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Negotiating the End of the Yom Kippur War

Israel’s resounding victory in the Six-Day War of 1967 left the Arab states humiliated and looking to regain the swathes of territory they had lost. On October 6, 1973, Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, Egyptian and Syrian forces attacked Israeli positions in the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights, shocking Israel and the United States.

The Egyptian and Syrian militaries had performed maneuvers in the months leading up to the initial strike against Israel, but they were not seen as a threat. As fighting continued, the United States worked to arrange a ceasefire agreement acceptable to both Israel and the Arab states. Read more

Trouble in the Mountains: The Sino-Indian War, 1962

When two powerful countries cannot agree on the location of their shared borders, there is trouble. Such was the case with China and India in October 1962. China and India had long disputed ownership of the Aksai Chin, a mountain pass that connects Tibet to China’s Xinjiang province on the western side.  On the eastern border, China and India battled over the territory of the North East Frontier Area (NEFA).

China’s incursions into these disputed areas, including the construction of a highway in Aksai Chin, led Indian President Jawaharlal Nehru to increase the number of troops patrolling the region. Indian troops soon advanced beyond the disputed borders, creating outposts in Chinese territory.

Chinese response was swift. On October 20, 1962, Chinese forces invaded Aksai Chin, a part of Kashmir, and the NEFA simultaneously, capturing both regions and driving back Indian ground forces. This action marked the beginning of the Sino-Indian War, fought at an altitude of 14,000 feet.

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The Yom Kippur War — An Evacuation of the Ungrateful

Consular officers must sometimes go to extraordinary lengths to ensure the safety and well-being of Americans overseas. One such officer was Dean Dizikes, who orchestrated the evacuation of 450 Americans from Egypt during the Yom Kippur War. On October 6, 1973, Arab coalition forces attacked Israeli-held territory, and Israel swiftly retaliated. American citizens in Arab countries were in danger of being caught in the crossfire, and Dizikes was sent from the U.S. Embassy in Athens to extract American tourists from Alexandria. Surprisingly, one of the biggest challenges he faced in bringing Americans to safety was the behavior of the Americans themselves. Read more

What’s the Beef with Our Chicken? The Fight over Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy

While it is widely recognized that the Cold War was a time of heavy diplomatic involvement and trials, few are familiar with another ongoing transatlantic war during the same period:  The Chicken War.

The 1957 Treaty of Rome created the European Economic Community, which strived to create an open market throughout Europe. Among this treaty’s pinnacle contributions was the establishment of a common agricultural policy (CAP), which would establish agricultural subsidies for member countries, as well eliminate internal tariffs. Today, CAP is still one of the European Union’s most highly debated policies. Read more

Picking Up the Pieces After Black Hawk Down

The State Department dispatched Richard Bogosian to Somalia to repair political and diplomatic damage following an attempt to rescue crews of two U.S. Black Hawk helicopters. The military aircraft were shot down during a fight between forces loyal to Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid and U.S. Army Rangers October 3-4, 1993.  The operation to secure the crew turned into the Battle in Mogadishu, resulting in  serious American losses: 18 deaths, 73 wounded and one captured.  It marked the first time in American broadcasting history that networks showed footage of battered corpses of U.S. soldiers on television, an event portrayed in the film Black Hawk Down.

The political crisis raged on despite the best efforts of the United Nations, but the United States continued to respond to the humanitarian needs of the Somali people, providing a significant source of bilateral aid.

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Congo in Crisis: The Rise and Fall of Katangan Secession

When the Republic of the Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) became independent from Belgium in June 1960, the new country immediately descended into a political chaos known as the “Congo Crisis.” The arbitrary boundaries drawn by Colonial powers combined with leftover racial tensions and general uncertainty led to violence along racial lines and widespread mutiny in the Belgian-led army. Belgian troops sent in to protect Belgian citizens clashed with Congolese forces, leading to the U.N. ordering the Belgian forces out of the country.

On July 11, 1960, less than two weeks after the country formally gained independence, a politician named Moise Tshombe declared the southernmost province of the Congo to be an independent nation called the State of Katanga. Katanga, with its copperbelt and lucrative mining operations was the wealthiest province of the Congo. The Belgians, French, and British, wanting influence in the wealthy region, supported the Katanga movement in practice, if not in name. Read more

The Sabra and Shatila Massacre

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) had invaded Lebanon in June 1982 with the goal of pushing out the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). After newly-elected President Bashir Gemayel was assassinated on September 14th, the IDF invaded West Beirut, which included the Sabra neighborhood and the Shatila refugee camp, which predominately housed Muslim refugees. The IDF ordered their allies in Lebanon, the Kataeb Party (also called the Phalange), a right-wing Maronite Christian party, to clear the area of PLO militants to facilitate the IDF advance.

On the night of September 16th, Phalange militants entered the camp and began to massacre refugees. The killing continued throughout the night until a halt was called by the IDF the next day. Read more

Establishing Relations with the Holy See

The Catholic Church has been a political force in Europe for more than a millennium and more than a fifth of all Americans were either raised or are practicing Catholics. Bilateral ties with the Papal States were established in 1848 but lapsed in 1867, in large part because of increasing anti-Catholic sentiment in the United States, which was fueled by the conviction and hanging of Mary Surratt, a Catholic who was part of the conspiracy to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln.

Re-establishing relations with the Vatican turned out to be a long and often bumpy road, as many Americans, including some Catholics, opposed bilateral ties on the grounds they would somehow undermine Constitutional separation of church and state. The United States and the Holy See finally announced the establishment of diplomatic relations on January 10, 1984 during the Reagan Administration. Read more

Little Boy Lost: The Case of Elian Gonzalez

In early 2000, the custody case surrounding Cuban child Elian Gonzalez dominated the American news cycle. Combining U.S.-Cuba immigration policies, custody issues and the 2000 American presidential campaign, the case of Elian Gonzalez became highly publicized and politicized.

The story began when the raft carrying Elian and his mother from Cuba to the U.S. sank in a storm, killing his mother and all but two other passengers. After being picked up by the Coast Guard and brought to live with relatives in the Miami area, a lengthy legal battle began. After months of publicity and legal wrangling, Elian was finally allowed on June 28, 2000 to return to Cuba in his father’s custody, after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a lower court decision that Elian was too young to file for asylum. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

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