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January 2013

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Cover Story

Capricia Penavic Marshall:
America's Protocol Boss

a5.cover.marshall.protocol.homeUnderstanding the rules of protocol goes a long way toward greasing the wheels of diplomacy — which is why Ambassador Capricia Penavic Marshall's job is so important. Read More

People of World Influence

Brzezinski: Obama Must 'Regain'
Lost Ground in Foreign Policy

a1.powi.brzezinski.homeTwo days after President Obama secured a second term in office, former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski didn't mince words about what Obama needs to do to burnish his legacy. Read More


Diplomacy

Arkansas Odyssey: Ambassadors
Experience the Natural State

a2.arkansas.clinton.homeBBQ, business contacts and Bill Clinton were just some of the adventures that awaited Washington ambassadors as they trekked to Arkansas for the latest installment of the State Department's popular Experience America trips. Read More


International Relations

U.S.-Saudi Relationship
Weathers Arab Spring

a3.ncusar.arab.homeTwo years after the Arab Spring altered the geopolitical landscape, a major conference examined the largely ignored dynamic of U.S.-Saudi relations. Read More


Politics

Washington Gears Up
For 2013 Inauguration

a4.inauguration.swearing.obama.homePreparations are well under way to get the city ready for the 57th Presidential Inauguration, a quadrennial event that is both solemn and celebratory. Read More


Events

CPS Conference Attracts
Ambassadors, Industry Insiders

a6.cps.conference1.homeThe Washington Diplomat's inaugural Country Promotion Strategies Conference brought together industry insiders to assess the political landscape one week after the contentious U.S. elections. Read More


International Law

U.S. Court Moves Against Impunity
In Years-Long Somali Legal Saga

a7.fsia.scales.justice.home

The case of a former Somali prime minister being sued in U.S. courts for torture could reverberate around the world. Read More

ALSO SEE: Brief History of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act


Development

Not All Good Development
Intentions Are Created Equal

a8.development.gavi.kenya.homeThe number of development groups trying to make the world a better place is impressive — and staggering. But behind the numbers is a basic question: Which ones work? Read More


Medical

Suicide and the Holidays:
Myths and Realities

a9.medical.depression.holiday.homeThe myth of suicides spiking during the holiday season is a persistent one that masks the complex realities of depression and mental illness. Read More


   

Brzezinski: Obama Must ‘Regain’ Lost Ground in Foreign Policy

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By Larry Luxner

Also See: Clarification

Two days after the election that returned President Barack Obama to the White House for a second term, one of America's best-known former diplomats offered his take on the world — and the audience found his observations just as relevant as they were three decades ago.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security advisor under President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981, didn't mince words when it came to Obama. "He has to undo the excessive reliance on speeches as he acts on the world scene — that is to say, the apparent assumption that a powerful speech on this or that subject is the same as effecting change," Brzezinski said. "The speeches all promised a great deal, but a great deal did not transpire. There was some marginal progress here and there, but by and large, his speeches remain speeches."

The Polish-American diplomat, 84, gave his own speech Nov. 8 at the Aspen Institute's Ambassadors' Security Roundtable luncheon at the Four Seasons hotel; moderating the discussion was CNN's Washington-based foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty. In attendance were some 75 guests, including ambassadors representing a range of countries from Afghanistan to Zambia, as well as lobbyists, consultants and various State Department officials.

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Photo: Larry Luxner

The event was part of the recent launch of the Ambassadors' Security Roundtable, a quarterly convening of ambassadors from around the world to promote greater international cooperation in the critical realm of security. The luncheon followed an off-the-record gathering of European envoys at the Aspen Institute's Wye River campus on Maryland's Eastern Shore in October.

Brzezinski, whom Dougherty introduced as a "living legend," said that in 2008, "at a lunch of this sort," he spoke of how impressed he was with the president-elect's "knowledge and understanding of the basic dynamics of this era."

Four years later, Brzezinski argued that Obama must reassert his credibility on the world stage through serious commitment and decisive action that will shape both his legacy and the country's trajectory.

"The management of our foreign policy and the protection of our national security are interwoven, and the president has no peer," Brzezinski said. "Congress is not a partner in the shaping of foreign policy. That is the special domain of the president, and he has to regain that territory."

It's territory Brzezinski has traversed for decades. During his time as Carter's national security advisor, Brzezinski oversaw the normalization of U.S. relations with China, the overthrow of the Shah in Iran, the rise of mujahideen fighters in Afghanistan, the growth of dissent in Soviet-influenced Eastern Europe, the signing of a treaty to relinquish U.S. control over the Panama Canal, and the brokering of the Camp David peace accords between Egypt and Israel.

The chairman of countless commissions, task forces and councils, Brzezinski has been in the foreign policy trenches since the 1960s. The elder statesman remains active today, teaching at universities such as Harvard, Columbia and Johns Hopkins and writing numerous widely regarded books, including his most recent: "Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power."

In the 2012 book, Brzezinski argues that U.S. policymakers need to rethink the country's place in an interdependent world where America is no longer the sole superpower — adapting to shifting geopolitics while reasserting American influence in order to preserve global stability.

"Indeed, the ongoing changes in the distribution of global power and mounting global strife make it all the more imperative that America not retreat into an ignorant garrison-state mentality or wallow in self-righteous cultural hedonism. Such an America could cause the geopolitical prospects of an evolving world — in which the center of gravity is shifting from West to East — to become increasingly grave," he writes. "The world needs an America that is economically vital, socially appealing, responsibly powerful, strategically deliberate, internationally respected, and historically enlightened in its global engagement with the new East."

These were all themes Brzezinski expanded on at the Aspen Institute luncheon, where, among other things, he advised Obama "to make a special effort to put the American-Chinese relationship on an even keel. Election rhetoric contributed to rising tensions with China. We have to be very careful how we define our role in the Far East — and it isn't sufficient to define it in military terms. He also has to reaffirm support for Europe at a time when it's in crisis. We need a new Atlantic Charter, which in the darkest days of World War II was a vision of the future for Europe and America. We need something like this again."

Brzezinski, who was born in Warsaw in 1928, witnessed the rise of Nazism as a child during the four years his father, a diplomat, served in Germany. Tadeusz Brzezinski was then posted to the Soviet Union for two years during Joseph Stalin's Great Purge. In 1938 — the year before Hitler invaded Poland — the elder Brzezinski was transferred to Canada, and after the 1945 Yalta Conference allotted Poland to the postwar Soviet sphere of influence, the family decided not to return. The Cold War deeply affected the young man, who grew up determined to help Eastern Europe counter Soviet domination and eventually came to support détente and peaceful engagement with Moscow.

"If we have a strong relationship with Europe, we can also improve our relationship with the Russians," Brzezinski said. "If we don't, our relationship with Russia will become more difficult, and Russia may become more assertive in places like Georgia and Azerbaijan."

Yet the world is a very different place today than it was four years ago when Obama first moved into the White House. The biggest difference is not so much Russia or Europe but the Arab Spring, which has seen the fall of dictatorships in Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, Libya and now quite possibly Syria.

However, according to Brzezinski, what's happening in the Arab world cannot exactly be compared to the overthrow of communism in Eastern Europe and, later, the collapse of the Soviet Union itself — despite what he called the "oversimplification" of recent events by the mass media.

"Populism can lead to democracy, but is not in itself a democratic phenomenon. It takes time for populism to become permeated by democratic principles and the ability of compromise. Central Europe had that in the 1990s because there was a history, so over time it acquired democratic attributes," he explained.

"In the Middle East, it's a much more emotional reaction against deprivation, corruption visible at the top, unfair wealth and the impact of mass communications. It's a phenomenon of political outrage, which can go in religious, extremist directions, or it's a gradual process. It's really much more complicated than just a democratic uprising."

In fact, it's the Middle East that now presents Obama's biggest foreign policy headache, as once-reliable U.S. allies like Egypt's Hosni Mubarak are replaced by democratically elected governments whose leaders don't look as kindly on the United States — especially in light of Washington's unwavering support for Israel.

One way to regain America's waning influence in the region, Brzezinski suggested, is to stand up to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, both on the issue of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and on Iran's nuclear program.

"If you look at public opinion polls in Israel and the U.S., and to some extent among Palestinians, the predominant position is still to seek a peaceful solution — but a Palestinian state has to be based on compromise," he said.

"Netanyahu is pursuing the expansion of settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem. We are mouthing repeatedly our phrase that this is not consistent with Israel's legal obligations. If we're serious, we have to make it very clear that either both [sides] desist, or they both go ahead. We can't be more interested in peace than they are."

Brzezinski's talk came just before the latest explosion of violence in the Gaza Strip and Israel. It also preceded the vote at the U.N. General Assembly to upgrade Palestine to a nonmember observer state by an overwhelming majority — and Israel's retribution for the diplomatic maneuver: the announcement of plans to construct 3,000 housing units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Those plans include a highly sensitive area known as E1; critics say building on the strategic plot of land would destroy chances of a viable Palestinian state. The Israeli move infuriated European governments in Britain, France and Spain, which summoned Israeli ambassadors to lodge formal protests, although the United States only issued a token rebuke.

Despite helping to broker the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, Brzezinski has never been known to be particularly sympathetic toward the latter.

In recent years, he's praised Carter's description of Israeli occupation of the West Bank as state-sanctioned apartheid and has stated publicly that Washington's relationship with its closest Middle East ally was the result of Jewish pressure.

Once slated to become an official advisor to Obama, Brzezinski was passed over for the job after lawmakers of both parties warned that his anti-Israel sentiments would damage Obama at the polls.

Brzezinski still remains adamantly opposed to a military strike against Iran, whether from Israel or the United States — even if the Islamic Republic is on the verge of obtaining a nuclear weapon.

"This can be solved either by agreement or by intimidation, but not by war," he contends. "War with Iran would be explosive and destructive for the entire region. I think the president [must] gradually move away from the notion that force is the last resort. It's not a resort at all. Sanctions will continue and will eventually cause a change in Iran, but the U.S. should make it explicitly clear that if Iran makes a threat against any Middle Eastern state, we will react exactly the same way as if the Soviet Union had done this toward Western Europe, or if Japan is threatened by North Korea." Brzezinski scoffed at the "red lines" demanded by Netanyahu in the Israeli leader's speech in September — complete with cartoon-like nuclear bomb — before the United Nations General Assembly.

"The less ambiguity on the subject, the better. Don't forget that sanctions are having an enormous impact already. It's evident from the way the Iranians are reacting," Brzezinski said. "But if you think the threat of nuclear war recedes if we attack Iran, just think of the consequences of such a war. Pakistan is much more likely to become a radical Islamic state. Are we supposed to also disarm Pakistan as the next phase?"

Brzezinski said the Obama administration should foster the emergence of moderate Israeli leaders willing to make compromises with the Palestinians to achieve a two-state solution. (As of press time, Netanyahu looked headed for an easy victory in Israel's upcoming Jan. 22 election.)

"The Israelis are moving into a period of choosing between more right-wing and semi-fascist leaders. There's a very militant extreme, and also a left of center which still desires peace — [Ehud] Olmert, [Tzipi] Livni, maybe [Ehud] Barak. These are options we ought to be encouraging," Brzezinski said. "The Israelis are very aware that their long-term survival depends on America, and we haven't made any progress in that direction. The Israelis have to realize that they must have a prime minister who can work closely with the president."

He added, ominously: "I'm really doubtful about Israel's survival once the United States is pushed out of the region."

After his speech, Brzezinski fielded questions from several prominent people, including Paul Wolfowitz — former president of the World Bank and one of the architects of the Iraq War — who wondered how the Obama administration could be persuaded to "take the lead" in training and arming Syrian rebels.

Jane Harman, director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (profiled in the July 2012 People of World Influence column), asked what Israel could do to build a coalition among Palestinians that would require Hamas to renounce violence against the Jewish state. And Alia Hatoug-Bouran, Jordan's ambassador to the United States, asked how to stop the building of Jewish settlements in territory the Palestinians one day hope to incorporate into their new state.

"Netanyahu can't succeed in colonizing the West Bank," Brzezinski responded. "What's at stake is the future of the region, and our position because of our association with Israel. To perpetuate and deepen the existing hostility is, in the end, a prescription for historical drama that's likely to end in tragedy. We have to have guts. We cannot do it simply by acquiescing to Netanyahu."


About the Author

Larry Luxner is news editor of The Washington Diplomat.

   

Arkansas Odyssey: Ambassadors Experience the Natural State

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By Larry Luxner

 

LITTLE ROCK — It was a scene straight out of Hollywood. Under a huge tent set up in the backyard of the Arkansas governor's mansion — a three-story Georgian Revival home reminiscent of "Gone With the Wind" — long picnic tables decorated with checkered tablecloths groaned under the weight of down-home Southern cuisine: black-eyed pea salad, roasted potatoes, barbecue chicken, dry-rub smoked beef brisket, honey and dill salmon, turnip greens and apple crisp.

As 150 or so hungry guests speaking a cacophony of languages stood on the chow line, local bluegrass band Runaway Planet entertained the crowd with "Folsom Prison Blues" and other songs made famous by native son Johnny Cash — followed by a high school dance troupe that proudly showed off its clogging skills.

Presiding over the evening's festivities was guayabera-clad Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe and his wife Ginger. The first couple stopped at each table to make sure their guests were enjoying themselves — just as fictitious Southern Gov. Jack Stanton (played by John Travolta) did with his wife Susan in the movie "Primary Colors," which was loosely based on Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential election campaign.

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Photos: Larry Luxner
Foreign ambassadors visiting the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville pose in front of a seven-foot-tall statue of Sen. J. William Fulbright, founder of the Fulbright scholarship program, during the latest installment of the State Department's popular Experience America trips.

Only Mike Beebe isn't running for president, and his guests weren't wealthy donors — but rather the largest group of foreign ambassadors Arkansas has ever seen.

"This is really a treat for all of our ambassadors to get together here, and we're certainly pleased you chose Arkansas for your Experience America tour," Beebe told the delighted diplomats and their spouses, representing 43 countries ranging from Azerbaijan to Uruguay.

