The Problems of the Persian Gulf
Laingen, L. Bruce
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BIOGRAPHICAL NOTEFollowing WWII naval service and degrees from St. Olaf College and the University of Minnesota, Laingen entered U.S. Foreign Service which included a postings in Iran 1953-1956. Other postings in SW and South Asia preceded his assignment as U.S. Ambassador to Malta. From June until November 4, 1979, Mr. Laingen served as Charge d'Affaires of the Embassy in Tehran. He was among those held hostage in Tehran from that date until his release on January 20, 1981. In August 1981 he began his new assignment as Vice President of the National Defense University at Fort McNair, Washington D.C.ANNECDOTE During a quiet moment in my Creighton office before a meeting with the International Relations Club, I asked Laingen about his time as hostage. He described spending his days walking the perimeter of a large meeting room by his quarters as captive, to keep his body in working order and his spirit as high as possible. I asked what he missed most, beyond family, friends, and freedom. He thought several moments, then smiled and said, "sweets." Though his capters fed him well, they denied him desserts. I assured him we would have dessert at our Omaha Committee dinner that evening.SUMMARY In the Iran-Iraq War, Iran is arrogant, looks down on its Arab neighbors, especially Iraq. Saddam Hussein underestimated Iran's nationalism and believed that the large Arab minority in Iran would rise in support of him in the war; it did not, though Arab states now generally back Iraq in the tanker war. Long term the U.S. needs to understand that leaders of the Iranian revolution want the U.S. out of the Middle East. Fundamentalism speaks to Arab citizens' desire for political participation and post-colonial authenticity. No amount of preparation will protect a U.S. embassy if local government will not do its part; if that's lacking, U.S. should close such an embassy. Region needs the pragmatic spirit of Sadat and Jordan's King Hussein. Diplomacy and international law are the proper tools against terrorism, not preemptive strikes. One of the questions was whether Laingen would have ordered the rescue attempt (Carter's) that failed. Laingen said, No, not at that time; maybe on November 5 (just before the election). He admired the planning in the action which failed because of weak intelligence and a maintenance shortcoming [sand in oil filters]. It was a "terribly complex" operation given the distance, nearness of USSR, transfers required; Murphey's Law held.