Saturday, June 4, 2011

Lawrence Eagleburger, Professional Diplomat, R.I.P.

Lawrence Eagleburger, a longtime diplomat and former Secretary of State during the George H.W. Bush Administration, passed away at the age of 80. A Milwaukee, Wisconsin native, he was the first career foreign service officer to rise to the post. For those of us who came of age during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Eagleburger was a constant presence in the media as Secretary of State James Baker's deputy during that period.

Perhaps his toughest assignment was when he was tasked with convincing Israel to not retaliate during the Persian Gulf War as Iraqi scud missiles rained down on that country. He succeeded thus keeping the delicate coalition together that was constructed by President Bush to remove Iraq from Kuwait. Here is how the New York Times described his efforts:

"During the first Bush presidency, Mr. Eagleburger was second in command at the State Department under James A. Baker III, and because of his previous experience in the Middle East as Mr. Kissinger’s aide, he was sent on a delicate mission to Israel in 1991, at the start of the Persian Gulf war, which had been mounted to eject Iraq from Kuwait. Mr. Eagleburger’s task was to persuade the Israelis under Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to stay out of the fight, even though Iraqi Scud missiles were landing in Israel. The United States was concerned then, as it would be 12 years later in the war in Iraq, that Israel not be seen as a military partner, fearing that such a perception would alienate Arab and Muslim states willing to help. His success eventually led to his appointment as secretary of state."

He was one of the smartest foreign policy guys around. He will be missed.

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