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

The Pursuit of Perfection: Dilemmas in the Foreign Service

Capturing, preserving, and sharing the experiences of America’s diplomats. ADST’s maxim perfectly encapsulates the diverse nature of a Foreign Service career that arguably makes every officer’s professional journey unique. And yet, underlying the idiosyncratic nature of these experiences are undoubtedly core values and challenges that unite most—if not all—individuals in this particular field. This is not to say that there is a uniform set of reactions towards them, but it should nevertheless be considered paramount for us to acknowledge this base uniformity in order to truly understand the fundamental roots of a given matter and properly address it.

Coat of Arms of Jakarta (2010) Gunkarta | Wikimedia
Coat of Arms of Jakarta (2010) Gunkarta | Wikimedia

Robert Kinney is one particular individual whose career demonstrates the constancy of certain values and challenges. For instance, the hostility that he faced when initially transitioning into the Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs is merely one example of the bias that certain labor attachés have historically experienced while in the Foreign Service. Furthermore, although he himself did not have any issues on this front, his discussion of the topic reveals just how crucial the influence of family can be on the decisions and life of a Foreign Service officer. It is worth noting that Kinney retired in 1973, a few years before the Foreign Service Act of 1980 addressed some of these very issues. However, that is not to say that these dilemmas have simply dissipated since then; if anything, the essence of his words continues to bear significance today: we should appreciate more the differing views and backgrounds of each individual to gain a balanced and informed opinion on any given issue.

Kinney spent the majority of his Foreign Service career in South East Asia, dividing his time between Manila, Jakarta, and Kuala Lumpur as a labor attaché. Furthermore, apart from his tour in Lagos, Kinney additionally spent time throughout his career in Washington, D.C., whether as a Special Assistant to the Labor Advisor of the Economic Cooperation Administration, or as the Labor Advisor at the Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs. He retired from the Foreign Service in 1973.

Read more

In the Heat of the Cold War: Diplomats in a Divided Germany

Ever since the Foreign Service’s infancy, Foreign Service spouses have traveled with their partners to all corners of the world, helping to represent America and her interests overseas. Many of these spouses were former Foreign Service Officers themselves. Helen Brady Lane is one such individual, who entered the Foreign Service in 1957 and left after just a few years to follow her husband, Larry, for his own career in the State Department. Together, Helen and Larry went to countries as close as Mexico and as far as Germany.

The Consulate General of the USA in Hamburg (March 2009) (Garitzko) | Wikimedia
The Consulate General of the USA in Hamburg (March 2009) (Garitzko) | Wikimedia

It was in the heat of the Cold War that Helen and Larry were sent to Hamburg, Germany. Upon arriving, Helen immediately noticed the tremendous influences of both the Cold War and World War II on local life. Helen closely observed this, all while navigating her own role in Germany as a new mother and Foreign Service spouse. Read more in this “Moment in U.S. Diplomatic History” about how a Foreign Service couple adapted to life in a divided Germany, and all they learned along the way.

Read more

Dinner with Imelda: Encounters with the Philippines’ Most Famous Dictatorship

In the wake of the Cold War, dictatorial regimes sprang up throughout the world, capturing international attention with news of authoritarianism and human rights violations. One such regime was the dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos in the Philippines. The regime was guilty of countless abuses, but Imelda Marcos worked ceaselessly to shift the focus onto herself. Imelda attempted to portray herself as a style icon, hobnobbing with the international elite and showing off her expensive wardrobe. Her footwear collection, containing an alleged 3,000 pairs of shoes, was legendary. Despite Imelda’s insistence that she was a caring leader, her lifestyle was funded by around ten billion dollars she and Ferdinand had stolen from the state. In 1986, she and Ferdinand were forced out by a popular uprising and fled to Hawaii.

Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos with Ronald Reagan | President Ronald Reagan with President of the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos and Imelda Marcos (1982) | White House Photographic Collection
Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos with Ronald Reagan | President Ronald Reagan with President of the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos and Imelda Marcos (1982) | White House Photographic Collection

While working in the Philippines as chargé d’affaires, Philip Kaplan had a number of run-ins with Imelda. For a diplomat, interacting with such a polarizing figure is always a challenge. It was made all the more complicated by U.S. political ambivalence on how to handle the Marcos dictatorship, and the shifting moods of Imelda herself. Kaplan remembers Imelda as alternating between sociability and suspicion, at one point feeding him steak despite her apparent belief that he was part of a threat to the regime. On the U.S. government’s end, Ronald and Nancy Reagan had enjoyed the Marcos’ company, although there was an increasing need for regime change. Ultimately, Kaplan served in the Philippines long enough to witness the fall of the Marcos regime. The new president, Corazon Aquino, ordered investigations of the Marcos’ theft. Unfortunately, the massive robbery would continue to have serious economic consequences for the Philippines. Although Imelda used luxury and material possessions to construct a prestigious image of herself, her vast collection will forever be synonymous with blatant corruption and greed.

