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The Unknown Actor in Kosovo: Lawrence Rossin

During 1998 and 1999, Lawrence Rossin found himself working in the disputed region of the Balkans. Having previously worked in Mali, South Africa, Barbados, and Haiti, Rossin had extensive experience in negotiations and regional complexities. Originally brought into the State Department’s Office of South Central European Affairs in the European Bureau following his work in Haiti, Rossin soon had difficulties translating his experiences. But as we see in this “moment” in U.S. diplomatic history, thanks to cigarettes, contact group diplomacy, and writing skills, Rossin quickly became a key actor in Kosovo in the late 1990s.

Ambassador Lawrence G. Rossin (2000) U.S. Department of State | Wikimedia Commons
Ambassador Lawrence G. Rossin (2000) U.S. Department of State | Wikimedia Commons

Bordered by Montenegro, Albania, North Macedonia, and Serbia, Kosovo has become one of the highly disputed autonomous regions in the Balkans. With ethnic groups such as Albanians, Serbs, Bosniaks, Turks, and Roma, Kosovo is also home to many religions. In 1992, the Albanians of Kosovo declared independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Kosova. Fighting broke out between the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Kosovo Liberation Army in 1998, and ended in 1999 due to NATO intervention, which is where Rossin got involved. Kosovo later declared independence from Serbia in 2008, and is internationally recognized by over 100 countries. Read more

CORDS Alumnus Gives Perspective on U.S. Role in Vietnam

Should the United States ever have gone to war in Vietnam? Nearly fifty years after the last American troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, the debate still rages. Michael Hauben, who was on the ground in Vietnam as part of the Office of Civil Operations and Support (Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support or CORDS), had a first-hand perspective on this debate.

In this handout from the U.S. Air Force, F4 Phantom jets rain bombs on unspecified targets over North Vietnam, Dec. 1965. The photo was made prior to the halt of air strikes on Dec. 24, 1965. (December 1965) | AP Photo/USAF
In this handout from the U.S. Air Force, F4 Phantom jets rain bombs on unspecified targets over North Vietnam, Dec. 1965. The photo was made prior to the halt of air strikes on Dec. 24, 1965. (December 1965) | AP Photo/USAF

In Hauben’s view, the United States actually could have helped South Vietnam win the war if only it had kept up its air support. Political considerations hedged the decision to stay or leave Vietnam; for the presidential party in power (which in this case was the Republicans under Nixon) it was only hurting its electoral chances since public opinion had clearly swung against a military presence in Vietnam.

Hauben also strongly disagreed with the notion that the U.S.’s Vietnamese allies lacked the motivation to fight for themselves. To the contrary, Hauben argued that many South Vietnamese truly wanted independence from the North, in part due to ethnic differences between North, Central, and South Vietnamese. Hauben gives several specific examples of situations in which the Vietnamese held their ground militarily against the communists. Read more

Development in South Asia and Latin America: USAID in the ‘90s

There’s never a dull moment in the life of a USAID social anthropologist! The foreign service can indeed present a variety of unpredictable challenges. By necessity, officers must exhibit poise under pressure, adaptability in unfamiliar terrain, and the ability to deliver under a time crunch. Hugh Sheridan “Sher” Plunkett demonstrated all these qualities and more as a social anthropologist for USAID from 1975 to 2003. From treks through the Kharan desert to murder investigations in Pakistan to emergency orders of milk powder from Nepalese hilltops, Sher’s experiences abroad run the gamut, encouraging all foreign service officers to expect the unexpected.

Kacchi Canal: Mega Pakistani Irrigation Project (2018) Mohammed Arifeen | Pakistan & Gulf Economist
Kacchi Canal: Mega Pakistani Irrigation Project (2018) Mohammed Arifeen | Pakistan & Gulf Economist

Not only did Sher endure many obstacles in Mother Nature and beyond, but he became adept at maneuvering through USAID’s occasionally stifling bureaucratic maze. His creative problem solving and unconventional approach to paperwork boosted productivity, thereby cutting down wait time for necessary signatures and approvals. In one case, he even managed to get technical assistance advisors on the ground in Belize fewer than ten days after the mission’s formal request.

