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Fighting Where the “Wango-Wango Bird Couldn’t Get”—U.S. Diplomats and the Ecuador-Peru Boundary Dispute

In 1895, the United States intervened in a long-standing border dispute between Great Britain and Venezuela, forcing its resolution—and forcing Great Britain to implicitly recognize the Monroe Doctrine’s legitimacy. In doing so, the United States inaugurated a more interventionist foreign policy in Latin America, one characterized by Teddy Roosevelt’s “big stick.” Throughout the twentieth century, […]

“Open Space at the Top of the World”—Defending the Thule Air Force Base in Greenland and Denmark

The purview of an ambassador in a U.S. embassy extends beyond the geographical borders of their host nation and into the intricate global network shaped by the country’s history. In some countries, this may involve regional tensions and instabilities.In others, it may entail navigation of long-standing border disputes. For others still, an ambassador takes on […]

A Bum Rap for April Glaspie — Saddam and the Start of the Iraq War

In the summer of 1990, concerns were growing that Saddam Hussein, who was massing troops near the border with Kuwait, was preparing an all-out invasion. U.S. Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie met with Saddam Hussein on July 25, 1990 to convey the United States’ position. While she did not have a demarche from Washington, she reiterated […]

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 […]

Rivalry in the Southeast: Preah Vihear Temple Dispute Between Cambodia and Thailand

Foreign Service Officer Thomas Donohue served in both continental and archipelagic Southeast Asia during a tumultuous period in which countries in the region and other parts of the globe were breaking away from European colonial powers. He witnessed first-hand the complex relations among regional countries. During his assignment in Cambodia from 1962 to 1964, both […]

The Politics of Water in the Middle East: U.S. “Good Offices” Mediation Between Jordan and Israel

For countries in the Jordan River Basin, water is a life-or-death matter. Disagreements and even armed skirmishes over water issues between Israel and Arab states played an important role in the lead-up to the 1967 Six Day War.  A decade later, USAID Foreign Service Officer Selig Taubenblatt found himself mediating long-standing water disagreements between Israel […]

North Yemen: Ambassador to a Divided Land

Yemen has experienced violence and poverty in recent decades, but for centuries was a pivotal crossroads for trade and travel. Once the center of civilization, commerce and wealth on the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen prospered through agriculture and the cultivation and marketing of spices and aromatics. In the twentieth century, Yemen was cleaved in two separate nations […]