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The Washington Diplomat

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News

BY ANNA GAWEL
The Washington Diplomat

Pakistani Shakeup

A diplomatic shakeup at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington last month exposed the longstanding fault lines between the country’s military and civilian leaderships and the murky depths of Pakistani politics.

The scandal embroiled former Ambassador Husain Haqqani, a popular envoy and consummate Beltway insider who resigned Nov. 22 in the wake of allegations that he orchestrated a memo in which Islamabad’s civilian government pledged to adopt a raft of pro-U.S. security policies in return for assistance curbing the all-powerful Pakistani military.

The memo was given to Adm. Michael Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — who eventually admitted receiving the memo but said he paid no heed to it — by Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz, who leaked the document’s existence in an Oct. 10 Financial Times op-ed. Ijaz claims the memo, delivered days after the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden and further ruptured U.S.-Pakistani relations, came from the top echelons of the civilian administration. He’s fingered Haqqani as its architect, saying he was acting on orders from President Asif Ali Zardari.

Haqqani, a former journalist and close Zardari advisor who served in Washington as ambassador since May 2008, has adamantly denied any involvement, returning to Pakistan to face a Supreme Court investigation into the so-called “memogate” scandal that has riveted the nation. “I resigned to pave the way for a transparent investigation and intend to stay in my country for as long as necessary,” Haqqani said in a statement, describing the entire fracas as a “swirl of media allegations initiated by a reckless individual.”

Ijaz has countered that he has BlackBerry Messenger exchanges to back up his claims that Haqqani instructed him to send an unsigned memo to Mullen via former National Security Adviser Jim Jones. Yet Jones has submitted an affidavit (a copy of which was obtained by the Washington Post) stating that the businessman had contacted him about the memo “a few days before May 9,” the date Ijaz says Haqqani first telephoned him about the idea — adding yet another layer of intrigue to the convoluted blame game.

That’s not to say anything about even more recent accusations stemming from memogate that Haqqani helped U.S. authorities locate Osama bin Laden in Pakistan — charges he also dismisses as baseless.

Nevertheless, he’s been barred from leaving Pakistan during the parliamentary probe, a move that drew criticism from his attorney, who said his case is being “pre-judged.” As the disgraced former envoy fights to clear his name, the controversy has thrust another high-profile figure to the forefront of Pakistani diplomacy: On Nov. 23, the government swiftly named Sherry Rehman as Haqqani’s replacement.

Rehman, 50, is a member of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, founding chair of the Jinnah Institute, and an outspoken supporter of women’s and minority rights. A member of Pakistan’s National Assembly since 2002, she has supported legislation to protect media freedoms and prosecute violence against women, and has even faced death threats from religious extremists for her criticism of the country’s strict blasphemy laws, which are often used to persecute Christians.

Rehman, who is expected to assume her Washington post around mid-January according to embassy officials, has been a strong advocate for civilian rule, although her appointment clearly had the approval of the military as well. That in turn has sparked hope that her posting — unlike that of Haqqani, a longtime critic of the army establishment — might heal the rift between civilian and military authorities.

Yet neither Haqqani’s resignation nor Rehman’s promotion has quelled the memogate uproar, which continues to mushroom and now threatens to unravel President Zardari’s already-tenuous administration if the investigation discovers he was behind the memo.

Further complicating the web of intrigue was Zardari’s abrupt departure to Dubai on Dec. 6 for medical treatment reportedly for a “mini” stroke — and his prompt return less than two weeks later amid rumors that efforts were under way to oust him from office. Some analysts have also speculated that Zardari himself was looking for an exit strategy to avoid a confrontation with the military.

An unlikely and weak leader, Zardari came to power three years ago after his wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, was killed in a suicide bombing. Zardari served two prison sentences for corruption charges and has been dubbed “Mr. 10 Percent” for skimming off government contracts, but he’s defied constant predictions of his demise and hung to power despite Pakistan’s slumping economy and rising extremism.

Memogate, though, may be his downfall. Zardari has long feared that Pakistani Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) head Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha “will take me out,” as he reportedly put it in a March 2009 diplomatic cable revealed by WikiLeaks.

Zardari has reason to be nervous, at least about a military takeover. Pakistan has a history of coups (Zardari’s predecessor, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, grabbed power in a 1999 coup), and the military has effectively run the country for decades. Yet it’s uncertain whether the generals would risk a public backlash by openly interfering in domestic politics, or whether they even necessarily want the headache of formally taking charge.

At the same time, tolerance for what’s widely viewed as an impotent, corrupt civilian government may be wearing thin. It’s also clear that the memo — which blatantly offered to overthrow top military and intelligence brass in return for Washington’s protection against a coup — struck a nerve, especially after the armed forces were humiliated by the U.S. incursion to take out bin Laden.

“A unique window of opportunity exists for the civilians to gain the upper hand over army and intelligence directorates due to their complicity in the UBL [Osama bin Laden] matter,” says the confidential memo, originally obtained by Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy.

The memo then asks for the Pentagon to convey a “strong, urgent and direct message to Gen. Kayani that delivers Washington’s demand for him and Gen. Pasha to end their brinkmanship aimed at bringing down the civilian apparatus.”

“Should you be willing to do so, Washington’s political/military backing would result in a revamp of the civilian government that, while weak at the top echelon in terms of strategic direction and implementation (even though mandated by domestic political forces), in a wholesale manner replaces the national security adviser and other national security officials with trusted advisers that include ex-military and civilian leaders favorably viewed by Washington, each of whom have long and historical ties to the US military, political and intelligence communities,” the memo states.

It also says the government would launch an independent inquiry into allegations that Pakistan knowingly harbored bin Laden, sever ties with militant groups, give the U.S. military a “green light” to capture al-Qaeda and other terrorist members on Pakistani soil, work more closely with U.S. officials to safeguard the country’s nuclear arsenal, as well as other sweeteners.

Conspiracy theories as to the memo’s true author have consumed Pakistan’s sensationalist media. On the one hand, it’s feasible that Haqqani, a vocal proponent of civilian rule, would have engineered the backchannel plea. The former ambassador and academic has for years railed against the military exerting undue influence over Pakistani politics ever since the country’s founding.

