Your browser (Internet Explorer 7 or lower) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.

X

Reiterating Strong Support for the Democratic Process

The ADST team joins many others in the foreign affairs community in condemning recent attacks on our democracy and welcoming the upcoming peaceful transfer of power. As current or former diplomats, we swore a sacred oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

U.S. Capitol Building
U.S. Capitol Building

This includes respecting the results of free and fair elections whereby the people select who will and who won’t govern. The shameful violence and desecration that broke out on January 6, 2021, in our capital—and the threats to congressional leaders, the vice president, governors and state officials—should never happen again.

American diplomats have experienced many such moments overseas in foreign terrorist and mob attacks such as those on U.S. diplomatic staff and facilities in Iran, Libya, Tanzania, and many others. And, they have witnessed successful and unsuccessful insurrections against fledgling and established democracies. Always, with a sense of commitment and duty, they work hard all over the world to bolster and support democracy and democratic institutions. At this critical time, as we reflect on how to strengthen our democratic traditions and processes, we at ADST have compiled a few “moments” of hope from our archives of U.S. diplomatic history to share with our members and our readership:

Read more

Getting a Global Education as a Foreign Service Family

Having a global education is a unique privilege; however, it may become difficult to balance. Foreign Service Officers often take their families abroad when called to duty. Their spouses either work in the host country or stay behind and take care of their children. The children typically attend American or international schools in the host country, learn what it means to be part of its culture, and grow up as “third culture” kids.

U.S. Embassy New Delhi, 27 April 2011, Wikimedia Commons
U.S. Embassy New Delhi, 27 April 2011, Wikimedia Commons

Margaret Kerr is the spouse of a Foreign Service Officer. As a mother of four, traveling the world served as the greatest form of education, not just for herself, but for her children. She accompanied her husband to four different posts: New Delhi, India; Tokyo, Japan; Tehran, Iran; and Rangoon, Burma (Myanmar). In an interview with ADST, she said that “children were the best entrée to these other cultures you could have, which is why I urged people with children to go into the Foreign Service.” Every country served a purpose, each had a unique education system providing a different outlook on the world.

For her—as it is for many spouses in the Foreign Service—children were a priority. Although life as a Foreign Service spouse offers opportunities to stay abroad, they are not all easy to take. Sometimes “trailing” spouses have to make difficult decisions regarding the future of their children or family, which sometimes conflicts with the career positions the primary FSO has to take. Margaret had to make one of those decisions for herself when her husband was sent abroad again—this time to South Korea—while she remained behind with the children.

Read more

A Fragile Peace: The Aftermath of the Sri Lankan Civil War

One of the greatest challenges in a diplomat’s career is serving in a country that is trying to rebuild after a brutal conflict. Although it is possible to repair infrastructure, rebuilding trust between communities is a much greater challenge. This was the case when Patricia Butenis arrived in Colombo, Sri Lanka as the U.S ambassador.

Members of the Tamil diaspora protest in Paris, France in 2007 | Protests in Paris, 2007 (2007) Nelson Minar | Flickr
Members of the Tamil diaspora protest in Paris, France in 2007 | Protests in Paris, 2007 (2007) Nelson Minar | Flickr

While Butenis had served in other places that were experiencing or recovering from conflicts, she learned that the civil war in Sri Lanka had been massively devastating, and that it would take an enormous amount of work to rebuild the country and heal society.

In the years after Sri Lanka’s independence from the British, ethnic and religious tensions began to foment between the country’s Buddhist Sinhalese majority and Tamil minority. Many Sinhalese felt that the British colonial administration had unfairly favored the Tamil in the political realm. Later, attempts to make Sinhalese the official language angered the Tamil population. In 1983, the Tamil Tigers insurgent group attacked a Sri Lankan army patrol, triggering anti-Tamil riots in Colombo. The Tamil Tigers began battling the Sri Lankan military, in hopes of creating an independent Tamil state in the country’s north. The war would last 26 years, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 100,000 people, and the displacement of countless more. The war ended in 2009 after the Sri Lankan army killed the leader of the Tamil Tigers and crushed the insurgency. However, the end of the war came at a devastating human cost, with large numbers of civilians caught in the violent battles that marked the war’s conclusion.

As ambassador, Pat Butenis was responsible for implementing U.S policy in Sri Lanka, which encouraged reconciliation between the Sinhalese and Tamil communities. However, given that the war had shattered intercommunal relationships and trust, this was easier said than done. This contention played out in the controversy over IDP [Internally Displaced Persons] camps in the country’s north, which were largely populated with Tamil civilians. Although the war had ended, the trauma of the conflict still loomed large in these camps. The Sri Lankan government initially wanted to strictly regulate the camps and prevent freedom of movement for IDPs, while human rights groups advocated for Tamil residents to return to their villages.

Read more