When the President Calls: From Immigrant Entrepreneur to U.S. Ambassador

Excerpt from "When the President Calls: From Immigrant Entrepreneur to U.S. Ambassador" by Ambassador John Price

Al-Qaeda has been working hard to gain a foothold in every country that has a significant Muslim population, and to destabilize the region and its Western interests. China has been diligently working for more than fifty years to make friends and gain advantages in sub-Saharan Africa in order to lock up all the natural resources there. Currently, China is purchasing almost 60 percent of the oil produced by Sudan, which has the third-largest reserves in sub-Saharan Africa. China is also actively involved in oil and other trade deals with over forty sub-Saharan African countries. But China has turned a blind eye to genocide and war in Sudan. China’s economic investment in sub-Saharan Africa has brought it many new friends thanks to its policy of not interfering with the internal affairs of these countries or questioning their stand on democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Even the presence of rogue and corrupt governments or Islamic extremists in some of these countries has not deterred China’s quest for those countries’ oil, gas, mineral resources, commodities, and agricultural land. The United States, on the other hand, has withdrawn from countries in sub-Saharan Africa because those countries lack democratic institutions or have perceived security concerns; because of congressionally mandated budgetary cutbacks; or because a country had been labeled as a supporter of terrorism, and had economic sanctions placed on them. We cannot give up our long-established democratic principles and tenets of freedom, but we need to stay and work within the framework of understanding other cultures—not necessarily to enhance access for our own economic gain, but rather to address people’s need to escape the trap of poverty. I believe that when we closed our embassy in Comoros, replacing it with a smaller American Presence Post (APP) comprising one political-economic officer, one regional security officer, and one consular officer would have given the United States a diplomatic presence and a way to obtain credible information. The APP in turn would interface with the nearest U.S. Embassy where an accredited ambassador is located. The ambassador and other embassy staff would also make regular visits in furtherance of bilateral relations with the host country. The State Department has had experience with several consular APPs in Europe. In 2003, an APP was approved for Malabo, Equatorial Guinea (located off the coast of West Africa), to interface with the U.S. Embassy in Cameroon. In October 2006, the U.S. Embassy in Malabo was established with a fully accredited ambassador living on-site. In a September 2006 interview I had with Congressman Jim Kolbe, then chairman of the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, we discussed the importance of having a U.S. presence in every country. He explained that in areas such as the Lesser Antilles in the West Indies, one U.S. ambassador could cover several of the smaller islands, and he supports a similar system in parts of Africa. “We don’t have an unlimited budget,” he told me. “The ultimate decision on which countries we cover has to be based on strategic interests. If a country is small but has very significant interests, I think we would have to do it.”

Ambassador John Price

Ambassador Price served as U.S. Ambassador to Mauritius from 2002 to 2005. He was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of JP Realty, Inc., a publicly traded New York Stock Exchange Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT), headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah and a former Director and member of the Executive Committee of Alta Industries Ltd.

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