Monday, January 28, 2013

Post #404 - Getting to Maybe

Max Kampelman was a good man. Born Max M. Kampelmacher, of Romanian Jewish parents in New York City, he was brilliant and clear-minded. He was warm, with an almost puckish sense of humor – and a lovely wife, Marjorie and five children. He died January 25, when his heart finally gave out -- but it served him well for over ninety years.

My family knew Max from the time he and my dad worked with Hubert Humphrey in the mayor's office in Minneapolis, and later as Humphrey's legislative counsel (opposite my dad's role as administrative assistant) after Humphrey went to the U.S. Senate; both worked on later national campaigns for him. (Prior to that, all three had attended the University of Minnesota.)

Though he worked for many years at the same law firm as Sargent Shriver (first head of the Peace Corps, an initiative that Humphrey championed), they went somewhat different ways from where they each began in the late '40's. Like the Kirkpatricks (Evron and Jeanne, who later served as UN ambassador under Reagan), who were also part of that gang, Kampelman became more conservative as he grew older (he went from being a conscientious objector and working for a union, to joining the Marine Corps Reserves and being something of a hawk in his later life, though he never switched parties, as Jeanne Kirkpatrick did).

Kampelman is best known, however, not for his time on Capitol Hill or for his corporate legal work, but as a diplomat on behalf of the United States, notably with representatives of the USSR on Nuclear and Space Arms ('85-'89). In some 400 meetings with Soviet negotiators, Kampelman exhibited the kind of patience and persistence that seems practically non-existent in the halls today's government agencies or legislative bodies. Tough, but committed to the possibility of reaching "yes," Kampelman showed what can be accomplished with diligent, well-prepared negotiation. They were also able to obtain the release of thousands who wanted to emigrate from the USSR (especially Jews), and of hundreds of political prisoners who were languishing in Soviet jails. President Clinton awarded him the Presidential Citizens' Medal, in part for that work, as well as negotiations he undertaken for President Carter. David Brock said Kampelman, "had a front-row seat at many of the central political dramas of the post-World War II era."

The question is this: Where are the Max Kampelmans of today who can find a way to break the impasse between Iran and the West? We know that the ranks of State Department specialists who can do more than find Iran on the map are extremely thin these days, but Kampelman wasn't an expert on arms control when he was tapped by Reagan to help thaw the Cold War either What he had going for him was a good brain, a set of principles and some humanity. As he was quoted as saying in a Washington Post obituary, "Diplomacy is, after all, a human event involving human beings."

I don't think that is the approach that was employed during the Iran-Contra negotiations, during the Iran hostage crisis or, more recently, in attempting to prevent a nuclear threat. It is very much the kind of approach that has been advocated by diplomat and Iran expert Ambassdor John Limbert, by Dr. Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, and by others who know both sides of the stand-off.

Where are the Kampelmans when you need them?

No comments:

Post a Comment