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A Not-So-Quiet Arrival in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) must constantly be on alert for security threats, which can sneak up during the most unexpected times. Oftentimes when FSOs arrive at a new post, they may expect to be greeted by friendly faces who are ready to welcome them to their new country.

The 1975 AIA Building Hostage Crisis in Kuala Lumpur (2017) | Huffington Post
The 1975 AIA Building Hostage Crisis in Kuala Lumpur (2017) | Huffington Post

However, even these simple, lively occasions can quickly turn catastrophic.

William (Scott) Butcher arrived to join the political section at the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in August of 1975. Upon stepping off the plane, he received news that the Japanese Red Army (JRA) had taken over part of the American Insurance Associates (AIA) building in Kuala Lumpur. The building was home to several diplomatic missions, including the U.S. Embassy. Immediately, Scott began closely following negotiations to release those being held hostage and subsequently reporting to Washington about the evolving situation. All the while, he was navigating his own transition into the political section.

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Fighting the War on Drugs with Bus Stops and Law Books: USAID in Bolivia

As the Cold War died down, U.S. assistance to Latin America shifted focus to a new war: the war on drugs. For many, the TV show Narcos, the story of Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar and the dramatic showdown that led to his demise, summarizes this new focus of U.S. foreign policy—and emphasizes the role of the Central Intelligence Agency and the Drug Enforcement Agency. But Narcos doesn’t tell the whole story.

Coca fields in the highlands in Yungas, Bolivia | Wikimedia Commons
Coca fields in the highlands in Yungas, Bolivia | Wikimedia Commons

Militarized interventions characterized the war on drugs throughout the 1970s and 1980s, but the Clinton administration attempted to shift that policy in the early 1990s. Instead of focusing on drug interdiction in the Caribbean basin, the United States would work to reduce coca production and develop anti-drug institutions in source countries like Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia, even as military assistance to Latin American countries continued. Reflecting the Clinton administration’s new philosophy, though, the U.S. Agency for International Development played a strong role in promoting the rule of law and encouraging coca growers to plant alternative crops.

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Keeping the Skies Open: Defending the Open Skies Treaty

The checkered history between Russia and the United States was arguably the most transformational relationship for world events in the second half of the twentieth century. The ideological struggle between communism and capitalism waged under the dark cloud of potential nuclear annihilation led to the development of several arms control agreements like the SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks) and START (Strategic Arms Reduction) treaties.

US, Russia, and EU Flags, Wikimedia Commons
US, Russia, and EU Flags, Wikimedia Commons

These treaties were meant to better report, monitor, and sometimes limit the amount or types of nuclear weapons that the countries could possess. The Open Skies Treaty is another example of an arms control treaty oriented more towards the control and transparency of both nuclear and conventional forces in Europe, Russia, and the United States.

The use of dated camera technology became a hot button issue that could potentially derail this important arms control treaty that allows all nations to view the positions of military forces and facilities. During this time, Greg Delawie served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance at the State Department. He was in charge of making sure the United States and other signatories to the treaties upheld their commitments. To do this, Delawie had to navigate unfamiliar technology and continuously defend the treaty both from those within the U.S. government that believed the treaty should no longer exist as well as from Russian threats to pull out of the agreement. Here is his story . . . .

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The Historic Roots of China-Africa Cooperation

The African continent is often seen as a land of paradoxes. Although it possesses many natural resources and extremely fertile land, many of its citizens remain underfed. Multiple Western development initiatives have tried to take on this challenge, but a majority of the African population still lives in poverty.

China in Africa (2014) | www.Futureatlas.com
China in Africa (2014) | www.Futureatlas.com

Because of this, a rising sentiment within the African populace has risen against Western development aid. China has been able to exploit such anti-Western leanings by implementing its own development project called “the belt and road initiative,” proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2014.

However, the growing Chinese presence in Africa is very controversial, and the real objectives of the belt and road initiative are increasingly being questioned. Some U.S. policymakers and others in academia even see the possibility of Chinese neocolonialism budding in Africa. Yet, the discussion on the role of China in Africa is not new. During the Cold War, U.S. agencies were already closely following Chinese activities in Africa, a region long considered to be strategically important to U.S. interests. It’s therefore interesting to examine how U.S. foreign policy toward China has been in the past, and how possible U.S. inaction may have led to the growing Chinese influence on the African continent.

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Was King Abdullah II’s Ascension to the Throne Key to the Success of USAID in Jordan?

The 1990s were a decade marked with intensive peace negotiations between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Although many efforts stalled, there was one exception: in 1994, Jordan’s King Hussein and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin signed a treaty that ended the state of war between both countries.

i.e. Prince Abdullah with his father King Hussein (1964) Angelo Cozzi (Mondadori Publisher) | Wikimedia Commons
i.e. Prince Abdullah with his father King Hussein (1964) Angelo Cozzi (Mondadori Publisher) | Wikimedia Commons

After years of fighting, Hussein’s life-long dream became reality and the survival of Jordan as a sovereign country was secured.

