Twinkle for Gents—A Close Shave

I ask around about haircuts. Authoritative Mumbai sources say: Twinkle for Gents. Five weeks into our stay, haircuts are essential. But am I to test Twinkle for Gents? I take a 2 and 3 across the sides and top. My sons buzz down to 4 and 5. Not haircuts, so much as a few quick strokes … Continue reading Twinkle for Gents—A Close Shave

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Diplomatic Training

Sixteen years ago I spent ten months at the Foreign Service Institute training for my first diplomatic assignment to Saudi Arabia. This week I returned to campus with my sons, eight and ten, so they could begin their own indoctrination to the diplomatic life. They were enrolled in a course called Young Diplomats Overseas Preparation. … Continue reading Diplomatic Training

The Impact of Public Diplomacy

Reflecting on U.S. Diplomacy. An excerpt: The next-to-last time I saw Mohamed---11:15 a.m., December 6, 2004---a blast-resistant window separated us. The day’s final applicant, he was alone in the waiting room when the high-low alarm started wailing. An Afghan male taking refuge in Saudi Arabia from the time of the Soviet invasion of his country, … Continue reading The Impact of Public Diplomacy

11:15 06-Dec-04

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=33&v=wWWxlbspbOs The next-to-last time I saw Mohamed—11:15, Dec 6, 2004—a blast-resistant window separated me from the Afghan businessman with good English, admiration for the U.S., and a carpet enterprise in Virginia. The last applicant of the morning at our visa counter in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Mohamed was alone in the waiting room when the high-low alarm … Continue reading 11:15 06-Dec-04

Swamp Talk

Mental Deviants & Gun Nuts

A dozen years ago when I worked in Saudi Arabia, the government had a habit of referring to domestic terrorists as 'deranged' and calling them 'mental deviants.' We mocked the Saudis mercilessly for it. The Royals were denying reality. They failed to acknowledge and confront the extremist forces at loose in the Kingdom, extremist views … Continue reading Mental Deviants & Gun Nuts

Diplomatic Casualties

The morning of December 6, 2004, five heavily armed terrorists stormed the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I remember loud pops from the AK-47s and the muffled thud of improvised explosive devices; I remember hours hunkered under a desk and a scramble for protection when the Marine called “Gas!; I remember crouching through our … Continue reading Diplomatic Casualties

Diplomats and Terrorists

Last month American Diplomacy included my review of Ambassador James R.  Bullington's Foreign Service Memoir, The Road Less Traveled. The book recounts a career that began with the U.S. military build-up in Vietnam and took the author to Burma, Chad, Benin, and Burundi, where he served as Ambassador, and Niger, where he served from 2001-2006 as Country Director … Continue reading Diplomats and Terrorists

In Flight Entertainment for POTUS

What are Trump & Co. reading as they wing their way to Saudi Arabia tonight? Two Pumps for the Body Man! This black comedy set in Saudi Arabia does for American diplomacy what Catch 22 did for military logic: The enemy in the War on Terror can't kill us if our own institutions kill us … Continue reading In Flight Entertainment for POTUS

One Year on the Beat

When it comes to terrorism, the enemy can't kill us if our institutions kill us first.

A year ago this week I put Jeff Mutton on the beat. Assigned to keep America’s diplomats safe in Saudi Arabia, he proved a tough match for tyrants as well as terrorists. He endured vacuous conversations during diplomatic soirees and survived quack psychiatry at the hands of State Department shrinks. He introduced us to a … Continue reading One Year on the Beat