whitehead still remaining sort of off the ...

GROSSMAN: Like every division of labor between Secretary and Deputy Secretary, you can imagine something as important as Iran-Contra went to the Secretary. And my recollection is that we stayed pretty well focused on what we were trying to do.

Q: I can’t remember if I asked before but were you getting anything from State Department or CIA or something, I’m talking about Eastern Europe but also about the Soviet Union, that the Soviet Union was not the 10-foot giant or something like that?

GROSSMAN: No, the only time I had ever really heard that argument was when I was at NATO. I told you the story of Murray Feshbach at NATO, Lord Carrington’s Sovietologist-in-Residence.

Q: Well then, is there anything else we should cover during this Whitehead period?

GROSSMAN: Well, I think we’ve talked about Eastern Europe.

Q: Yes. Oh, what was your impression of, from your perspective, of the various Bureaus? I’m sure that people were saying “Oh, this Bureau or that or some were really, really producing, others weren’t or some of the individuals.” Can you give some feel for that? Let’s take the European Bureau.

GROSSMAN: I think generally one of the interesting things about the way the institution operates is that for all of the people who work in the building, from the Seventh Floor you sometimes have the impression—and I know it may not be the right of impression, but you sometimes have the impression—that there are only a small number of people who are trying to get something done each day that’s new. One of the challenges of the Foreign Service and of the Civil Service is that there are so many people who get trapped in the molasses. Everybody gets trapped in the molasses a little bit, but there are people who just get beaten down by the bureaucracy and the clearances and the turf fighting. It takes immense strength to keep your head above this molasses. I learned to have a certain number of insurance agents around in the Department. When I was with Whitehead, and later when I was Executive Secretary, if I had a memo to the Secretary or to D or to any Principal, and 30 people had cleared it, I was almost certain that nobody had actually read that memo between me and the person who drafted it—because 30 people could not actually have given their full attention to this memo. So what I would do is I would look down the 30 and I’d see if there are any of my insurance agents on there, people I knew were committed to making sure the Secretary got the right thing or that the job got done and, if I saw a couple of names, I was then prepared to read it and move it on. And if there were none of those names, I was sure that 30 people had not added value to this product and we would have to go and test the propositions.

Q: Well did you find that the molasses, was this more turf battles or … ?

GROSSMAN: No, it is a question of leadership. You asked me about the European Bureau; Roz Ridgeway was the head of the European Bureau at that time, they couldn’t have been any more purposeful, in terms of what they were doing with Russia, certainly in terms of the relationship they had with us on Eastern Europe, what they were doing in NATO. The people in EUR, led by Ambassador Ridgeway, were key figures in the Department. This was because they came to work every day saying, “What can we get done today?” And so I was always very impressed with them.

Q: Did Whitehead take a ... did the administrative side of the Department, how did he work on that?

GROSSMAN: He did. I’ve talked about the D Committee. He also tried hard to organize public support for increased budgets for the Department. He helped organize public education groups to support more funds. He spoke out for increases often. But he also believed that the Department needed to work more effectively if we were going to be able to make the argument that budget should be increased. He created an office attached to D to try to meld money and policy. Skip Boyce and Bob Bauerlien were in charge of that unit. He took a lot of interested in some specific management issues. It was the time of the Moscow Embassy bugging and so how to build a new Moscow Embassy were very much on his mind. He wanted to bring new technologies to our work: he encouraged the consular bureau to accept credit cards for payments for passport and visa fees. As I have already related, it was a time of terrible controversy about housing at the United Nations and we tried really hard to solve that problem. There was also the issue, that was the time when there was the new Inspector General; the Inspector General Act had gotten passed, and so it was no longer possible to have only a career Foreign Service Officer as an Inspector General. So we were very heavily involved in the hiring of Sherman Funk, who was the first non-Foreign Service Officer to be Inspector General of the Department.

In his private capacity, Whitehead was a very generous donor to the then curator of the Department’s Diplomatic Reception Rooms, (Clement Ellis) Clem Conger’s, Eighth Floor project. In fact, he donated the money for his own office to be refurbished after he left. I can remember Clem coming on a number of occasions after the election in whatever year it would be, after President Bush 41 was elected, and he kept saying, “Okay, Mr. Whitehead, I need to get on refurbishing the D office, when are you going to move out? And Whitehead would say to him, “Clem, I gave you the money and I’m staying here until the 20th of January at noon. At 12:01 you can come here and do whatever you want.” And that’s exactly what happened. They packed up all that beautiful art and at 12:01 I can remember them coming in, these guys in protective suits, who started to tear the place apart because of all the asbestos. So the Deputy Secretary’s office as it exists today was funded by Whitehead while he was Deputy Secretary of State.




FROM The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project (ADST)


image Ambassador Marc Grossman is a Vice Chairman of The Cohen Group. A US Foreign Service Officer for 29 years, he retired in 2005 as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. The ambassador was the US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2011-2012, and a Kissinger Senior Fellow at Yale in 2013. The author thanks Hannah Hudson for her support on this essay.

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