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One Size Fits None—U.S. Reform Dilemmas in South Africa

One reform to fix them all. What could be more ideal than this? Unfortunately, such a dream will forever lie beyond the reach of policymakers. The potential reality of the matter is that each problem is the unique culmination of various challenges and difficulties, which in turn requires an equally unique solution for true resolution.

USAID Visual Identity with Logo and Brandmark (2004) U.S. Government | Wikimedia
USAID Visual Identity with Logo and Brandmark (2004) U.S. Government | Wikimedia

In this “moment” in U.S. diplomatic history, we see that this is particularly evident in the case of South Africa towards the end of the twentieth century, an area that Robert S. Brent worked on very closely during the early stages of his career with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Even on the matter of apartheid, Brent witnessed the dissonances of domestic opinions tear Assistant Secretary Chester Crocker apart as his policy of constructivist engagement was repeatedly challenged on both sides of the political spectrum.

On the other hand, and perhaps more importantly, were the perceptions of policy when it came to subsequent economic reform. Indeed, although Brent spent a significant amount of time reflecting on the applicability of the East Asian model of economic reform, the closest that USAID ever got was encouraging private sector development; even though such policy worked well in Korea, Taiwan, and Japan before, there was resistance from South Africa. Not only because the host country officials did not want to follow such a route, but also—as Brent describes in detail—the prerequisite conditions did not necessarily match such an approach well enough to be truly effective. At one point, Brent finds himself asking, “What is the role of foreign aid?” But based on his experiences, perhaps we should be asking ourselves a different question: “Does our infrastructure have ample flexibility to successfully address any dilemma?”

Prior to joining USAID in 1986, Brent served in the U.S. Navy for six years. He has additionally worked in Egypt as a USAID Human Resources Associate Mission Director, as well as in the United States as the Director of the Center for Development Information and Evaluation at USAID. Following his retirement from the organization, Brent has taken up a position as a Professor at the National Defense University in Washington D.C. teaching Chinese Economics.

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After Dayton: Post-Conflict Reconstruction in Bosnia

The Dayton Accords peace agreement represents one of the most pivotal of its time. Signed on November 21, 1995 at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, the accords brought a negotiated end to years of brutal conflict. But just as the road to the Dayton Accords had been filled with stumbling blocks, the subsequent implementation would also be filled with challenges, as evidenced by the experiences of Ambassador Robert M. Beecroft.

The musician Vedran Smailović plays the cello among the ruins of the National Library in Sarajevo (1992) Mikhail Evstafiev | Wikimedia Commons
The musician Vedran Smailović plays the cello among the ruins of the National Library in Sarajevo (1992) Mikhail Evstafiev | Wikimedia Commons

In 1996, Beecroft arrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina as one of the many members of the international community responsible for aiding in post-conflict reconstruction in the region. The lessons he learned in Bosnia would stay with him for his entire career.

One of the challenges of bringing peace to Bosnia and Herzegovina was the complicated nature of the conflict that had emerged there. Following the collapse of communism in Europe, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was beset with myriad economic and political ills. Rising nationalism in the republics led to secessions in 1991 and 1992. The splintering began when two of its republics, Slovenia and Croatia, declared their independence. In 1992, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence. Ultimately, only the republics of Serbia and Montenegro remained, forming the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Tragically, the dismantling of Yugoslavia would give rise to one of Europe’s most devastating conflicts.

Within Bosnia, the three main ethnic and religious groups were Orthodox Serbs, Bosniak Muslims, and Croat Catholics, with Bosniaks being the largest group. In 1992, Bosnia held a referendum for independence from Yugoslavia, which was highly unpopular with the republic’s Serbian population. In response, the Bosnian Serbs declared their own republic within Bosnia and began to take over territory. The Bosnian Croats also declared a republic. As Bosnian Serb forces attacked the capital of Sarajevo and majority-Bosniak towns, they ethnically cleansed Bosniak civilians, subjecting women to a campaign of mass rape. In July 1995, Serb forces attacked the city of Srebrenica, which had been designated as a safe haven by the United Nations. UN peacekeepers failed to stop them from storming the city, where they massacred over 8,000 Bosniak men and boys. The Srebrenica genocide and other atrocities shocked the international community, and NATO intervened with airstrikes. With the fighting subdued by NATO and a ceasefire in place, the international community moved ahead with a plan for peace. But by the time of the intervention, over 100,000 people had been killed, and about two million—about half the population—had been displaced.

