Reviewed by Dr. John M. Handley
Present at the Footnote, Personal Commentary on American Diplomacy, by Henry E. Mattox, Washington, DC: Xlibris Corporation, 2010; ISBN 978-1-4535-3269-0; 206 pp. $16.95
This small, but very readable, tome contains a series of short vignettes, 56 in total, usually one to two pages in length, arranged topically rather than chronologically, and all published by the author between 1996 and 2008. Dr. Mattox created most of these articles during a period in which he served as the editor, from 1996 through 2007, of the on-line journal American Diplomacy. The first 14 vignettes, found in the first three sections entitled, “Diplomacy as a Profession,” “Foreign Service Life,” and “Witness to History,” recount the author’s life in the Department of State as a Foreign Service Officer drawn largely from his experiences serving in Washington and in seven overseas posts, including Paris, Ponta Delgada, Sao Paulo, Kathmandu, Port-au-Prince, London, and Cairo.
Section VII, “A Nigerian Interlude,” contains two articles and addresses the author’s experiences from 1990 to 1991 as a Fulbright senior lecturer at Nigeria’s Obafemi Awolowo University, located in Ife-Ife, some 140 miles (by road) north-east of the capital, Lagos. Three of the four articles in Section IX, “Country and Regional Policies,” return the reader to Nepal, France, and Haiti. The fourth article within this section, “Two if by Sea,” summarizes the life and work of Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan and his contribution to what might be termed America’s interest in expansion.
The volume contains nine editorials on the war in Iraq (Section IV), in which the author questions if the war was truly necessary or if additional diplomacy could have prevented the conflict. Another nine editorials address other issues of foreign policy concerns (Section V) to include humanitarian intervention, September 11th, Muslim extremists, democracy in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and growing problems in Latin America. Section VI includes five editorials on civil-military issues including a well-researched piece on U. S. presidents, their military service, or lack thereof, and the electorate.
For anyone interested in the contributions from Department of State employees to US foreign policy abroad, Dr. Mattox includes in Section IX tributes to five remarkable individuals no longer with us: Davis Eugene (Gene) Boster, Francis (Frank) Trelease Underhill, Jr., George Frost Kennan, Hermann Frederick Eilts, and Richard Charles (Dick) Schoonover. In Dr. Mattox’s concluding remarks (Section X) the reader learns of the sacrifice at the end of WWI of James Roger McConnell and the French tribute paid annually to this fallen aviator by the town of Flavy-le-Martel. He also discusses the role Katrina should play in lessening US overseas operations, advice from M. K. Gandhi as well as from John and John Quincy Adams, and an editorial outlining the various reasons Muslims hate America.
The book ends with Section XI, a collection of four book reviews penned by the author. Although all the reviews are interesting, this reader was most impressed by the review of Adventures in Service with Peace Corps in Niger by Ambassador James R. Bullington.
Dr. John M. Handley, American Diplomacy Publishers Vice-President, is a Professor of International Relations for Webster University’s Ft. Bragg campus. A retired US Army Colonel, Dr. Handley spent his Army career in military intelligence, including as a Defense Attaché, the Dean of the School of Attaché Training at the Defense Intelligence College, and Deputy, Resource Management, for the Defense Intelligence Agency.