Three years later, after Jamal Al Jibiri had taken up a position at the U.S. Embassy as a Foreign Service National in the Economic Growth Office in Jordan, he learned that, as part of the peace process, the U.S. government had set aside $100 million for USAID in Jordan. He—as well as Economic Growth Director Jon Lindborg—had to rethink all of the economic growth engagement in the country. First up was a project called “Access to Micro Financing Implementation and Policy Reform.” Other projects soon followed.

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Saving the Special Courts of Kosovo at Christmas

The nation of Kosovo is one of the youngest nations in Europe. It has had to overcome ethnic tensions and political corruption to pursue a path towards becoming a developed nation.

Flag of Kosovo, Wikimedia Commons
Flag of Kosovo, Wikimedia Commons

As U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo, Greg Delawie sought to promote U.S. interests in Kosovo, which included further economic development of the country, elimination of corruption, and most importantly, recognition and upholding of human rights.

This last goal is particularly important to U.S. interests and the continuation of close U.S.-Kosovar diplomatic ties. The violent birth of the country following the Balkan conflicts and the breakup of Yugoslavia saw many war crimes committed on all sides. The Special Courts of Kosovo, also known as the Kosovo Courts, were established to help meet the U.S. goal of recognizing and establishing human rights through the prosecution of the war criminals who were responsible for committing these crimes. The court is funded by the Kosovo government, and is responsible for maintaining the court’s operation. This “Moment” in U.S. diplomatic history begins right before Christmas 2017. Read more

Economic Diplomacy and the Private Sector: Helping IBM Expand into Latin America

In 1984 Donald Lyman left the State Department after seven years of service. Although it was a brief stint compared to many Foreign Service Officers, Lyman did not spend that time mulling around. He built relationships with prominent U.S. and foreign figures and became familiar with foreign commercial and political processes.

IBM logo (1972) IBM  | Wikimedia
IBM logo (1972) IBM | Wikimedia

This type of expertise is important. For example, if a private company wants to do business abroad, people like him can serve as key allies. As more and more private businesses try to push their production and sales internationally, they need to develop working relationships with the countries in which they want to be involved.

In the United States, it’s nothing new for private businesses to operate in foreign markets; in fact, it has been going on since the nineteenth century, if not earlier. At that time, the rapidly growing economic and industrial base combined with a U.S. foreign policy based on the expansion of commercial interests made it only natural that business leaders played a large role. This was further compounded when the U.S. dropped protectionist policies at home after World War II, allowing businesses to more easily expand their supply chains abroad.

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The Other Side of the Fence—The Spouse’s Experience of the Nairobi Bombing

As Richard A. Buckley watched the uncensored footage of the remains of what was just earlier the U.S. Embassy Nairobi building, a feeling of complete despair washed over him. With limited information, all he knew at that moment was that his wife, Ambassador Prudence Bushnell, had been at the embassy that day and was either in grave danger or worse.

The U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in the aftermath of the August 7, 1998, al-Qaida suicide bombing.jpg (1998) DS Records | Wikimedia
The U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in the aftermath of the August 7, 1998, al-Qaida suicide bombing.jpg (1998) DS Records | Wikimedia

Being a spouse to a Foreign Service Officer can come with a variety of challenges and unique experiences. While Buckley knew he could handle this lifestyle, this incident in particular was nothing he had ever expected or prepared for. The terrorist bombing on the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya in 1998 left twelve Americans dead and approximately four thousand people injured, including Buckley’s wife, Ambassador Bushnell, who miraculously survived the deadly explosion. Richard A. Buckley recounts this horrific event in the perspective of not only a Foreign Service Officer spouse, but also provides us insight on the terrifying experience of almost losing a loved one.

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Some Like it Hot — U.S. Diplomats Negotiate Spicy Foreign Foods

The chemical compound capsaicin is responsible for the spice and heat in spicy dishes. While particular plants, peppers, and vegetables evolved to produce capsaicin as a defence mechanism against hungry mammals, humans have developed a liking for the sensation that this fiery compound creates. Many cuisines across the globe use a variety of spices and blends to create the delicious dishes we know and love today.

Chili peppers from Dzoraghbyur village, Armenia (2019) Author: Narek75 |  Wikimedia Commons
Chili peppers from Dzoraghbyur village, Armenia (2019) Author: Narek75 | Wikimedia Commons

Paprika, chili peppers, cumin, coriander, garlic, and ginger are just a few of the spices and herbs that have been combined in a variety of ways to produce the most delicious curries, sauces, chilis, and soups.

Certain countries and regions have become known for their delicious and face-numbingly spicy food. Szechuan, China is known for its bold flavors, while India is renowned for its hot vegetarian dishes. It comes as no surprise that many travelers around the world make a point to try spicy local dishes whenever visiting a new country or city.

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