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.

George H.W. Bush, American Diplomat

George H.W. Bush was a diplomat before he became the 41st president of the United States.  Bush served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (1971-73) and Ambassador to China (1974-75).  In a fascinating C-Span interview in 1999, Brian Lamb asked President Bush what he learned while serving as a diplomat.  Among the future president’s […]



Conflict, Cooperation, and Corruption: USAID in Kenya in the 1990s

U.S. policy toward Kenya during the long presidency of Daniel arap Moi (1978-2002) fluctuated between a close Cold War embrace, to unusually harsh public criticism, to quiet pressure behind the scenes.  Moi’s tenure was marked by consolidation of power, outbreaks of political violence, and corrupt elections. In the end, however, Moi respected constitutional limits and […]



Thanksgiving: How U.S. Diplomats Celebrate an American Tradition Around the World

Gobble, gobble!  Thanksgiving is a unique American holiday —  one that U.S. embassies, foreign service families, and American expats of all kinds celebrate around the world.  We dipped into our oral history collection for some Thanksgiving memories. At its best, Thanksgiving is a celebration of food, family, friends, and cross-cultural exchange and understanding.  Happy Thanksgiving!



Fundraising for Presidential Campaigns — and Serving as U.S. Ambassador to Spain

Approximately a third of U.S. ambassadors have been politically appointees over the last 50 years, including some of our very best.  Alan Solomont’s oral history provides a candid account of his work as a fundraiser for both successful and unsuccessful Democratic presidential candidates.  Solomont’s engagement at the highest levels of American politics led to his […]



Spy vs. Spy: The Yin-he Incident and U.S.-China Intelligence Rivalry

Was the intelligence correct? Was the U.S. being set up? These were questions facing John Tkacik when the United States picked up evidence in 1993 that a Chinese cargo ship, the Yin-he, was shipping chemical weapons precursor to Iran. Tkacik was a China specialist at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), and […]



Rich in Oil and Rich in Corruption — Nigeria in the Early 1970s

Oil boomed. Revenue skyrocketed. So did political corruption, economic dependency, and environmental degradation. The dramatic spike in oil production in the Niger Delta in the early 1970s had social, political, economic and environmental consequences in Nigeria that few imagined at the time.  Many of these consequences were negative. The so-called “oil curse” had descended upon […]



A Problem in Palau: Negotiating Free Association Status with the Micronesian Islands

In a Hawaiian hotel room sat a U.S. ambassador and officials from Palau, peering over details of a treaty to define the tiny Pacific nation’s relations with the United States. The clock was ticking—if the two delegations were unable to reach an agreement by the end of that year, 1980, the results of the American […]



Building a Personal Relationship: The U.S. Ambassador and President of Senegal

It was nearing 11 o’clock at night when the phone rang. “How was the speech?” Ambassador Harriet Elam-Thomas was surprised to hear President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal on the other end, asking her opinion of a speech he had given the night before.  This would not be an isolated occurrence in an unusually close relationship […]



Stirrings of Islamic Militancy in Nigeria: An Ambassador’s Recollections

When Thomas Pickering was Ambassador to Nigeria in 1980-83, he witnessed the stirrings of Islamic militancy and other transformations of the centuries-old practice of Islam in that country.  Fringe fractions were emerging in some regions. The “Maitatsine,” loyal to Mohammed Marwa, whose followers believed him to be prophet, brought major rioting to Kano. Marwa was […]



Spies and Prostitutes: Memories of a Visa Officer in Post-WWII Greece

In post-World War II Greece, U.S. consular officers met all kinds of people—from suspected spies to prostitutes.  Don Gelber was on his first diplomatic assignment. When a wealthy young American married a young Greek woman and sought to bring her to the United States, Geber did a routine background check — only to learn that […]