Increasing productivity and promoting USAID’s positive reputation was especially important in Sher’s time. His experience of USAID was as a declining organization in the late 1990s. The small agency functioned on the whims of influential congressmen, its primary focus shifting from issue to issue with every new presidential administration. USAID’s overall purpose became lost in a whirlwind of central goals, each worthy and necessary but pursued without organizational cohesion. The agency might tackle poverty alleviation for a few years, then development of the private sector before honing in on democracy promotion after Reagan’s establishment of the Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean. Read more

Making the Most of Adversity: Managing the Consular Section in Guangzhou, China

Adversity can often bring out the best in those who are willing to rise to the challenges it throws at them. This principle holds especially true for foreign service officers. Elizabeth “Liz” Raspolic encountered one of the more challenging posts of her foreign service career in Guangzhou, China from 1983 to 1986, where she served as chief of the consular section.

Guangzhou - Chancery Office Building - 1979 (1979) Department of State. Office of the Undersecretary for Management. Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations. (2001) | Wikimedia Commons
Guangzhou - Chancery Office Building - 1979 (1979) Department of State. Office of the Undersecretary for Management. Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations. (2001) | Wikimedia Commons

There, she would have to adapt not only to uncomfortable conditions at her workplace, but also to the task of effectively managing the junior officers (JOs) and helping them organize their responsibilities. In addition, Raspolic had to address a particularly unusual American Citizens Services (ACS) case, for which she and the other foreign service officers in Guangzhou would have to “think outside the box” to arrive at a solution.

Throughout Raspolic’s service in Guangzhou, she encountered unpleasant workplace conditions that had the potential to prompt foreign service officers to “feel sorry for themselves.” The Dong Fang Hotel, in which the consular section’s office was located during Raspolic’s first two years in Guangzhou, offered a number of unwelcome surprises for Raspolic—a lack of security and natural light, a significant amount of noise from nearby foot traffic, rats and cats that roamed the ceiling, and cockroaches and waterbugs in the facilities. Moreover, the carpeting contained fleas, for which Raspolic and her team had to call in exterminators. Raspolic not only had to manage these unideal workplace conditions, but she also had the responsibility of managing the large number of JOs in the consular section, whom she would need to integrate effectively into the section while providing them opportunities to gain valuable experience that would serve them well throughout their foreign service careers. If those circumstances were not challenging enough, Raspolic and her team faced the difficult American Citizens Services [ACS] case of making arrangements to send an American citizen with “a history of psychiatric problems” out of China and back to her family in London.

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A Science Pioneer in South Africa

Passionate about science and research from an early age, Shirley Motaung’s thirst for knowledge drove her to overcome language barriers and racial inequalities. In 2006, after years as a lecturer at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), she was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to come to the University of California, Davis and study under Dr. Hari Reddi, the distinguished Professor of Bone Morphogenetic Proteins (BMPs), which cause new bone growth.

Prof Shirley Motaung driving a point at the 4th International Women's Day Summit (9 March 2020) | TUT
Prof Shirley Motaung driving a point at the 4th International Women's Day Summit (9 March 2020) | TUT

The Fulbright program, a U.S. Department of State-sponsored cultural exchange program launched in 1946, helps graduate students, young professionals, and artists abroad to study and conduct research in the United States. To date, the Fulbright Scholarship Program has partnered with more than 160 countries around the world.

Motaung grew up in South Africa during an historical era in which Afrikaners, the white minority, dominated the majority black population. From 1948 to the 1990s, South Africa’s more than half a century of apartheid led to severe oppression and restrictions on the freedom of movement and political, social, and economic rights of non-whites, depriving black Africans of their rights. In 1994, the African National Congress, headed by Nelson Mandela, won the first free and fair national elections (the first in which citizens of all races were allowed to take part, and therefore also the first held with universal suffrage) in South Africa. This officially heralded the end of apartheid.

