Remembering Ambassador Joseph Verner Reed

December 2, 2016

Edward M. Gabriel (Ambassador to Morocco, 1997-2001)

Ambassador Gabriel delivered these remarks at the November 29 Memorial Service for Ambassador Joseph Verner Reed held at the United Nations in New York.

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Mr. Secretary General, Honorable Ambassadors, distinguished guests, and Joseph’s family members and colleagues of the UN, it is my honor to say a few words about our friend, Joseph Verner Reed.

Joseph once wrote to his Deputy, Dick Jackson, “Morocco is the mystery, beauty, and exoticism that I myself experienced and was witness to for four unforgettable years as US Ambassador from 1981-1985″. My fellow colleagues and I, who followed Joseph as US Ambassador, would agree with his assessment.

There are now 8 former living Ambassadors who have served in Morocco, plus one current Ambassador, all following in Joseph’s footsteps. He personally touched the lives of each of us in many ways, and brought us together as good friends. And each of us has wonderful stories about Joseph.

Ambassador Tom Riley, who served as our Ambassador to Morocco under President George W. Bush, wrote me last week to say, “I am one of many with the experience of getting my first call of congratulations upon release of my nomination from Joseph. Not my family, not the White House, not any friends, but from none other than JVR.

Frecky Vreeland, US Ambassador to Morocco under President George HW Bush, said of Joseph, “he traveled widely in what he called ‘The Kingdom.’ Time and again when I was introduced to local Moroccans as the American Ambassador, they would object, saying that they do know the ambassador in question — and flash a photo taken of themselves with Joseph”.

Mike Ussery, US Ambassador to Morocco also under President HW Bush met Joseph when he was a young political appointee at the State Department. Mike said, “He always stopped by to check on me during his trips to DC, and years later he helped me prepare for Morocco and made sure I was well received there… wonderful and kind gestures that helped me in my mission in Morocco”.

For me personally, Joseph was a mentor, friend and role model. He cared dearly that each of us succeed in a country he believed was so important to the United States. He was truly a Patriot’s patriot, and put Country ahead of personal glory.

At lunch with Joseph soon after I was nominated to be Ambassador by President Clinton, he gave me a written list of ten things I must do if I was to be successful in Morocco. Knowing of Joseph’s fame in Morocco, I was grateful for the advice and followed it in the exact order he gave it to me.

One of the ten things Joseph told me to do was get out into the countryside and see every corner of Morocco and visit as many Moroccans as I possibly could. Joseph and I actually shared one body guard, who stayed on through five US Ambassadors. His name is Bouchaib.

I remember travelling to the border of the Sahara in the Western edge of Morocco, almost to Mauritania, and asked Bouchiab, did Joseph ever come this far? Bouchaib answered, Yes Sir.

I went to the most remote and highest villages in the high Atlas, Middle Atlas and Anti Atlas, and even the small villages in the mountains of the famous Rif Mountains, where in 1904, Berber Chieftain Raisuli faced the wrath of Teddy Roosevelt for kidnapping an American. Each time during these many trips, I would ask Bouchaib, did Joseph ever come to these places? And each time he would answer, Yes Sir.

Finally, we are on the outer reaches of the desert in Eastern Morocco, past the town of Figig, within eye sight of the Algerian army in a tiny little town among Sahrawi nomadic tents. I asked Bouchaib, OK, was Joseph ever here, to which he surprisingly said No Sir. As we walked into the village and met with cheering crowds of adults and children, one young boy ran up to me and handed me a pencil, with an inscription, “compliments of Ambassador Joseph Verner Reed”! This must have been one trip that even Bouchaib missed.

That’s just the kind of man Joseph was: generous and totally engaged. Every Ambassador to Morocco was asked by Joseph if they would kindly receive a package from him every quarter. We were instructed to carefully remove the outer package containing the embassy address and underneath was another wrapping addressed to the orphanage in Azroul, Morocco. The box was filled with clothes and other useful items. I do not believe Joseph missed sending a package since 1984.

David Rockefeller said Joseph was a true ‘character’ in the very best sense of the word. “He was a man of elegance, grace, wit, flamboyance and razor sharp intellect, a diplomat’s diplomat”. He said he will miss Ambassador Reed “more than words can express. We 9 colleagues of Joseph agree with you Mr. Rockefeller.