Read more

We are the World: Development Support in Africa

The work of the U.S. Foreign Service encompasses more than just advancing U.S. interests abroad. A critical part of it remains the mission of development support to the host country. In many instances, this mission is achieved through not only diplomatic meetings and negotiation, but also through music. After the song We Are the World was composed to support Africa during a difficult time of famine, Robert Berg was one of the four people who worked on taking it to the next crucial step: to allocate the funds to help end hunger.

Ethiopia, 1985: Near a World Vision feeding center in Sanka, people rise with the dawn after sleeping outside all night, hoping to find relief from the famine that gripped the country (1985) Steve Reynolds | World Vision
Ethiopia, 1985: Near a World Vision feeding center in Sanka, people rise with the dawn after sleeping outside all night, hoping to find relief from the famine that gripped the country (1985) Steve Reynolds | World Vision

Ever since his first visit to Nigeria on a development mission in 1965, Robert Berg has served during his career in various capacities in Africa—think tanks, non-profit, and private sector—all with a common vision of advancing development. However, this crucial task—both for the host country and the world—does not come easy. On his very first USAID trip to Nigeria, Berg encountered the internal turmoil of the country. As Berg believes, there should be two independent voices: a political one telling a country often what it wants to hear, and a development voice telling them sometimes the hard truth. In less than a year on duty in his initial assignment, Berg became convinced that the onset of a civil war was imminent. He returned to Washington D.C. to report the hard truth that was facing the future of the Nigerian people.

Read more

Parallels in Protest: From the Civil Rights to the First Intifada

In the 1960s, the United States experienced nationwide protests for the justice of African Americans in a society where the status quo was against them. It was a massive movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King to force great change in America. It inspired people of all ages and backgrounds. It inspired people like William David McKinney who took his experiences across the country as well as the world in order to connect with diverse groups of individuals.

First Intifada, Palestinian uprising against Zionist occupation of their land. 12/08/1987, Photographer Unknown, Creative Commons
First Intifada, Palestinian uprising against Zionist occupation of their land. 12/08/1987, Photographer Unknown, Creative Commons

William McKinney served overseas, witnessing and experiencing cultures at peace and at unrest. Before his career in the Foreign Service, he was an active participant in the Civil Rights Movement. He joined university protests against southern segregation, and closely followed the latest news at the time of boycotts in places like Montgomery; it seems like there was never a moment where protesting for civil rights was not on his mind.

More than twenty years later, Israel and Palestine mirrored these events with the First Intifada—a progressively escalating movement of uprising and protest lasting from December 1987 to the early 1990s against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. The First Intifada began after an Israeli military truck crashed into a vehicle killing four Palestinian workers from the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza. As a consequence, violent protests erupted across the region, and Israel responded by sending army and paratroopers to quell the violence. These actions, however, only further ignited the movement.

Read more

Providing Protections While Breaking New Ground in the Foreign Service: Saying Yes When Challenged

In the decades following the end of World War II, the United States went through tremendous restructuring when it came to the Foreign Service. The Foreign Service Act of 1946 created a sizable expansion in the Foreign Service by increasing the number of Foreign Service officer positions and improving the overall organization of the diplomatic service itself.

Clements Worldwide Offices | Clements Website
Clements Worldwide Offices | Clements Website

With this boom in the Foreign Service, many new officers went abroad, almost always bringing along their own vehicles and personal household effects. This was especially the case for those who were overseas for extended periods of time. The question soon became: To whom do I go if my car is damaged? What do I do if my personal belongings are stolen while I’m on duty?

Enter Robert Clements and his wife M. Juanita Guess. In 1947, the duo founded their own insurance firm to provide a new type of insurance service to diplomats, both rookie and veteran. This sort of service was brand new to the Foreign Service and the domestic insurance industry. Clements & Company rolled out their first insurance packages with a primary focus on automobile and household effects protections. But above all else, they strove toward one goal: coverage for all U.S. Foreign Service Officers, regardless of where they were posted or what their role was.

Read more