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Three outstanding US diplomats

Published on 12 February 2016
Updated on 05 April 2024

I have often expressed a dim view of the state as “unitary diplomatic actor.” It is a recipe for diplomatic disaster.

For one, it never happens in practice. It is not a good strategy for the turnkey to assume and assert that it can fly.


Second, it stifles discussion and justified dissent. I am not talking here is “whistle-blowers” that go public with their comments. I am talking about internally articulated disagreement, which is relevant to policy-making, but got squashed because it did not please the “principal.”

The US government forcefully tries to be a “unitary actor” and in pursuit of this goal sometimes tends to suppress internal dissent. In my 332, I referred to Archer BLOOD,[1] Consul General in Dacca in 1970, who sent a “telegram of dissent” to Washington,[2] and was promptly removed from his post. His career withered.

I would like to pay homage here to US Ambassador to El Salvador Robert WHITE, who, “in 1981, as the ambassador to El Salvador, refused a demand by the Secretary of State, Alexander M. Haig Jr., that he use official channels to cover up the Salvadoran military’s responsibility for the murder of four American churchwomen.[3] He was fired and forced out of the Foreign Service.”[4] Ambassador WHITE just died.

The other US diplomat worth mentioning in this context is H. Carl GETTINGER,[5] who was in San Salvador at the time and obtained the names of the murderers. He succeeded in bringing the culprits to justice, but his USSD career seems to have faltered.

I would urge reading this diplomatic story for a better sense of what diplomacy is about.


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archer_Blood

[2] Gary J. BASS (2013): The Blood telegram. India’s secret war in East Pakistan. Random House, New Delhi, (pg. 307.

[3] https://theatln.tc/1o6t3SD

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_White_%28ambassador%29

[5] Gettinger, then 26 years old, was considered something of a liberal, in part because, like White, he supported the pro-human rights approach of President Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan’s predecessor. Adding to his reputation as a “proto-communist,” as Gettinger mockingly described himself, was that he had a beard and was often incorrectly assumed to be Jewish (he was called “Getzinger” when he first arrived). “I looked like a lefty rabbi,” Gettinger told me. https://theatln.tc/1o6t3SD

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