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.

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 […]



Helping Reunite Germany with Tennis

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 ushered in a fraught time in the lives of East and West Germany — and the American diplomats posted there.  U.S. diplomat Donald Bandler and his wife Jane found a novel way to reach out to East German diplomats in Bonn adjusting to the new order: the […]



Spain’s New King and the Politics of a Fourth of July Party

Francisco Franco’s death in 1975 opened the path for newly-throned King Juan Carlos to become Spain’s head of state. His first independent action was to fire Prime Minister Carlos Arias Navarro. This came as a shock to citizens, diplomats, and Spanish government officials. Because the Juan Carlos had outwardly supported the Franco regime, while privately […]



Christ and Communism: How Rev. Billy Graham Helped Improve U.S.-North Korean Relations

Reverend Billy Graham visited the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in 1992. The evangelist met with the Supreme Leader Kim Il-Sung and was permitted to preach the Christian Gospel in the officially atheist hermit kingdom.  The visit led to a brief opening, including charity work by Christian non-governmental organizations. Graham was accompanied by Dr. […]



Strobe Talbott: From Foreign Affairs Journalist to Number Two at the Department of State

What is it like to transition from the senior ranks of American journalism to a top job in an agency you once covered?  Strobe Talbott found out when his old Oxford roommate, newly-elected President Bill Clinton, asked him to join the State Department.  Talbott went on to serve for seven years as Deputy Secretary of […]



Lessons Learned: USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and the 1985 Mexico City Earthquake

USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) is perhaps the world’s premier international disaster assistance agency.  It was not always that way. OFDA administrator Oliver “Ollie” Davidson knows this better than most. OFDA’s response to the devastating 1985 Mexico City earthquake was ernest and energetic, but not always well-targeted.  In his oral history, Davidson recalls […]



Frank Carlucci: Helping Block the Communists in Portugal

After decades of right-wing dictatorship, Portugal faced a threat of a takeover by communists in the mid-1970s.  Ambassador Frank Carlucci, who went on to become Secretary of Defense, headed up efforts to prevent the first loss of a NATO member state to the alliance’s political and ideological foes.  That meant engaging with parties and politicians […]



Cooperating with the Taliban to Fight Opium Production in Afghanistan Before 9/11

Fighting opium production in Afghanistan before 9/11 meant working with the Taliban.  Veteran foreign service officer James P. Callahan found ways to do that. He recalls a time when U.S. interests in combating the heroin trade aligned with those of the Taliban, and when efforts to curb opium production had some success.   From 1999 […]



A Reluctant Welcome From Notorious Warlords in Afghanistan

A USAID officer secured a meeting with two senior and notorious Afghan warlords in the late 1980s when he appeared as an unexpected (and unwanted) guest in their homes. Adhering to the Pashtun code of conduct requiring hospitality be offered to every guest.  Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Abdul Rasul Sayaaf reluctantly — but courteously — welcomed […]



A Diplomat Recalls Escape From a Kidnapping in Uruguay

Kidnappings, particularly those of high-ranking political officials, were not uncommon in 1970s Uruguay given the prominence of an urban guerilla group called the Tupamaros. Mistaken as someone with great importance, junior diplomat Mark Gordon Jones was kidnapped by the group in 1970. In “one of the dumbest luck things that could ever happen,” Jones was […]