Celebrating American Diplomacy Publishers 20th Anniversary And Honoring Its Founders

by Brenda Brown Schoonover. Ambassador (Ret.)

President of the Board of Directors, American Diplomacy Publishers

The Beginning

On September 18, 1996, the inaugural edition of American Diplomacy (AD), Volume One, Number One was published. It was the launching of an electronic journal on commentary, analysis and research on foreign policy and its practice—available only on line.

My guess is that at the time, the founders of American Diplomacy did not envision the publication would still be going strong twenty years later. But it is—thanks to lot of hard work from a solid cadre of volunteer board members, talented, knowledgeable contributing authors and a combination of loyal and new readership. I should also mention the generous financial support from our board of directors and a grant from the Nelson B. Delavan Foundation.

Visits to the AD website total almost 400,000 a year. Subscribers receiving notices about new material are located in more than 50 countries. Among the prestigious institutions recognizing the journal as an educational resource are Harvard, Columbia and Georgetown Universities as well as the research collection of the Library of Congress.

Some followers may have already heard the story of how American Diplomacy was conceived in the home of a retired Foreign Service Officer in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. A handful of Foreign Service retirees formulated the idea over a shared lunch of ordered-in-pizza.

The irony of this account is that historically the State Department has been behind the curve on computer technology. We in the Department have never been known for our computer savvy—certainly not back in 1996. Thus, making it even more remarkable that twenty years ago, a small group of retired U.S. diplomats in Chapel Hill, NC could come up with the unique concept of an online journal devoted to international affairs. These were folks who had spent most of their career years using a typewriter not a desktop computer.

I recommend the AD article, “Technology and Foreign Affairs: the Case of the Typewriter” by Henry E. Mattox in the October to December 1997 edition, which chronicles the span of 100 years of the use of the typewriter in State Department and Foreign Service—and, the initial resistance to the typewriter versus handwritten pen-and-ink communications.

Speaking of outdated, I still like to turn real pages from time to time; so, I was delighted to recently learn of the existence a spiral-bound printed version of the first edition- plus printed copies up until the winter of 2000.

Perhaps the founders maintained copies in print in the early years because they did not have complete faith in the internet as means of ensuring the preservation of historical documents.

The Founders

The founding editor was Henry Ellis Mattox, PhD a retired Foreign Service Officer. Before he and his wife Shelley “retired” to Chapel Hill. Dr. Mattox had served in seven overseas posts plus a year as a Fulbright professor in Nigeria. He went on to obtain his doctorate from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and then to teach for fifteen years at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Along the way, he authored four books. Dr. Mattox would hold the position of AD editor for eleven years (1996 to 2007), transition to contributing editor and later to emeritus status until his death on February 24, 2016.

Henry leaves an impressive legacy as the steadfast core of the magazine. He recruited, persuaded and cajoled board members and countless writers to ensure the magazine’s success and longevity, plus retaining outstanding editorial and web expertise which we continue to enjoy today.

In his book, Present at the Footnote (2010), Henry explains the project, American Diplomacy, was a group endeavor, a brand new experience for nearly all involved, stating, “The objectives… were then and remain now to support and bolster the Institution of the Foreign Service and its people and to advance the knowledge and understanding of foreign affairs and diplomacy among our readers—no small challenge”. Dr. Mattox singles out the journal’s longtime webmaster, Sandy Johnson, for her invaluable assistance, especially “her good work in establishing an archival research system that even I could follow”.

Another key founding player was the first publisher, retired Ambassador T. Frank Crigler, a resident of Durham. NC. Ambassador Crigler has had a long and distinguished diplomatic career of thirty years including U.S Ambassador to Rwanda (1976-1979) and Ambassador to Somalia (1987-1990). Once retired from the State Department in 1990, Frank taught International Affairs for two years at Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts. He and his wife Bettie moved to Durham, NC in 1996, the same year he co-founded American Diplomacy. Among Frank’s many activities, he worked as a fellow with Duke University’s Center for International Development and Research in Durham, N.C. and was a long-time member of the Planning Committee for Carolina Friends of the Foreign Service.

At the inception of the journal, the Advisory Board of American Diplomacy Publishers (ADP) was mostly comprised of retired Foreign Service Officers. Its first members were: Carl R. Fritz, Curtis Jones, Roy Melbourne, Richard Bart Moon and John Edgar Williams and Ambssador Bill Dale; plus, Dr. Richard H. Kohn of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. At some point, this body was transformed into the Board of Directors as it is called today with a minimum of eight and maximum of twenty-five members It acquired the normal range of officers such as vice president, treasurer and secretary—many who stayed on several years. And, the organization gained valuable new board members from UNC and Duke plus members beyond the confines of the North Carolina Research Triangle such as long-standing directors Ambassadors William C. Harrop and Edward Marks, the late Ronald Palmer.

To date, Henry Mattox has been the first and last North Carolina resident editor. His successors: J.R. Bullington, Dr. William Kiehl and Csaba Chikes have all edited from afar with great success.