The BBQ was one of many highlights of the Oct. 21-23 Arkansas adventure, which was arranged by the State Department and Capricia Penavic Marshall, the U.S. chief of protocol (see our cover story).

"The State Department does an excellent job at organizing these trips," said Deborah-Mae Lovell of the tiny Caribbean twin-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, who's participated in eight of its 11 "Experience America" trips since 2008 (she missed Alaska, New York and Wyoming). "This gives me a chance to meet with a cross-section of the population, from government officials to business executives, educators and young people. It enhances the work I do as an ambassador."

That's exactly the point of the Experience America excursions — to get ambassadors outside the Beltway, and their comfort zone, to see other parts of the country. Since 2007, ambassadors from more than 100 nations have traveled to destinations such as Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, as well as multiple cities in Alaska, California, Florida, Texas and Wyoming (also see "Ambassadors Trek to Alaska to Experience America" in the September 2011 issue of The Washington Diplomat and "Envoys Go Beyond Beltway to See Slice of America" in the November 2008 issue).

As the Office of Protocol puts it, the mission is to "foster international goodwill and cultivate the relationship between the diplomatic corps and the people and institutions of the United States through an exchange of ideas, cultures and traditions."

The goal is also to forge lucrative business connections. As such, many local dignitaries show up to greet the diplomats — leading not only to friendships and partnerships, but also to unexpected coincidences.

At Gov. Beebe's barbeque, Cathie Matthews, director of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, was overjoyed when she found herself seated next to Tanzanian Ambassador Mwanaidi Sinare Maajar. It turns out that back in the late 1990s, Matthews had spent some time in Tanzania's capital, Dar es Salaam, as marketing chief for a telecom firm. The two women hugged and even exchanged a few words in Swahili.

A few tables down, Lovell was so taken with the clogging show that she jumped up on stage and joined the dance, to the delight of her normally staid colleagues.

Foreign diplomats accredited to the United States rarely get together outside D.C. or New York. But here in Arkansas there was a whole bus full of them, representing political entities as tiny as the remote Pacific atoll of Tuvalu (population 9,800) and as powerful as the 27-member European Union (population 503 million).

Claudia Fritsche, ambassador of 62-square-mile Liechtenstein — the second-tiniest country on the trip — said Arkansas was one of only six U.S. states she had not yet visited; now she can finally scratch it off her list.

"I'm deeply impressed by the natural beauty and the truly entrepreneurial spirit of the people of Arkansas," she said. "And there's also something one expects, but I'm still humbled by it: Southern hospitality."

Her seatmate from Luxembourg, Ambassador Jean-Louis Wolzfeld, agreed.

"America is far more than its capital city, and it's important to see how people live and think outside the Beltway."

Wolzfeld, whose prosperous duchy is about the size of Pulaski County — where Little Rock is located — said Arkansas appealed to him "because it's a small state for America and everybody knows each other. In that way, it's very much like back home."

There's also one way it's not like back home: Luxembourg is one of Europe's most expensive countries, while Arkansas is one of the cheapest U.S. states. A gallon of gasoline costs $6.49 in Luxembourg, compared to $3.15 in Arkansas — a fact not lost on some of the world's most powerful diplomats as they checked their BlackBerrys, smoked cigarettes and otherwise killed time (some more patiently than others) at a Valero discount gas station halfway between Little Rock and Fayetteville.

That Interstate 40 potty break was perhaps the least scripted moment of a meticulously choreographed adventure that had been planned weeks and months in advance by staffers in Marshall's office.

* * *

With only 2.9 million inhabitants and no world-class cities, majestic mountains or soaring monuments, Arkansas — a tad bigger than Greece and slightly smaller than Bangladesh — may seem a rather unlikely place for the State Department to schlep one-fourth of the entire Washington-based diplomatic corps. As Beebe noted, recalling his 12-day trade mission to China last April: "The Chinese know only two things about Arkansas: Bill Clinton and Walmart."

a2.arkansas.clinton.storyAmbassador of Denmark Peter Taksøe-Jensen, at left, meets former President Bill Clinton during dinner at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Yet the Natural State is much more than that, as the 42nd president himself told the visiting ambassadors during a welcome dinner at the $165 million steel-and-glass William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park — just a few hours after their arrival at Little Rock's newly renamed Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.

"If you want to experience Arkansas, go up to the hills where Hillary and I were married in Fayetteville," he said following a private reception in which every diplomat and spouse on the tour posed for individual pictures with the famous ex-president. "I want you to know Walmart and Tyson Foods, but also go to the Crystal Bridges art museum, which was built by a remarkable Israeli architect, Moshe Safdie, whom I met when Israel and Jordan signed their peace agreement."

In his speech, Clinton eulogized another icon, South Dakota Sen. George McGovern — the liberal Democrat and 1972 presidential candidate who had died that morning at the age of 90. He also noted the nastiness of the 2012 campaign that pitted President Barack Obama against his ultimately unsuccessful Republican challenger, Gov. Mitt Romney — a campaign in which Bill Clinton played an instrumental role in drumming up support for

Obama, his wife's one-time rival for the presidency. "We're still small enough that, at least in the old days, we were actually friends with people of the other political party," said the folksy, savvy political operator. "We find all this bitter, angry talk that's going on now absolute insanity."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton couldn't meet the ambassadors personally, but warmly welcomed them to Arkansas through a video link as the diplomats dined on duck rillette salad sourced from Stuttgart, Ark., the self-proclaimed "duck hunting capital of the world." That was followed by smoked corn bisque, Arkansas venison on bone marrow risotto, and finally lemon blueberry cake flavored with thyme grown in the Clinton Center's own sustainable garden.

"Through this program, you're visiting places and meeting people you might otherwise miss," the secretary of state said in her prerecorded message.

"Your visit to Arkansas provides a great opportunity to build new relationships between our country and yours. You'll travel to Fayetteville — one of the prettiest places in America — and you'll see the famous Razorbacks. You'll meet some of the most creative, best people the United States has to offer. Arkansas may be a small state, but it has a huge heart."

* * *

Before settling back to enjoy the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra's Quapaw String Quartet and performances of "New York State of Mind" and "Jersey Boys" by the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, President Clinton invited Ambassador Akec Khoc of South Sudan — the world's newest nation — to stand up and be recognized; a round of applause ensued.

The former president also waxed nostalgic, telling his foreign guests what it was like growing up in his hometown of Hope, Ark., where he attended kindergarten and first grade, and later Hot Springs, where he graduated from high school.

"I was nuts about politics and I remember watching the 1956 elections, but like Gov. Beebe and Sen. Dale Bumpers, I didn't have a television when I was a child. We were 10 when we got a TV, and my family controlled how much TV I could watch," he recalled. "Besides, there were only three channels. Most of us couldn't afford to take vacations; our idea of a vacation was swimming in the lake, or fishing in the creek. So we grew up in a storytelling culture. I hope you'll get a chance to sit down with people and listen to their stories."

Sufficiently impressed with their important new friend, the distinguished diplomats wandered around the museum after dinner, gazing at the hundreds of artifacts on display — from the bulletproof black 1993 Cadillac One limousine used during Clinton's presidency to letters addressed to Bill and Hillary from Elton John, Arsenio Hall and Jordan's Queen Noor. They also checked out life-size replicas of both the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room, as well as a 110-foot-long timeline that recounts, in minute detail, every key event of the Clinton administration.

Marshall served as social secretary in the Clinton White House. As she introduced the president, the protocol chief spoke with obvious pride about Experience America, a program launched by her predecessor, Nancy Brinker.

"When I came to Little Rock to join a certain unknown governor in 1991, my life was changed forever. Having returned many times over the years to Arkansas, I have grown more and more fond of this amazing state," she said.

"We have come to Arkansas through a program called Experience America. This type of engagement is what we at the State Department call smart power diplomacy, which means using every diplomatic tool at our disposal to strengthen our relations with the world — and now it's Arkansas's turn to be a part of it."

The next afternoon, while taking a well-deserved break from her responsibilities as U.S. protocol chief and bus chaperone, Marshall explained how it all works.

"Embassies pay their own way, and they pay for their stay. What we do is work with airlines and our host committee," she told The Diplomat. "When President Clinton heard about what we were doing, he told me, 'You must bring the ambassadors to Arkansas, and I want to be here when they come.'

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Foreign ambassadors and their spouses pose in front of Little Rock Central High School, scene of the violent 1957 protest against school desegregation and a highlight of the diplomats' trip to Arkansas organized by the Office of Protocol at the State Department.

The folks at the Clinton Presidential Center worked very hard at aligning the stars to make it happen."

It also helped that in a recent State Department survey asking Washington-based ambassadors where they wanted to go next, three states — Alaska, Arkansas and New Mexico — came out on top.

"Our focus on the Experience America trips is not only to showcase the beauty of our great nation, and the diversity of culture and tradition, but also to create business relationships with people from all backgrounds," Marshall said. "For example, when we went to Los Angeles, the ambassadors attended a wonderful luncheon hosted by Warner Brothers. They were quite frank about how a country can prepare a package to invite a studio to go on location and film in their country. Later, the ambassador of Gabon signed a deal with them; it all came about from that luncheon."

* * *

With dollar signs in mind, local business leaders fêted the ambassadors as if they were celebrities at not one but two lavish events — first at a lengthy Governor's Business Roundtable Breakfast on the 30th floor of Little Rock's tallest building, then the following day at the University of Arkansas's sprawling campus in Fayetteville.

"Even through the worst recession in my lifetime, our business leaders have persevered, maintained and have been able to expand," Beebe said over breakfast, noting that Arkansas has gained 27,000 jobs since the economy hit bottom in 2009.

"We care deeply about your economic viability for very selfish reasons," he told the diplomats. "When we do poorly, the rest of the states do poorly, and when the states do poorly, the globe does poorly. So it's important for us to get together and talk about economic strategy. It's our job to tout who we are and what we have available. And what we have available is an ever-increasingly advanced workforce."

Beebe, who's led trade missions to China, France, Germany, Great Britain and Cuba, said Arkansas has been relatively successful in attracting investment from Western Europe and Asia, "though we'd like to have a few more companies from the Caribbean, Latin America and the Middle East."

Arkansas would also like to sell more to the world. To that end, Paul Rivera, general manager of the Caterpillar factory in North Little Rock, said his Illinois-based company — the world's largest name in mining and construction equipment — spent $148 million to build its world-class facility in Arkansas three years ago. The factory now employs about 600 people.

"We produce things every country needs," Rivera said, noting that 45 percent of his factory's output is shipped outside the United States. And in response to a question from Botswana's ambassador, Tebelelo Mazile Seretse, he added: "Africa is a huge growth market for Caterpillar, served primarily from our European and Brazilian markets, but we'd like to produce machines — especially for mining and road construction — closer to the point of use."

Eric Fox, plant manager for global cosmetics giant L'Oreal, told diplomats that his 900,000-square-foot factory in North Little Rock produces 300 million units of mascara, eye shadow, face powder, nail enamel and lipstick every year under the brand names Maybelline and Lancôme.

"This is the largest cosmetics plant in the world for L'Oreal," said Fox, who manages 800 employees. "We're now opening factories in Russia, Brazil, Egypt and Indonesia. Western Europe and the U.S. are fairly mature markets, so there's little room for growth, but the global middle class will grow from 1 billion today to 2.7 billion by 2050, and these people are going to need quality beauty products."

As Tanzania's Maajar told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette after that meeting: "Everyone likes to do business with China, but we want a mixture, because competition is good for Africa. And I think it's time for American business to be looking to Africa."

Ambassador Anibal de Castro of the Dominican Republic told us that he foresees future partnerships sprouting from the visit.

"The trip offered a great opportunity to take in the real America," he said. "We not only met with top representatives from industry and the higher education sector, but could appreciate the diversity, entrepreneurial spirit and deep sense of community that characterize this country. We are looking forward to establishing new trade relations between companies based in Arkansas and the Dominican Republic."

* * *

In Fayetteville, the ambassadors were enthusiastically welcomed to the University of Arkansas by Razorbacks cheerleaders, backed up by the school's marching band. They also learned how to "call the hogs" — a rousing university tradition that dates back to the 1920s — and posed for photos under a statue of Sen. J. William Fulbright, founder of the Fulbright program, which since its inception in 1946 has given scholarships to more than 300,000 promising students in the United States and more than 150 countries worldwide.

Here too, business was on the agenda, with presentations by two of the state's most important companies: Bentonville-based Walmart, the planet's largest retailer, and Springdale-based Tyson Foods, one of the world's largest processors and marketers of chicken, beef and pork.

"Our rate of growth exceeds all other metropolitan areas in the Midwest," said Mike Malone, president and CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Council. "We're adding 31 residents to this corner of Arkansas every day. More than a quarter of a million people have moved here in the last 20 years. They come and stay, and they love it."

The state's most famous corporate name is, of course, Walmart, which began in 1962 with just one store in the town of Rogers, about 20 miles north of Fayetteville.

"Our goal was to bring to small, rural communities the same benefits people would have in affluent cities," said Rosalind Brewer, president and CEO of retail chain Sam's Club. "Today, Walmart operates under 69 banners around world, with Sam's Clubs in China, Brazil and Mexico."

Last year, Sam's Club alone posted sales of $49 billion — more than the annual GDP of 19 countries represented by the ambassadors listening to Brewer's speech — and its stores cover a combined 81 million square feet, which is three times the size of Monaco. Its parent company, Walmart, with well over 2 million employees and 2011 revenues of $419 billion, would rank as the world's 23rd-largest economy — smack between oil exporters Norway and Saudi Arabia — if it were a country of its own.

a2.arkansas.facebook.refer.story"Many of you here today represent countries that Walmart sources from, and it's a long list that includes Thailand [tables, jewelry and TVs]; Egypt [rugs and shirts]; Germany [wines]; and Cambodia [gloves and dresses]," said Brewer.