In his 2005 book “Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military,” Haqqani, then a scholar with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, warned that Pakistani generals have used the threat of Indian dominance and the national devotion to Islam to hijack the political system, creating a dangerous Islamist-tied military culture that tramples economic and democratic reforms (also see “Pakistan: Marriage of Convenience or Is U.S. Sleeping With an Enemy?” in the June 2011 issue of The Washington Diplomat).

Yet the memo raises more questions than it does answers. Why would Haqqani, a well-connected Washington player, rely on Ijaz, a businessman with a somewhat checkered past and no political loyalty to his party, to deliver such a potentially explosive message — especially when Haqqani himself could’ve easily done so without leaving behind a paper trail? And if Ijaz was the secret intermediary he claims to be, why reveal the memo’s existence and jeopardize the very civilian government he was trying to help?

As Haqqani himself told the Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin: “He may be the only so-called secret emissary in the world who likes so much publicity.”

To that end, it’s not out of the question that the whole affair is being used to sideline Haqqani, who’s long been a thorn in the military’s side for pushing the U.S. government to attach tougher conditions on American aid in return for greater terrorism cooperation.

But it was the U.S. raid to kill bin Laden that put Haqqani in his toughest diplomatic bind, forcing him to strike a delicate balance between officials in Pakistan and the United States, who were each livid, but for different reasons.

“[W]hile in Pakistan, violation of our sovereignty was seen as the principal issue, in the U.S. everyone in and out of U.S. government was focused on Osama bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad,” he testified earlier this week at the launch of a Pakistani inquiry into the U.S. covert mission. “As such, the task before the Pakistan Embassy in Washington was to ensure that the negative mood in the U.S. does not result in aggressive sanctions or restrictions on Pakistan by the U.S. Congress.”

At the Abbottabad inquiry, he also admitted that being the ambassador of Pakistan in the United States was a “tough and thankless assignment,” saying that anti-American sentiment in Pakistan is so virulent that any effort “to win friends and influence people favorably in the U.S. plays into the hands of those agitating against the U.S. in Pakistan. The Pakistani representative is then cast as going against the wishes and sentiments of the Pakistani people.”

Indeed, Haqqani’s willingness to defend Pakistan’s fledging civilian government earned him praise inside the Beltway but made him a target back home.

“For the last three years, Husain Haqqani was a friendly, soothing presence among Washington policymakers distrustful of Pakistan’s intentions and its commitment to fighting al Qaeda. Islamabad’s savvy ambassador to the United States and a journalist by training, he worked the U.S. media, the diplomatic corps, and the dinner circuit relentlessly to assure anyone who listened that his country was a committed ally in the war against terrorism,” wrote Eli Lake in the Daily Beast. “But his perceived closeness to America fanned growing tensions between the fragile civilian government that Haqqani represented and the Pakistani army.”

“The ambassador with the hardest job in Washington is undoubtedly Pakistan’s Husain Haqqani, a skilled and wily diplomat who faces the near-impossible task of representing a country that Washington considers at once a crucial ally and a treacherous adversary,” wrote Jeffrey Goldberg in Bloomberg News. “A one-time Islamist turned pro-democracy Americaphile, Haqqani is seen by many in his own country as an American toady. But some of his critics, including many of Pakistan's generals, benefit materially from Haqqani’s work as his country’s most effective interpreter and apologist. Haqqani’s entire tenure as ambassador has been an exercise in crisis management.”

Indeed, the erudite diplomat had to deal with a litany of crises during his posting, from the shooting of two Pakistanis by an American CIA contractor to the onslaught of U.S. drone attacks that have battered al-Qaeda but enraged the Pakistani public.

Interestingly, in a sign of just how tough Haqqani’s job was, Goldberg himself co-wrote a major exposé in the Atlantic magazine with the National Journal’s Marc Ambinder that added to Haqqani’s list of crises. His article, “The Ally From Hell: What To Do About Pakistan,” claimed, among other things, that the U.S. government has operational plans to seize or disable Pakistan’s nukes in the event of a coup, and that after the raid in Abbottabad, the Pakistanis sometimes transported nuclear weapons in ordinary vans around Pakistan’s traffic-clogged streets to hide their nuclear arsenal from Americans. The article came out a few weeks before Haqqani’s resignation.

Like Haqqani, Rehman was also a prominent journalist and comes from a progressive background. Educated at Smith College in the United States and Britain’s University of Sussex, Rehman has won plaudits in liberal circles for challenging religious extremism and government repression, among other causes. In 2009, a year after being appointed minister for information and broadcasting, she quit to protest new restrictions on the media. She was also close to Bhutto and even rode in the same motorcade as the former prime minister when she was assassinated.

“We all have to forge a progressive, dynamic Pakistan out of the ashes that are often left to us by the fire of terrorism,” Rehman said in a recent speech.

And like Haqqani, she’ll now assume the “tough and thankless” task of trying to mend the steadily deteriorating U.S.-Pakistani relations, which have sunk even lower following U.S. and NATO airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers at two remote army posts on the Pakistani side of the Afghan border. The attack infuriated Pakistani officials, who blamed NATO for the miscommunication and promptly boycotted a major conference on Afghanistan in Germany in protest.

That dispute, along with the larger issue of drone attacks, will now fall on Rehman when she formally arrives in Washington. A steely fighter, she withstood death threats after a prominent Muslim cleric issued a fatwa calling for her death because she took on Pakistan’s barbaric blasphemy law.

But her mettle will be tested in Washington as she represents the sometimes-dueling interests of Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders while trying to convince U.S. policymakers that Islamabad is a partner, not a pariah.

“Unlike Mr. Haqqani, she has neither any experience in the delicate art of international diplomacy nor, being a loyal party person, unqualified support from the Pakistan army,” wrote Aamer Ahmed Khan, editor of the BBC Urdu Service. “What she does have, though, and what perhaps her predecessor lacked, is an ideologically and politically consistent history without any party hopping or ideological swings.

“More importantly, unlike Mr. Haqqani, whether it is Pakistan’s military or civilian leadership or the US administration, anyone dealing with her will have the confidence that she is just what she comes across as, a straight-talking politician rather than a career bureaucrat skilled in the art of double speak and intrigue.”

