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Stop the MADness — Arms Control and Disarmament

The end of World War II ushered in an era of intense arms competition between the Soviet Union and the United States. Both sides produced nuclear armaments and other weapons of mass destruction at increasing rates as the bipolar world order evolved, finally achieving a state known as “mutually assured destruction” or MAD. President Eisenhower initiated efforts to control the proliferation of arsenals, which ultimately led to the Arms Control and Disarmament Act, enacted September 26, 1961.

This legislation, passed by 87th Congress and signed by President John F. Kennedy, established the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA).  ACDA was designed to conduct, coordinate, and support research of the formulation for the arms control and disarmament policy, manage and prepare U.S. participation in international negotiations for arms control and disarmament and coordinate information to the public on arms control policy. Read more

Pain at the Pumps: The 1973 Oil Embargo and Its Effect on U.S. Foreign Policy

It may be a challenge for those who did not experience it to imagine a time when the supply of gas was so restricted it had to be rationed, leading to massive lines at gas stations across the country. Yet this was the situation the United States found itself in during the autumn of 1973, when an oil crisis was in full swing. The shortage was related to political developments in the Middle East resulting from the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, or as some refer to it, the Yom Kippur War.

On October 6, 1973, Egypt and Syria attacked Israel’s forces in the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights. Wanting to avoid both an Arab defeat and military intervention, the Soviets began to resupply Egypt and Syria with weapons. By October 9, following a failed Israeli Defense Forces counter-attack against Egypt’s forces, the Israelis requested that America do the same for them. Not wanting to see Israel defeated, President Nixon agreed, and American planes carrying weapons began arriving in Israel on October 14.  Read more

The Stolen Victory and Mysterious Death of Moshood Abiola

In June 1993, Chief Moshood (M.K.O.) Abiola, a Muslim businessman and philanthropist, ran for the presidency of Nigeria and appeared to win the popular vote in what was considered a free and fair election.  The vote was annulled by Nigeria’s military leader on the basis that the election was corrupt. When Abiola rallied support to claim the presidency, he was arrested for treason by the military regime led by General Sani Abacha and sent to prison for four years. Religious and human rights activists from across the globe called for his release.

In June 1998, General Abacha was found dead under mysterious circumstances.  One month later, on the day that Abiola was to be released from prison, he met with a U.S. delegation in Nigeria which included Assistant Secretary Susan Rice and Under Secretary Thomas Pickering to discuss the country’s planned transition to democratic rule. During the July 7 meeting Abiola suddenly became ill, collapsed and later died in a hospital. Some claimed he had been poisoned by members of the U.S. delegation after drinking tea during the meeting. Read more

Creating Yaounde’s First Consulate

The first official U.S. diplomatic post in Cameroon was founded in 1957 during its waning days as a United Nations trust territory. The country was divided between the French and the British; both colonial powers had been preparing their respective territories for self-rule since the end of the Second World War. With other nations, including Morocco, Libya, and Ghana having declared independence, there was confidence among the people of Cameroon that their turn would be next. In 1959, the people of British Cameroon voted to join their French counterparts to form the greater Republic of Cameroon, which was still technically under French jurisdiction. The following year the largely Muslim two-thirds of British Cameroon in the north voted to join Nigeria, while the largely Christian southern third opted to join the new republic. 

Independent elections were held for the first time, and Ahmadou Ahidjo was elected as the Republic of Cameroon’s first Prime Minister. Although Ahidjo had been a key leader in the independence movement, a political party known as the Union des Populations Camerounaises (UCP) grew impatient with the slow pace of negotiations towards full sovereignty and initiated a guerrilla war to speed up the process.  Cameroon became a sovereign nation in 1960. Read more

Julia Chang Bloch’s Whole-of-Mission Approach in Nepal

In 1990, Nepal’s centuries-long history of monarchical rule and more recent autocratic substitutes were finally brought to an end in what may consider to be one of the most notable non-violent revolutions of the twentieth century. With the death of King Mahendra in 1972, the future of Nepal’s government was uncertain. His son, King Birendra, ascended to the throne and implemented amendments to the ancient panchayat system that allotted virtually unlimited power to the monarchy.

