January 17, 2005: Headlines: COS - Afghanistan: Australia: Diplomacy: Sydney Morning Herald : Afghanistan RPCV Stephen Smith is new US consul-general in Sydney Australia

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Afghanistan: Peace Corps Afghanistan: The Peace Corps In Afghanistan: January 17, 2005: Headlines: COS - Afghanistan: Australia: Diplomacy: Sydney Morning Herald : Afghanistan RPCV Stephen Smith is new US consul-general in Sydney Australia

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-141-157-13-244.balt.east.verizon.net - on Friday, January 21, 2005 - 10:40 pm: Edit Post

Afghanistan RPCV Stephen Smith is new US consul-general in Sydney Australia

Afghanistan RPCV Stephen Smith is new US consul-general in Sydney Australia

Afghanistan RPCV Stephen Smith is new US consul-general in Sydney Australia

Listening post of a diplomat down under
January 17, 2005

Stephen Smith ... diplomacy is about the "people-to-people connection".
Photo: Peter Morris

The new US consul-general didn't think twice when offered the chance to move from Baghdad, writes Gerard Noonan.

He has the renowned jazz trumpeter Miles Davis's Kind of Blue on his CD player and takes a keen interest in sampling fine Australian wines and cheeses.

As an antidote to the endless stream of emails and faxes from Washington, he indulges in detective stories which he calls "police procedurals".

Meet Stephen Smith, the new US consul-general to Sydney and most recently the chief of staff to the former American proconsul in Iraq, Paul Bremer.

Smith is arguably the second-most important representative of the superpower in the country after the outgoing US ambassador, Tom Schieffer.

But he's smoother and professionally more discreet than the loud-talking Texan mate of the US President, George Bush, who frequently criticised Labor policy and backed the Coalition Government on issues such as the Iraq invasion and the US-Australia trade agreement.

A career US State Department official, Smith was in the heat of Baghdad last year on what he calls a "temporary assignment" when another key aide to Bremer was appointed to the Sydney post. But the Arabic-speaking colleague, a Middle Eastern specialist, was wooed to stay on in Iraq.

"They created a new office - The Office of Iraq Affairs - and asked him to come back to head that office. The professional thrill of that overpowered Sydney [for him]," Smith says.

"Well, I was there, so it was very much a serendipitous thing. The No. 2 human resources person was in Baghdad at the time and asked whether I'd like my name put up to the committee which decides these things - it took about five seconds."

Smith is looking forward to life in Sydney - which he insists is no R&R post after Baghdad, though he says the contrast with the beleaguered city is profound.

The US's Sydney operation, on the 59th floor of the MLC building in central Sydney, is the largest consular office, combining a significant commercial role with the normal consular duties such as dealing with lost passports, deaths or scrapes with the law involving US citizens visiting Australia.

"There is a very big consular representation in Sydney - next only to New York," he says. "It started off to be the person who could give visas, and sign sailors on and off ships and take care of people who died and whose bodies had to be repatriated. But now the visa function has been hived off from the consular-general role. Since September 11 [2001], that's become a very closely watched, careful process by all countries."

Smith sees his role as a listening post for views about the US and for what his patch of Australia is up to. "I report back to Washington on the views we hear of the NSW Government," he says. "The genius of diplomacy really is human contact. For a while in the '70s and '80s we were seduced by satellites going over and being able to take photographs of crops and so on ... you could tell all kinds of stuff.

"There is [still] an aspect of that, but it's the people-to-people connection that makes things work. We're social animals and that's how we find out things and learn things."

Smith says he's encountered quite a lot of reaction from people in Sydney to US policy in Iraq, though he suggests it's not aggressive or overly antagonistic.

"You betcha, I'm hearing lots of views. But no, it's a much more gentlemanly discussion than that."

And despite what he says is a rather critical anti-American tone to much reporting of US reaction to the tsunami disaster, he says Australians he has met have been quite supportive of the US role.

"We understand that you guys have contributed $1 billion but the people I talk to understand that we've got 15,000 defence personnel in place assisting and ships positioned off various coasts providing support. We may not match the exact amounts being contributed but we're doing it in kind."

As a senior US State Department official close to the mandatory retirement age of 65, Smith's three-year posting to Sydney is expected to be his last.

Before Sydney and Baghdad, he'd worked in Washington and throughout the Middle East. Serving in the US Navy, and in the US Peace Corps in Afghanistan, before joining the diplomatic service, Smith has undertaken various management and personnel positions in Jordan, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Bahrain, Iran and Egypt.

One earlier task provided him with at least some experience for the role he undertook in Baghdad - essentially to turn the office of a military occupier into a US ambassadorial structure.

In the early 1990s he headed US efforts to set up new embassies in the dozen or so countries created by the collapse of the former Soviet Union.

"In many places the concept of renting a building was an alien concept," he said. "Setting up security, co-ordinating from Washington and finding places for embassy staff to live as there were no housing markets in places like Belarus or Kazakhstan or Turkmenistan ... it was quite something."

Talk of housing markets will be one thing the new US consul-general will find difficult to avoid in Sydney.