Joseph positively affected the mission and performance of each US Ambassador to Morocco who followed, and I know that each of us would say that although we were successful in our own missions, there has been no more successful US Ambassador to Morocco before or since than Joseph Verner Reed.

Thank You.

 

Human Potential is the Middle East’s Greatest Resource

November 30, 2016

Madeleine K. Albright (64th U.S. Secretary of State)

and

Stephen J. Hadley (National Security Advisor for President George W. Bush)

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2016/11/30/Human-potential-is-the-Middle-East-s-greatest-resource.html

Cross-posted from Al-Arabiya English

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There is something exciting happening in the Middle East. While many in the United States and elsewhere see only war and crisis, there is bigger change afoot that has the potential to break the current cycle of conflict.

Over the past eighteen months we have been engaged in a bipartisan initiative seeking to identify a new and better approach toward peace and prosperity in the Middle East. We visited with and listened to people from the region. We consulted the region’s experts. We sought voices from all levels of society, from refugees and students to business leaders and monarchs. What we found was a sense of confidence and determination, even amidst all the challenges that the region now faces.

At the heart of the Arab uprisings in 2011 was the idea that people in the region wanted the chance to define and pursue their own vision for the future. Where governments sought to suppress these aspirations, war and instability broke out, destabilizing not just the region but also setting off massive refugee flows and terrorist movements that have upended Western politics.

Yet in other parts of the region, governments took the uprisings as a signal that they needed to provide more opportunity for their people. In some cases, like Tunisia, this meant corrupt leadership being forced to step aside to let the people chart their own course. In others, like Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, governments have sought reforms within the system, striving to put young people front and center in helping to shape their countries’ futures. While they still have much progress to make, they are moving in an encouraging direction.

Harnessing the power of youth and technology

We heard about young people eager to build their own businesses rather than relying on government to provide employment. We learned that 36 percent of Arab youth aspire to start their own companies, and are using the power of new technology to do so. We also found that one third of these Middle East start-up founders are women—more than ten times the rate of female founders in Silicon Valley.

This is a population that is full of ingenuity, using their resourcefulness to solve problems where their governments have failed them. Syrian refugees in Jordan are harnessing the power of 3D printing to build prosthetics for victims of violence. And in cases where people don’t yet have the necessary skills to accomplish their goals, they are using tech-enabled education tools to learn what they need to know, even in the absence of formal classrooms.

We believe that this vast human potential is the Middle East’s greatest resource. However, despite their growing self-confidence and capabilities, the people of the region still need help for these positive efforts to take root.

The single biggest barrier standing between the Middle East and a prosperous future is the continuing instability generated by the civil wars in Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Iraq. Regional actors have proven themselves as yet unable to bring these wars—and their worst atrocities—to an end. At the same time, they are more willing than ever to try, including through devoting their own resources to the effort. A relatively modest amount of leadership and assistance from the United States and other concerned members of the international community could go a long way toward helping to begin to wind down these conflicts.

‘Outsiders will not make the efforts’

But we should make no mistake here. The days when outside powers could dictate events in the region are over—if they ever existed in the first place. The days of massive troop deployments or military occupations by any outside power are past. Instead, outside help and support must be focused on empowering and enabling the people of the region and their leaders to chart and achieve their own vision for the future. The region needs more local initiatives that gain regional and global support.

Outsiders will not make these efforts, however, if the people and governments of the region are not taking the kinds of actions that will lead to sustainable peace, prosperity, and stability. For without such action by the region, outside efforts will be losing investments. What we learned from the region is that its governments need to make real progress toward transparent, accountable, effective, and fair governance free of corruption. They need to deliver for their people—for all of their people—regardless of gender, sect, tribe, religion, or family connections. And they need to create opportunities for their people not only through better education but also through regulatory reforms that can encourage and enable entrepreneurship and innovation.

If these changes take place, they can become a New Compact for the region—one which improves not only relations between regional states and outside powers, but also redefines how the states of the Middle East interact with each other and, most importantly, with their people.