Photos: Former Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani — seen in the top photo on the cover of the October 2008 issue of The Washington Diplomat, shortly after his arrival in Washington — resigned Nov. 22 in the wake of allegations that he orchestrated a memo in which Islamabad’s civilian government pledged to adopt a raft of pro-U.S. security policies in return for protection against a military coup. The next day, the Pakistani government appointed Sherry Rehman, above, an outspoken advocate for women’s rights, religious tolerance and freedom of the press, as Islamabad’s next envoy in Washington.

Top photo: Lawrence Ruggeri
Bottom photo: The Jinnah Institute


FP’s Global Thinkers

Susan Glasser, editor in chief of Foreign Policy, said that her staff learned a lot making the magazine’s third annual “Top 100 Global Thinkers” issue. “One thing we’ve learned is that it’s great to have such a news-making year,” she joked with the Pouch in a recent interview.

Indeed, from political and economic convulsions around the world, to natural disasters and digital innovations, there was no shortage of events for global thinkers to ponder. But perhaps not surprisingly, FP chose to highlight the Arab Spring as a seminal event of 2011.

Whereas Time magazine named “the protester” as its 2011 Person of the Year in its long-running annual recap — encompassing not only Arab demonstrators but also the Occupy Wall Street movement, EU labor clashes and anti-corruption hunger strikes in India — FP honed in on the key figures who’ve fueled the Arab revolts.

Among these 14 revolutionaries, all of whom claimed the top spot, were some recognizable names, such as Egypt’s Mohamed ElBaradei and Tunisia’s Rached Ghannouchi. But there were also less-known individuals, from Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat to Libyan human rights lawyer Fathi Terbil.

Yet they all “helped make 2011 the year that democracy — haltingly, incompletely to be sure, but also dazzlingly and astonishingly quickly — came to broad swaths of the Middle East that had long languished under despotism and decay,” Glasser wrote in the Global Thinkers issue.

On that note, another feature that distinguishes FP’s list from similar ones, Glasser says, is its focus on both famous personalities and more obscure experts.

“The hardest balance for us is between those who are global leaders, who are wielding power, and those who are more traditional, academic thinkers. We felt there are so many power lists out there, but this is not that,” Glasser explained.

“At the same time it’s wrong to ignore those who wield power, so we’re not going to strike them off the list either,” she added. “But you can’t end up with an obscure public intellectual list either.”

To that end, FP plucked figures ranging from Azim Premji, head of the technology services company Wipro who’s been described as the Bill Gates of India, to Bill Gates himself (along with his wife Melinda).

“We’re trying to look for people who are shaping the global discourse with their clarity of thought … whose ideas had impact,” Glasser told us.

That impact was evident among past honorees, notably ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency who returned to Cairo in 2010 to offer a political alternative to Hosni Mubarak.

“And we saluted him at that point for the daunting task of returning to Egypt and somehow bringing democracy to his homeland,” Glasser recalled of the 2010 list, speaking at a Dec. 1 reception for this year’s honorees held at the Meridian International Center.

“‘I see a decaying temple, almost collapsing,’ we quoted ElBaradei as saying of Mubarak’s regime. ‘It will fall sooner rather than later.’ Now I have to be honest, I really didn’t think that was serious at the time. I thought it was the bravado of a very determined activist,” Glasser said, “but I really didn’t see it as a roadmap to current events.”

Fortunately, ElBaradei’s bravado, and that of many others, from Nobel winners to novelists, “through the force of their actions and their ideas, have helped make and shape some of the momentous events of this year,” Glasser said.

The durability of those ideas also came into play for another major theme that runs throughout the FP list: the economy.

With the euro facing its biggest crisis and the American recovery teetering back toward recession, “many on our list are economists helping us understand and navigate this great period of tumult,” Glasser said, noting that “we tried to recognize the economists whose quality of thinking has withstood time [because] plenty of people have gotten it wrong and have blown smoke at us over the years.”

Among those who’ve gotten it right are Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff (#25), the economist duo that presciently warned about crippling debt burdens, Nobel-winning globalization critic Joseph Stiglitz, and Nouriel Roubini, whose prediction of the housing crash and other ominous forecasts have proven, sadly, to be right on the mark.

Glasser says that combing through the possible candidates begins toward the end of summer and is “an ambitious undertaking.” Complicating matters is that the list comes out at the end of the year, so it naturally veers toward more recent developments, potentially overshadowing earlier events.

Still, the global thinkers cover a vast range of newsworthy trends. Burmese dissident Aung San Suu Kyi (#31) is praised “for believing in the promise of democracy”; Elizabeth Warren (#34) “for holding Wall Street accountable”; Kenneth Roth (#69) “for putting the muscle back in human rights”; Mizuho Fukushima and Yuichi Kaido (#29) “for being anti-nuke in Japan — before the wave”; and Sherry Rehman “for showing what it means to be brave in Pakistan” — before her recent appointment as Islamabad’s new ambassador in Washington (see top story).

Many of the profiles are complemented by brief Q&A’s asking honorees about their reading list, muse, the year’s best and worst ideas, and whether the Arab Spring will devolve into the Arab Winter. Gandhi, FDR and spouses popped up among the muses, although the responses varied from Lady Gaga (Roubini) to Glasser’s favorite: World Bank President Robert Zoellick quoting Yogi Berra: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

That diversity of insights was on full display at the Meridian reception featuring more than 30 of FP’s thinkers as well as panel discussions on their work. Columbia University sociologist Saskia Sassen reflected on the challenges of the megalopolis and the potential for reverse migration, for instance, while Amy Chua talked about her controversial memoir “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.”

In the panel on Arab revolutionaries, Manal al-Sharif represented a nation largely untouched by unrest, but one where discontent percolates beneath the surface. A computer consultant and women’s rights activist, al-Sharif was honored for driving a car on her own, which may not sound that momentous — unless you’re in Saudi Arabia, “because we are the only country in the whole world where women can’t drive,” she told the FP audience.