"One of our goals is to be a good global citizen, and 70 percent of impoverished people are women. Walmart has the size and scale to help, by empowering women across our supply chain. So over the next five years, we will source $20 billion from women-owned suppliers in the U.S., and double our sourcing from women-owned suppliers internationally."

Like Brewer, Donnie Smith, president and CEO of Tyson Foods, looked out at the roomful of ambassadors and saw potential new sales to a multitude of countries.

Rattling off statistics, Smith said that Tyson — with 115,000 employees and $33 billion in annual revenues — is the nation's second-largest tortilla maker and the largest manufacturer of pizza toppings, though beef comprises 40 percent of company sales, chicken 35 percent and pork 15 percent.

"Over time, chicken will continue to grow in per-capita consumption. Today, we're in countries where we see an emerging middle class and a good supply of feed grains," he said. "Latin America is a huge growth opportunity for us, but we're also in India, where per-capita chicken consumption is only five pounds a year."

All that farm talk resonated with Moroccan Ambassador Mohamed Rachad Bouhlal, who three months earlier visited Wyoming as part of Experience America.

"Arkansas is an agricultural state, and agriculture is very important for Morocco. We are a big exporter of processed foods and livestock," said Bouhlal, recalling with fondness for Bill Clinton's 1999 visit to Morocco to attend the funeral of King Hassan II, as well as King Mohammed VI's reciprocal visit to the United States a year later. "There's a lot we can learn from each other, and I'm sure possibilities for partnerships exist."

Bouhlal and his esteemed colleagues got a break from the speeches and sales pitches their second night in Little Rock, when several dozen diplomats settled into the Capital Bar and Grill to watch the third and final Obama-Romney presidential debate.

Interviews were strictly off-limits during the 90-minute exchange on foreign policy, which frequently erupted into partisan bickering about taxes and the budget deficit.

The ambassadors remained generally quiet, sipping their drinks, though a few guffawed loudly when Romney accused the president of shrinking the size of the U.S. Navy and Obama shot back with his now-famous "horses and bayonets" sound bite. A few minutes later, the entire bar broke into applause after moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS News pleaded with the two candidates to bring the debate back to foreign policy.

* * *

Arkansas may not have the Washington Monument, the Empire State Building, the Golden Gate Bridge or Mount Rushmore, but within the Natural State's borders sits the nation's most painful symbol of racial intolerance — and, perhaps, its proudest shrine to the U.S. civil rights movement: Little Rock Central High School.

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From left, Ambassador of Finland Ritva Koukku-Ronde; Carlotta Walls LaNier, one of the "Little Rock Nine" group of students who defied school segregation in Arkansas; Ambassador of the Netherlands Rudolf Simon Bekink; Ernest Green, also of the Little Rock Nine; Ambassador of Sweden Jonas Hafström; and Dr. Hidde Ronde, husband of Ambassador Koukku-Ronde, attend the State Department's Experience America tour of Arkansas.

On the morning of Sept. 23, 1957, an angry, screaming mob of more than 1,000 whites — defying the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling ordering integration of all public schools — refused entrance to nine promising black students who had been specifically invited to attend the all-white high school.

After violence broke out, the state's segregationist governor, Orval Faubus, ordered the nine removed. But the next day, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division to escort the brave black students back to class — under the protection of the newly federalized 10,000-man Arkansas National Guard.

Yet even though they had finally won their day in court, the nine faced constant verbal and physical abuse from their hostile white schoolmates (one black student, Melba Pattillo, had acid thrown into her eyes).

The conflict forced a constitutional standoff between Faubus and the federal government. The following September, the governor ordered all schools in Little Rock closed in what came to be known as the "Lost Year." Black and white students alike suffered, though the black community became the target of many vicious hate crimes.

Eventually the Little Rock Nine graduated and moved on with their lives. The crisis spawned two made-for-television movies and in 1996, seven of the Little Rock Nine appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," where they confronted several white students who had tormented them so many years earlier.

In 1999, President Clinton presented each of these heroes with a Congressional Gold Medal, and 10 years later, they witnessed the inauguration of Barack Obama, the nation's first African American president.

Two of those nine, Ernest Green and Carlotta Walls LaNier, met with the visiting ambassadors as local TV cameramen and news photographers crowded the entrance to Little Rock Central High School, which today serves 2,450 students and is the only functioning high school in the United States to be located within the boundaries of a national historic site.

"Your attendance is a historic moment for Little Rock," said Green, 71. "As President Clinton said, you listen to the stories, and we have lots of stories to tell. But as a 16-year-old trying to graduate from high school — through all the turmoil of that year — I had only one goal in mind: If I completed high school here, we would have broken an important barrier for other young African Americans to follow."

LaNier is today a real-estate broker in Denver. She's also written a book, "A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School." But back in 1957, all that mattered was getting through the most difficult year of her life.

"I wanted to apply to universities throughout the country, and I knew that if I had Little Rock Central High School on that transcript, it would open up a few more doors for me," she told the VIPs. "So my focus was to maintain a good grade point average. I needed that diploma to validate all the things we had gone through."

Earlier this year, LaNier, 69, donated to Washington's Smithsonian the dress she wore to her first two days of school. That, along with her diploma, her report card and other memorabilia will be displayed in the Smithsonian's new National Museum of African American History and Culture when it opens in 2015.

Over the next two days, the ambassadors and their spouses went on to view priceless art at the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, tour the 900,000-square-foot Dassault Falcon jet aircraft factory just outside Little Rock, and watch grad students conduct experiments at the molecular beam epitaxy lab at the University of Arkansas's Nanotechnology Center.

But when it comes to raw emotion, the visit to Little Rock Central and their meeting with Green and LaNier will probably be the enduring highlight for these 43 diplomats long after their other memories of Arkansas have faded away.

Antigua's Lovell summed it up well.

"Whenever I hear your story, I burst into tears," she told the two civil rights icons. "I'm honored to be in your presence."


About the Author

Larry Luxner, news editor of The Washington Diplomat, tagged along with the ambassadors to Arkansas for this story.

   

U.S.-Saudi Relationship Weathers Arab Spring

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By Michael Coleman

It's been just over two years since the Arab Spring first exploded into the global consciousness with demonstrations in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and elsewhere.

Pundits and analysts have filled hours of television airtime and spilled barrels of ink discussing the implications of U.S. relations with the countries affected directly by the uproar. But much less has been said about the Arab Spring's impact on relations with Saudi Arabia, which has managed — at least so far — to keep widespread protests at bay.

In late October, at the 21st Annual Arab-U.S. Policymakers Conference hosted by the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, several speakers touched on this largely ignored dynamic, providing some insight into how the unrest in the Middle East could affect relations between two of the world's richest, most influential and tightly bound countries.

James B. Smith, the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and Prince Turki Al-Faisal, Riyadh's former envoy to Washington, joined dozens of officials at the annual high-powered event, held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. A variety of Arab and American leaders from government, military, business and academia also spoke at the conference, including Libyan Ambassador Ali Aujali, who's slated to become Tripoli's foreign minister, Arab League Ambassador Mohammed Al Hussaini Al Sharif, and Egyptian Ambassador Mohamed M. Tawfik (profiled on the November 2012 cover of The Washington Diplomat).

Founded in 1983, the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations (NCUSAR) is an American nonprofit, nongovernmental, educational organization dedicated to improving American knowledge and understanding of the Arab world. Since 1991, NCUSAR's annual policymakers conference has invited internationally renowned specialists to analyze, discuss and debate issues of overarching importance to the American and Arab people.

Not surprisingly, at the top of this year's agenda was the Arab Spring, which percolated in panel discussions that touched on wide-ranging developments in North Africa, Iran, Yemen and elsewhere.

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Photo: Kaveh Sardari / National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations
Former Saudi Ambassador Prince Turki Al-Faisal speaks to the audience gathered at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center for the 21st Annual Arab-U.S. Policymakers Conference hosted by the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, whose founding president and CEO, John Duke Anthony, is seated to the left.

Though it doesn't always grab headlines like Syria's civil war or Egypt's constitutional crisis, the pivotal U.S.-Saudi relationship underpins much of the region's dynamics. For decades, Washington has been bound to the conservative kingdom by oil, security and stability. The world's largest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia is home to about one-fifth of the world's proven petroleum reserves. It's also a bulwark against anti-American states such as Iran and a critical defense partner in the battle against Islamic extremists and terrorists (in 2010, the U.S. approved a 10-year, $60 billion arms package for Riyadh).

Yet Washington's cozy relationship with the wealthy autocratic monarchy has long angered Arabs who cite it as a classic example of America's strategic interests trumping its democratic principles. The Saudi ruling family's oil money has largely insulated it from the kind of upheaval that's rocked its neighbors, though that hasn't quelled speculation about the future of the House of Saud and its aging, opaque leadership structure. In many ways, Saudi Arabia illustrates the quandary facing President Obama, whose reaction to the Arab Spring invariably provokes backlash from one group or another.

For instance, two years ago, when Obama sided with Egyptian protesters by urging longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak to step aside, he was hailed by democracy activists but denounced by Saudi Arabia (and even Israel) for abandoning a stalwart U.S. ally. Although the Obama administration spearheaded the international coalition that dislodged Libya's dictator from power, it's been criticized for not taking a more confrontational stand against nations such as Syria and Bahrain, where the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet is located. In March 2011, Saudi Arabia sent troops to help its tiny next door neighbor quash an uprising by the disenfranchised Shiite majority, and since then, Washington has only offered mild rebukes against Bahrain's crackdown against the opposition.

Indeed, the prevailing narrative in the Arab world is that the United States supports democracy only when it's useful — i.e. when Washington pushed for elections in the Palestinian territories but then recoiled when Hamas emerged as the victor. Obama's tentative outreach to new, democratically elected leaders such as Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood sought to counter that narrative, but it has been met with leeriness by Americans who fear an Islamist takeover.

It's also viewed with suspicion by Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, which doesn't want to cede any of its influence to unpredictable new powerbrokers. The Arab Spring has also exacerbated the Sunni-Shiite divide, with Saudi Arabia looking to prevent rivals such as Iran and Syria (whose rebels Riyadh has been arming, along with Qatar) from gaining a stronghold in the region. The Sunni monarchy also wants to keep the Shiite contagion of discontent from spreading to allies such as Bahrain, Jordan and even to its own borders (Saudi Arabia's oil-rich eastern province is home to some 2 million Shiites who call for greater political rights).

Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a political science professor at the United Arab Emirates University in Abu Dhabi and the author of seven books, told the audience at the Arab-U.S. Policymakers Conference that Saudi Arabia — where two-thirds of the population is under the age of 30 — has good reason to worry.

"I think the Arab Gulf states are not immune from the changes that are sweeping the Arab world. They are part and parcel of Arab history, of Arab identity, of Arab culture," Abdulla said. "Anything that happens there is bound to influence it."

He cited democracy and Islam as the biggest factors in that change. "Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, etc. — the Arab world probably is becoming more democratic than it used to be during the past 60 years," Abdulla said. "It's still in the making. Democracy is difficult, as everybody has heard, and there is no easy manual to build a democracy. But the Arab world is becoming more democratic."

Yet at the same time it is becoming more democratic, the Arab world is also becoming more Islamic. And Abdulla said he worried about what he described as America's indulgence of the Muslim Brotherhood, for example, after it had denounced strict Islamists for most of the past decade.

"A more democratic Arab world is very likely; a more Islamic Arab world is also more likely," the scholar said. "Both of these trends are considered a huge challenge to the Arab Gulf states. The big story of the hour in the Arab world is the rise of political Islam, the rise of Muslim Brotherhood. But the real concern when it comes to the [U.S.-Gulf] relationship is the way Washington is starting to flirt with political Islam ... and pushing or empowering Islamists in places like Egypt and Tunisia and throughout the region.

"The concern here is not just that the United States has made a shift, but a sudden shift from old allies, the moderate regimes, to the new forces of change. And the suddenness of policy shift is raising some concern and creating mistrust," he added.

"How can you trust America when it shifts from one position to the other?" Abdulla asked. "Some call that shift ... naive. Is it possible if you make that shift, are you also in America ready to support Gulf Islamists, which are rising? If you make this sudden shift from one ally to another, what guarantee is there that you will not come to bargain, to make a grand bargain with Iran, and all of a sudden there is this question that we are left out of it. So it's sending a lot of messages — and most of it is not settling."

Prince Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, has spoken at the NCUSAR conference for the last several years about the ups and downs in U.S.-Saudi relations — the low point being 9/11, when 15 of the 19 attackers turned out to be Saudi citizens — though he insists the relationship remains on solid footing, for the most part.

"Are we content in our relationship with this country? Yes and no. We are entrusting more than 70,000 of our youngsters to your universities to show our confidence in your educational system," Al-Faisal said, referring to the number of Saudis studying in the United States this year.

"We also differ with you on Palestine and wish that you would adopt the Abdullah Peace Initiative and that you are more evenhanded in promoting what is a declared policy of your government: a viable and contiguous Palestinian state," he added, citing the dormant peace initiative first proposed by the then Saudi crown prince in 2002 that offers Israel a complete normalization of relations with the Arab world in return for its withdrawal from Palestinian lands.

Al-Faisal, in fact, has been an outspoken critic of the U.S. stance toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, arguing that America's efforts to block the Palestinians from achieving statehood at the United Nations undermine its credibility and threaten its relations with Riyadh. He's written numerous op-eds on the subject since leaving his post in Washington, where he served as ambassador from 2005 to 2006.

The fact that Al-Faisal departed so soon after taking over for Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who reigned as ambassador for more than 20 years, fueled speculation that Al-Faisal had fallen out of favor with King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. In his book "Ghost Wars," Steve Coll wrote that Al-Faisal, a former director of Saudi Arabia's intelligence services, had "vast personal riches [that] bothered some of his rivals in the royal family. They felt the Saudi intelligence department had become a financial black hole."

Interestingly, Prince Bandar, who dropped out of sight for several years and has also had his fair share of financial and personal scandals, was just appointed Saudi Arabia's new intelligence chief over the summer.