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The State Department Under the Red Scare: McCarthy’s Campaign

The inauspicious rise of Joseph McCarthy began in 1950, when the Wisconsin senator was asked to give a speech at the Ohio County Republican Women’s Club. Until then McCarthy had had a mediocre political career. But that day, despite the humble venue, he managed to give a speech that would catapult him to new heights of political influence. In his speech, McCarthy alleged that he had a list of 205 State Department employees who were known members of the Communist Party yet were still working for the Department.

John Foster Dulles, U.S. Secretary of State, Photograph by the U.S. Department of State, Wikipedia
John Foster Dulles, U.S. Secretary of State, Photograph by the U.S. Department of State, Wikipedia

McCarthy’s accusation, though baseless and fictitious, stirred up deeply-held fears of many Americans in the Cold War era. The idea that communists were “shaping the policy of the State Department,” as McCarthy claimed, terrified Americans who had been conditioned to be constantly weary of the threat of Soviet expansionism.

In the years before the rise of McCarthy, President Truman had created the Federal Employee Loyalty Program, which investigated potentially disloyal government employees. The Republican-led House Un-American Activities Committee had already been involved in many highly publicized cases against well-known entertainers who supposedly harbored communist sympathies. But McCarthy’s constant baseless accusations created a chaotic witch hunt that made many government employees, particularly Foreign Service officers, feel constantly threatened.

By the early 1950s, the public mood towards diplomats had soured. Some Foreign Service officers felt they were being punished whenever they reported events that politicians did not want to hear. Things worsened in 1952, when McCarthy became head of the Committee of Government Operations, allowing him to create constant bogus investigations. McCarthy even targeted high-level statesmen who had long been respected in the world of foreign policy, like George Marshall (the architect of the Marshall Plan), and Dean Acheson, the secretary of State, who he accused of having failed to prevent China from becoming communist. To make things worse, McCarthy also began pushing LGBT+ employees out of their positions, accusing them of being subversive and susceptible to blackmail. It seemed like no one was safe. Although McCarthy never unearthed any actual instances of disloyalty, his accusations destroyed the careers of many FSOs. He held such sway over American politics that even President Eisenhower was fearful of contradicting him. In 1954, McCarthy began targeting the U.S Army. These attacks would ultimately result in his fall from grace, causing him to lose the support of many Americans. Still, the damage had been done. Despite only having been in power for a few short years, McCarthy caused irreparable damage to the careers and lives of many Foreign Service Officers.

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Money for Secrets: Making a Deal with a KGB Agent

Benedict Arnold. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Mir Jafar. All of these individuals have something in common: they all betrayed their countries. Even with the passage of time, an air of notoriety still clings to their names.

Defection occurs in all countries and is fueled by the desire for money, power, or fame. Defection can also be the result of ideological opposition to the national government and its policies.

Emblem of the KGB, jgaray | commons.wikimedia.org
Emblem of the KGB, jgaray | commons.wikimedia.org

The KGB—the foreign intelligence and domestic security service of the Soviet Union, and the precursor to the modern-day FSB—found a number of defectors among its ranks. Deepening ideological disagreements with the Soviet system coupled with the growing curiosity of the prospect of starting a life elsewhere caused some agents to start working for the West.

In this “Moment” in U.S. diplomatic history, we see that Yuri Nosenko was one of these individuals. In 1962, he approached FSO David E. Mark, who did a temporary assignment for the CIA a few years prior. In addition to offering confidential Soviet information, Nosenko also claimed to be able to provide useful intelligence about Lee Harvey Oswald, who lived in the Soviet Union prior to assassinating President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

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Did President Clinton Try to Renounce his U.S. Citizenship?—Investigating the Presidential Scandal

The Vietnam War was one of the most contentious political issues in the United States during the 1960s and early 1970s. Anti-war protests calling for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces erupted from coast to coast and only intensified with time. The protests were led by frustrated college students who, being of the legal draft age, were the group most directly affected by the war in the United States.

Official White House photo of President Bill Clinton, President of the United States (January 1993) Bob McNeely | wikipedia.org
Official White House photo of President Bill Clinton, President of the United States (January 1993) Bob McNeely | wikipedia.org

Between 1964 and 1973, the U.S. military drafted 2.2 million men between the ages of eighteen and twenty-six. The implementation of a draft only further reinforced the anti-war sentiment. Many young men who opposed the war viewed the draft as a death sentence, and found it unfair to be forced to fight for a cause in which they did not believe.

