Academic journal article Chicago Journal of International Law

The Education of a Non-Career Political aAmbassador

Academic journal article Chicago Journal of International Law

The Education of a Non-Career Political aAmbassador

Article excerpt


This article is not a primer for those who aspire to a career in diplomacy. It is instead a report by a lawyer-political scientist who was called out of private life and into public service. It is not unusual in our country for American ambassadors to be selected from private life. Indeed, there is a continuing competition underway between the State Department, which looks to advance the careers of its professionals, and the White House, which seeks to reward the President's supporters and friends.

I was appointed in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter, and later reappointed by President Ronald Reagan, to serve as a United States ambassador and negotiator for the Madrid meeting of the thirty-five nation Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe ("CSCE").1 The Madrid meeting was convened in 1980 under the terms of the Helsinki Final Act, an agreement signed in 1975.2 I was informed that the meeting would last two to three months. It lasted three years. A previous CSCE meeting in Belgrade in 1977 ended in short order without an agreement and after much internal strife.3 The Madrid meeting ended with an agreement that strengthened Europe's commitment to human rights, and was considered by many European leaders as the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact.


Soon after my appointment, I learned that an influential Congressional Joint Commission had been formed which did not trust the State Department's commitment to the human rights provisions in the Helsinki document. I arranged to visit the Commission Chairman, Representative Dante Fascell, whom I knew. By then, I learned that his staff had a significant grasp of the details of the agreement, more so than the people at State who kept rotating from job to job every few years.

I told Representative Fascell that I wanted to include his people on our delegation staff. He agreed, if I would select his staff director as my deputy. I had earlier decided upon Warren Zimmerman, a career diplomat (later to become our last ambassador to Yugoslavia), to serve as deputy. I explained to Representative Fascell that I felt our deputy should be a career foreign service officer with access to the State Department and a familiarity with its methods. Representative Fascell's staff director therefore became our number three person. I also asked Representative Fascell to serve as Vice Chairman of our delegation, along with his colleague, Senator Claiborne Pell.4

Our delegation's intimacy with Congress worked extremely well. Involving the Congressmen as observers in our negotiations when they were in Madrid meant that, at the conclusion of the three-year meeting, I had no problem persuading the Congress that we had done a good job of representing the national interest of the United States.

Similarly, President Reagan, who in 1985 asked me to return to government service as our chief negotiator with the Soviet Union in Geneva on nuclear arms reductions and missile defense, authorized me to negotiate a Congressional "observer" plan with the leadership of the Senate and the House. These bipartisan members of Congress took the lead in persuading their colleagues that our Geneva agreements with the Soviets were in our national interest. The two treaties we negotiated there, which for the first time reduced our long-range nuclear missiles by 50 percent and totally eliminated all of the intermediate range missiles that were in our arsenals, were easily ratified.


The Madrid meeting began with a preparatory session in September 1980. We had no diplomatic contact of any kind with the Soviet Union after the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. On my first day in Madrid, I had arranged to have lunch with the Romanian ambassador, whom I met during his brief visit to Washington and who spoke English. At the end of the lunch, he said that he had to tell "uncle" about our meeting. …

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