Simon Henderson, director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, speculates the shakeup has a lot to do with the turmoil in Syria.

"Although the kingdom's main obsession is Iran, its immediate preoccupation is Syria. On that issue, Bandar may indeed be the man for the moment. Over the years, he has acquired a reputation for discreet diplomacy and intrigue in both Syria and Lebanon," Henderson wrote in a July 24 Foreign Policy article.

But the scholar also said the appointment "suggests panic in Riyadh" and a "limited talent pool in the House of Saud."

"With Saudi Arabia's most senior princes dying off, it's time for this generation to step into a leadership role if the kingdom hopes to avoid a messy succession crisis in the near future — or at least that is probably what these men, spring chickens in Saudi royal terms but already in their fifties and sixties, think," he wrote.

Indeed, questions continue to swirl about the transition plans of the ossifying leadership. King Abdullah, 88, has had serious health problems, like many of his elder brethren. And just a month before Bandar's appointment, the government announced the death of Abdullah's successor, Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, 78, a hard-line interior minister who fought against al-Qaeda — and against democratic reforms.

In his remarks, Al-Faisal didn't broach the subject of Saudi Arabia's perpetual royal intrigue or the chances of liberalizing the monarchy, whose rule is based on the hard-line Wahhabi interpretation of Islam (Saudi Arabia is famously the only country in the world where women can't drive).

But he did talk extensively about the tremendous strides the kingdom of nearly 27 million people has made over the last century, with the government "using the growing oil revenues to expand its economic base and provide its citizens with a better standard of living."

"At the beginning, there was high illiteracy, very few roads, and a serious lack of technology. There was also another problem. Many of the people simply didn't want to become modern," he said.

"And in many ways, this obstacle of the people not wanting to become modern is linked very closely to the obstacle that faces the ambition to maintain the land as the beacon of Islam. There are many around who frankly state that they see so-called modernity as completely antithetical to Islam. With modernity come things like women being educated, foreigners walking on the holy soil, and technologies that are not only sinful in their view, but they bring forbidden thoughts and images into the minds of the believers," he added.

"The challenge that the kingdom faces today is the perennial one of how to reconcile the seemingly contradictory forces for reform and development with the traditional status quo beneficiaries seeing all innovation as a threat to identity and well being."

On that front, Al-Faisal said Saudi Arabia is "still a work in progress," but suggested it will avoid the kind of impassioned, sometimes violent demonstrations that other Arab countries have seen over the past two years.

"Have we achieved 'first world' status? Not yet. But our rankings are rising higher every year on any scale. Are we, as Saudis, satisfied with our lot? No. We always aim higher and want to be better," he said. "Government programs to encourage employment and incentivize training of young Saudis are well in hand, including unemployment benefits tied to enrollment in training. By the end of this year, the Saudi state will have a $600 billion economy, making for the largest economy in the Middle East-North Africa region."

However, many skeptics contend the only reason protests against the ruling family never materialized in the capital of Riyadh is because King Abdullah essentially bought the populace off with more than $130 billion in spending, which included salary hikes for government workers, easier-to-obtain home mortgages and a dramatic expansion of worker benefits.

James B. Smith, who has spent the past three years as U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, acknowledged the skepticism but said the spending made a positive difference.

"Saudi Arabia took note of the Arab Spring, and the government moved quickly, first with a $138 billion package in programs, all targeted toward the needs and concerns of its population," Smith told attendees. "Now, I realize that there was criticism in some circles that saw the Saudi response as buying off the population with increased subsidies. But I have to say that the government response was much more sophisticated than that.

"At the time we in the embassy, we listed the top issues facing the Saudi population were jobs, housing, corruption, civil society and the security apparatus," Smith continued. "After the economic package was announced, the government responded publicly on each of these key issues, and in my view they demonstrated a keen understanding of their own population and responsiveness to the concerns of that population. Indeed, they continue on a course of measured modernization."

Smith suggested that the cloistered Saudi regime realizes the days of unquestioned rule are coming to an end.

"There does seem to be a genuine understanding that change is inevitable, but this is still an extremely conservative society, one steeped in tradition and cultural constraints, and the government is attempting to manage the rate and pace of that change," he said. "But like all governments in the region, it continues to struggle with the forces of inertia that are intrinsic in traditional governing systems."

Smith added that the Arab Spring — fanned in part by difficult-to-control social media — "produced a very real sense of accountability on the part of the leadership in the region."

"The key difference in the region is that whole populations are searching for dignity," Smith said. "They are beginning to see themselves as citizens not subjects, and certainly are demanding that their governments be responsive. Plus, they want their governments to be transparent in the process. These populations are connected and they are engaged."

But despite all the turmoil and tensions, Smith said the United States and Saudi Arabia are poised to maintain a mutually beneficial relationship — one that goes beyond the traditional linkages between the two countries, namely billions of dollars in energy trade and military sales.

"U.S. universities and colleges have professional relationships with every university in Saudi Arabia. Every Saudi medical center has some sort of partnership with an American medical center or teaching hospital. Our non-defense exports to Saudi Arabia have climbed double digits in each of the last three years. Agricultural exports alone increased 103 percent last year. Over 240 American companies have exported to Saudi Arabia for the very first time in the last two years," Smith pointed out.

"We came out of the Arab Spring with a deeper understanding of ourselves and each other," he said. "The concept of mutual trust and mutual respect has paid great dividends. The U.S.-Saudi bilateral relationship is sound."


About the Author

Michael Coleman is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat.

   

Washington Gears Up For 2013 Inauguration

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By Gail Sullivan

In January, after the Christmas tree lights are taken down and menorah candles blown out, D.C. hunkers down for winter. Those cold, dreary months after the holidays can seem like forever to residents of America's northernmost southern city (it is below the Mason-Dixon line), who are more accustomed to the swamp-like conditions of summer and early fall. But every four years, the onset of seasonal depression is postponed by the glittering galas and presidential pageantry of the inauguration.

The quadrennial festivities are both solemn and celebratory. The historical occasion inspires even the bitterest partisans to momentarily put aside their differences, and sometimes even brings people closer together. It was at President Reagan's 1985 inaugural gala that soon-to-be House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) proposed to his wife Marie. She and her husband, then a California state senator, attended the star-studded event along with Hollywood icon Frank Sinatra, musical legends the Beach Boys and Lou Reed, and legendary ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov. The once-in-a-lifetime event proved to be the perfect occasion for asking a once-in-a-lifetime question.

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Photo: DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Heckman, U.S. Navy
Participants make their way down Pennsylvania Avenue during the inaugural parade in 2009. In addition to the estimated 1.8 million people who watched that inauguration, more than 5,000 men and women in uniform provided military ceremonial support, a tradition dating back to George Washington's 1789 inauguration.

But inauguration isn't all glitz and glamour. To kick off the 57th Presidential Inauguration on Jan. 21, President Obama is continuing a tradition he started in 2009, asking citizen volunteers to give back in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy on Jan. 19, the National Day of Service.

However, unlike the last inauguration, this time around Obama will allow unlimited corporate donations to help foot the bill for the big show. In 2009, the president barred any corporate money and capped donations to $50,000, though the legal limit for an inauguration contribution is $250,000.

The recent change, announced in the midst of the "fiscal cliff" negotiations, could be yet another sign that Obama is working to make amends with Wall Street. It could also just reflect the exhaustion of a financially drained electorate after the costliest presidential race in U.S. history and the need to find additional donors to fund the inauguration.

But even if more money flows in this year, that doesn't necessarily mean the party will be grander. For one thing, it will be tough to top the jubilation and genuine emotion of the 2009 inauguration, which saw America's first black president sworn into office. Nearly 2 million people converged on Washington to witness that historic event. Metro, for one, is only expecting about half the ridership levels from 2009.

Indeed, Politico recently reported that the dearth of event planning as of early December, compared to the flurry of four years ago, may signal a more subdued atmosphere for this year's festivities.

"Several K Streeters and Capitol Hill aides said the slower planning pace makes sense, since they expect fewer official galas and a more somber tone," wrote Anna Palmer and Donovan Slack. "The economic recovery is still fragile and the fiscal cliff negotiations are at a near standstill, introducing a big unknown into planning the festivities."

Whatever the mood, the show will go on (as will the many inaugural balls and parties) and is sure to generate excitement both in D.C. and across the nation. The theme for this year's inauguration: "Faith in America's Future."

Despite the different themes, moods and political fluctuations every four years, the Constitution is actually very specific about the comings and goings of Congress and the president, making for a well-choreographed transition. Per the 20th Amendment, President Obama's first four years officially end on Jan. 20. The swearing-in ceremony is usually held that same day (at noon), but since the 20th falls on a Sunday this year, the public swearing-in ceremony is scheduled for Jan. 21, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. To avoid running afoul of the Constitution and exposing ourselves as an orphaned, leaderless nation for 24 hours, a small, private swearing-in ceremony will be held on the 20th. Similar arrangements were made for Presidents Eisenhower and Reagan, whose second-term inaugurations were also subject to the "Sunday exception."

This year's ceremony will also enter the digital age, with its first-ever Facebook page (hat tip to Bill Clinton for bringing inaugural events into the information age with the first live Internet broadcast in 1997). The social media savvy of event organizers has come a long way since James K. Polk's swearing in was the first to be reported by telegraph in 1845.

Plans for the 2013 inauguration were already under way as of early December, when the Presidential Inaugural Committee was launched, with actress Eva Longoria serving as one of its co-chairs alongside other big-time but lesser-known donors. Earlier, a separate Joint Congressional Committee, chaired by Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), began laying the groundwork for the inaugural activities at the U.S. Capitol.

In January, congressional offices will start distributing some 250,000 free tickets, at their discretion, to the swearing-in ceremony in front of the Capitol. Ticket holders will watch the event from a reserved section in front of the podium, while the National Mall, starting at 4th St., NW, will provide standing-room only space for those not lucky enough to score a ticket. The best seats in the house are those on the inaugural platform. Currently under construction, the roughly 10,000-foot platform is where a select group, including the first family and cabinet officials, will sit during the swearing-in ceremony. Among those with an up-close view is the diplomatic corps.

Ambassadors are taken to the ceremony by the State Department's Protocol Office (see cover profile) and seated in a reserved section according to how long they've been credentialed here. Claudia Fritsche, ambassador of Liechtenstein, described the occasion as a "unique opportunity" for diplomats serving the usual four-year term. Having been Liechtenstein's envoy to the United States and to the United Nations in New York before that, this will be Fritsche's fourth time attending the ceremony.

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Photo: DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo
Barack Obama, with his wife Michelle Obama, is sworn in as the 44th U.S. president by Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. in 2009.

Four years ago, when Obama became America's first African American president, the procession was fittingly led by Ambassador Roble Olhaye of Djibouti, the longest-serving foreign envoy in Washington and dean of the diplomatic corps. The African ambassador will lead the procession again this year. Following the ceremony, diplomats are typically invited to a reception at Blair House, the President's guesthouse for visiting heads of state.

After the swearing-in ceremony, inaugural address and luncheon, the president and vice president lead a procession of some 11,500 marchers, including military regiments, floats, marching bands and citizens' groups, down Pennsylvania Avenue, from the Capitol to the White House. Past parade participants include an Eskimo dance troupe and the Red Hot Mamas, an Idaho women's club "dedicated to the exploitation of merriment." The inaugural parade, which is organized by the Joint Task Force-National Capital Region, is quite a spectacle to behold. The free event attracts a large crowd, making a good vantage point hard to come by.

Located beside the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue, the Canadian Embassy is prime real estate for taking in the parade. In years past, the Canadian ambassador hosted a small viewing party on inauguration day, but in 2009 the embassy stepped it up a notch, inviting more than 1,500 government officials, business leaders, foreign diplomats and members of the media to watch the swearing in and inaugural parade from the embassy's elevated courtyard.

A similar event in the works for 2013 is sure to be a hot ticket. At this year's inaugural "tailgate," guests will enjoy Canadian beer, BBQ and beaver tails — a popular Canadian fried dough pastry, not the animal — which will be served from food trucks. Obama tried a beaver tail, in fact, on a trip to Ottawa in May 2012.

A jumbotron will provide an up-close view of the swearing-in ceremony, and members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (affectionately known as "mounties") in their red dress uniform will salute the president as the parade passes by the embassy. The event's theme — "friends, neighbors, partners, allies" — captures the post-partisan atmosphere of the inauguration as differences are momentarily set aside for a day of national celebration.

Of course, no inauguration would be complete without the balls, a highlight of the festivities for those who like to celebrate in style (and those who prefer to be indoors, in close proximity to a bathroom). There are a handful of official balls (there were 10 in 2009; the exact count for 2013 had yet to be determined as of press time). The president and first lady make a stop at all of the official balls. The State Department generally coordinates invites for ambassadors to attend the official balls; in 2009, many diplomats went to the Eastern Regional Inaugural Ball at Union Station.

But there are also plenty of unofficial parties — galas and dinners, large and small — hosted by state societies and a hodgepodge of organizations. The National Association of Minority Government Contractors is hosting a ball, for example, as is Ford Motor Co., which is pairing with the Smithsonian for a gala at the National Air and Space Museum. There's the annual Black Tie & Boots Inaugural Ball held by the Texas State Society at the Gaylord, the Hawai'i State Society Inaugural Ball, the Illinois Presidential Inaugural Celebration, the Clean Energy Ball, the Green Ball, the Purple Ball and practically whatever other color or state one can think of. Most are held at hotels; a few have been held at embassies.

Tickets can range anywhere from $75 to $500 and up, depending on the event. Some are well-established galas; others ad hoc parties looking to drum up money through ticket sales and sponsorships, so do your homework before shelling out for a spot.

Among this year's crop of newcomers is the Ambassadors Inaugural Ball, to which the diplomatic corps will be invited. Billed as an opportunity to promote international peace, unity and diplomacy, the black-tie affair is the brainchild of Tebelelo Seretse, Botswana's ambassador in Washington; Detroit businessman and Honorary Consul General of Botswana Robert Shumake; and Ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago Neil Parsan, who will serve as host committee co-chair.

