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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
|
JANUARY 2013
9
nates how a true story gets dramatized
and how atmosphere can mean more
than facts.
I watched the flm from another
perspective, having served as an FSO in
Tehran from 1976 to 1978 and worked in
the embassy compound. I knew the city
streets and was familiar with Tehran’s
airport. I would say that “Argo” is not a
documentary, but a highly successful
entertainment vehicle.
Parts of the flm achieve real verisi-
militude. For example, using Istanbul as a
stand-in for Tehran, Afeck and company
achieve the right look for the streets.
Moreover, in casting the fugitives, Afeck
assembled a cast of character actors who
strikingly resemble the actual FSOs. For
even more authenticity, the director was
able to get unusual access to both the CIA
headquarters and the State Department
to frame his drama.
At the same time, “Argo” introduces
elements that create drama but are utterly
implausible. Where the flm truly departs
from the actual Canadian Caper is in its
ending. All the momentumof the flm
leads to a nail-biting fnale at Tehran’s
Mehrabad Airport.
After a tense passport check and a last-
minute mission approval fromWashing-
ton, the group is scrutinized by a wary (and
scary) member of the Iranian Revolution-
ary Guard. All this happens as a group
of Iranian zealots edges ever closer to
identifying the fugitives from reassembled
shredded photos. Ten comes the last-
ditch chase sequence on the tarmac.
None of that happened, of course.
Te real-life airport escape was tense
but remarkably uneventful—even if the
minds of those escaping were in turmoil.
But, hey, it’s a Hollywood ending, and
who would deny Afeck his bofo fnish?
Not me, certainly. It’s a rousing close
for a flm that notably ofers rare kudos
for the dogged work of U.S. intelligence
services and diplomats.
Mike Canning
FSO, retired
Washington, D.C.
Editor’s Note: Please see p. 39 for a
combined review of new books by Mendez
and Lijek about the incidents depicted in
the flm.
The Kissinger Interview
It was depressing, to say the least, to
read AFSA President Susan Johnson’s
interview with former Secretary of State
Henry Kissinger in the September
Journal
.
Kissinger treated the Foreign Service like
dirt, excusing the 1973 murder of FSOs
by Yasser Arafat in Khartoumwhen faced
with threats of more of the same (all in
the service of realpolitik). I recounted that
sordid tale, including the roles of Arafat
and Kissinger, in my June 2009
FSJ
article,
“Counterterrorism: Some Lessons to
Consider.”
Particularly galling was the time
ofered to Kissinger to expound on the
matter of diplomacy. Allowme to quote
his self-exculpatory prescription for
successful statesmanship in the Nov. 13,
2011, issue of
Te New York Times Book
Review
: “Te challenge of statesman-
ship is to defne the components of both
power and morality and strike a balance
between them. Tis is not a one-time
efort. It requires constant recalibration;
it is as much an artistic and philosophi-
cal as a political enterprise. It implies a
willingness to manage nuance and to live
with ambiguity. Te practitioners of the
art must learn to put the attainable in the
service of the ultimate and accept the
element of compromise inherent in the
endeavor.”
I very much hope Winston Lord will
respond to Kissinger’s remarks about his
reaction to the 1972 bombing of Cambodia.
One fnal question inmy mind:
given Susan Johnson’s expressed inter-
est in reducing the incidence of politi-
cal appointments to ambassadorships,
why did she not ask supreme diplomat
Kissinger for his opinion on this point
when seeking his views on the importance
of having “a strong, professional, career
Foreign Service for the conduct of diplo-
macy”?
China expert though he may be, in my
view Kissinger deserves no place of honor
in our professional and fraternal associa-
tion—nor in the journal it publishes.
Alan Berlind
Senior FSO, retired
Bordeaux, France
Bring ’Em in Young
Shawn Dorman’s October
Foreign Ser-
vice Journal
report on “Te New Foreign
Service Generation” is certainly interest-
ing. Tere is much to admire in what
these men and women are bringing to our
profession.
Reading her reporting called to mind
my own service as a 26-year-old junior
ofcer in Helsinki during the John F.
Kennedy administration. Te White
House was then so concerned that our
embassies lacked meaningful contact
with emerging leaders abroad that every
embassy was told to report, every week,
on its contacts with folks in their 20s and
younger.
In Helsinki, this way-into-the-wee-
hours “work” soon proved too much for
our embassy elders, so the responsibility
for this weekly report fell to the only two
of us who were in their 20s. My colleague,
poor fellow, was married, so I got a
chance to render stellar service.
Tat was back when one could be no
older than 32 when entering the Foreign
Service! Even so, there still were only
two of us at Embassy Helsinki who could