There is a pathway out of the current regional crises. But our efforts of the past year and a half have taught us that a new strategic approach is required. The Middle East must bet on its people and on a new partnership among the international community, the states of the region, and their people. Only in this way can the Middle East realize its vision of a more peaceful, prosperous, and stable future.

Appropriate U.S. Response to Russia

November 1, 2016

Thomas F. Stephenson (Ambassador to Portugal, 2007-2009)

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Post World War II history suggests convincingly that the best way to deal with Russian aggression is by demonstrating the strength and will to respond in a forceful fashion. Obvious examples are the strong manner in which President Kennedy dealt with Premier Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the way President Reagan interacted with Mr. Gorbachev at Reykjavik and in its aftermath as he laid the groundwork for the end of the Cold War and critical arms reduction agreements. Interacting with Mr. Putin, however, may well be even more challenging than dealing with either Khrushchev or Gorbachev as Putin gives all the indications of being the consummate bully. The only thing he understands or respects is strength and force, and little so far in the conduct of this Administration demonstrates the will power to take strong action. In fact time and again, the approach of “leading from behind” and “too little too late” has undermined whatever credibility we had with Mr. Putin at the beginning of 2009. Let’s review how we got to where we are currently in Ukraine and Syria.

To be fair to the current Administration, the preceding Administration had not provided a strong precedent, as it did little to prevent Russia under Medvedev from carving out South Ossetia and Abkhazia from the sovereign country of Georgia. But as Mr. Putin reclaimed the presidency of Russia in 2012, he had already observed 1) the absence of any supportive response from the Obama Administration to the Green Revolution in Iran in 2009, 2) the cancellation, under pressure from Russia, of a promised missile defense system in Poland, 3) very modest support for the French led actions surrounding the overthrow of Gadhafi in Libya in 2011, and 4) the total failure to enforce the red line drawn in Syria regarding the use by Assad of chemical weapons in 2012. Why wouldn’t Mr. Putin doubt our resolve and have no compunction or concern about taking the actions that he has in Ukraine and Syria?

Clear commitment to and demonstration of strength with only very judicious actual use of force are critical to convince the bullies of this world like Mr. Putin that the United States has the resolve and the ability to turn back inappropriate and irresponsible acts of aggression. I’ve had the privilege of listening many times to former Secretary of State George Shultz talk about how he and President Reagan chose to deal with such acts of unwanted aggression during the Reagan Administration. They, of course, took steps to restore our military strength, but they used very limited force only three times following the tragic bombing of our marine barracks in Beirut in 1983. We used a very modest amount of military force in Grenada very shortly after the Beirut bombing to rescue 300 Americans being held hostage there, we executed a surgical strike against Gadhafi in retaliation for an attack on our forces in Berlin in 1986, and in a very crisp response to mining activities by Iran in the Persian Gulf in 1987 we sank an Iranian ship that was deploying illegal mines after removing and immediately freeing all Iranian sailors on board. In all three instances a clear message was delivered. An attack on the United States and its allies will receive a proportionate response quickly and decisively.

Unfortunately, little that we have done so far with regard to Russian aggression in Ukraine or Syria has been either timely or appropriately proportionate. In Syria there was a point in time when one could discern the good guys from the bad guys and provide equipment, training, and support sufficient perhaps to enable the opposition to overthrow Assad. Creation of a “no fly zone” was an option recommended by a number of foreign policy experts, including former Secretary Clinton, but was never acted upon by the Administration. By the time we’d fiddled around for months and allowed the Russians to play the key role in negotiating the removal, supposedly, of all chemical weapons from Syria, we’d lost most of the leverage we might have had or been able to obtain, and Russia was in the driver’s seat in terms of protecting their friend Assad. ISIL/Islamic State has obviously complicated enormously the situation in Syria and clearly in Aleppo, but Russia has a very strong presence in Syria today and will be very hard to dislodge, largely because of “too little, too late” on our part. There is still some possibility, however, that it’s not too late to change the current course of events in Syria. A ‘no fly zone” and some sort of “safe-haven” enforcement could still improve the situation in Syria, but it will take resolve on our part and create risk of escalation that we have been unwilling to assume to date.

