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Europe and elsewhere aspired to nothing
more than enduring it. Some of them
pretended weaponry was irrelevant, or
sought more weapons; many people on
all sides feared apocalyptic miscalcula-
tion or apocalyptic calculation. For much
of that period, it was nearly impossible to
envision any clear path toward stability
without compromises on the essentials.
reminds us of those
challenges and the role the INF Treaty
played in meeting them.
Douglas Kinney is a retired Foreign Service
ofcer. Te views expressed here are those
of the author only and do not refect the
views of the Department of State or the
U.S. government.
Soft Power in Action
Against the Odds: Health and
Hope in South Africa
Herb and Joy Kaiser, CreateSpace, 2013,
$27, paperback, 196 pages.
Reviewed by Bob Houdek
As if the title of this book were not clear
enough, the foreword by South African
Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the
introduction by Max Price, vice chancel-
lor of the University of Cape Town and
former dean of the medical school of
the University of Witwatersrand, signal
the reader up front that this is not just
another retirement memoir. Rather, it
tells the story of Herb and Joy Kaiser,
whose remarkable vision, dedication and
commitment made possible the educa-
tion of a generation of black medical
practitioners in South Africa.
Herb Kaiser’s last Foreign Service
assignment was in Cape Town during
the 1980s, at the height of the apartheid
era. When he came down with a serious
illness there, he received some of the
fnest medical care
available anywhere
in the world. Yet the
couple’s African
staf could not even
obtain basic medical
care. Recognition
of that distressing
contrast spurred their
remarkable quest to close the gap by
founding an organization in 1985 that
they named Medical Education for South
African Blacks.
Te MESAB project constitutes
a paradigm of what all FSOs should
strive for in their careers. As the Kaisers
explain, a practical problem spurred
them to act: the lack of medical practitio-
ners serving the black community. Tey
then formulated strategies to overcome
strong resistance on two fronts. Te frst,
emanating from reactionary forces in
the white community, was foreseeable.
But the second, driven by those who
prioritized ousting the apartheid regime
over fostering incremental change, was
harder to resist.
Fundraising is essential to successful
philanthropy, and the authors’ incisive
account of all the hard work, networking
and follow-up required to get MESAB
up and running will be instructive for
anyone motivated to pursue similar
good works. (Te Kaisers are donating
all proceeds from the sale of their book
to the UmTombo Youth Development
Tere were bumps along the way, to
be sure; two separate boards—one South
African, the other
American—did not
always see eye to eye.
For example, difer-
ences over cost and
liability issues scotched
plans to expand the pro-
gram to ofer palliative
care for the burgeoning
South African population
aficted by HIV/AIDS.
Te end of the MESAB saga was bit-
tersweet. By 2007, 70 percent of students
in South African medical schools were
black. A commissioned evaluation con-
cluded that MESAB had done its job and
could close down. And so it did.
Still, the Kaisers can take pride in
having fostered the education of more
than 10,000 health care providers, who
are now treating the needs of all South
Africans, black and white alike. And in
the process, they illustrated the best of
American “soft power.”
Tough self-published, this book
puts to shame most major publishing
house products. Its layout, maps, photos
and graphics make it an enjoyable, easy
read, while extensive footnotes, source
citations and a detailed index greatly
enhance its substance.
For those who wonder what life might
be like after the Foreign Service, this
book should provide inspiration. As the
Kaisers’ example proves, the skills FSOs
acquire and hone overseas can lead to
great things!
Bob Houdek served as chief of mission in
Eritrea, Ethiopia and Uganda, deputy
assistant secretary for African afairs, and
national intelligence ofcer for Africa,
among many other assignments during his
35-year Foreign Service career. He is cur-
rently a retiree representative on the AFSA
Governing Board.
The Kaisers can take
pride in having fostered
the education of more than
10,000 South African
health care providers.