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The Passing of Charles Stuart “Stu” Kennedy

We are saddened to share the news that Charles Stuart “Stu” Kennedy died on Sunday, January 2. As Jim Dandridge notes, one is never prepared for the passing of a professional colleague and friend. Stu was and is a pillar of ADST’s excellence. We are grateful that we were able to celebrate Stu and his wonderful important legacy – ADST’s Foreign Affairs Oral History program and collection – on the occasion of ADST’s and Stu’s 35th anniversary at DACOR on December 7.

Stu Kennedy at the 35th Anniversary celebration of Stu and ADST
Stu Kennedy at the 35th Anniversary celebration of Stu and ADST

To read more about Stu and his life and legacy, see this tribute from his 2014 AFSA Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy award and the FSJ interview by Shawn Dorman.

AFSA Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy Award to Stu Kennedy

For thirty-five years Stu was an inspiration to several generations of those he interviewed, to ADST staff, and to hundreds of ADST interns. The way he lived his life makes it only natural for us to celebrate Stu, his spirit and his vision. His legacy will continue to inspire us for the next thirty-five years and beyond.

In lieu of flowers the family ask that you donate to support the work of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training that he cared so much about, using this link: https://adst.org/donation-page/

A Look Back—First Director of the Population, Refugees, and Migrations Bureau

The Biden administration nominated Ambassador Julieta Valls Noyes to serve as assistant secretary of state for the department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM). A career diplomat, Noyes previously served as deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, where she managed relations between Western Europe and the EU from 2014 to 2015––a time in which refugees fleeing conflict from the Middle East were streaming into Europe seeking asylum.

1994 Cairo Conference on Population | UNFPA
1994 Cairo Conference on Population | UNFPA

Coordinating with international organizations like the UNHCR, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the International Organization for Migration, PRM provides relief and resettlement to displaced populations around the world and promotes policies aimed at increasing life-sustaining aid and family planning. Issues of refugees and family planning are not only critically important in the foreign policy realm, but often carry with them a political charge here at home. Read more

A Dramatic Turning Point: Turkey’s Last Pride Parade

On the same day that the United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, US diplomat Chuck Hunter witnessed police forces violently crack down on a peaceful celebration of LGBTQ+ rights in Istanbul—essentially Turkey’s last legal pride parade.

The annual pride parade in Istanbul, which had been going for decades, had been the largest in the Muslim world—notably attracting thousands of people celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer social and self-acceptance, achievements, legal rights, and pride.

Pride Parade, Istanbul (2012) Wikipedia Commons
Pride Parade, Istanbul (2012) Wikipedia Commons

However, the pride parade in 2015 turned out differently, ending with police shooting water cannons, tear gas, and rubber pellets at the peaceful marchers to disperse the annual celebration, which that year coincided with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Ever since that year, the parade has been banned by the local authority citing security concerns and the need to uphold public order. In 2018, 2019, and 2021 people nevertheless showed up to celebrate LGBTQ+ rights, only to be met with tear gas, rubber bullets, and arrests by the police. Read more

The Fall of Saigon — April 30, 1975

April 30, 1975 will long be remembered as the day that Saigon fell and with it, the end of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. It also marked the beginning of Vietnam’s unification as a “socialist republic.” North Vietnamese forces began their final attack on Saigon on April 29, with a heavy artillery bombardment. This bombardment at the Tan Son Nhut Airport killed the last two American servicemen that died in Vietnam. By the afternoon of the next day, North Vietnamese troops had occupied the important points within the city and raised their flag over the South Vietnamese presidential palace. The fall of the city was preceded by the evacuation of almost all the American civilian and military personnel in Saigon, along with tens of thousands of South Vietnamese civilians associated with the southern regime.  Read more