The situation in Ukraine is clearly very different. Putin’s aggressive actions to carve up and usurp as much of Ukraine as he can is all part of his longer range aspiration to recreate substantial parts of the Soviet Union or at least reestablish Russian influence, if not total dominance, in these neighboring countries. Our pathetically weak response to these actions in Ukraine have or will only encourage this type of aggression in the Baltic States initially and prospectively in other parts of Eastern Europe. Once again the impact of “too little, too late” is clearly being demonstrated. While our diplomats continue to participate in agonizingly unproductive discussions, Mr. Putin is shoring up his military positions in this greater theatre and will no doubt continue to use the excuse of protecting native Russians as he pursues his goals of territorial reclamation. As the remaining areas of Ukraine not yet under Russian control observe the lack of serious U.S. assistance in their plight, it must appear as though it is only a matter of time before they too are annexed by Russia.

Diplomacy and negotiation have been only very modestly successful at best to date with Russia relating to the terribly troubling developments in both Syria and the Ukraine. What incentive does Mr. Putin have to negotiate with us and our allies, when we demonstrate little evidence that we will back up our periodic threats with force. Recent shoring up and redeployment of NATO forces in the Baltics and Poland is a positive step, but we need to return to the Reagan-Shultz approach of saying what we mean in our interactions with Mr. Putin and being prepared to show that we mean what we say with decisive use of measured and proportionate force.

What Should be the U.S. Response to Russia in light of Russian and Syrian Government Attacks on Aleppo?

October 5, 2016

William J. vanden Heuvel (Ambassador to the United Nations European Office, 1977-1979)

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The security of the United States is unacceptably endangered without a cooperative respectful relationship with Russia. The problems that divide us cannot be solved by war.

The Charter of the United Nations obliges the Permanent Members of the Security Council to work together to prevent war. The Ukraine, Syria, the refugee and migration flow which threatens the stability of all of our European allies, the increasing threat of nuclear confrontation — all of these crises demand that diplomacy find a way to restore sanity to our deliberations and avoid a resumption of the Cold War. Those who have the power to make peace possible will bear the obloquy of history if war becomes their choice.

Syria’s “Surrogates R Us”

August 31, 2016

Marc Ginsberg (Ambassador to Morocco, 1994-1998)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Ginsberg’s August 30, 2016 worldpost piece in the Huffington Post.

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Sur-ro-gate: a substitute or deputy for a person in a specific role.

The crumbling, decrepit remnants of the Syrian state are overrun by the pestilence of so many mini-conflicts it is impossible to know who is fighting what at any hour of any given day, or which devastated rubble of a city or town is under control of what Sunni Islamist of Shiite faction or proxy of Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia or the United States. Syria is a veritable cauldron of killing field upon killing field. One day a surrogate force is on one side, the next day, on the other — depending on the highest bidder and the gravest threat to their proxy hosts.

Syria’s butcher-in-chief — Bashar al-Assad — courtesy of Russia’s Putin, Iran’s Khamenei, and the terrorist group known as Hezbollah, has clung to power by controlling a sliver of territory around the capital, Damascus, while his beleaguered forces barrel-bomb and deploy poison gas (yes, poison gas) to subdue a civilian population not under his regime’s direct control into starvation and submission. That is what is taking place in Syria’s largest city of Aleppo.

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Be proud of state, nation: Register and vote

August 31, 2016

George Bruno (Ambassador to Belize, 1994-1997)

Cross-posted from the August 21, 2016 opinion column as published in the Shelbyville Times-Gazette

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Being a guest columnist, so far editor Sadie Fowler allows me to select my own topics. The rub comes when I must select a single topic and then energize my creative juices to produce the column.

I had settled on my next subject before Sunday morning when I read the T-G front page article about our state having the worst voter turnout at elections. Our registration of eligible voters isn’t much better. Thank you, John Carney, for selecting my topic.

The decisions our Founding Fathers made over 200 years ago regarding the form of government for our new nation were truly revolutionary in world history. (In Ancient Greece, democracy appeared in cities rather than in national government but was unable to survive.)

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Summer Doldrums. Not Quite.

August 3, 2016

Antonio O. Garza (Ambassador to Mexico, 2002-2009)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Garza’s August 2016 newsletter.

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It should be the summer doldrums, but the news out of Mexico hasn’t quite slowed down.