From the onset, American Diplomacy Publishers had a cooperate arrangement with the Triangle Institute of Strategic Studies (TISS), University of North Carolina. The University of North Carolina provides website hosting.

The Purpose and the Content

In the inaugural edition, there is a short piece entitled, “Editor’s Lament”. Here Henry Mattox apologies for the lateness of the journal’s first edition. He speaks of the ravages of Hurricane Fran, the Hurricane of Hurricanes that caused tremendous destruction, electrical power outages, flooding and loss of property unprecedented in the area. Fran had obviously played a factor in the delay of the journal’s first publication target date, an internal goal set by the founders unbeknownst to the first-time readers, who probably had no clue the date had slipped. Nevertheless, this delay was not in Henry Mattox’s plan and he promised there would be no such slippage in the future.

For more than fifteen years, I had the privilege of knowing the late Henry Mattox, diplomat, scholar and true Southern gentleman. I have been a member of the ADP Board of Directors for more than a decade and board president for the half that time. My long time affiliation is in part due to the irresistible persuasion of Henry Mattox. Over the years, I have worked on journal issues with many of the founding members as well as other dedicated directors. So, naturally I have a built-in positive bias when it comes to the publication, but I am hoping other readers will agree that the first edition of American Diplomacy is most endearing. The tone is informal, almost chatty, sophisticated, but not stodgy, informative but not formal. The writers convey a sense the pride and quiet enthusiasm about their accomplishment, the creation of an on-line journal focusing on international issues, quite a new concept at the time.

The first edition has an array of articles addressing topics such as:

American diplomatic practices redefined; Failed states, the challenge of “ungovernability”; The future of Palestine;

Public opinion human rights and foreign policy; The Cold War; and an assessment; U.S. Presidents with military service;

A personal account from a former U.S. consular officer.

The journal was meant to be a scholarly publication to attract accomplished researchers, faculty, students and individual interested in foreign policy and issues. It was also intended to offer a place for authentic points of view from those who had served in the diplomatic milieu and other services abroad—those who walk the talk. That includes employees as well as Foreign Service family members. From the beginning there was a section labeled, “Life in the Foreign Service”, which held a prominent place in the journal, the human side of representing one’s country abroad from the perspective of the employee and/or family member. Over the years, many of the memoirs and vignettes in this section have been quite poignant, and sometimes humble. A host of individuals have related, often in a self-effacing humorous manner, the challenges and frustrations, the trials and errors of attempting to understand and navigate in other cultures.

In explaining their new creation, journal founders and staff outline expectations of providing intellectual content relevant to scholars, citizens and decision makers. The identify a set of goals and focus points such as to:

Air a range of policy related questions;

Provide an outlet for comparatively succinct scholarly studies;

Focus on foreign policy, diplomatic history, military affairs, military history and issue of national security broadly defined;

And, to offer features, such anecdotal reminiscences by Foreign Service employees and family members, book reviews, research

The Future

American Diplomacy’s first publication launched a rich and substantive beginning, establishing a high standard that has stood the test of time. The journal remains informative, relevant and thankfully often fun to read. We hope to expand our outreach and readership and continue to offer a valuable publication and resource to a range of audiences.

I invite you to check out the Journal’s bountiful archives in general as well as the June 2016 Anniversary Issue: The 20 Year Sampler.

If you are not already, become a subscriber and if you are thank you for your support. If you are not, consider being a contributing author, sharing your opinions, expertise and interest in relevant subject matter or your own experiences. And, if you are, keep up the good work. Please share your comments.

Long-term and new readers and subscribers, please join me in wishing American Diplomacy Publishers a Happy 20th Anniversary. May there be many more.

Also, please join me in congratulating the wise and imaginative Founding Members who have left an enduring gift, American Diplomacy.

About American Diplomacy

by Bart Moon, American Diplomacy Publisher

Bart Moon provides in this essay some history and perspective on the journal as well as a statement of our purpose and some information about our writers and our readers. We will post it permanently in a new “About Us” tab on the masthead.

In 1996 a group of retired American diplomats residing in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill triangle area of North Carolina conceived and launched American Diplomacy, an electronic journal of commentary and analysis on international issues, available free to all users of the world wide web. They did so with the cooperation of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which provided web site hosting facilities, and with the encouragement and advice of the Triangle Institute for Security Studies and the UNC Curriculum for Peace, War, and Defense.

Our goal was to draw on the expertise of actual practitioners of diplomacy as well as the analytical skills of outstanding academicians to educate readers regarding current international issues in a responsible, nonpartisan manner not readily available elsewhere. Also, through the publication of the memoirs of retired and active Foreign Service personnel we hoped to promote greater public understanding of the rigors and rewards of foreign service life and of the role of diplomats in shaping and carrying out American foreign policy. It was our further hope that the journal might interest youthful readers in considering the Foreign Service as a career.