She also pointed out that Saudi Arabia is “the only country in the whole world where a woman is a minor until she dies. She needs a male guardian all her life to give her permission to work, to study, to do anything in her country, even to leave the country. I had to take permission from my father to be here.”

That’s why al-Sharif said she took up the “symbolic” cause of driving a car, an act of defiance that landed her in jail. “We call it drive your own life,” she said. “And we have a saying in Saudi: We say silence is a sign of acceptance, but it’s not. Silence is a sign of fear.”

On that note, al-Sharif’s “muse” is self-explanatory: “Peaceful demonstrators bringing down dictatorships.”

Yet not all struggles earned a mention on the 2011 list. The subject of Iran and its fledging green movement — which Glasser said for now appears dead — was noticeably absent, for instance.

Glasser admitted that with so much going on in the world today, important trends don’t always make the cut. “We’re constantly in a struggle to find more people who can help a global audience understand and interpret the incredible story of Asia,” she said, noting that although China and India are represented on the list (Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was #18 and Indian anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare was #37), “at the same time I wish there were more.”

Hence a new feature in this year’s global thinkers edition: “The Stories You Missed in 2011” that could grab headlines in 2012. At the top of the list: India’s military buildup.

For global thinker #58, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, the biggest overlooked story of 2011 was the everyday revolution sweeping our lives.

“I think the most overlooked news story of the year is the most overlooked news story of the last five years, which is that we’ve entered the third-grade IT revolution,” Friedman said during the FP reception.

“The first-grade IT revolution was the mainframe computer, the second was the move to the desktop and the web, and the third, the one we’re in the middle of, is the combination of mobile devices, social networks and the cloud. And I think that convergence of social, mobile, cloud is the technological plumbing underlying a lot of these revolutions today around the world,” he explained.

“We’ve gone from a connected world to a hyper-connected world,” the New York Times columnist added. “On the one hand, it’s actually creating a lot of strain on people in the workplace because we have vast improvements in productivity. The average employer has so much more access to cheap software, cheap innovation, cheap robotics, cheap labor, cheap robotics, cheap genius, and therefore the pressure on every worker rises. At the same time, the same technology gives us the ability to organize and communicate, to protest about it.”

For Friedman, another overlooked event ranked as both the best and worst idea of 2011: “I think the best idea of the year … was the Simpson-Bowles plan to basically deal with our long-term fiscal deficit, and I think the worst idea of the year was President Obama’s decision to ignore the Simpson-Bowles plan.”

Incidentally, Obama made the FP list, at #11, followed by Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice for the enduring impact of their policies under the Bush administration.

Glasser said the choice reflects today’s wide political spectrum. “FP is very much about the marketplace of ideas — not just a few ideas. And the reality in U.S. politics is that we are a very divided society.”

Interestingly, although some prominent Republicans such as Paul Ryan and John McCain earned a spot, none of the GOP presidential candidates other than Ron Paul got a mention. Does that say something about the significance of foreign policy in the upcoming U.S. election? Glasser was succinct. “I think it does.”

The Pouch asked Glasser, a former foreign correspondent and editor for the Washington Post, what her responses would be to the questions posed to FP’s global thinkers. Her answers:

Reading list: “The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Family’s Century of Art and Loss” by Edmund de Waal; “George F. Kennan: An American Life” by John Lewis Gaddis; “Jerusalem: The Biography” by Simon Sebag Montefiore.

Best idea: The world, per Steven Pinker, Joshua Goldstein, and others, is getting to be a much less violent place.

Worst idea: 2011 looks a lot like 1931, as many of FP’s Global Thinkers who are economists very scarily pointed out in our survey. I hope for all our sake they’re wrong!

Overlooked story of the year: Russia, which was virtually ignored until the country exploded in protest over the flawed Dec. 4 parliamentary elections. The rumblings against the Putin regime were gathering through the year but few bothered to look.

Muse: My husband (New York Times White House correspondent Peter Baker), the best journalist I know.

Front page photo: Foreign Policy contributor Thomas E. Ricks, left, speaks with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.

From top to bottom photo:

Washington Post Co. CEO Donald E. Graham greets the crowd, as Hungarian President Pal Schmitt and Foreign Policy editor in chief Susan Glasser look on, at the Dec. 1 reception held at Meridian House that honored FP’s 2011 Top 100 Global Thinkers.

From left, Saudi women's rights activist Manal al-Sharif and Rached Ghannouchi, the Islamist leader of Tunisia's recently victorious al-Nahda party, listen to Serbian activist Srdja Popovic speak as part of a panel discussion on the Arab Spring.

Amy Chua, author of “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” center, laughs while speaking with Anand Giridhardas and Priya Parker at the Foreign Policy’s 2011 Top 100 Global Thinkers reception, attended by diplomats, politicians and members of the media.

Photos: Jonathan Ernst for Foreign Policy


Bolivia, U.S. Restore Ties
Special to the Diplomatic Pouch by Larry Luxner

Two ex-presidents of Bolivia praised a recent agreement between their country and the United States to re-establish full diplomatic ties. Yet bilateral relations are not going to be easy going forward, they warned.

The comments from Jorge “Tuto” Quiroga, who led Bolivia from August 2001 to August 2002, and Carlos Mesa, who was president from October 2003 to June 2005, came in response to a question from the Diplomatic Pouch during a Nov. 10 event sponsored by Duane Morris LLP.

The summit, titled “Investing in Latin America: The Opportunity, the Challenge, the Road Ahead,” also featured the former presidents of Peru and Guatemala, Alejandro Toledo and Vinicio Cerezo, as well as several top U.S. trade officials.

On Nov. 8, two days before the Duane Morris event, the State Department announced that Washington and La Paz had decided to restore full diplomatic relations following an accord that “establishes a framework by which the two governments will pursue relations on the basis of mutual respect and shared responsibility.”

The statement, signed by Bolivian Deputy Foreign Minister Juan Carlos Alurralde and U.S. Undersecretary for Global Affairs Maria Otero, comes three years after Morales kicked out then-U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg amid charges Goldberg had been egging on the pro-autonomy efforts of opposition leaders in Bolivia’s eastern lowlands.