One of Mexico’s biggest stories was the debate, passage, veto, and then re-passage of the country’s anti-corruption package. These seven bills were designed to put legislative meat on the bones of the 2015 anti-corruption reform, and will greatly assist in coordinating corruption fighting across government institutions. The final package stopped short of embracing every part of the civil society written and backed Ley 3de3 (which would have forced government officials to publicly declare their assets, conflicts of interest, and tax records), but it did create what has been called “the most encompassing system to identify and sanction corruption that the country has ever had.”

In more welcome anti-corruption news, the Peña Nieto administration filed legal challenges this month against the governments of Veracruz, Quintana Roo, and Chihuahua for reforms that would have shielded outgoing governors from corruption investigations. These states are facing federal inquiries over financial irregularities under the governors’ tenures. And in the case of Veracruz, for at least twenty-six phantom companies that received some US$1 billion in unaccounted funds. Read the rest of this entry »

Elie Wiesel Was the World’s Moral Compass

July 6, 2016

Ronald S. Lauder (Ambassador to Austria, 1986-1987)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Lauder’s July 5, 2016 special to Fortune.

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Thirty years ago, I traveled to Auschwitz with Elie Wiesel. I had been to the camp before. I had seen the barbed wire, the barracks, the guard towers. I had stood in the gas chambers where a generation of Jewish children perished as the hands of evil. But to experience Auschwitz through Elie’s eyes, through the eyes of the man who taught the world about the horrors of the Holocaust, changed everything for me. It changed the way I think, and it lit a flame in me that burns to this day.

Elie once observed that the survivors of the Shoah “had the right to give up on humanity.” But Elie refused to give up. When I joined him at Auschwitz, I found a man not filled with hate, but with sadness and determination. Sadness over all those who were lost, and determination to honor their memory with action and impact.

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More Uncertainty but Message Clear: “Fix It”

July 5, 2016

Antonio O. Garza (Ambassador to Mexico, 2002-2009)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Garza’s July 2016 newsletter.

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This past January, I wrote that the coming year would be one characterized by our “Living with Uncertainty”. Looking back, while it was clear that this year would be tumultuous, I certainly misunderestimated what was to come.

It’s hard not to start with Brexit, when 52 percent of the United Kingdom’s voters chose to break with the European Union.  The vote marks the first departure from the grand European project, tacking an uncharted course for the United Kingdom and for the continent. But the contentious vote was really the easy part. The next two years will be filled with the tougher steps—sitting through painful negotiations, designing a brand new state framework, and calming jittery markets that are concerned with the future of both the United Kingdom and a strong and peaceful Europe.

The anger is not just a United Kingdom and United States phenomenon; voters around the world are frustrated. And Mexico is no exception.

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Brexit Hangover: A Field Guide for Americans

June 24, 2016

Marc Ginsberg (Ambassador to Morocco, 1994-1998)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Ginsberg’s June 24, 2016 special to the Huffington Post.

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The political and financial impact of yesterday’s “Brexit” vote will have long-lasting and profound implications for the U.S. presidential campaign, for U.S. – European relations, and for Europe itself. Once the Brexit proponents finish downing their champagne, the hangovers will settle in, for certain. They know not what they doneth.

Shockingly, the Brexit tally vote defied the sure money touted by London’s bookies. They were long and wrong on the odds, but the sure loser was Prime Minister Cameron; his bet was fatal – both to his political career and to a united United Kingdom. After all, the Brexit referendum was Cameron’s political miscalculation, who in a desperate moment of political lunacy succumbed to demands to appease rebellious Tory Euro-skeptic back-benchers and agreed to hold this ill-conceived referendum. Before his nation in front of 10 Downing Street, Cameron, his lips quivering, emotionally threw in the towel and spitefully resigned his office. Why? No one knows. Was his resignation really necessary in the heat of the moment?

As a result of the vote, the grave consequences to Britain’s political system and economy will reverberate for years – all in the name of abiding anti-immigrant sentiment in England and throttling the pesky, red-tape laden Brussels bureaucrats in the European Union’s redoubt. Revelers are rejoicing over the hopeful return of British sovereignty, but the end of 40 years of EU membership do not come without a price – and not just for the Brits.

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