"In addition to saluting President Obama, this historic event will recognize the critical roles that ambassadors perform every day to promote peace and diplomacy as well as garner support for humanitarian causes," said Parsan in a press release. "With the world's attention focused squarely on Washington, D.C., and the inaugural activities, we hope to use the occasion to bring much needed attention to the pressing issues plaguing our world, including poverty, human trafficking, AIDS, global warming, lack of medical care and food security."

A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales will go to KENO Micro Fund, a group that supports youth entrepreneurs with micro-loans, and several yet-to-be-announced nonprofits. The international gathering, scheduled for Jan. 21, will be held in an American setting: the Mead Center for American Theater at Arena Stage.

For more information on the 57th Presidential Inauguration, visit www.inaugural.senate.gov or http://washington.org/topics/inauguration.


About the Author

Gail Sullivan is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat.

   

Capricia Penavic Marshall: America’s Protocol Boss

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By Larry Luxner

 

Should you shake the hand of a visiting Arab monarch or bow to him? Where do you put that business card the new Japanese trade minister just gave you? And what does the president of the United States offer the Queen of England, who presumably can have anything her royal heart fancies?

These aren't life-or-death issues, and the occasional faux pas isn't likely to trigger World War III. But understanding the rules of protocol goes a long way toward greasing the wheels of diplomacy — which is why Ambassador Capricia Penavic Marshall's job is so important.

Marshall, the U.S. chief of protocol at the State Department, is one of the nation's most visible diplomats and among its most colorful. She is also a key liaison and friendly face for Washington's local diplomatic community. And she certainly wins hands down for sheer enthusiasm on the job.

Since Marshall's swearing-in by President Barack Obama on Aug. 3, 2009, she told us, "I have been on the greatest, most joyous ride that anyone can be on in a job. It's been extraordinary to not only represent the president but also our government, and the cultures and traditions of the United States. I love it."

Marshall, 47, is a first-generation American; her mother comes from Guadalajara, Mexico, and her father from the former Yugoslav republic of Croatia, now an independent nation. Her parents met on a blind date in Cleveland, where the future protocol chief grew up among relatives that also had roots in Italy, Germany and Russia.

"In my house, many languages were spoken — not only Spanish and Croatian — and the neighbors across the street were Lebanese," she recalled during an interview in her first-floor State Department office. "Christmas at my grandmother's house was like going to the United Nations. Celebrating the cultures of the world was a part of my own upbringing."

So was an appreciation for American-style individualism and democracy.

"My father left Yugoslavia during the Tito regime, made his way to the United States, and became a U.S. citizen in his late 20s," she said. "In our home, my father always talked about the responsibilities and benefits we have in this country that he certainly didn't have back in his own."

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Photo: Lawrence Ruggeri
Capricia Penavic Marshall

One of Marshall's most enduring memories on the job is going to the "Hillary" boutique in downtown Pristina, capital of newly independent Kosovo — right next to a giant gold statue of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's husband Bill, who's revered as a hero by Kosovo's ethnic Albanians for initiating NATO air strikes in 1999 against neighboring Serbia.

In nearby Bosnia and Herzegovina, Marshall made a pilgrimage to her father's village just outside Mostar. "Then when we went to Croatia, the secretary talked about my father," she said. "It really brought tears to my eyes. Apparently, I'm the highest-ranking Croatian-American in our government."

A 1986 graduate of Indiana's Purdue University, Marshall studied at the University of Madrid for a year before attending law school at Case Western Reserve, where she was president of the student bar association. In 1992, after getting her law degree, she joined Bill Clinton's presidential campaign as special assistant to Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Five years later — at the age of 32 — Marshall was appointed deputy assistant to the president and White House social secretary — the youngest social secretary in modern times.

"During that time, I was always a bit envious of my friends here at the Office of Protocol. I had a wonderful job and managed the issues of the day with the president and the first lady, but my friends were talking to the world," said Marshall, who continued working with the Clintons to advance their political and humanitarian agenda long after his second presidential term ended in January 2001 and Hillary Clinton won election to the U.S. Senate, representing New York.

And when Hillary eventually decided to run for president, it was only natural that Marshall would join that campaign, which came to a halt when Obama defeated her in the 2008 Democratic primaries. After his November presidential victory that year, Obama immediately offered his former rival the job of secretary of state, and Marshall landed her dream job.

As chief of protocol, Marshall is often the first hand that welcomes kings, queens, presidents and prime ministers to the United States. Her office oversees visiting dignitaries meeting with the president, vice president, secretary of state and other administration officials, and it also manages protocol arrangements for presidential travel abroad.

In addition, Marshall and her 81 staffers interact with the 189 foreign diplomatic missions here (though a handful of microstates, like Andorra, Nauru and the Solomon Islands, have their U.S. embassies in New York rather in Washington).

In late October, Marshall warmly introduced Bill Clinton — a man she deeply admires — before a delegation of 43 foreign ambassadors and their spouses in Little Rock, Ark., as part of the State Department's innovative Experience America program. That prompted the Arkansas-born former president to joke that Marshall's lavish introduction "reflected Clinton's Third Law of Politics: Whenever possible, be introduced by someone you have given a good job to."

A good job yes, but an exhausting one, too. Since her appointment as protocol chief, Marshall has traveled to 32 countries; she's been to a few, such as South Korea and Indonesia, three times already.

She's also led ambassadors on seven Experience America trips to states as diverse as California, New York and Wyoming. At last count, diplomats from 106 countries have joined Experience America visits since Marshall took over the program from her predecessor, Nancy Brinker (see related feature story).

In addition, 173 embassies and delegations have participated in the Diplomatic Partnership Division's events, which include cultural presentations at Blair House as well as off-the-record "state of the administration" sessions between top administration officials and ambassadors.

"One thing we've learned is that the greatest bridge between cultures and people is food. So we launched a new initiative called the Diplomatic Culinary Partnership," she explained. "We've asked U.S. chefs to talk about American cuisine. Often, these world leaders arrive to meetings hungry, so let's make sure we're giving them something that's an expression of who we are." (Also see "Hungry to Serve: State Department Dishes Up Smart Power on a Platter" in the November 2012 issue of The Washington Diplomat.)

One of the Office of Protocol's biggest divisions is Diplomatic Affairs, which registers and accredits every diplomat who comes to the United States. That involves mundane tasks such as issuing appropriate ID cards and coordinating with the Office of Foreign Missions as well as the United Nations so that nothing falls through the cracks.

Since August 2009, Marshall has also supervised 15 ceremonies at which exactly 146 ambassadors have formally presented their credentials to President Obama on the South Lawn of the White House.

"We make sure all the ambassadors feel respected and welcomed along with their families as they present their credentials to the president. So we'll set up a ceremony with a whole military cordon that greets them," she said.

"The objective is to get them credentialed as quickly as possible. Once they present the stated documents, then we try very hard to work with the White House to get a date with the president so they can begin their meetings. Otherwise, they're operating with one hand. It's not conducive for their daily business."

Marshall pretty much knows everyone in the Washington diplomatic corps. The dean of that club is Ambassador Roble Olhaye of Djibouti, who's been here since 1988, followed by Palau's Hersey Kyota. Ambassador Faida Mitifu of the Democratic Republic of Congo and then Claudia Fritsche of Liechtenstein rank as the longest-serving female ambassadors, now that Chan Heng Chee — who served in Washington for 16 years — has returned to Singapore (see Chan's cover profile in the July 2012 issue of The Diplomat).

"Part of my job is to welcome our foreign dignitaries, and make them feel respected and comfortable," Marshall said, adding that no matter how big or small they might be, "you can't treat two countries differently. There are rules so that each are treated in the most appropriate fashion. We're laying a foundation for diplomacy."

Marshall, who's married to a cardiologist and has a son, usually starts her day at 4:30 a.m. with a "small shot of caffeine." By 5:15, she's doing P90X — an intensive commercial home exercise regimen — then makes her kid breakfast, gets ready for work, and is out the door by 8.

"I work out every day, and I derive most of my energy from the love and passion I have for my job," she told us. "If you love what you do, you will go at it 1,000 percent."

The morning we interviewed Marshall, her crammed schedule included back-to-back meetings followed by a 4 p.m. "Taste of Thanksgiving" event for 200 ambassadors and their families at Blair House, a 6 p.m. reception hosted by Saudi Ambassador Adel A. Al-Jubeir to inaugurate the "Roads of Arabia" exhibition at the Sackler Gallery, and finally a 7 p.m. dinner honoring billionaire philanthropist David Rubenstein that was hosted by Kuwaiti Ambassador Salem Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.

"Understanding the customs and traditions of other countries is absolutely important," she said. "For instance, the receiving of a business card in many countries is an important exchange of information. I advise everyone in our delegation to make sure you take it with two hands. But where do you put it? What do you do next? You should look at it, then wait and either put it in your front pocket or with your papers. You don't want to put it in your back pocket."

It's also crucial not to misspell officials' names, mess up their titles or confuse their countries' flags. "I'm a stickler for that," she said.

Marshall's ease with foreign languages also comes in handy.

"There are many times where we'll be waiting in the Roosevelt Room with various leaders before they're received. During that time, I enjoy speaking with them on a variety of subject matters, in particular with those who speak Spanish. I also speak a bit of French and I'm working on Chinese, because my son has now started taking Chinese classes."

Credentialing foreign ambassadors is one thing, but it's quite another when the State Department declares an envoy persona non grata, as it did with Ecuador's Luis Gallegos — who was booted out of the United States in April 2011 in retaliation for Quito's expulsion of then-U.S. Ambassador Heather Hodges over the WikiLeaks affair. There's a protocol for handling those cases, too.

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Photo: Larry Luxner
U.S. Chief of Protocol Capricia Penavic Marshall, center, and Stephanie Streett, executive director at the William J. Clinton Foundation, right, enjoy a rousing welcome at the University of Arkansas.

Marshall shared the tricks of her trade in July at a Global Chiefs of Protocol conference that attracted 87 colleagues from 110 countries (also see "The Power of Protocol" in the Diplomatic Pouch online). "It was a wonderful gathering of ideas and new ways in which to do what we customarily do," she said of the event.

However, things don't always go as planned.

During a 2007 ribbon-cutting on the Caribbean island of Grenada for a $40 million stadium financed by China, the Royal Grenada Police Band mistakenly played the national anthem of Taiwan — a big no-no for Beijing. According to the Associated Press, the Chinese ambassador looked "visibly uncomfortable." (The bandleader was immediately relieved of his duties.) Two years later, the U.S. ambassador to Poland, Lee Feinstein, publicly thanked Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich for agreeing to "enhance its presence" in Afghanistan — even though no such announcement had ever been made. The Polish government later said Feinstein had committed a "blunder," while the U.S. Embassy, trying to save face in the midst of a post-gaffe media firestorm, blamed the translator. Obama too got into some hot water with the Poles earlier this year when he referred to a Nazi-run concentration camp in Poland as a "Polish death camp," infuriating Poles at what should've been a proud moment: the awarding of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Polish World War II resistance hero Jan Karski.

But it's the Jan. 8, 1992, state dinner in Tokyo that takes the cake for sheer embarrassment. That's the infamous meal during which President George H.W. Bush — sick to his stomach — vomited into the lap of Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa.

"Protocol really is a bridge between the visiting delegation and the U.S. delegation," Marshall explained. "We try to be incredibly well prepared by going through each and every moment. It's literally minute by minute. We do our homework in advance and make sure there are no surprises. If there needs to be some tweaking, we collaborate. For example, we find out if there's anything they don't feel comfortable with — certain colors or food allergies. That will ensure the visit goes really well."

Yet sometimes, even the chief of protocol slips up — literally.

On May 19, 2010, as Marshall was escorting President Obama and his wife Michelle down the steps of the North Portico of the White House to greet Mexican President Felipe Calderón and his wife Margarita, the protocol chief lost her balance and slipped — but quickly stood up again, never losing her composure. She later joked to the Washington Post's Reliable Source: "As a proud Mexican-American, this historic day at the White House moved me in ways I never anticipated."

At last count, the 90-second YouTube video of Marshall's famous slip had been viewed 224,301 times. The incident very much epitomizes the essence protocol — it's a job that works behind the scenes to make everything appear seamless. It's invisible, until something goes wrong. Marshall — like so many protocol officers around the world — can get a million details right, but it's that one-in-a-million snafu that gets noticed.

"When these snafus happen and if it's you, just get up and continue, and make light of it," the easy-going yet meticulous Marshall advised us. "Now the president constantly whispers in my ear when we're getting near. Once, we were with [then-Russian President Dmitry] Medvedev, walking up the North Portico steps, and he told Medvedev the entire story."

Outside of her famous fall, we asked Marshall what's been her most memorable moment on the job.

"My celebrity moment with Her Majesty," she answered without hesitation. "To be in her presence and work with protocol officials at Buckingham Palace was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

a5.marshall.protocol.refer.storyComing up with just the right gift for Queen Elizabeth II — a woman who already has everything — was "critical," according to the protocol chief, who accompanied the Obamas on their state visit to England in May 2011. Two years earlier, Obama had given the queen a personalized iPod, raising eyebrows on both sides of the Atlantic.

"We had to make sure we got everything just right, so we created a book of memories," Marshall said of the 2011 visit. "We found one-of-a-kind memorabilia and photos from her father's last visit to the United States [in 1939, the first visit of its kind by a reigning British monarch]. You could tell she was so pleased to receive it.

"For Prince Philip, we know he loved to raise carriage ponies, so we went to two American craftsmen. They created bits and shanks, and on the ends of the bits, we soldered in the presidential seal. And for Prince Charles, we know he's into the environment, so we created a magnolia wood box made from a tree that had fallen on the White House lawn, and from plants, seeds and honey from the grounds of Mount Vernon, Monticello and the White House."

Right before our time with Marshall was up, we squeezed in one more question. Of all the ambassadors she's met in Washington, we politely inquired who was her favorite — though we already anticipated the answer to that one.