A few months later, Morales expelled the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, claiming that DEA agents were involving themselves in local politics. In response, the Obama administration declared Bolivia’s ambassador here at the time, Mario Gustavo Guzmán Saldaña, persona non grata, and gave him 72 hours to leave the country.

For the moment, Bolivia’s embassy fronting Massachusetts Avenue is being run by chargé d’affaires Freddy Bersatti Tudela.

The Nov. 8 deal sees “the swift return of ambassadors to Washington and La Paz.” Its objectives “include strengthening and deepening bilateral relations [and] supporting efficient cooperation against the production and trafficking of illegal drugs.” But it doesn’t say whether DEA agents will be allowed back into Bolivia, the world’s third-largest cocaine producer.

“On the plus side, it’s better to have ambassadors than to not have them. On the flip side, it gives you a chance to kick somebody out again,” said Quiroga, 51, a graduate of Texas A&M University who became president of Bolivia when his predecessor, Hugo Banzer, resigned due to health problems.

“It’s very good news that after three years, both the United States and Bolivia have decided to put their ambassadors back in each other’s capitals. But President [Evo] Morales said this does not mean things are going to run smoothly henceforth,” added former President Mesa, 58, who was a radio, TV and newspaper journalist before entering politics.

“The reality is that things have changed. There’s now a third player in the game: Brazil,” he explained. “Brazil today is, if not the second-largest consumer of drugs in the world, then it’s the first. The overwhelming part of Bolivian drug production today goes to Brazil, not the United States. As a consequence, Brazil has a very important role to play with regards to Bolivian drug production and trafficking.

“Given the Bolivian president’s desire to uphold a measure of dignity vis-à-vis the United States in a topic as sensitive as this, it’ll be imperative that Brazil, Bolivia and the U.S. work in concert. Remember that in addition to being president of Bolivia, Morales is also secretary-general of the union of coca producers,” Mesa pointed out.

Quiroga agreed that the explosion in drug trafficking is not specifically a U.S. problem but a regional one, and that should worry every single country in Latin America.

“For a long time, the perspective was that drugs was an issue that affected Bolivia and the U.S., Colombia and the U.S., Peru and the U.S. A long time ago, I went to an Andean summit at which Mexico was there as an observer because they said it was not their problem. How the world changes,” he mused. “This is a hemispheric problem which needs hemispheric approaches and solutions. We in Latin America are very good at kicking the cactus with somebody else’s foot. We say, ‘Get the U.S. to legalize drugs and control the sale of guns.’ But I’m not one of those people. I know the reality. The drug issue has always been a permutation of drugs, gangs and violence from our side.”

In fact, between 60 and 80 percent of the cocaine processed in Bolivia is now destined for Brazil, where the number of consumers has skyrocketed thanks to the economic prosperity of recent years. “

In the last 10 years, Brazil has moved from being a transit country to being a consumption country” for cocaine, said Murilo Vieira, an official at the Brazilian Embassy in La Paz. Vieira said his country is suffering “the collateral effects” of having lifted 30 million people out of poverty over the last decade.

“The so-called new middle class acquired access to cocaine and to a relatively cheap drug, crack,” he said, noting that as a consequence, Colombian, Mexican, Peruvian and Brazilian mafias have begun to establish themselves in Bolivia in order to export those drugs.

Added Quiroga: “It’s a strategic mistake to think that if the U.S. talks to Bolivia, all our problems will be solved. Most of our drugs go to Brazil, so this needs an integrated effort,” he said. “We need to sit down calmly and find integrated solutions. We’re not going to legalize cocaine, but is marijuana on the table? Should we decriminalize some drugs? This is not going to be fixed by the U.S. having a DEA office in Bolivia. Drugs have no limits, and they recognize no borders.”

Photos: From left, Jorge Quiroga, former president of Bolivia; Alejandro Toledo, former president of Peru; José W. Fernández, assistant U.S. secretary of state for economic, energy and business affairs; and Carlos Mesa, former president of Bolivia, speak at a conference on investing in Latin America at the offices of Duane Morris LLP.

Photos: Larry Luxner

G-20’s Relevance

The G-20 grouping of the world’s largest economies cemented its relevance on the world stage during the 2008 global recession but now faces another test of its legitimacy with the euro debt crisis. What role the G-20 should play in shoring up the world economy was the timely topic at the launch of the French-American Global Forum (FAGF), which aims to host a regular discussion series on political and economic affairs in the United States, France and the European Union.

The inaugural FAGF event, “The G-20 and the New Global Order,” coinciding with the recent French presidency of grouping, brought together a diverse panel of policymakers to the French Embassy on Nov. 29.

Jean-David Levitte, diplomatic advisory to President Nicolas Sarkozy and the former French ambassador in Washington, returned to his old stomping ground at La Maison Française for the talk. He was joined by Lawrence Summers, former National Economic Council director under the Obama administration and president emeritus of Harvard University; Princeton University’s Anne-Marie Slaughter, the recent policy planning director at the State Department; and Kemal Dervis, former Turkish economic affairs minister and head of the U.N. Development Program who’s now with the Brookings Institution.

Though they differed on future policy prescriptions for the G-20, the political and economic experts all agreed that the group’s establishment was a major accomplishment. But that recognition was tempered with caution that the final verdict on the G-20 hinges on what happens to the euro.

Perhaps the direst warning came from Summers, the candid, controversial economics guru who told the audience that while the world economy went over a precipice in 2008, “I believe we are at the most serious juncture in global finance that we have been in since the Second World War.”

Summers cited two reasons why the current European debt crisis is more dangerous than the crash of 2008: First, because it’s no longer an issue of too big to fail, as in the case of Lehman Brothers, but of too big to bail out, as in the case of Italy.

“Second, the magnitude of the potential disturbance to global finance and trade on a truly global basis is far greater than what it was three years ago,” he said, noting that European cross-border banking exposures are twice those of the United States and a hit to the EU banking system would reverberate around the world.

To that end, Summers complained that the political niceties trotted out at November’s G-20 summit in Cannes, France — whose outcome was long on promises but short on specifics — glossed over the urgency of the cascading eurozone crisis.