To avoid being drafted, some young men devised clever ways to prevent their dispatch overseas. Thousands took refuge in other countries, the most popular destination being Canada. Others purposely failed their aptitude tests or registered for the National Guard in order to avoid being drafted for a more perilous branch of the military. While young men took part in these different attempts to dodge the draft, forms of direct resistance, such as protesting, raged on in the background.

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National Elections Under Protest

As the United States watches its 2020 election season drag on longer than most presidential elections, the highly charged partisan domestic environment raises concerns over possible protest against the final results. It is an illustration that paints the twenty-first century very well; this century has become an early indicator of electoral revolutions. From across the Atlantic to the Old World, history provides several examples of protest against controversial elections of leaders fighting to maintain the status quo. These elections were remembered for electoral malfeasance, popular reactions often marked by public protests, and by the government’s response.

Demonstrators spending the night in front of the Georgian Parliament in Tbilisi, 23 November 2003. Zaraza | Wikipedia
Demonstrators spending the night in front of the Georgian Parliament in Tbilisi, 23 November 2003. Zaraza | Wikipedia

In Eastern Europe, two “color” revolutions in the new century come to mind. In 2003 Georgia, which had been suffering from economic mismanagement and government corruption, the Rose Revolution began with widespread protests over the disputed parliamentary elections. The International Election Observation Mission led by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) discovered electoral fraud—such as stark differences between official and unofficial vote counts—and concluded that the elections fell short of OSCE and international standards. When President Eduard Shevardnadze refused to void the results and, later, refused to resign from office, it sparked a twenty-day revolution from anti-government protestors led by opposition parties like Mikheil Saakashvili’s National Movement. Opposition parties took the revolution’s leadership role, increasing the support against the Shevardnadze government.

President Shevardnadze’s position proved fragile. As a special negotiator for Eurasian conflicts, Ambassador Rudolf V. Perina, in an interview with ADST, described President Shevardnadze as being widely unpopular with an unhappy Georgian population. His popularity rating was significantly low, and he had lost the confidence of the people. The country was facing a revolution standoff between non-violent anti-government protesters and the military. The central streets of Tbilisi witnessed campaigns of civil disobedience, and Kmara, a youth organization, became a key factor for non-violent protests and government reform. The government sent soldiers to suppress the unrest, but as the revolution carried on, more and more people—including eventually the soldiers—joined the movement. By nightfall on November 23, the government lost its right for authority, and more than 100,000 protestors celebrated as Shevardnadze penned his letter of resignation. This paved the way for a new government under Saakashvili.

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Nettling the New Guard—PNGed out of Singapore

Singapore’s story of economic success under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew has catapulted the nation to the status of a role model for development. After expulsion from Malaysia, the nascent republic entered into an era of rapid economic transformation, eventually becoming a major business hub for Asia and the world. While the city-state leverages considerable soft power in terms of its values and economic freedom, it draws some skepticism for the undisturbed dominance of its ruling party.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis walks with Chargé d’Affaires Stephanie Syptak-Ramnath during a visit to the U.S. Embassy in Singapore (2017) Jim Mattis | Wikimedia Commons
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis walks with Chargé d’Affaires Stephanie Syptak-Ramnath during a visit to the U.S. Embassy in Singapore (2017) Jim Mattis | Wikimedia Commons

The People’s Action Party (PAP) has held a firm majority in Singapore’s parliament since its inception; it has single-handedly directed the course of the nation from its independence to the current day. Singapore’s opposition parties have never succeeded in challenging the PAP, and the country has been politically stable as a result.

In 1988, Singapore’s opposition parties attempted to chip away at the PAP’s majority in the elections. Francis Seow, under the Workers’ Party, mounted a campaign for a parliament constituency and lost only by a slim margin; however, the events preceding the vote are of special interest. The Singaporean government accused U.S. Foreign Service Officer Hank Hendrickson of participating in a Marxist plot to strengthen the opposition, and charged him with arranging a meeting between Seow and U.S. officials; the government subsequently detained Seow and declared Hendrickson persona non grata (PNG), meaning that he would be expelled from the country and prohibited from re-entry.

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