In support of this effort the founders of American Diplomacy created American Diplomacy Publishers (ADP), a North Carolina-chartered nonprofit educational corporation granted 501(c)(3) tax-free status by the Internal Revenue Service. ADP’s board of directors was drawn originally from the community of retired Foreign Service officers residing in North Carolina and in the Washington, DC, area, as well as scholars from the faculties of UNC and Duke University. In the intervening years others in the Triangle, bringing military and business experience, have joined the board. Board members receive no pay; in fact, each member is required to make an annual financial contribution to the ADP treasury. Moreover, neither the authors whose articles appear in American Diplomacy nor the editing and publication staff of the journal receive any pay.

Since its founding American Diplomacy has published many hundreds of articles by noted foreign affairs experts including Admiral Stansfield Turner, ambassadors Hermann Eilts, Robert Strausz-Hupe, Peter Bridges, Edward Marks, J.R. Bullington, Ronald Palmer, Luis Santiago Sanz, and Francis Underhill. We have also featured essays by scholars such as John Lewis Gaddis, Ole Holsti, Michael Hunt, Robert Hinde, Madeline Hinde, Alex Roland, and Robin Dorff. All of these articles remain retrievable to readers in our electronic archives which can be accessed at americandiplomacy.org

Visits to articles appearing on the American Diplomacy web site have increased steadily, now totaling more than 200,000 per year. Moreover, the journal’s value as an educational resource has been recognized by America’s most prestigious universities, e.g., Harvard, Columbia, Johns Hopkins, Georgetown, and many others, all of whom have established links from their web sites to ours in order to make our material easily available to their faculties and students. Because of emails from readers wishing to be notified when we post new articles on our site, we can boast not only that our audience extends throughout the United States, but also that there are eager readers of American Diplomacy in 62 countries spanning the globe.

It is a source of pride with us that we are able to present to the world a refereed, high quality, serious publication at very low cost. As noted above the staff that edits and publishes the journal consists of unpaid volunteers working from computers in their homes. Only our webmaster is paid for her work. Moreover, ADP has taken steps to expand its activities by sponsoring alone, or in collaboration with other organizations, special events in the Triangle related to international affairs as another way to promote wider public knowledge of and appreciation for the role of the Foreign Service as the principal front-line defender of America’s foreign policy interests.

Launching American Diplomacy

From our Founding Editor on the occasion of our 15th anniversary

by Henry Mattox

In the fall of 1996, at a university town in North Carolina, several U.S. Foreign Service veterans met at the home of one of the group. They had under consideration, over lunchtime pizzas ordered in, putting some of the final touches on the organization conceived by two of those present, Dr. Henry Mattox and Amb. Frank Crigler. In question was the launching of a brand new Internet journal.

This electronic publication, a type then not common, received the title “American Diplomacy.” Now, more than fifteen years later, the journal continues publication on a regular basis. It brings foreign affairs-related studies, articles, commentaries, and reviews to an audience numbering well over a hundred thousand annually.

The journal resulted from an idea of the two retired FSO’s named above. They had served together in Washington a few decades earlier and, it happened, retired in neighboring towns. Mattox and Crigler formulated the notion of an entirely electronic journal devoted to diplomacy and related questions featuring as much as possible the work of their colleagues. There would be no print runs at all. The concept seemed then, at least to them, markedly novel.

The founders approached the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the person of Dr. Richard Kohn, history professor and head of University-based Triangle Universities Security Studies, with which Dr. Mattox had been affiliated. (The organization later changed its name to the Triangle Institute for Security Studies.) This link permitted the journal’s access to the UNC computer network.

By late 1996, the originators of the new journal had launched the first edition. It has continued in operation ever since at www.americandiplomacy.org, with regular publication. Annual “hits”—Internet visits —by readers have totaled substantially over 200,000 for many years.

The highly informal organizational meeting that took place in 1996 was more or less concurrent with the issue of the journal’s first quarterly edition. (Since then it has changed from a quarterly to an Internet publication undergoing frequent renewal, article-by-article and subject-by-subject.) The “pioneer” 0rganizers confirmed Crigler as publisher and president of a newly constituted board of directors. He also performed the webmaster duties. Mattox, in addition to editing the journal, acted as board vice president and treasurer.

Other founding board members were the now-deceased Dr. Roy Melbourne and the late Carl Fritz. Additional colleagues in at the beginning (or very near the earliest days) were Ed Williams, who became the board secretary, and Bart Moon, who assumed the treasurer’s slot and eventually became publisher. Amb. Bill Dale later took on the presidential position and Curt Jones was an original board member. All were Foreign Service retirees.

In due course, the membership of the American Diplomacy governing board had a broader membership, importantly from academia, including Prof. Kohn, and the business sector.

The journal, reflecting its title and beginnings, continues to provide a range of views bearing importantly on foreign affairs, past and present. Its formal beginning, however, came about with earnest conversations about the proposal at a noontime gathering of a handful of Foreign Service retirees back in the fall of ’96.

And the rest is history.