“While the goal set at Cannes was to serve as the political impetus to definitive solution, the reality is that major countries in Europe are today able to borrow money only at close to twice the risk premium that they were just a few short weeks before the Cannes summit, ” Summers pointed out, adding, “The insistence that Greece is not in default was in, diplomatic parlance, surprising.”

To that end, the G-20 has to stop turning a blind eye to the fast-moving reality of the markets, he argued, concluding that “international legitimacy depends on nothing more than effectiveness. The effectiveness of the G-20 in responding to global financial crises and driving the agreements to take the necessary steps to begin what will be a long, slow process of the resumption of confidence is what is currently in question. It is the G-20’s reputation as an effective institution that is very much in doubt.”

As the only diplomat in the room, not surprisingly Levitte took a far less dim view of the G-20 that emphasized the impressive strides it has made in a short time.

Reflecting on the bloc’s formation at the head of state level in response to the 2008 economic crisis (it had met since 1999 at the financial ministerial level), Levitte said the G-20 acted decisively “to clean the mess in the financial, banking sector but also to prevent the temptation that could exist to use protectionism … and beyond, to look at globalization and regulation of globalization.”

He also praised the inclusion of emerging nations, noting that the G-20, as opposed to the G-8 grouping it mostly replaced, now represents 85 percent of global GDP and two-thirds of the planet’s population. Conversely, the United Nations, with its 192 members, can be too unwieldy to reach economic consensus.

“All in all, I think this new grouping, informal in nature, has been a success because we have delivered. We have been in a position to confront the difficulties and take decisions rapidly. So maybe we cannot pretend … to represent the whole international community, but I do think we have legitimacy because we have the capacity to take decisions.”

Slaughter agreed that the G-20’s existence was in and of itself remarkable. “We are already assuming the G-20 was preordained, but that wasn’t so when I entered government. And at that point it wasn’t at all clear that the G-20 would remain a permanent institution,” she said, recalling the various ideas being floated for the group’s composition — G-8+5+1+2+1 being one of the stranger mathematical combos.

The final figure encompassed the shifting balance of global power. “It actually reweighted international governance toward Asia. It was of course created after the Asian financial crisis,” Slaughter said, “and equally important, unlike the G-8+5+1, that grouping would not have included Turkey.”

Likewise, Dervis said that while imperfect, the G-20 “was a great step forward, bringing in the major emerging markets,” although he stressed that the International Monetary Fund should be the formal mechanism through which G-20 proposals are implemented.

Summers didn’t quibble with the G-20’s past achievements, but rather with how it’s handled the current meltdown, accusing it of dithering while world markets demand bold action. He also backhandedly criticized the European Union for imposing austerity measures on members like Greece that, while good in the long run, won’t do anything to provide the immediate jolt to the economy that’s desperately needed now.

He likened the situation to a patient recovering from a heart attack who’s been moved from the intensive care unit to an ordinary hospital room, where he experiences sudden complications. But instead of addressing those complications, doctors come in to talk about the need for good diet and exercise after the patient’s release.

While the global declarations for long-term growth, integration and cooperation at Cannes were constructive, “I felt one needed to remember that the patient was having very serious complications right now … and I wished more attention was being devoted to the problem of the moment,” Summers said.

Levitte pushed back against that characterization, arguing that the European Union must address the immediate fiscal crisis while at the same time focusing on long-term reforms, and that now is the best chance of introducing painful compromises like budgetary discipline across the eurozone.

He also reiterated the sheer fact that “after two world wars, which were the responsibilities of the Europeans, key leaders decided to embark on an adventure without precedence in human history.”

“When you created the U.S., you started from scratch,” Levitte reminded Summers. “We started from centuries of hatred and wars between our nations…. For the first time we are united through democracy, not war,” he added, rejecting the notion that markets should dictate democracy.

But the former ambassador admits that democracy — let alone 17 different democracies — can make agreement difficult. In a pointed rebuke to EU skeptics though, Levitte quipped: “We all know how easy it is for the U.S. Congress to come to an agreement.”

The veteran envoy, who also served as France’s permanent representative to the United Nations, conceded that the European Union made a mistake in admitting Greece before it was ready to be a member, but he said that Athens, along with governments in Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy, “are very courageously embarking on tough medicine.”

He also said the eurozone is grappling with an entirely new phenomenon, because when EU nations such as Germany and France were originally asked to abandon their beloved deutschmark and franc, “it was impossible to consider failure at the time, so there is no exit strategy now.”

On that front, Summers sided with Levitte that failure now is not an option. Asked what he would say to those who advocate Greece exiting the eurozone, which would result in a massive currency devaluation, Summers replied that “no person of goodwill could favor such an outcome. The euro was the culmination of a 60-year project to counter a 1,000-year history.”

“I recognize the difficulties of decision making in multiple democracies,” he said, but added that the current handwringing was not only the result of democratic debate, but of political obstructionism.

Slaughter too cited domestic constraints in Germany and other healthy EU economies whose publics are unwilling to bail out their fiscally flagrant neighbors.

“It comes down to domestic politics, mostly in Germany but also in France,” she said. “A key part of the bargain that has to happen, if it does happen, is as much political as it is economic.”

But Slaughter argued that anti-euro voters in Western and Northern Europe are being narrow-minded. “It’s very easy to run against the EU. But someone needs to explain to German voters that it’s not [about them] paying off Greek debt,” she said, noting that Berlin’s export-driven economy has benefited tremendously from its adoption of the euro — and that if the euro stumbles, the price of German exports would skyrocket.

Just as Slaughter pointed out the overall value of the euro, all of the panelists saw the value of the G-20 in tackling long-term economic issues after the euro crisis, hopefully, abates — in particular the growing income inequality around the world that’s been fueling Occupy Wall Street and other labor protests.

“The future role of the G-20, after the euro crisis is over, must be in part addressing the serious deterioration of income distribution,” said Dervis, noting that in the United States, income concentration at the very top echelons is the highest it’s been since the 1930s, before the Great Depression.

Levitte agreed that interdependent economic problems such as tax havens and banking secrecy can only be addressed in a multilateral setting such as the G-20.

