Under presidential direction, the Departments of State and Defense and the new foreign affairs agencies, especially the CIA, AID, and USIA, made vigorous efforts to check the spread of communism, implementing the general policy of containment. An alliance system negotiated to check the spread of communism around the world included the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Rio Treaty, the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO), the Central Treaty Organization (CENTRO), and the ANZUS Treaty, signed by Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. The United States launched massive economic aid programs in Europe, Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. Information programs, radio stations, and cultural and academic exchanges were expanded and given worldwide scope. Counterinsurgency became a major concern, especially in the 1960s, and all Foreign Service personnel received training in the subject.
The United States and the Soviet Union confronted each other more than once. In 1948 the West mounted an airlift in response to the Soviet blockade of Berlin. In 1962, following the discovery of Soviet missiles in Cuba, President Kennedy declared an embargo on further shipments, which led the two countries to the brink of nuclear war.
On a number of occasions the Cold War turned hot. U.S. and Allied troops engaged in full-scale warfare in Korea from 1950 to 1953 and in Vietnam from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s.
U.S. diplomats led UN opposition to the invasion of South Korea by North Korea. They also encouraged Allied support and eventually negotiated the settlement.
Officers from all foreign affairs agencies were assigned to Vietnam, both to Saigon and to the provinces to help the government of South Vietnam resist the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces.
U.S. diplomats and military personnel played advisory and supporting roles in smaller conflicts in many countries, including Greece, the Philippines, Guatemala, Cuba, Zaire, Bolivia, Cambodia, Laos, Angola, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Grenada.
Despite the confrontations and tensions of this period, one president after another directed U.S. diplomats to press for arms control, making possible major advances that included the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963, SALT I in 1972, and the Ford-Brezhnev agreement in 1974, leading to SALT II and a series of nuclear nonproliferation agreements.
Throughout the postwar years, the Middle East has been a major area of activity for U.S. diplomats. Influenced by the Cold War, events there nevertheless have had a life of their own. Some of the highlights involving U.S. diplomacy included: the recognition of Israel in 1948; the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace accord; the hostage-taking in Tehran in 1979; terrorist bombings in Lebanon in 1983 of the U.S. embassy and later the Marine barracks, killing more than 300 in all; Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the resulting Gulf War in 1991; and the Israeli-PLO peace agreement in 1994.
U.S. mediation in conflicts around the world became a prominent feature of the post—World War II period. Besides its continuing efforts to resolve the conflict between Israel and its neighbors, the United States played a mediating role in the Somali-Ethiopian conflict in 1977; in Namibia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa in the 1970s and early l980s; and in Ulster and the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
This period, especially the 1970s, witnessed major changes in personnel policies regarding female officers, spouses, and families in the foreign affairs agencies. Efforts were made to increase recruitment of women and minorities and to assure fairness in the promotion process. A 1972 directive stated that Foreign Service spouses could no longer be required to perform uncompensated services, nor could any comments about them be included in an officer’s efficiency reports. As of 1972, female Foreign Service officers could no longer be required to resign from the service if they married. In 1978 the State Department established the Family Liaison Office (FLO) to assist families from all foreign affairs agencies at home and abroad.
The Family Liaison Office (FLO) was created to respond to the needs of Foreign Service families as they cope with the disruptions caused by a mobile and sometimes dangerous lifestyle. FLO focuses many of its efforts in the areas of family-member employment, the education of dependent children, and crisis support. One of its early priorities was to develop guidelines for Community Liaison Offices (CLO) overseas. FLO continues to place a high priority on managing the CLO program, providing guidance, training, and written materials. Today, FLO and its 150 CLOs serve approximately 35,000 employees and family members, representing more than 130 agencies.
Frances E. Willis (1899-1983)
Frances E. Willis was the first female career Foreign Service officer to be appointed ambassador and the first to attain the rank of career ambassador. During her 37-year career, Willis served as the first U.S. ambassador to Switzerland, 1953-57; as ambassador to Norway, 1957-61; and to Ceylon, 1961-64.
Willis, who was known for being straightforward, reliable, and effective, said she thought she had done the most for other women in the Foreign Service by being a competent officer throughout her career.