Friday, February 13, 2009

The FRUS Fracas, End Game is Near?

The Office of the Spokesman of the State Department has recently posted this announcement on the “Meeting of the Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation” – the FRUS series.

The Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation will meet in open session from 1:30 p.m. through 2:30 p.m. on Monday, March 2, 2009, in the Department of State, 2201 “C” Street NW, Washington, D.C., in Conference Room 1207, to discuss declassification and transfer of Department of State records to the National Archives and Records Administration and the status of the Foreign Relations series. The public may attend this meeting as seating capacity allows. Admittance to the State Department building will be by means of a pre-arranged clearance list. Prior notification and a valid government-issued photo ID (such as driver’s license, passport, U. S. government or military ID) are required for entrance into the building. Members of the public planning to attend must notify Nathaniel Smith, Office of the Historian (202-663-3268) no later than February 25, 2009, to provide date of birth, valid government-issued photo identification number and type (such as driver’s license number/state, passport number/country, or US government ID number/agency or military ID number/branch), and relevant telephone numbers. If you cannot provide one of the enumerated forms of ID, please consult with Nathaniel Smith for acceptable alternative forms of picture identification.

Questions concerning the meeting should be directed to Marc J. Susser, Executive Secretary, Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, Department of State, Office of the Historian, Washington, D.C., 20520, telephone (202) 663-1123, (e-mail

We have written about this previously here, here and here. There’s no mention whether the Rice Review Team’s report will be released soon. The last I heard, the report was kicked over to the Undersecretary for Management to handle.

If you think this would be old news by now and would go away quietly, you got it wrong. Stan Katz wrote “The State of History and the History of State” for The Chronicle of Higher Education in January:

“There was also a good deal of buzz about the controversy generated by the resignation of the AHA delegate, Roger Louis (the former president of the AHA and a distinguished historian of the British empire), as chairman of the State Department’s Historical Advisory Committee, whose main function is to offer advice to the Secretary of State and the Historian’s Office concerning the ongoing publication of the Department’s formal historical record, Foreign Relations of the United States.”

Extensive comments after the piece.

Earlier this month, Douglas Selvage also wrote “If Obama Wants to Demonstrate Transparency, He Can Start with the State Department's Historian's Office” for the History News Network:

“Henry Kissinger once famously quipped, “academic politics are so bitter because the stakes are so low.” Ironically, a struggle in academic politics is taking place at Kissinger’s old watch, the Department of State, that could affect U.S. government openness and transparency for decades to come. The stakes could not be higher. It will serve as a test case for the commitment of the Obama Administration and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to transparency and open government.”

Foreign Policy is calling it a “Disarray.” The New Yorker has called it the “Tweed Wars.” The Progressive Historians started an open thread sometime in December last year, and the spirited online debate about this affair is still alive was still alive until about a couple of days ago.

Monday, March 2, 2009 - 1:30 p.m. through 2:30 p.m. – mark your calendar! I would be happy to hear if they have sorted out the problems by then but if any more shouting matches develop, do please clue me in.

Update 2/13 12:23 PM: I wrote this post last night before I went to bed and did not see TSB's update until noon. H/T to the Skeptical Bureaucrat on the leaked Review Team Report. His post here includes a point by point interpretation. (Bring lots of popcorn, TSB!) The Team's final word:

"Whatever the details of this management crisis, and whosoever is right or wrong, we believe that effective management is the responsibility of the managers, not the managed, and that strong effective management and leadership will be needed to rebuild and maintain a positive, high performing team in HO."

Looks like reorg is in the cards, and I'm not even a card reader!

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