Marc Grossman Returns to Pakistan
March 7, 2011 – Press reports today that Marc Grossman was holding top level talks in Pakistan with Prime Minister Yusuf Gilani and other senior leaders recalled for us his earlier incarnation in Islamabad in the late 1970s. In those distant days the seasoned diplomat who is now Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan was a lowly first-tour officer on a rotating assignment at the U.S. embassy there. He worked successively for both of us, first with Tezi in the economic section, then with Howie in the political. We wrote his first efficiency reports. As we remember, we gave him high marks and predicted that he would go far in the Foreign Service. We were right on target.
President Obama and Secretary Clinton made a first-rate choice in naming Grossman to replace Richard Holbrooke after Holbrooke’s sudden death late last year. He is savvy, personable, and experienced in dealing with tough issues. From his beginnings in Embassy Islamabad he rose quickly through the Foreign Service ranks, eventually becoming under secretary of state for political affairs. Known in the trade as “P,” this is the highest position a career Foreign Service officer can aspire to in the State Department hierarchy. He served en route as ambassador to Turkey, assistant secretary for European Affairs, and director general of the Foreign Service, the senior-most personnel job at State. His efforts as “DG” to improve the way the department deals with its officers and staff demonstrated his warm human touch as well as his zest for innovation, especially in improving and lengthening the training FSO’s receive during their careers.
Grossman retired from government at the end of George W. Bush’s first term. He had been closely allied with his two bosses, Secretary Colin Powell and Deputy Secretary Rich Armitage in the losing battle they waged against Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld for influence on critical foreign and security policy issues. As vice chairman at the Cohen Group and deputy chairman of the American Academy of Diplomacy he remained deeply and imaginatively involved in foreign affairs. He continues to play a key role in efforts to reform the way the Foreign Service operates, most notably in helping to author a provocative CSIS study, “The Embassy of the Future.” He’s also taught a great graduate course at Georgetown on the practice of diplomacy.
As admirers of Marc who were in a sense present at the creation, we’re pleased that he has taken on this daunting task. We can’t think of anyone more qualified to carry on a job so many have understandably called thankless. He’ll bring a very different style to the position. Marc can be plenty tough, but he’s not the overbearing and relentless negotiator Holbrooke was. We can expect to hear fewer complaints from foreign leaders and American officials about the way he operates. We wish him well as he resumes the contacts in South Asia he began as a freshman FSO thirty-odd years ago.