86. Memorandum From Richard T. Kennedy and Peter W. Rodman of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Frank Shakespeare’s Observations about State Department Africanists

Frank Shakespeare has sent you a memorandum (Tab C) recording his observations at a recent Chiefs of Mission meeting in Africa and the results of his own research into the ages and educational backgrounds of State Department officials dealing with Africa.

You might find his conclusions worth reading. He notes that:

—a preponderant majority of State Department Africanists come from Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. (He assures you in a cover note that he has nothing against Harvard!)2

—the Chiefs of Mission meeting was dominated by the uniformity of outlook of the career people, and the Administration viewpoint was under-represented.

—we send Ambassadors whose average age is 53 to a continent ruled by young leaders, many of whom are in their 30’s.

He recommends that we try to:

—recruit people of more diverse backgrounds into the career service, disassemble the “African Club” that seems to have come into being, and get younger men into higher career positions.

—insure that top-level officials attend Chiefs of Mission meetings, to listen to the Ambassadors and to impress the Administration view on the gathering.

A reply to Mr. Shakespeare is at Tab A for your signature.3

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At Tab B is a memorandum to you from Roger Morris, commenting on the points Shakespeare raises. He blames the Foreign Service, rather than the eastern universities.


That you sign the memorandum to Mr. Shakespeare at Tab A.

Tab B

Memorandum From Roger Morris of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)4


  • Shakespeare Memo

Peter Rodman has asked me for my comments on Frank Shakespeare’s memo.

1. Shakespeare is right, of course, about the “sameness of view” in our African corps, but for the wrong reasons. Harvard and Princeton are not to blame for bias, lack of imagination, and differences of view from the Administration’s policy. Rather:

—The Foreign Service, as a bureaucratic career system, is a stodgy guild, punishing innovation and dissent and rewarding conformity. With almost no exception, those who rise to the top (and the African Embassies scarcely get the cream) are suitably stagnant products of this system.

—Intellectually, the policy views that worry Shakespeare are not the offspring of Eastern universities (which, in fact, give almost no attention to Africa). This set of mind was born in the fit of conversion which the Foreign Service experienced when it discovered decolonization during the late 1950s. Like all late converts who are deeply ridden with the guilt of past sins (in this case, having been hoodwinked by colonial foreign offices), our new African “specialists” swallowed whole the then fashionable “realities.” To wit, that the tide of African nationalism was rolling inexorably south; development proceeded by certain truths; if we don’t “win” Africa, the Soviets will; the Africans unlike most governments mean what they say, nation-states created [Page 214] in Paris and London are immutable, etc. I am not so worried that these views are contrary to a particular Administration’s policy. The point is that they are demonstrably wrong. And our obsession with them seriously detracts from our ability to cope with Africa in the 70s, especially if the Continent should by some chance become important to us.

—As for geographical spread in recruiting for the Foreign Service, the Establishment has been trying to accomplish just that over the past few years. For reasons outlined above this has had no appreciable effect on either bureaucratic mentality or creativity.

2. I quite agree that bureaucracy will run with the ball whenever an Administration fails to make itself felt with the presence of senior officers. But what Shakespeare witnessed was, after all, the result of several African appointments during the Nixon administration. We have only ourselves to blame for giving State its head in assembling the predictable collection of super-annuated mediocrities on the eve of retirement, for whom Africa is a natural pasture. Ultimately, of course, there is only one answer to reestablishing the authority of the Administration in the bureaucracy, and that is to appoint an Assistant Secretary whose views and loyalty leave no doubt. That is not the case at present. Of the group Shakespeare saw, only Bill Roundtree matches those qualities with the requisite ability and experience.

3. The problem of youth, to be sure, is most critical. Even if we select from the career service, younger men between 35 and 45 should be getting their experience in running Missions. This would not only benefit the Africans, but just might save a few Foreign Service officers for the psychological and mental paralysis which overtakes them otherwise.

The ideal goal is to make Africa a major area of recruitment for young shirt-sleeve Ambassadors from the private sector. After one has satisfied the pretentions of the handful of Oxford or UCLA graduates who govern the host countries, the real job is contact with and assistance to a frontier society. What better place for young lawyers, engineers, journalists and teachers to combine public service with personal diplomacy in the best tradition. The Africans themselves are most susceptible to this informality, and most repelled by the present starchiness, which conveys nothing so much as a confirmation of the racism they suspect of Americans in any case.

In sum, I quite agree that the African club should be disbanded. Not that the Continent is important. But there is always the chance that it might be some day. And in the interim, Africa can be used as an effective training ground for a revitalization of our own diplomatic service. Not to mention the real benefits to African development which would come with new injection of youth and imagination in the U.S. presence.

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Tab C

Memorandum From the Director of the United States Information Agency (Shakespeare) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)5

While attending the Chiefs of Mission meeting in Africa, I became aware of a depressing sameness of view . . . a lack of ideas clashing, of concepts challenged and argued. It was the same type of thing I used to notice in the CBS newsrooms . . . the sanctification of certain ideas, the importance of peer group acceptance. In searching for the reasons, I came upon two factors:

I. Excessive Commonality of Background.

There are 27 U.S. Missions to African countries headed by Ambassadors who are careerists. Fifteen of these men went to Harvard, Yale or Princeton . . . eleven went to Harvard.

Of the Washington based officers supervising African operations, here is their educational background . . .