"I can't pick a favorite," she cheerfully replied. "Individually, I cherish my relationship with all of them."


About the Author

Larry Luxner is news editor of The Washington Diplomat.

   

Country Promotion Strategies Conference Attracts Industry Insiders

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By Cari

As Republicans and Democrats duke it out over the economy, will there be any energy left for foreign policy? How does an ambassador get heard amid the partisan rancor and gridlock, especially when dozens of colleagues are all trying to do the same thing? How can a foreign government get the (positive) attention of the media — and what should it do when that spotlight turns negative? Should an embassy tweet? What messages appeal to busy congressional staffers, and which ones alienate them? Who's in and out of the new administration? And how will America's shifting political landscape impact its economic prospects?

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Photo: Lawrence Ruggeri
Ambassador Stuart Holliday, president and CEO of the Meridian International Center and conference moderator; Thomas Hale Boggs Jr., partner at Patton Boggs and keynote luncheon speaker; Victor Shiblie, publisher and editor in chief of The Washington Diplomat; and former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, also a keynote luncheon speaker for the Country Promotion Strategies Conference

All these questions and many more were openly discussed by those in the know at The Washington Diplomat's inaugural Country Promotion Strategies Conference, held at the Ritz-Carlton Washington hotel on Nov. 13 — just one week after the dust settled from the contentious U.S. presidential elections.

More than 200 people — including ambassadors and representatives from over 50 embassies — turned out for the all-day event, the first of its kind in D.C. In addition to the city's diplomatic corps, the CPS Conference brought together members of Congress, senior executives from multinational and foreign corporations, along with industry experts in law, lobbying, public relations, tourism promotion and economic development.

a6.cps.facebook.refer.storyThe goal: have high-level policymakers and industry insiders offer post-election strategies for strengthening relations with Washington and cracking the U.S. market — in an off-the-record setting structured to give attendees one-on-one access to key decision-makers.

Speakers included Thomas Hale Boggs Jr. of Patton Boggs, one of the city's best-known lobbyists; Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who was first elected to the Senate in 1976 and whom the New York Times called its "foreign policy conscious"; and former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, who won his first congressional seat in 1973.

Guests dined on watercress salad with cabernet-poached pears, grilled beef medallions in bordelaise sauce and vanilla bean crème brûlée with lemon Madeleine cookies as Boggs and Lott offered insights on what to expect in this volatile new political landscape based on their decades of experience.

Guests also received a detailed guidebook with in-depth advice on issues ranging from how to boost U.S. investment and trade to managing a nation's public profile. In addition, an expansive networking lounge throughout the day offered conference-goers a chance to mingle in between panel discussions.

Among the prominent panelists who spoke were former White House Special Counsel Lanny Davis, Rear Admiral Victor M. "Vic" Beck of the U.S. Navy, Lauri Fitz-Pegado of the Livingston Group, Rory Davenport of Ogilvy Public Relations, and David Rehr of the Congressional Communications Report. Ambassador Stuart Holliday, president and CEO of the Meridian International Center, served as the event moderator.

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Photo: Lawrence Ruggeri
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Topics included the evolution of foreign policy and bipartisanship in Congress and implications for the diplomatic community; the fundamentals of government relations; media and crisis management; what to expect from the new administration; how foreign nations can take use polling and research to their benefit; the importance of social media; attracting American tourists; and lobbying 101.

One of the chief responsibilities of any embassy or diplomatic mission in the United States is to promote their nation's agenda to an American audience, strengthening economic ties and political relations.

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Photo: Thomas Coleman
Ambassador of Dominica Hubert Charles and Ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago Neil Parsan

But navigating the maze of government agencies, private sector businesses, NGOs, media outlets and many competing interests in the nation's capital can be intimidating for the savviest of envoys. They must know how to reach out to top U.S. officials, be able to engage with local media, understand the intricacies of the U.S. regulatory environment, and be intimately familiar with the labyrinth of legislation that grinds its way through Capitol Hill.

After years of listening to diplomats ask how they could break through the Beltway bubble and access American centers of power, Victor Shiblie, publisher of The Washington Diplomat, decided to organize a conference that could help answer their questions.

And based on the overwhelming response, chances are high that the Country Promotion Conference will become an annual tradition.

Among the turnout were more than 20 ambassadors, with envoys from Egypt, Trinidad and Tobago, Iceland, Guyana, Monaco, Haiti, Senegal, Malta, Cyprus and others in attendance. Political counselors, trade officers and other diplomats from embassies spanning the globe — from Azerbaijan, Botswana and Iraq to Finland, New Zealand and Singapore — also came out. Corporate sponsors of the Country Promotion Strategies Conference included Patton Boggs, Weber Shandwick and Cassidy & Associates.

   

U.S. Court Moves Against Impunity In Years-Long Somali Legal Saga

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By Karin Zeitvogel

Also See: Brief History of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act

Nearly six years ago, in April 2007, a U.S. court dismissed a case against U.S. resident Mohamed Ali Samantar, a former prime minister and defense minister of Somalia who was accused of killings and torture during the failed regime of Mohamed Siad Barre. The court said Samantar's status as a former Somali government official shielded him from prosecution under the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), which, with some exceptions, prevents nations (and their "political subdivisions, agencies or instrumentalities") from being sued in U.S. courts.

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Photo: Vladimir Cetinski / BigStock
The case of a former Somali prime minister, now a resident of Virginia, accused of killings and torture has wound its way through the U.S. court system for the last six years, challenging the State Department's traditional jurisdiction of decision-making in diplomatic immunity cases.

Two years later, an appeals court ruled that Samantar was not, in fact, protected by the FSIA, and in June 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court backed that decision, saying the 1976 law, which governs the immunity of foreign states from prosecution in U.S. courts, applied only to foreign governments and their agencies, not to officials in those governments.

The case was remanded to the district court, where Samantar asked for it to be dismissed based on common law immunities given to former heads of state and other foreign officials for acts performed in their official capacity. His claims for immunity were rejected, even though he did serve as prime minister of Somalia from 1987 to 1990. At the beginning of November, the Fourth District Appeal Court affirmed the lower court's decision.

As of press time, Samantar — who since 1997 has lived in Virginia — had been ordered to pay $21 million in damages to a small group of Somali plaintiffs (some of them naturalized U.S. citizens) for ordering the killings and torture of members of a minority clan in Somalia.

In doing so, the court took from the State Department the traditional mantle of decision-making in immunity cases.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said it would take decisions on immunity based on U.S. and international law. "We give absolute deference to the State Department's position on status-based immunity doctrines such as head-of-state immunity," Chief Judge William Traxler wrote, but he added that the State Department's determination on "conduct-based immunity" would not be the final word on the matter, though the court said State's recommendation would carry "substantial weight in our analysis of the issue."

"In this case, the court is saying: 'We come out in the same way as the State Department but it's our decision and the rule is absolute — there's no immunity for torture under international law,'" explained Mark B. Feldman, senior counsel at the Garvey Schubert Barer law firm in Washington D.C., who, as deputy legal adviser at the State Department from 1974 to 1981, played a "significant role" in drafting the FSIA. This approach would override any suggestion of immunity recommended by the State Department, at least in torture cases involving former officials other than a head of state, he said.

"What I would argue and a State Department lawyer would argue, if it's not governed by the FSIA, then it's up to the State Department and the courts should follow it," he said.

Samantar had sought protection from prosecution, citing the fact that he was prime minister and defense minister in Somalia when the alleged acts were committed, and that he was therefore acting in an official capacity. But the court reasoned that even though "jus cogens violations may well be committed under color of law and, in that sense, constitute acts performed in the course of the foreign official's employment by the sovereign ... as a matter of international and domestic law, jus cogens violations are, by definition, acts that are not officially authorized by the sovereign."

Jus cogens means, literally, "compelling law" and refers to "certain fundamental, overriding principles of international law, from which no derogation is ever permitted," according to Cornell University Law School. Although there is no formal definition of what does and doesn't fall under jus cogens norms, it is widely accepted that torture does.

The original 2004 lawsuit seeking financial damages against Samantar was, in fact, filed under the Torture Victim Protection Act. The claimants all said that Samantar was not directly involved in committing the alleged torture, rape, extrajudicial killings, imprisonment and other human rights abuses that they endured, but that the violations occurred under his command.

"Under the decision, if it stands, if you're a torturer or guilty of a fundamental violation of international law which the courts regard as jus cogens, you could be sued in the United States, and you'd better not come visit, let alone come live here," Feldman said.

There are hundreds of thousands of torture victims who have resettled in the United States, along with at least several hundred serious human rights violators.

The Samantar decision could still be appealed.

Feldman expressed concern that the latest decision in this long-running legal saga could leave U.S. officials at risk of being sued in foreign courts.

"U.S. officials, and particularly former officials, could be exposed to legal proceedings for alleged war crimes and other charges everywhere in the world if this decision stands and if it's replicated in other countries. And there's a real danger of that," he warned.

"I don't think the U.S. wants to see Henry Kissinger or any other American officials sued in Chile or anywhere else," Feldman added.

Lawsuits have in fact been brought against former U.S. National Security Adviser and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the United States and abroad relating to deaths in Chile in the early 1970s, when left-wing President Salvador Allende was elected and deposed in a coup three years later.

Indeed, governments all over the world have been watching the Samantar case grind its way through the U.S. legal system for years because of its potentially far-reaching foreign policy ramifications.

"[W]hen the Supreme Court took up the case of Somali General Mohamed Ali Samantar ... an odd coalition of defenders emerged. Among them were the government of Saudi Arabia, various pro-Israel groups, and three former U.S. attorneys general," wrote Daniel Schulman in the 2010 article "The War Criminal Next Door" for Mother Jones.

"In the past, attempts (unsuccessful thus far) have been made to sue ex-Israeli officials in American courts for their role in military campaigns that caused civilian casualties. The case makes the Saudis tense because of their experiences fending off a spate of lawsuits accusing Saudi officials, nonprofits, and other entities of complicity in the September 11th attacks. These concerns also hit a little closer to home, given, among other things, the Bush administration's controversial interrogation and rendition policies," he added.

So far, all of those legal attempts have fallen flat, and Samantar's case is unique. There is no functioning government in Somalia that could vouch for him, and he agreed earlier this year not to contest the charges and accept liability for the damages (he is currently undergoing bankruptcy proceedings).

The case has also raised a complex, murky web of legal precedents. Samantar was sued under the 1992 Torture Victims Protection Act as well as the Alien Torts Statute, a law passed by the first U.S. Congress — back in 1789.

The United States had just come out of the Revolutionary War against the British, the French Revolution was in full swing, and the Napoleonic Wars were around the corner. The aim of the Alien Torts Statute was to "create a right of action by aliens [i.e. foreigners] to redress in the newly created U.S. federal courts for violations of international law, particularly torts — bodily injury, and so on," Feldman said.

The statute was moribund until the late 20th century, when human rights advocates began citing it in cases against individuals and foreign corporations.

FSIA was invoked by Samantar in a bid to seek immunity from prosecution. But the issue of bringing suits against individuals within the framework of the FSIA never arose when the statute was being drafted.

"We didn't identify that as a problem that needs to be addressed in the statute," Feldman said. "The courts are going to have to sort it out now."


About the Author

Karin Zeitvogel is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat.

 

Brief History of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act

The United States was the first nation to codify the law of foreign sovereign immunity by statute.

Prior to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), the United States followed a view of "absolute immunity for foreign states and sovereigns." But in 1952, it changed tack and took the approach used in Europe, called the "restrictive principle," which allows immunity for purely governmental acts but not for commercial acts by the foreign state or its agencies. The new approach required case-by-case determination by the State Department, which then asked the Department of Justice to submit a "suggestion of immunity" to the courts. The courts, in those days, automatically deferred to the government, meaning the State Department was effectively adjudicating cases without due process.

Naturally, this stirred some controversy in legal circles, and in the 1970s, a system of administrative hearings was put in place where a private lawyer and a representative of the foreign state's embassy would argue to an official at the State Department.

Because that process was time-consuming, subject to diplomatic pressure from the foreign state involved, and raised potential foreign policy problems because the State Department was making determinations on foreign requests for immunity, the executive branch of the U.S. government initiated the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

It had three main objectives in doing so: to transfer the burden of decision-making on issues of immunity from the State Department to U.S. courts; to codify in statutory terms the restrictive principle of immunity; and to provide a comprehensive regime in the United States for litigation against foreign states and government agencies.

— Karin Zeitvogel

   

Not All Good Development Intentions Are Created Equal

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By Rachael Bade

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Suicide and the Holidays: Myths and Realities

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By Gina Shaw

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From Star Trek to Springsteen, Colleges Go Where No School’s Gone Before

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By Karin Zeitvogel

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CIA, Other Government Agencies Offer Scholarships for Intelligent Intelligence

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By Karin Zeitvogel

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At 2013 Inauguration, Hotels Solemnly Swear to Do It Up

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By Stephanie Kanowitz

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Visiting Cradle of Mankind Gives Birth to Newfound Respect

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By Kathy Kemper

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‘Roads’ Digs Up Wide-Ranging History of Ancient Arabia

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By Gail Sullivan

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‘According to What?’ Gives China’s Political Provocateur His Due

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By Michael Coleman

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American Music Abroad Cultivates Next Generation of Voices

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By Paul S. Rockower

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Travelers Offer Snapshot of Country’s People, Landscapes

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By Audrey Hoffer

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‘Dreamgirls’ Soars With Musical Reverie at Signature

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By Lisa Troshinsky

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‘A Living Man Declared Dead’ and the Thread of DNA

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By Gary Tischler

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New Woodward Eatery Earns Well-Deserved Spot at the Table

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By Rachel G. Hunt

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The Over-the-Top Romantic Symbiosis of ‘Rust and Bone’

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By Ky N. Nguyen

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‘Reportero’ Honors Mexico’s Defiant Journalists

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By Ky N. Nguyen

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Films - January 2013

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By Cari

Languages

Albanian

French

Serbian


Arabic

German

Spanish


English

Hebrew

Farsi

Russian

 

Albanian

 Besa: The Promise
Directed by Rachel Goslins
(U.S., 2012, 89 min.)
One Albanian man's quest brings three men together in a journey that transcends borders, time and religion (Albanian, English and Hebrew).
JCC of Greater Washington
Sun., Jan. 6, 7:30 p.m.
Washington DCJCC
Tue., Jan. 8, 8:45 p.m.