All promises of democratic reform were abandoned by the throne, and the Nepalese people began to call for change. The Nepali Congress, a pro-democratic party formally banned by the monarchy, and the United Left Front, a coalition of socialist and Maoist political parties, agreed to campaign together in order to restore the kind of multiparty democracy Nepal possessed in the 1950s, so long as both parties could hold seats in the new Congress after the revolution was over. Read more

Survivor of Two Concentration Camps, U.S. Ambassador to Three Countries

Robert Gerhard Neumann (1916–1999), seen at right with wife Marlen, served as U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia. Born in Vienna, Austria, he belonged to political activist groups as a student. While studying in Geneva, he was arrested by the Nazis and imprisoned for almost a year, spending part of that time in Dachau and Buchenwald. After he was released, he left for the United States. When the US entered World War II, Neumann, as a non-citizen, volunteered to be drafted. He initially served as an interpreter in prisoner of war camps in the US before being sent to England. He was commissioned and also transferred to the Office of Special Services, the precursor of the CIA, although he remained in the army. He went to France a few weeks after D-day. Read more

Transnistria — Life in a Russian Bear Hug

Transnistria is a small breakaway state located between the Dniester River and Moldova’s eastern border with Ukraine. In November 1990, limited fighting broke out between Russian-backed pro-Transnistrian forces and the Moldovan police and military. The fighting intensified in March 1992, and lasted until an uneasy yet lasting ceasefire was established on July 22, 1992.

Transnistria’s Russian-speaking population believes that its identity would be overwhelmed by the ethnic Moldovan majority and thus sees the Russian military presence as protection. Moldova contends that those Russian troops violate its territorial integrity and that Moscow has repeatedly blocked any attempts to reach a settlement. For these reasons, many see parallels between this long-simmering “frozen conflict” and the ongoing situation between Crimea and Ukraine. (Photo of Young Communists: Davin Ellicson)
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The Strategic Defense Initiative — The Other “Star Wars”

On March 23rd, 1983, President Ronald Reagan announced the Strategic Defense Initiative, signaling a massive paradigm shift in U.S. policy on nuclear policy. Dubbed “Star Wars” after the 1977 movie, SDI represented Reagan’s rejection of Mutual Assured Destruction. MAD had fostered an uneasy peace during the Cold War as neither the U.S. nor the USSR attacked the other knowing that it would in turn be the target of a massive nuclear retaliation annihilating it (and much of the planet). By extension, so the argument went, a weapons system that could deflect most of an opponent’s nuclear barrage would undermine MAD by making that country feel more protected and thus potentially more likely to at least consider launching an offensive attack. Read more

Georgia and The Rose Revolution

Georgia declared independence from the Soviet Union in April 1991, and problems and instability arose almost immediately. The first President of Georgia, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, governed in an authoritarian fashion and was deposed in a violent coup d’état less than a year later. Eduard Shevardnadze, seen as more moderate, was chosen as Georgia’s second president in 1995. Several bloody conflicts wracked the young country early on, such as a stunning military defeat by a separatist movement in the region of Abkhazia and ethnic violence in the region of South Ossetia.

During this time, Shevardnadze’s government faced many charges of corruption and steadily declined in support and popularity. The instability during Shevardnadze’s presidency led to poverty and economic stagnation, which, coupled frustration with the government, led to a widespread desire for change. On November 2nd, 2003, elections were held for the Georgian Parliament. Read more

Officially Unofficial – The Opening of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT)

On the first day of January 1979, the United States de-

recognized the Republic of China (also known as Taiwan or the ROC) as the official government of China, recognizing the People’s Republic of China (the PRC) instead. While this declaration helped to strengthen the U.S. relationship with the PRC against the Soviet Union, it created chaos in Taiwan. With the closure of the U.S. embassy in Taipei came a widespread financial crisis, the result of a mass exodus of investors from the country.

What may not have been clear was that the U.S. government, under the Carter administration, was not seeking to sever ties with the island. Although the U.S. had officially revoked its recognition of Taiwan as a legitimate political entity, significant U.S. financial and military interests remained on the island. The closing of the U.S. embassy in Taipei presented an obstacle to protecting those interests.  Thus began the search for a solution that would allow the U.S. to conduct diplomatic relations with Taiwan in an unofficial capacity.

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