“It’s very important to remember that in the G-20, we don’t deal only with pressing issues. We try to look beyond the horizon and try to adopt together new rules for the globalized world in which we live together,” he said. “We have the capacity to build a common destiny.”

Top photo: From left, Lawrence Summers, former National Economic Council director under the Obama administration and president emeritus of Harvard University; Jean-David Levitte, diplomatic advisory to President Nicolas Sarkozy and the former French ambassador in Washington (also pictured on the front page); moderator James Traub; Princeton University’s Anne-Marie Slaughter, the recent policy planning director at the State Department; and Kemal Dervis, former Turkish economic affairs minister and head of the U.N. Development Program who’s now with the Brookings Institution, speak at a panel discussion on “The G-20 and the New Global Order” at the French Embassy.

Bottom photo: Romuald Sciora, founder and director of the French-American Global Forum, introduces the inaugural event of his group, which aims to host a regular discussion series on political and economic affairs in the United States, France and the European Union.

Photos: Embassy of France

Meridian Previews U.S. Election

Trying to figure out the U.S. presidential election is hard enough for average Americans — most, myself included, would struggle to explain the quirks of the primary caucus or electoral college voting systems — but for foreigners, Uncle Sam’s political machinations can be downright baffling.

Especially for diplomats whose jobs entail reporting on the latest developments in the 2012 campaign to their foreign ministries back home, trying to explain the Republican mindset can be mind-boggling, with a new frontrunner seeming to emerge each week. Even the best Beltway pundits are having a tough time keeping track of who’s on top of the polls.

So the Meridian International Center in Washington, as part of its “Insights at Meridian: Topical Discussions with DC Ambassadors” series, recently held a panel for the diplomatic community to shed some light on what’s shaping up to be an epic U.S. presidential contest.

Leading the Nov. 7 talk were John Zogby, a respected pollster and chief insights officer of IBOPE Zogby, and Eleanor Clift, contributing editor to Newsweek since 1994 and a longtime panelist on “The McLaughlin Group.” Liechtenstein Ambassador Claudia Fritsche moderated and was joined in the audience by her colleagues from more than a dozen embassies, including Fiji, Latvia, Monaco, Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Switzerland, Tanzania and Zambia.

Both Zogby and Clift offered insider views of the candidates and voting trends, though neither would predict the outcome of the race. On that note, both agreed it’s still anybody’s game to win or lose.

Zogby argued that neither party enjoys a particularly strong mandate to lead given how polarized the country has become, saying that even though Americans voted for change back in 2008, “they didn’t make it clear which direction they wanted that change to be.”

“There was not a mandate for liberal change,” he said. “Should Republicans get elected, there’s not really a mandate for conservative change either.”

Zogby also called the mood of the country at the moment “really ugly,” pointing out that 71 percent of Americans said they were scared for their personal finances and 58 percent described themselves as financially worse off than in 2008, none of which bodes well for President Obama.

At the same time, the pollster himself cautioned against reading too much into polls this early in the race, saying history offers little guidance on what the numbers portend.

For instance, Harry Truman’s dismal approval rating hovered around 32 percent when he ran against a “do-nothing Congress” and won a come-from-behind victory in 1948. Likewise, Ronald Reagan was facing a meager 42 percent approval rating when he won a second term in 1984. George W. Bush enjoyed a 60 percent approval, Zogby noted, but lost his re-election bid.

Political editor and commentator Clift said Obama’s re-election chances will largely hinge on getting Hispanics and Blacks, who voted in overwhelming numbers for him in 2008, back to the polls in November.

That, in turn, could be helped by Republicans themselves, she said, calling them Obama’s “ace in the hole” if the party continues to pander to its extreme right base and brings up socially divisive conservative fallbacks such as abortion, homosexuality and immigration — ensuring that they “rev up the liberal base like Obama can’t.”

Clift says the GOP’s electability will depend on whether it puts up a moderate presidential candidate “or a purist defined by the Tea Party.”

So far, it’s trending toward the latter. Mitt Romney is of course widely viewed as a moderate, but Clift, echoing the Washington consensus, says that while moderation may be his biggest advantage in a general election, it’s been his downfall so far leading up to the primaries.

Another issue, Clift argues, is the perceived lack of authenticity in Romney’s shifting beliefs. “Mitt is from central casting,” she said of the party’s anointed frontrunner, whom many Republican voters have been reluctant to embrace. Running down the list of other GOP hopefuls, Clift correctly predicted that Herman Cain, the flavor du jour at the time of the discussion, would eventually see his support sink due to the barrage of sexual allegations against him. She also foresaw the potential for Newt Gingrich to rise, noting his “strong and steady” ability to debate.

“No one going into this election has an advantage,” she said.

But the liberal commentator said the influential Tea Party could see its advantage slip away as independent voters become the coveted wildcard in the general election. Clift and Zogby both pointed out that independents tend to seek problem solving, compromise and consensus in a leader.

“The Tea Party is the opposite,” Clift charged, accusing the House GOP freshmen class of unprecedented obstructionism since 2010.

“The Republicans asked what they could do to stop [Obama] and they realized they could just stop everything, and the next day the sun would still rise,” she said, noting that infrastructure, for instance, was an area that for years had enjoyed bipartisan support, until now. “Republicans have been diabolically successful in creating a dysfunctional political environment and then pointing the [blame] on Obama.”

Zogby, steering clear of legislative tactics, did observe that so far, the Republican debates have been extreme on rhetoric but shallow on policy prescriptions.

At the same time, both Zogby and Clift agreed that while Obama has had significant accomplishments in his term, he’s failed miserably in communicating those accomplishments to the American public. They said that for Obama to win in November, he’ll need to go on the war path, eschewing his persona as a reasonable consensus-builder — who caves too often to achieve that consensus.

And while the president should not portray himself as a victim of circumstances, Zogby also says, “Obama is at the mercy of events outside of his control,” citing the possibility of a double-dip recession as an example.

Ambassadors in the audience also asked more technical questions about the U.S. political process and how it works — who’s allowed to vote in primaries, for instance, the likelihood of a third party emerging (not likely according to Clift and Zogby) and the saturation of money in political campaigning.