Arabic

 Sharqiya
Directed by Ami Livne
(Israel/France/Germany, 2012, 85 min.)
Eng. Subtitles
When the destitute central bus station he shares with his family is threatened by demolition orders, young Bedouin security guard makes a curious set of fateful decisions in his attempt to act as a hero (Arabic and Hebrew).
AFI Silver Theatre
Mon., Jan. 7, 7 p.m.

English

Born in Berlin
Directed by Noemi Schory and Leora Kamenetzy
(Israel, 1991, 85 min.)
This documentary looks at the lives of three Jewish women writers who grew up in pre-war Berlin until Nazi racial laws shattered their lives.
Goethe-Institut
Tue., Jan. 8, 7:30 p.m.

Django Unchained
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
(U.S., 2012, 165 min.)
In the South two years before the Civil War, a slave's brutal history with his former owners lands him face-to-face with a German-born bounty hunter.
Landmark's E Street Cinema

Hyde Park on the Hudson
Directed by Roger Michell
(U.K., 2012, 95 min.)
The love affair between President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his distant cousin Margaret Stuckley plays out over a weekend in 1939 when the King and Queen of Britain visit upstate New York.
AFI Silver Theatre
Through Jan. 17
Landmark's E Street Cinema

The Impossible
Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona
(Spain, 2012,
In this powerful true story based on the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, a family begins their winter vacation in Thailand, looking forward to a few days in tropical paradise but instead become caught, along with tens of thousands of strangers, in the mayhem of one of the worst natural catastrophes of our time.
Landmark's E Street Cinema

Les Míserables
Directed by Tom Hooper
(U.K., 2012, 160 min.)
In 19th-century France, Jean Valjean, who for decades has been hunted by the ruthless Inspector Javert after he breaks parole, agrees to care for factory worker Fantine's daughter, Cosette — a decision that forever changes their lives.
Various area theaters

Lessons of Darkness
(Lektionen in Finsternis)
Directed by Werner Herzog
(Germany, 1992, 50 min.)
Werner Herzog's controversial documentary surveys the wreckage left in the wake of the Gulf War, lamenting the human and environmental damage caused by modern war technology (English, German and Arabic).
Freer Gallery of Art
Fri., Jan. 11, 7 p.m.

No Place on Earth
Directed by Janet Tobias
(U.S./U.K./Germany, 2012, 81 min.)
Out of options, a group of families descend into underground caves in southern Ukraine to escape Nazi persecution in 1942, remaining there for 500 days.
AFI Silver Theatre
Sun., Jan. 6, 7:15 p.m.

Orchestra of Exiles
Directed by Josh Aronson
(Israel/U.S., 2011, 85 min.)
Bronislaw Huberman, the celebrated Polish violinist, rescues some of the world's greatest musicians from Nazi Germany and then creates one of the world's finest orchestras, the Palestine Philharmonic (later the Israeli Philharmonic).
Goethe-Institut
Mon., Jan. 7, 7:30 p.m.

Re-Emerging: The Jews of Nigeria
Directed by Jeff Lieberman
(Nigeria/U.S., 2012, 95 min.)
In an African country where Christians are terrorized and their churches burned down, it is a decision of extraordinary bravery for Nigerians to declare themselves Jewish.
Washington DCJCC
Tue., Jan. 8, 6:15 p.m.

Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir
Directed by Laurent Bouzereau
(U.K., 2011, 90 min.)
Friend and colleague Andrew Braunsberg extracts an intimate, sympathetic and candid portrait of Roman Polanski's life and work in this extraordinary series of conversations with the filmmaker.
Carnegie Institute for Science
Sun., Jan. 6, 3:45 p.m.
JCC of Greater Washington
Sun., Jan. 13, 5 p.m.

Zero Dark Thirty
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
(U.S., 2012, 157 min.)
"Zero Dark Thirty" chronicles the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attacks, and his death at the hands of the Navy SEAL Team 6 in May 2011.
Various area theaters
Opens Fri., Jan. 11

Farsi

A Modest Reception
(Paziraie sadeh)
Directed by Mani Haghighi
(Iran, 2012, 100 min.)
A couple from Tehran distributes large bags of money to people living in an impoverished town and then documents the reactions of the shocked recipients with their cell phone, but what seems like an act of generosity is actually something much more perverse.
Freer Gallery of Art
Fri., Jan. 25, 7 p.m.

French

 A Bottle in the Gaza Sea
Directed by Thierry Binistri
(France/Canada/Israel, 2010, 99 min.)
Frustrated by the hatred between Israelis and Palestinians, a 17-year-old Frenchwoman living in Jerusalem scrawls a letter, slips it into a bottle, and throws it into the sea. Weeks later, she receives an email from the mysterious young Palestinian that begins a turbulent but tender long-distance friendship.
JCC of Greater Washington
Sat., Jan. 5, 7:30 p.m.
Washington DCJCC
Sat., Jan. 12, 6:30 p.m.

The Day I Saw Your Heart
Directed by Jennifer Devoldere
(France, 2011, 98 min.)
While patriarch Eli expects a baby with his new young wife, he attempts to reconcile his tepid relationship with his adult daughter by reaching out to her ex-boyfriends.
La Maison Française
Thu., Jan. 10, 8:30 p.m.
JCC of Greater Washington
Sat., Jan. 12, 7:30 p.m.

Let My People Go!
Directed by Mikael Buch
(France, 2011, 88 min.)
A hilarious fusion of gay romantic comedy, Jewish family drama and French bedroom farce, this film follows the travails and daydreams of a French-Jewish mailman living in fairytale Finland with his gorgeous Nordic boyfriend.
La Maison Française
Thu., Jan. 10, 6:30 p.m.
Washington DCJCC
Sat., Jan. 12, 8:45 p.m.

Paris-Manhattan
Directed by Sophie Lellouche
(France, 2012, 77 min.)
Idealistic pharmacist Alice is completely obsessed with Woody Allen, and her increasingly concerned Jewish parents hope to cure her fixation by setting her up with a handsome French gentleman — but he quickly realizes that he's no match for the man of her dreams.
U.S. Naval Memorial
Thu., Jan. 3, 6:15 and 8:45 p.m.
AFI Silver Theatre
Wed., Jan. 9, 7 p.m.

Rust and Bone
(De rouille et d'os)
Directed by Jacques Audiard
(France/Belgium, 2012, 120 min.)
Put in charge of his young son, Ali leaves Belgium for France, where his bond with Stephanie, a killer whale trainer, grows deeper after Stephanie suffers a horrible accident.
Landmark's E Street Cinema

German

 Images of the World and the Inscription of War
(Bilder der Welt und Inschrift des Krieges)
Directed by Harun Farocki
(Germany, 1988, 75 min.)
The discarding of American surveillance images of the Auschwitz concentration camp because the site didn't register as a useful military target is the starting point for this wide-ranging meditation on the use and misuse of photographic evidence.
Freer Gallery of Art
Sun., Jan. 13, 2 p.m.

Lore
Directed by Cate Shortland
(Germany/Australia/U.K., 2012, 109 min.)
Left to fend for themselves after their Nazi parents are arrested by the Allies at the end of World War II, five German children undertake a harrowing journey that exposes them to the reality of their parents' actions.
AFI Silver Theatre
Sun., Jan. 6, 9:10 p.m.

My Best Enemy
Directed by Wolfgang Murnberger
(Austria/Luxembourg, 2011, 100 min.)
Rudi, an SS Officer, and Victor, the son of Jewish gallery owners, have their lifelong friendship tested with the outbreak of World War II.
Embassy of Austria
Wed., Jan. 9, 7:30 p.m.

Oma and Bella
Directed by Alexa Karolinski
(Germany/U.S., 2012, 76 min.)
Two friends who live together in Berlin, having survived the Holocaust, remember their childhoods through the food they cook together.
Goethe-Institut
Wed., Jan. 9, 7:30 p.m.

Hebrew

Bridging Beit Shemesh
Various Directors
(Israel, 2012, 90 min.)
Two Israeli women, one secular and one Ultra-Orthodox, use filmmaking to open dialogue between members of communities that rarely interact and frequently clash.
JCC of Greater Washington
Thu., Jan. 10, 7:30 p.m.
Washington DCJCC
Sun., Jan. 13, 1 p.m.

From the Black You Make Color
Directed by Judy Maltz and Richie Sherman
(U.S./Israel, 2012, 77 min.)
Eight women on the margins of Israeli society are thrown together under one roof during the course of a school year at Tel Aviv's oldest beauty academy.
Carnegie Institution for Science
Sun., Jan. 6, 1:45 p.m.
Atlas Performing Arts Center
Wed., Jan. 9, 6:30 p.m.

The Law in These Parts
Directed by Ra'anan Alexandrovicz
(Israel/U.S./Germany, 2012, 101 min.)
In the aftermath of the 1967 War, Israel faced a complex problem of how to properly administer the West Bank and Gaza Strip (Hebrew and Arabic).
Carnegie Institute for Science
Sun., Jan. 6, 11 a.m.

Off-White Lies
Directed by Maya Kenig
(Israel/Germany, 2011, 86 min.)
An introverted teenager from California is sent to live with her dad in Israel, but her arrival coincides with the outbreak of the second Lebanon war and her father, an infantile eccentric, is "in between apartments."
U.S. Navy Memorial
Sat., Jan. 5, 6:30 p.m.
JCC of Greater Washington
Tue., Jan. 8, 7:30 p.m.

Russian

My Dad Baryshnikov
Directed by Dmitry Povolotsky
(Russia, 2011, 88 min.)
In 1986 Moscow, Boris Fishkin is an awkward, ballet-obsessed teenager faced with an inconvenient truth: he is the worst dancer at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, but after discovering a VHS tape of Mikhail Baryshnikov, Boris becomes convinced the famed dance icon is his father.
AFI Silver Theatre
Tue., Jan. 8, 7 p.m.
Washington DCJCC
Sun., Jan. 13, 3:30 p.m.

Serbian

 When Day Breaks
Directed by Goran Paskaljević
(Serbia, 2012, 90 min.)
Recently retired Misha Brankov is entrusted with a battered box excavated from the site of a former Nazi death camp. Scanning the documents inside, Brankov makes a jarring discovery: His real name is not Brankov, but Weiss.
The Avalon Theatre
Tue., Jan. 8, 6:15 p.m.
Washington DCJCC
Sat., Jan. 12, 3 p.m.

Spanish

All In
Directed by Daniel Burman
(Argentina, 2012, 86 min.)
Following a difficult divorce, Uriel discovers he's well suited to the bachelor lifestyle — that is, until he meets his past lover.
U.S. Naval Memorial
Sat., Jan. 5, 8:45 p.m.

   

Events - January 2013

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EVENT CATEGORIES

Art Dance

Discussions

Festivals

Music


Theater

 


ART

Through Jan. 6
Per Kirkeby: Paintings and Sculpture
One of Europe's most celebrated living artists, Per Kirkeby is a Danish painter, sculptor, geologist, filmmaker, writer and poet. In the most comprehensive display of his work in the U.S. to date, 26 richly layered paintings and 11 striking bronze models reveal Kirkeby's belief that art, like science, is constantly in flux.
The Phillips Collection

Through Jan. 6
Very Like a Whale
Rare books and manuscripts from the Folger collection are juxtaposed with natural objects and the contemporary photography of artist Rosamond Purcell to evoke the restless energy of Shakespeare's language and capture the real world that shaped his imagination.
Folger Shakespeare Library

Through Jan. 6
Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power
Organized by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the exhibition highlights the flashpoints, the firsts, the celebrated, and the lesser-known women who have influenced the genre from its inception through today.
National Museum of Women in the Arts

Jan. 11 to Feb. 22
The Points That Bring Us from Here to There
The mapping-focused work of Michael Dax Iacovone and Kathryn Zazenski map spaces and experiences, with Iacovone chronicling his journey driving across the 123 bridges that span the Mississippi River, while Zazenski presents maps from time spent in Haukijärvi, Finland, Washington, D.C., and Beijing, China.
Honfleur Gallery

Through Jan. 13
Dark Matters
"Dark Matters" brings together works from the Hirshhorn's collection that draw upon the associations and implications of darkness and its notions of mortality, silence, solitude and loss.
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Through Jan. 13
Picturing the Sublime: Photographs from the Joseph and Charlotte Lichtenberg Collection
Eleven photographs document how artists use the camera to capture the sublime beauty and human destruction of the natural world.
The Phillips Collection

Through Jan. 13
Ripple Effect: Currents of Social Engaged Art
In this collaborative project, artists instigate conversations on broad themes such as environmentalism, social justice and immigration, while providing poetic and often concrete solutions, exploring specific social issues as the environmental blight of illegal dumping, the social stratification of D.C., and the ongoing struggle against violence in Mexico.
OAS Art Museum of the Americas

Through Jan. 13
Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective
In the first major exhibition since Roy Lichtenstein's death in 1997, more than 100 of the artist's greatest paintings from all periods of his career will be presented along with a selection of related drawings and sculptures.
National Gallery of Art

Jan. 19 to July 7
One Man's Search for Ancient China: The Paul Singer Collection
New Jersey psychiatrist-turned-collector Paul Singer's bequest to the Sackler Gallery created one of the largest Chinese archaeological collections in the United States. This exhibition looks at the collector's contributions to Chinese art history — made largely at a time when contact between China and the West was heavily restricted — and examines how landmark archaeological discoveries have shed new light on his acquisitions and on ancient China.
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Through Jan. 27
Ivan Sigal: White Road
From 1998 to 2005, American photographer Ivan Sigal traveled in Central Asia, using his camera to record the unsettled lives of Eurasians in provincial towns and cities. Using images and text, this unconventional narrative reveals a diverse population adapting to extraordinary times.
Corcoran Gallery of Art

