It’s always gratifying to stumble over an example of something I’ve had difficulty explaining to others. In this case, it comes courtesy of Will: the autobiography of the late G. Gordon Liddy. The incident in question occurred during the first presidential term of Richard Nixon, when Liddy was Special Assistant to the Secretary of the treasury:
The Johnson Administration had extracted a promise from Suleyman Demirel, the prime minister of Turkey, to eliminate all opium poppy cultivation in that coutry by the end of 1971. [Assistant Treasury Secretary William] Rossides and I agreed that the United States should use all its economic power to force Demirel to make good on his promise – something Rossides ethnic background and identification with the Greek lobby did not exactly make him reluctant to do. The Department of State, aware of Rossides’ visceral anti-Turkish feelings, cited the shakiness of the Demirel government and said at one of our meetings that instructions to our ambassador to push Demirel harder might destroy the ambassador’s usefulness.
I argued that if Demirel were going to renege, it didn’t matter whether he fell or not; indeed, a new prime minister might prove more amenable. I had no use for our ambassador because I believed he had fallen victim of the occupational hazard of ambassadors and was representing Demirel more than the United States.
There’s the phenomenon I had in mind when I wrote this much-cited essay. For a grace note, Liddy continues thus:
When the State Department representative at the conference asked me, dripping hauteur, “and just what, Mr. Liddy, do you propose we do with our ambassador should what you propose destroy his usefulness?”
To State and Rossides’ outrage I replied disdainfully, “Have you considered locking him in a room with a Luger to do the graceful thing?”
It’s hard not to like this guy.