Moments Posted in A Moment in U.S. Diplomatic History

This is an archive of Moments in U.S. Diplomatic History posted in the A Moment in U.S. Diplomatic History category.

Duty and Danger: An American Diplomat’s Service in Iraq on the Eve of 1991 Gulf War

American diplomat Stephen Thibeault watched as an airplane departed Iraq in 1990, carrying Rev. Jesse Jackson and American hostages liberated in the tense days following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait — and before the U.S. launched Operation Desert Storm, the United Nations campaign that ultimately routed Saddam Hussein’s forces.  Thibeault was tempted to fly away with […]



Witness to the Arab Spring in Tunisia

In December 2010, Tunisian fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi proved that it can take just a single moment to spark a revolution. Humiliated and economically desperate, Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest a corrupt and repressive government. That act unleashed a wave of anger that spread first across Tunisia, then much of North Africa and […]



Pakistan, Population, and Development in the Early 1960s

You might never guess that the work of a USAID Program Economist could result in a trip to the Vatican for a personal meeting with the Pope, or to Canada as a chief architect of the Montreal Protocol.  Richard Elliot Benedick, entering USAID fresh out of Harvard Business School, certainly didn’t. And yet, the work […]



Folk Songs in Georgetown With JFK: A Memory from a Different Era

Nicholas Platt was a distinguished American diplomat, who served as ambassador to Zambia, the Philippines, and Pakistan.   In the first days of the Kennedy administration, however, Platt was a young Foreign Service Officer in Washington studying Chinese language — when he and his wife were unexpectedly invited to join the president for a small party […]



Duty and Danger: A Diplomatic Spouse Targeted for Assassination in Algeria

When they learned they were marked for assassination, Parvaneh Limbert and her husband John — the political section chief at the U.S. Embassy Algiers — had to act quickly and quietly.  They hurried out of the country, surprising family and friends back home, and stayed in the United States until the would-be killers were arrested […]



Preventing and Controlling Floods in Bangladesh: Tackling an Age-Old Problem

A terrible flood struck Bangladesh in 1988, killing over 6,000 people, destroying millions of tons of crops and causing millions of dollars in damages.   This was not Bangladesh’s first flooding disaster, nor its last. As recently as 2017, floods left an estimated one-third of the country under water. The problem of flooding in Bangladeshis age-old; […]



Duty and Danger: A Diplomatic Spouse Recounts Narrow Escapes from Uganda and Cambodia

Louise Keeley waited and worried in neighboring countries when her husband, American diplomat Robert V. “Bob” Keeley, faced the encircling Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and the depredations of Idi Amin in Uganda. Waiting for news of a spouse on a dangerous diplomatic assignment can be more stressful than the assignment itself. And when U.S. family […]



Frank Carlucci and the Last Days of Patrice Lumumba in the Congo

Long before he was President Reagan’s Secretary of Defense, Frank Carlucci was a young State Department political officer in Kinshasa, Congo (then known as Leopoldville).  He got to know Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba and was among the last Americans to see him alive before Lumumba’s 1961 murder. Multiple theories surround Lumumba’s death, which remains controversial […]



Long Before He Headed the CIA, James Woolsey Challenged Paul Nitze Over the Vietnam War

For a young lieutenant to challenge the number two man in the Department of Defense over Vietnam policy in 1969 took guts. The ensuring argument pitted R. James Woolsey, still in his 20s and later to become Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, against Paul Nitze, Deputy Secretary of Defense and pillar of the U.S. […]



Washington Demands and Disaster Assistance: USAID and the 2010 Haiti Earthquake

Lewis Lucke was called out of retirement in 2010 to coordinate USAID’s response to the disastrous 7.0 magnitude Haitian earthquake, which killed an estimated 100,000 people and dealt a devastating blow to a country still reeling from political instability and the aftermath of a military coup.  Lucke found bodies in the street and mountains of […]