When this story was posted in January 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

Ask Not Date: January 18 2005 No: 388 Ask Not
As our country prepares for the inauguration of a President, we remember one of the greatest speeches of the 20th century and how his words inspired us. "And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man."

January 15, 2005: This Week's Top Stories Date: January 15 2005 No: 375 January 15, 2005: This Week's Top Stories
Bellamy finishing term - Veneman to head Unicef 15 Jan
230 RPCVs volunteer for Crisis Corps 14 Jan
Peace Corps Fund needs silent auction items 12 Jan
Matt Gould in one-man Peace Corps show in Hollywood 12 Jan
Taylor Hackford's "Ray" Nominated for Golden Globe 12 Jan
Ambassador Johnson shares memories of Thailand 11 Jan
Senator Dodd suggests PC return to Venezuela 11 Jan
Ambassador Hull wants PC to return to Sierra Leone 11 Jan
Poiriers unhappy with PC investigation of missing son 10 Jan
Emile Hons reflects on the Deborah Gardner murder case 10 Jan
Judge Paul A. Bastine criticized for stalling Divorce 6 Jan
Volunteer Patricia D. Scatoloni dies in Macedonia 4 Jan
more top stories...

Coleman: Peace Corps mission and expansion Date: January 8 2005 No: 373 Coleman: Peace Corps mission and expansion
Senator Norm Coleman, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee that oversees the Peace Corps, says in an op-ed, A chance to show the world America at its best: "Even as that worthy agency mobilizes a "Crisis Corps" of former Peace Corps volunteers to assist with tsunami relief, I believe an opportunity exists to rededicate ourselves to the mission of the Peace Corps and its expansion to touch more and more lives."
RPCVs active in new session of Congress Date: January 8 2005 No: 374 RPCVs active in new session of Congress
In the new session of Congress that begins this week, RPCV Congressman Tom Petri has a proposal to bolster Social Security, Sam Farr supported the objection to the Electoral College count, James Walsh has asked for a waiver to continue heading a powerful Appropriations subcommittee, Chris Shays will no longer be vice chairman of the Budget Committee, and Mike Honda spoke on the floor honoring late Congressman Robert Matsui.
RPCVs and Peace Corps provide aid  Date: January 4 2005 No: 366 Latest: RPCVs and Peace Corps provide aid
Peace Corps made an appeal last week to all Thailand RPCV's to consider serving again through the Crisis Corps and more than 30 RPCVs have responded so far. RPCVs: Read what an RPCV-led NGO is doing about the crisis an how one RPCV is headed for Sri Lanka to help a nation he grew to love. Question: Is Crisis Corps going to send RPCVs to India, Indonesia and nine other countries that need help?
The World's Broken Promise to our Children Date: December 24 2004 No: 345 The World's Broken Promise to our Children
Former Director Carol Bellamy, now head of Unicef, says that the appalling conditions endured today by half the world's children speak to a broken promise. Too many governments are doing worse than neglecting children -- they are making deliberate, informed choices that hurt children. Read her op-ed and Unicef's report on the State of the World's Children 2005.
Changing of the Guard Date: December 15 2004 No: 330 Changing of the Guard
With Lloyd Pierson's departure, Marie Wheat has been named acting Chief of Staff and Chief of Operations responsible for the day-to-day management of the Peace Corps. Although Wheat is not an RPCV and has limited overseas experience, in her two years at the agency she has come to be respected as someone with good political skills who listens and delegates authority and we wish her the best in her new position.
Our debt to Bill Moyers Our debt to Bill Moyers
Former Peace Corps Deputy Director Bill Moyers leaves PBS next week to begin writing his memoir of Lyndon Baines Johnson. Read what Moyers says about journalism under fire, the value of a free press, and the yearning for democracy. "We have got to nurture the spirit of independent journalism in this country," he warns, "or we'll not save capitalism from its own excesses, and we'll not save democracy from its own inertia."
RPCV safe after Terrorist Attack RPCV safe after Terrorist Attack
RPCV Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, the U.S. consul general in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia survived Monday's attack on the consulate without injury. Five consular employees and four others were killed. Abercrombie-Winstanley, the first woman to hold the position, has been an outspoken advocate of rights for Arab women and has met with Saudi reformers despite efforts by Saudi leaders to block the discussions.
Is Gaddi Leaving? Is Gaddi Leaving?
Rumors are swirling that Peace Corps Director Vasquez may be leaving the administration. We think Director Vasquez has been doing a good job and if he decides to stay to the end of the administration, he could possibly have the same sort of impact as a Loret Ruppe Miller. If Vasquez has decided to leave, then Bob Taft, Peter McPherson, Chris Shays, or Jody Olsen would be good candidates to run the agency. Latest: For the record, Peace Corps has no comment on the rumors.
The Birth of the Peace Corps The Birth of the Peace Corps
UMBC's Shriver Center and the Maryland Returned Volunteers hosted Scott Stossel, biographer of Sargent Shriver, who spoke on the Birth of the Peace Corps. This is the second annual Peace Corps History series - last year's speaker was Peace Corps Director Jack Vaughn.

Read the stories and leave your comments.

Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: Sydney Morning Herald

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Afghanistan; Australia; Diplomacy



Add a Message

This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.