Ambassador's CV


For reasons much too complicated to rehearse, I spent Tuesday night at the Embassy of Singapore in Washington, D.C. The occasion was the National Day of Singapore, which is their version of Independence Day. I got to meet Tom Ridge, who came to give a short speech praising Singapore's economic growth and stout alliance to the U.S. war on terror.

I also met Ambassador Chan Heng Chee. Singapore has three main ethnic groups: Chinese, Malay, and Indian. The Chinese, like Ambassador Chan, are the majority. In her nine years in D.C., she's learned Western manners completely, and manages to be sufficiently forthright to be charming. Forthrightness in women is not highly encouraged in Chinese culture, which prefers politeness and the maintenance of social harmony to truth-telling. She does all right, though.

It was a pretty hefty crowd who came out to celebrate Singapore's National Day. There were quite a few Defense contractors -- not DOD-exclusive contractors like me, but people who represented firms that hoped to do business with Singapore itself. There were also some State people, but what really caught my eye were the naval officers. Men in uniform were everywhere, but almost none of them were from branches of the service other than the navy. Almost every navy in the world was represented: I saw an Egyptian naval officer conversing with an Israeli, met an Aussie captain, and saw officers from every Scandinavian navy afloat.

After the speechmaking and dinner, I ended up hanging around with a US navy captain in the submarine service. I've written before about the quality of the sailors in the submarine service, which I've always found to be excellent. I spent a good portion of the evening comparing notes on hurricanes with the gentleman -- his favorite was one he rode out in the Atlantic, four-hundred feet down, which still caused the boat to roll. I'm not sure if mine was Floyd -- which was the size of Texas when she made landfall -- or Opal, which rode all the way up into the North Georgia mountains and rocked the Appalachians near Camp Frank D. Merrill. You can get out to Amicalola Falls State Park, if any of you are deployed at Camp Frank, and see where there are still a lot of trees down from Opal. I rode out Isabel last year, but she wasn't much. I have a couple of good stories about her, but really there was never any danger.

I relate all this to convey a bit of the "diplomatic" work behind the GWOT. I don't often have anything to do with it myself, but these kinds of things go on every night, all around the world. Just like the intelligence work mentioned below -- which famously belongs to the CIA, but which the military does tirelessly and often better -- diplomacy isn't just the State Department. The men in uniform do a hero's share of that work too. If "diplomacy" isn't a dirty word, I expect it's their doing that keeps it clean. Honesty, integrity, and the pride of the service go a long way to enhancing the strength of a man's word.

Pity the fellow with that duty, though. It was a pleasant enough evening, but if I had to do it every night, I think I'd go nuts pretty quickly. It's no better duty than kitchen patrol -- a necessary, tiresome duty that someone has to perform.

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