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The Resignation of Richard M. Nixon

Richard M. Nixon’s presidency was a tempestuous mix of stunning foreign policy achievements (his trip to China) and shameful lapses in morality and judgment (the Watergate scandal). After the host of  criminal activities (bugging the offices of political opponents, harassing activist groups, and breaking into the Democratic Party headquarters) came to light, Nixon faced impeachment. On August 9, 1974, Nixon became the first and only President to resign. Later, President Gerald R. Ford granted Nixon a “full, free, and absolute pardon,” though Nixon always maintained his innocence.  Read more

The Death of Ambassador Arnold Raphel

U.S. relations with Pakistan have often had a disproportionate importance. In the 1980’s, they were again front and center in U.S. foreign policy as Washington ramped up its support for Afghan mujahedeen in their fight against the USSR. On August 17, 1988, matters took a stunning turn when the plane carrying Pakistani President Zia ul-Haq, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Arnold “Arnie” Raphel, and Brigadier General Herbert M. Wassom mysteriously crashed shortly after takeoff, killing everyone aboard.

Zia had been the leader of Pakistan for 11 years, after deposing Ali Bhutto in a coup and ordering his execution. Since then, Zia had steadily accumulated more and more power to the point where he was essentially the sole ruler of Pakistan. With his sudden death, Pakistan ­­risked a massive power vacuum.

To maintain stability, “diplomatic troubleshooter” Robert B. Oakley was appointed to Pakistan. Read more

The Proxy of My Proxy: Saudi Arabia vs. Egypt in North Yemen

Led by President Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Egyptians funneled money, arms, and eventually ground troops to support revolutionaries in North Yemen who had taken power through an Egyptian-sponsored coup on September 26, 1962. The Saudi Arabian government would not stand for the removal of a monarchy on its southern border by Nasserist forces. As such, the Saudis backed forces loyal to the former king, Imam Ahmad, and the tribal warriors who fought with him.

The civil war between the Egyptian-backed republican government forces and the Saudi-sponsored royalist opposition served as a two-level proxy war, with the Soviet Union funding the Egyptians and the United States funding the Saudis.

Amidst all this, the USAID mission was ransacked by a mob, which carted away a safe filled with confidential materials. Read more

Freeing American Hostages in the First Gulf War

Shortly after Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein and his Republican Guard forces took hundreds of Americans and people of other nationalities hostage in Iraq and Kuwait. The intent was to use them as bargaining chips and forestall any military action against Iraq in retaliation for its invasion of Kuwait. With hundreds of Americans being held across Iraq and Kuwait, along with many more in hiding, the American embassies in Kuwait and Iraq did all they could to safeguard American lives and provide safe transport out of Iraq and Kuwait.

With Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie out of the country on medical leave, Deputy Chief of Mission Joseph Wilson worked under extreme pressure and stress to secure the release and evacuation of the hostages and the maintenance of morale at an embassy that was under constant threat and unimaginable stress.  Read more

A Quiet Coup in the Caribbean: The Takeover of T&T

On July 27, 1990, a Muslim organization called Jamaat al Muslimeen instigated a coup against the government of Trinidad & Tobago. Forty-two insurgents stormed Parliament, taking Prime Minister A. N. R. Robinson and most of his cabinet hostage in The Red House, Trinidad’s parliamentary building, for six days.

At the same time, another 72 rebels attacked the offices of Trinidad & Tobago Television. When instructed to order the army to stop firing on The Red House, Robinson instead instructed them to “attack with full force.” At 6:00 pm, Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr appeared on television and announced that the government had been overthrown and that he was negotiating with the army. He called for calm and said that there should be no looting.

Instead, widespread arson and looting took place in the capitol of Port-of-Spain, causing millions in property damage. Read more

The Division of Cyprus: Paradise with a Problem

Cyprus gained independence from the United Kingdom on August 16, 1960, but the agreements that led to sovereignty failed to resolve serious differences between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities. The first President of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios III, introduced amendments to the constitution in 1963 to eliminate some of the provisions favoring the participation of Turkish Cypriots in the government. The 1960s and early 1970s saw violence and foreign intervention by Greece and Turkey. Read more

Nixon vs. Khrushchev — The 1959 Kitchen Debate

It was undoubtedly one of the most unorthodox – and therefore memorable – settings for a major political debate. On July 24th, 1959, the United States opened the American National Exhibition at Sokolniki Park in Moscow. The Soviets and Americans had agreed to hold exhibits in each other’s countries as a cultural exchange to promote understanding. The Soviet exhibit in New York opened in June, and the following month Vice President Richard Nixon went to Moscow to open the U.S. exhibit, and take Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev on a tour of the exhibit.

During the tour, Nixon and Khrushchev had a series of exchanges through interpreters debating the relative merits of capitalism and communism, which are now known as the Kitchen Debate. The Kitchen Debate took place in a number of locations at the exhibition but primarily in the kitchen of a suburban model house, cut in half for easy viewing. Read more

Srebrenica and the Horrors of the Balkan War

The break-up of Yugoslavia caused some of the most heinous human rights violations and ethnic mass killings seen in the 70 years since the end of World War II. On July 11-13, 1995 the world stood by as Serbian forces under the command of Ratko Mladic systematically rounded up Bosnian and Croat boys and men and executed them in their campaign of “ethnic cleansing.” The atrocities committed in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, in which over 8000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed over the period of two days by Serbian forces, were the catalyst for the escalation of American and NATO efforts to end the Bosnian War.

The most heartbreaking aspect of the massacre at Srebrenica was that it could have been prevented:  with better communication between UN peacekeepers and NATO, with UN nations more willing to contribute troops to prevent Serbian forces from murdering Bosnians, and with greater comprehension of the genocide being carried out by Mladic and the rest of the leadership of the Republika Sprska (VRS). Read more

Jordan’s Black September, 1970

In 1972, a group of Palestinian terrorists shocked the world by kidnapping eleven Israeli athletes during the Summer Olympics in Munich. They called themselves Black September. This name has its roots in the infamous “Black September” of 1970: a month of bloody fighting in Jordan between the forces of Jordanian King Hussein bin Talal and Palestinian separatists groups such as the Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Read more

Douglas MacArthur, America’s Emperor of Japan

He was a general’s general, tough, unrelenting, a man who embraced the role history thrust on him. He was also haughty and controversial, traits that would lead to his eventual downfall. General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP), arrived in Japan on August 30, 1945 to oversee  the ceremony formally marking its surrender. His mission was to organize a postwar Japanese government, with two primary goals: eliminating Japan’s war potential, and turning it into a Western-style nation with a pro-American orientation.

MacArthur had full authority, almost unlimited power, to accomplish these tasks. As interim leader of Japan from Japan from 1945-48, he was responsible for confirming and enforcing sentences for Japan’s war criminals and oversaw the rebuilding of the country, including drafting the country’s new constitution and implementing a major land reform initiative. Read more