Through Jan. 27
Shock of the News
This exhibit traces how visual artists in Europe and America after the turn of the 20th century began to think about the newspaper more broadly — as a means of political critique, as a collection of ready-made news to appropriate or manipulate, a source of language and images, a typographical grab bag, and more.
National Gallery of Art

Jan. 27
Color, Line, Light: French Drawings, Watercolors, and Pastels from Delacroix to Signac
Some 100 drawings and watercolors from the James T. Dyke collection showcase the broad development of modern draftsmanship in France, from romanticism and realism through the impressionists, Nabis, and neo-impressionists.
National Gallery of Art

Through Jan. 28
Love and War
Award-winning painter Anastasia Rurikov Simes, who received the Helen Hays Award for Outstanding Costume Design in 2011 for her work with the Synetic Theater, composes rich, bold paintings that touch on her subjects of love and war with beautiful complexity and depth.
International Visions Gallery

Through Jan. 30
Beyond
A photographer, writer, filmmaker, book designer, and exhibitions producer, Michael Benson's work focuses on the intersection of art and science in large-scale exhibitions of planetary landscape, mostly under the title "Beyond." He takes raw data from NASA and European Space Agency archives and individual spacecraft frames to produce seamless, large-format digital prints of landscapes currently beyond direct human experience.
Embassy of Slovenia

Through Jan. 30
Big Bang by Franco Lippi
According to chief curator Alfredo Ratinoff, "Franco Lippi's 'Big Bang' is a statement through which he reveals the moment at which everything came to be, in which everything is possible, each suspended in time for us to explore the immensity of his works."
Embassy of Argentina

Through Feb. 10
NOW at the Corcoran – Enoc Perez: Utopia
Enoc Perez's lushly figured paintings of modernist buildings at once exploit and question the seductions of architecture as well as painting itself.
Corcoran Gallery of Art

Through Feb. 10
Shadow Sites: Recent Work by Jananne Al-Ani
Inspired by archival archaeological and aerial photographs, as well as contemporary news, Jananne Al-Ani's video works examine enduring representations of the Middle Eastern landscape.
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Through Feb. 15
Heavenly Jade of the Maya
Rare jade jewelry and objects from recent archaeological discoveries commemorate the ending of the Maya calendar cycle (Dec. 21, 2012) and the beginning of a new era. The Mesoamerican civilization studied the movement of the stars for centuries and constructed a conceptual foundation to explain the relation between the individual and the cosmos. This exhibit displays the creative wealth worn by powerful nobles to keep their rituals and beliefs alive, since the Maya considered jade more precious than gold.
Inter-American Development Bank Cultural Center

Through Feb. 24
Enlightened Beings: Buddhism in Chinese Painting
Buddhism arrived in China during the first century and quickly grew in popularity, exerting a profound impact on all aspects of Chinese art and culture.
Freer Gallery of Art

Through Feb. 24
Lalla Essaydi: Revisions
Lalla Essaydi, a Moroccan-born, New York-based artist, pushes the boundaries of Arab, Muslim and African perceptions of women's identities with her art, which includes themes of feminism, gender, identity and the private inner lives of women while drawing on Arabic calligraphy for its decorative and communicative potential.
National Museum of African Art

Through Feb. 24
Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
An eye-opening look at the largely unknown ancient past of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, this exhibition draws on recently excavated archaeological material from sites throughout the Arabian Peninsula, tracing the impact of ancient trade routes and pilgrimage roads stretching from Yemen in the south to Iraq, Syria and Mediterranean cultures in the north.
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Through Feb. 24
Taryn Simon: A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I-XVIII
Taryn Simon produced this 18-chapter series over a four-year period (2008-11), during which she traveled around the world researching and recording bloodlines and their related stories.
Corcoran Gallery of Art

Through February 2013
Ai Weiwei: According to What?
This major survey of Ai Weiwei, one of China's most prolific and provocative artists, aims to reveal the rich and varied contexts that he has interwoven within the broad spectrum of his work, from sculpture, photography and video to site-specific architectural installations.
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Through March 2
Luces y Sombras: Fourteen Travelers in Mexico
The 20th century saw many internationally acclaimed photographers travel through Mexico to document the country from their unique perspectives. This exhibition focuses on 20 hand-pulled photogravures comprising Paul Strand's seminal 1933 "Mexican Portfolio," along with renowned photographers Edward Weston, Wayne Miller, Aaron Siskind and others who captured the sociopolitical realities, local architecture, and startling landscapes of 20th-century Mexico through a patently American lens. And accompanying exhibit, "Visions of Mexico: The Photography of Hugo Brehme," presents 40 works from Hugo Brehme on loan from the Throckmorton Gallery in New York City.
Mexican Cultural Institute

Through March 3
Michelangelo's David-Apollo
The presentation of the "David-Apollo," a marble statue by Michelangelo lent to the National Gallery of Art by the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence, opens the nationwide celebration "2013-The Year of Italian Culture."
National Gallery of Art

Through March 10
The Sultan's Garden: The Blossoming of Ottoman Art
More than 50 sumptuous textiles and other works of art illustrate the stylized floral designs that became synonymous with the wealth, abundance and influence of one of the world's greatest empires.
The Textile Museum

Through March 16
Words Like Sapphires: 100 Years of Hebraica at the Library of Congress
A century ago, New York philanthropist Jacob H. Schiff purchased an initial collection of nearly 10,000 Hebrew books and pamphlets for the Library of Congress. This gift formed the nucleus of what is today one of the world's greatest collections of Hebraic materials, comprising some 200,000 items.
Library of Congress

Through March 31
Pissarro on Paper
French Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro first tried printmaking in his early thirties, and though he never stopped painting, printing became vital to his artistic enterprise.
National Gallery of Art

DANCE

Jan. 11 to 12
Qingming Riverside
Inspired by the most important scroll painting in Chinese art history — "Along the River during the Qingming Festival" — the Hong Kong Dance Company's epic dance spectacle "Qingming Riverside" animates this prosperous era of Chinese history, depicting life in the early 12th-century Northern Song dynasty. Tickets are $10 to $180.
Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater

Jan. 18 to 27
The National Ballet of Canada: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
The National Ballet of Canada brings an outrageous, eye-popping theatrical production of Lewis Carroll's perpetually winsome children's classic, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon of Britain. Tickets are $45 to $150.
Kennedy Center Opera House

DISCUSSIONS

Thu., Jan. 10, 6:45 p.m.
Embroidering History: The Bayeux Tapestry and the Norman Conquest
The conquest of England by Duke William of Normandy was captured in arresting imagery on a piece of linen measuring more than 270 feet long, known as the Bayeux Tapestry. This unique panel brings alive the year 1066 as it recounts the last foreign invasion of England. Tickets are $42; for information, visit www.smithsonianassociates.org.
S. Dillon Ripley Center

Fri., Jan. 13, 8 p.m.
Let's Talk Hair
The Sanaa Circle presents a fundraiser panel discussion and hair show in support of the National Museum of African Art featuring a talk moderated by Constance White, editor in chief of Essence magazine, on hair and its connections with African and African American identity, African art, and its role as a canvas for expression, personal beauty and health. Tickets are $50 in advance and $75 at the door ($150 for VIP tickets).
National Museum of African Art

Thu., Jan. 17, 6:45 p.m.
Faith and Form: The Art and Architecture of the Synagogue
The tumultuous history of the Jewish people, often marked by exile and persecution, precluded the emergence of a distinctive style of religious architecture. Yet the myriad nations in which these communities of faith have taken root during the past two millennia have left their mark on their places of worship. Tickets are $42; for information, visit www.smithsonianassociates.org.
S. Dillon Ripley Center

Wed., Jan. 23, 6:45 p.m.
Ernst Herzfeld's Archaeological Journeys: From the Ancient Near East to Washington
What must it have been like to be the first archaeologist to explore ancient Persepolis in Iran or Samarra in Iraq? German scholar Ernst Herzfeld was the first to explore these places between 1911 and 1913. Curator Alexander Nagel tells the fascinating story of Herzfeld's early work and presents a selection of his amazing archival photos and documents. Tickets are $25; for information, visit www.smithsonianassociates.org.
S. Dillon Ripley Center

Thu., Jan. 24, 6:30 p.m.
Amidst the Beauty: Exploring Lalla Essaydi: Revisions
In this "Mingle at the Museum" event, the sights, sounds, and flavors of Morocco provide the atmosphere for a private viewing of "Lalla Essaydi: Revisions," a striking collection of works that challenge stereotypes and perceptions about identity among Muslim women. Tickets are $50; for information, visit www.smithsonianassociates.org.
National Museum of African Art

Sat., Jan. 26, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Kyoto: Ancient Imperial Capital
Explore the rich history of Kyoto from its founding in 794 as Heiankyo, capital of Japan's Heian emperors, through its years as the religious and cultural center of Japanese society, to its modern-day reincarnation. Tickets are $130; for information, visit www.smithsonianassociates.org.
S. Dillon Ripley Center


FESTIVALS

Jan. 26 to 27
Hylton in the Highlands: A Festival of Scotland
This inaugural two-day festival will feature a performance by acclaimed Scottish fiddler Bonnie Rideout, a bagpipe and drumming master class, Scottish country dancing demonstrations, a showcase of authentic Scottish crafts, a children's passport to Scotland with Mid-Atlantic Scots 4 Tots, Scottish history presentations, whisky tastings, afternoon tea and more. For information, visit HyltonCenter.org/scottish/.
George Mason University
Hylton Performing Arts Center

MUSIC

Jan. 23 to 25
Schubert/Mozart Birthday Celebrations
The Embassy Series presents three concerts to celebrate two of Austria's genius composers, Mozart and Schubert, featuring chamber, piano and vocal works by Mendelssohn Piano Trio, violist Michael Stepniak and more. Tickets are $55 per concert, including reception, or $150 for all three performances; for information, visit www.embassyseries.org.
Embassy of Austria

Sat., Jan. 26, 8 p.m.
Lark String Quarte+
The Lark String Quarte+ returns to Dumbarton Concerts to celebrate the series' 35th anniversary with a program that includes Hagen's concert for koto based on the Japanese Genji legend. Tickets are $33.
Dumbarton Church in Georgetown

Sat., Jan. 26, 2 and 8 p.m.,
Sun., Jan. 27, 4 p.m.
The Black Watch and the Band of the Scots Guards
Experience the pageantry of British military tradition and history when two esteemed military ensembles — the Black Watch and the Band of the Scots Guards — take the stage in full military regalia, showcasing the distinctive sounds of bagpipes and brass, high-spirited Scottish sword dances, energetic highland dancing and grand regimental marching. Tickets are $25 to $50.
George Mason University Center for the Arts (Jan. 26)
Hylton Performing Arts Center (Jan. 27)

Sun., Jan. 27, 7:30 p.m.
Washington Performing Arts Society: Vilde Frang
Norwegian violinist Vilde Frang was unanimously awarded the 2012 Credit Suisse Young Artist Award and is noted particularly for her superb musical expression as well as her well-developed virtuosity. Tickets are $35.
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater

THEATER

Through Jan. 6
Apples from the Desert
A young Sephardic religious teenager falls for a secular kibbutznik at a dance class in Jerusalem, triggering suspicion in her family; part of the Voices from a Changing Middle East Festival. Tickets start at $35.
Washington DCJCC

Through Jan. 6
Cinderella
Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic musical "Cinderella" adds warmth and a touch of hilarity to the enduing fairytale. Tickets are $26 to $54.
Olney Theatre Center

Through Jan. 6
Irving Berlin's 'White Christmas'
Featuring classic Berlin hits like "Blue Skies" and "How Deep is the Ocean?," the North American tour of the famous holiday movie tells the story of two buddies putting on a show in a magical Vermont inn and finding their perfect mates in the process. Tickets are $25 to $150.
Kennedy Center Opera House

Through Jan. 6
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Director Ethan McSweeny takes a fresh approach to this well-loved play filled with mismatched lovers who flee to the forest outside Athens, but run into a supernatural squabble that will alter their destinies forever. Tickets are $43 to $105.
Sidney Harman Hall

Through Jan. 6
My Fair Lady
When Professor Henry Higgins wagers he can transform a Cockney flower girl into an aristocratic lady, he never guesses that Eliza Doolittle will in turn transform him. Tickets are $45 to $94.
Arena Stage

Through Jan. 6
Pullman Porter Blues
Jam-packed with 12 classic blues songs, "Pullman Porter Blues" is the world-premiere production that reveals the true heroes hidden within every man. Tickets are $45 to $94.
Arena Stage

Through Jan. 6
A Trip to the Moon
Based on the 1902 silent film by Georges Méliès, "A Trip to the Moon" intertwines moon-centric stories and fantastical characters, including astronauts shot to the moon by cannon, a princess who longs to return to her home on the moon, and Soviet space dogs. Tickets are $35 to $55.
Synetic Theater

Jan. 12 to Feb. 3
Boged (Traitor): An Enemy of the People
Emerging from Israel's social justice movement of the past year, "Boged (Traitor)" is an up-to-the-minute adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's classic play of environmental whistle blowing; part of the Voices from a Changing Middle East Festival. Tickets start at $35.
Washington DCJCC

Jan. 29 to Feb. 10
FELA!
The hit Broadway musical — presented by Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith — returns to the Shakespeare Theatre, bringing to life the true story of legendary Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, whose soulful Afro-beat rhythms ignited a generation. Tickets are $30 to $100.
Sidney Harman Hall

Jan. 31 to March 17
Hughie
Emmy Award-winning actor Richard Schiff ("The West Wing") plays the title role in Eugene O'Neill's powerfully focused play about a man whose illusions of a grand lifestyle waver after the death of the stranger who quietly validated his larger-than-life confidence. Please call for ticket information.
Shakespeare Theatre Company

   

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