Deputy Assistant Secretary State Harvard
Director, African Affairs State Yale
Legal Advisor, Africa State Harvard
Intelligence, Africa State Harvard
Director, Africa Peace Corps Harvard
Director, Africa CIA Harvard
Deputy Ass’t. Sec., Africa Defense Harvard
Dir., Intl. Commerce, Africa Commerce Princeton

In addition, the U.S. Mission Chief (less than Ambassadorial rank) in Algeria, Angola, Gambia, Rhodesia and Swaziland went to Harvard (3), Yale or Princeton.

II. Absence of Nixon administration Officials.

Of the approximately 160 people attending this four-day conference, planned to coordinate foreign policy toward an entire continent, I was the only Nixon administration official present. The Secretary [Page 216] of State attended for one day as part of his African tour.6 The entire conference was run, directed and consisted of career officers. There was no Nixon administration voice.

The two Ambassadors who are political appointees . . . Tom Melady of Burundi and Tony Marshall of Malagasy . . . each tried once to inject new ideas. Tom Melady suggested that as the Spanish Government, in recent years, has moved more toward a centrist position, it has moderated its African policy. He suggested Portugal may act similarly if it moves to the center in the post-Salazar7 period. This comment was greeted with polite silence. Tony Marshall proposed that a very quiet and low key encouragement of trade between black African countries and the Union of South Africa might develop relationships and contacts that could have a beneficial effect on both sides. This proposal met with sharp and negative response, except for Bill Rountree, our Ambassador to South Africa, who pointed out that this is exactly what the French Ambassadors to the former French black-African countries are doing.

Charles Runyon, State’s Legal Advisor for Africa, gave an emotional talk on Civil Rights in South Africa, during which he said that Bar Associations and lawyers’ groups in that country are “mounting the barricades” against the government. He left the clear impression that the wish was the father to the thought. Mr. Runyon was the Assistant Dean of the Yale Law School, 1957–1963.

My suggestions are these:

1. A determined effort should be made by the State Department to recruit young officers of diversified geographical and educational backgrounds so the diverse viewpoints of the entire American people are more thoroughly reflected in the Department.

2. I do not know if the African situation regarding the commonality of educational background among Ambassadors is atypical. If so, an “African Club” may have come into being, whether inadvertently or otherwise, and should be gradually disassembled.

3. The heads of the foreign policy related agencies should personally attend Chief of Mission meetings whenever possible. These are:

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John Hanna8 AID
Joe Blatchford Peace Corps
Gerard Smith Disarmament
Frank Shakespeare USIA

These men, being political appointees, tend to be more directly in touch with Administration thinking on foreign policy and by virtue of their positions able to have some influence on the Ambassadors.

Furthermore, one top Nixon official directly responsible for foreign policy . . . the Secretary of State, the Under Secretary or you . . . should always attend, both to listen to the views of the Ambassadors and to make clear the views of the Government.

The Chiefs of Mission meeting for Latin America, by the way, went better. Elliot Richardson attended and the Assistant Secretary (Meyer) of course is a political appointee, as are several of the Ambassadors. John Lodge of Argentina and Fife Symington of Trinidad and Tobago spoke up strongly from time to time.

4. There are some outstanding men among our Ambassadors to Africa. Without going into detail, the following impressed me:

Dean Brown Senegal
Bill Rountree South Africa
Bill Hall Ethiopia
Sheldon Vance Congo

5. The average age of our African Ambassadors is 53. Only four are under 50. African national leaders are young. Mobutu of the Congo, who has more or less ruled for ten years, is forty. The Prime Minister of Morocco is 38.9 The former Foreign Minister of Dahomey is 35. And so on. It seems to me that, on merit alone, we should have some young careerist ambassadors. Africa, where responsibilities are not always major, would be a good place to assign some. Almost every major American business corporation today has some vice presidents in their late thirties or early forties. Many of the key aides surrounding President Nixon are young. Is the State Department that much tougher?

Frank Shakespeare10
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 294, Agency Files, USIA—Vol. II—1970 [27 Feb–Dec 14, 1970] [2 of 2]. Confidential. Attached as Tab B to a May 22 memorandum from Kennedy to Kissinger (see footnote 1, Document 80). Printed from an uninitialed copy.
  2. Attached but not printed is the undated covering note in Shakespeare’s handwriting which reads: “Henry I’ve got nothing against HARVARD. Honest! Frank.”
  3. Attached but not printed. Kissinger did not sign the memorandum, dated May 22.
  4. Confidential. Printed from an uninitialed copy.
  5. Confidential.
  6. Rogers traveled to Morocco (February 7–9), Tunisia (February 9–11), Ethiopia (February 11–13), Kenya (February 13–15), Zambia (February 15–16), Zaire (February 16–18), Cameroon (February 18–19), Nigeria (February 19–20), Ghana (February 20–21), and Liberia (February 21–22). For documentation on the trip, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–5, Part 1, Documents on Sub-Saharan Africa, 1969–1972, Document 8 and ibid., vol. E–5, Part 2, Documents on North Africa, 1969–1972, Documents 101, 102, 141, and 144. See also Department of State Bulletin, March 23, 1970, pp. 365–380.
  7. Antonio de Oliveira Salazar served as Prime Minister of Portugal until September 1968.
  8. Shakespeare corrected the spelling of Hannah’s last name by handwriting an “h” after the second “a.”
  9. Ahmed Laraki.
  10. Shakespeare initialed “FS” above this typed signature.