I was reading Ambassador Scott Gration’s autobiography, Flight Path: Son of Africa to Warrior-General, and had his experience in mind in some respects in my last post which went a bit further than I have previously in its breadth of frustration with how American policy gets made from Washington for Kenya.
General Gration’s memoir is worth reading and I’m glad I was able to take time for it while waiting for the election here in the U.S. to be over.
If you have read about Ambassador Gration’s alleged email hygene at the time he was forced aside as U.S. Ambassador to Kenya in the summer of 2012, and have read the news dribbling out over the last 22 months over the Secretary of State’s email hygene and the related practices of her key staff in Washington, it becomes unavoidable to recognize that the purge of the Ambassador didn’t really have to do with the email or personal computer use issue asserted prominently in the publication of the report of Acting Inspector General’s review of the Embassy that was the “public”–meaning talked about anonymously to reporters then released afterwards–reason he was forced out.
It may well be that within the State Department bureacracy that General Gration stepped on toes of people who didn’t even know that the Secretary of State herself was operating from her private family server in Chappaqua, New York instead of the State Department’s U.S. Government system.
Reading the media from the time, it seems, perhaps, that there was concern that he could be promoted (which could make people who didn’t like his management style unhappy). Who knows? And who has time for that sort of office politics speculation? Regardless, when Secretary Clinton’s Cheryl Mills called Ambassador Gration to tell him it looked like he needed to fall on his sword, she obviously knew all about the private email server–just not that it would end up revealed on the front page of the New York Times two-and-a-half years later.
The bottom line for me is General Gration is an American who had a great career in the military, serving in a number of important foreign affairs related roles, who grew up in Africa, including significant time in Kenya, and is fluent in Swahili and other local languages. He bonded personally with Senator Obama during their professional interactions, agreed that we needed to do some things differently in our interactions in the world, and did a lot to help President Obama get elected. As an Obama ex-Republican, and recently retired General, in a Clinton State Department he may have been a bit of a “fish out of water”, especially in a job that is most frequently a top plum for the career Foreign Service.
Secretary Clinton will be President-elect shortly. This has been a foregone conclusion for quite a long time as the Republicans essentially defaulted on an election that would have been very winnable by almost any conventionally qualified or even broadly likeable candidate. Secretary Clinton will come into office facing a range of difficult security and international affairs challenges, but with a lot of accumulated experience. It seems to me she would be a smart leader not to leave someone like General Gration with a figurative knife sticking out of his back but rather find a way to use his accumulated talents and experience to serve the country.
Reading Graton’s book, I have an appreciation for his perspective, his courage, his work ethic, his faith–even if I have not personally warmed to some of the diplomatic language regarding “partnership” between our government and Kenya’s that he, like other officials, frequently used. We are at war and have been for a long time, and it is not going as well as we need it to. We have to find solutions beyond war to bring security for our interests and freedoms for others.
“Better together” is a great slogan against Trump in this campaign, but it also reflects were we need to go as a country after the election to become the kind of global leaders we want to be. Gration may be the kind of person that could help us avoid mistakes and build relationships (whether he was the best person to run a particular embassy at a particular time).