Read yesterday that former SecState George Shultz died 100 years old. I always liked and admired him, and was proud to have worked for him
By today's right-wing standards, of course, he was an old-fashioned globalist. By today's left-wing standards, of course, he was an old-fashioned imperialist. By my standards, he was a man of his times, and, much missed nowadays, a patriot. He was not a revolutionary when it came to government affairs. He did not question the structure of international organizations or the existence of treaties. When, for example, he took over the creaky State Department bureaucracy, he did not launch some radical restructuring or purge, he accepted it for what it was and--horrors!--made it work. He was a superb manager who knew how to pursue the mission's objectives, and get the best out of the people and the equipment he got handed. He was, after all, an old US Marine.
He, an ardent anti-Communist, was determined to bring down the Soviet Union, which he saw as the biggest threat on the planet to the United States and the cause of freedom. He loved America, and even before the term became known, believed in a foreign policy that put "America First." I was just a lowly Pakistan desk officer, but even I knew that we were work to "roll back" the Soviets. His formidable Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Larry Eagleburger, made that clear to all of us, no matter how low our ranks. Eagleburger, btw, was famous for calling lowly peons, such as myself, directly and summoning them to his office--which he had decorated with a ceramic eagle atop a hamburger--and quizzing us mercilessly about some topic or another without our immediate superiors present; he wanted the info raw, and unrefined by the ponderous "clearance process"--unheard of in the State Department. Shultz and his team had a very visible and tangible presence in the Department. They insisted that the bureaucracy work--and it did. I never saw the Department work as well either before or after Shultz.
Sure, perhaps, in retrospect he had a limited vision. He, as noted, was not a radical. To my chagrin, for example, he accepted the advice of the Near East Bureau on how to handle the Middle East, and went along with their nonsense about "engagement" with the Palestinians and appearing "even handed." He also accepted the UN, and only made limited efforts to reform that horrid organization. A group of us lowly dissidents wrote him a memo urging the US to get out of the UN; we never heard back. OK. Understandable.
Despite all that, I still thought he was a great SecState who saw the US as the essential country and wanted to keep it that way.
George Shultz, RIP.