Yet one critical subject the diplomats were interested in — foreign policy — is also the one area that most commentators don’t believe will play a significant role in the upcoming election.

“Foreign policy has traditionally been considered a Republican strength and a Democratic weakness,” Clift said, but with Obama taking out Osama bin Laden and helping to oust Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, “that kind of neutralizes a weakness Democrats had. And on the Republican side, they don’t have anybody significantly versed in foreign policy” — other than Jon Huntsman.

Zogby agreed that unlike the 2004 matchup between John Kerry and George W. Bush, when national security and foreign policy was a key issue, “that will be missing this time around.”

Instead, the topic on voters’ minds will naturally be the economy and jobs. And with an unemployment rate stubbornly clinging to the 9 percent mark, a rate at which no presidential incumbent has ever won re-election, Obama faces an uphill battle. Then again, this contest so far has been anything but predictable.

One thing Clift does know for sure: “I’ve got pretty long job security going into the election,” she quipped.

From top to bottom photo:

From left, pollster John Zogby discusses the upcoming presidential primaries with panelists Ambassador of Liechtenstein Claudia Fritsche and Newsweek contributing editor Eleanor Clift at an “Insights at Meridian” panel exploring “The Race for the White House: Preparing for the Primaries” held at the Meridian International Center.

From left, Ambassador of Slovenia Roman Kirn talks with Ambassador of Ukraine Olexander Motsyk, Ambassador of Monaco Gilles Noghes and Meridian’s Janet Blanchard at a panel discussion for the diplomatic community on the 2012 U.S. presidential election.

Ambassador of Switzerland Manuel Sager poses a question to the panelists at the Meridian Insights discussion on the 2012 U.S. presidential election for the diplomatic community, which was supported by the Walter and Isabel Cutler Endowment for Global Understanding.

Photos: Meridian International Center

Holiday Cheer at State
Special to the Diplomatic Pouch by Larry Luxner

Christmas trees, clowns, chocolate cake and kids — lots of them — filled the Benjamin Franklin Room on the eighth floor of the State Department on Dec. 14 in celebration of “Diplomacy at Home for the Holidays.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who usually deals with weighty issues ranging from the Arab-Israeli conflict to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, found herself sharing the stage with Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The event, now in its third year, brought together nearly 300 people to honor the families of U.S. diplomats serving in dangerous places around the world.

“This is a way for us to say ‘thank you’ for everything you’re doing, and thanks especially for your understanding that your mom, your dad, your loved one needs to be where he or she is, even during the holidays, on behalf of our country,” said Clinton.

“There are common threads of these unaccompanied tours: long months without visits, extra burdens on the mom or dad or the parent who is at home, and the usual challenges facing our Foreign Service families, picking up and moving from time to time,” she said.

“But in particular, I want to say a thank you to all of you who are children of our diplomats. I know how much you miss your moms and dads. I see them when I travel all over the world, and particularly in places where they can’t let you come with them. They think about you all the time, and we are very proud of you for being so strong and brave while they’re gone. And I hope that you understand that the work they’re doing around the world is to make our country and our world better for you in the future.”

The secretary of state was introduced by U.S. Protocol Chief Capricia Marshall, who thanked corporate sponsors Hallmark and Skype for using new and innovative technologies to bring families together for the event.

One such family is the Mauldins. Jennifer Mauldin, whose husband Jimmy is currently serving a yearlong assignment at the economic section of the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, knows what being a diplomatic spouse entails. During their 18 years of marriage, the Mauldins have moved 11 times; they’ve lived in Ghana, India and Morocco — and she’s getting ready for their next posting in New Delhi.

But in the meantime, Jennifer is taking care of the couple’s four children — Jack, 11; Anna, 12; Caroline, 14; and Kate, 16 — in Falls Church, Va.

Jennifer Mauldin started by thanking FLO, the State Department’s Family Liaison Office, for making the transition easier.

“Having our family separated for a year is a challenge, and I miss not having my husband here to share in the day-to-day,” she told her audience. “During this time apart, we have had the earthquake — I’m sure you remember that one — we have had a hurricane, and then there was the tropical storm that sent 12 inches of water into our basement of a rental home. In addition to that, there is now the responsibility of mowing the grass and raking the leaves and cleaning the bathrooms. These are all mundane, everyday tasks that are really important, and my husband used to take care of all of them. And now I have to do them all.”

After Jennifer Mauldin spoke for a few more minutes, her husband suddenly appeared on the big screen behind the stage, direct from Pakistan and courtesy of Skype.

“I just want to tell you, Jennifer, you’re absolutely fantastic, and I couldn’t ask for a better wife or a better friend,” said Jimmy Mauldin, prompting several tears from the audience. “You’ve given me four beautiful children, and I appreciate you so much. You’ve been the encouragement behind me that pushed me out of the peanut fields of south Alabama to the front lines of diplomacy here in Pakistan, and I wouldn’t be here at all if it wasn’t for you.”

During the festivities, Mac laptops outfitted with webcams were set up around the elaborate reception room, allowing dozens of other families — mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles — to Skype with their loved ones serving at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world. In addition, children of U.S. diplomats serving unaccompanied tours prepared Hallmark cards, recordable storybooks and art projects for their loved ones. Frosty, Rudolph, Rumpelstiltskin and their colorful friends appeared courtesy of the Bay Theatre Company of Annapolis.

From top to bottom photo:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomes families of U.S. diplomats serving abroad during the State Department’s annual “Diplomacy at Home for the Holidays” reception Dec. 14 in Washington.

From left, Janet Luby, Amy Kellett, Judson Davis, Eun Nichols and Ryan Brown of the Bay Theatre Company of Annapolis spread Christmas cheer during the State Department’s annual “Diplomacy at Home for the Holidays” reception.

Florence Mwela, of the State Department's East Asian and Pacific Affairs division, and her sons Perry and Chipo, attend “Diplomacy at Home for the Holidays” held in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the State Department.

From left, U.S. Chief of Protocol Capricia Marshall joins Dianna Rooney and Elizabeth Robertson at the State Department’s annual “Diplomacy at Home for the Holidays” reception in Washington.

Photos: Larry Luxner

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