The Foreign Service Journal, May 2023

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MAY 2023 79 Cold War Sports Diplomacy Ice War Diplomat: Hockey Meets Cold War Politics at the 1972 Summit Series Gary J. Smith, Douglas & McIntyre, 2022, $26.95/paperback, e-book available, 336 pages. Reviewed by Eric Rubin In 1972, despite President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s efforts at détente, the Cold War was a dominant factor in much of the world. Israel was only a year away from the devastating surprise attack that began the Yom Kippur War, which brought the superpowers to confrontation in the Middle East. The Soviet Union still completely dominated the satellite states of the Warsaw Pact and was winning new allies in post-colonial states. Yet, a thaw in the Cold War was also beginning, one that saw intensive diplo- macy at the highest levels and increased travel and human contact across the so- called Iron Curtain. Although there was the continuing threat of nuclear conflict between the two superpowers, there was also a consistent aspiration for ways to reduce tensions, to increase arms control negotiations, and to further people-to- people contacts. That is the context for this superb book, Ice War Diplomat , in which former Canadian Ambassador Gary J. Smith tells the story of the historic 1972 “Summit Series,” a Canadian-Soviet hockey com- petition that brought sports diplomacy to the fore. Smith describes in great detail his arrival as a second secretary, together with his wife, Laurielle, in Moscow in winter 1971. He captures the grimness and darkness of Moscow at that time, Quiet Acts of Heroism While not much more than a sub- text, the professionalism of the Foreign Service, the important work of regional security officers, the quiet acts of hero- ism that gathered hundreds of embassy employees in the city, and the coolness of the leadership of Ambassador John Bass, his deputy Jim DeHart, and of oth- ers, stand out. What also stands out is the transition Aronson underwent—from doing what he could within the official boundaries of the evacuation, to making a choice to bend the rules and respond to urgent requests for assistance fromAfghan and American colleagues who reached out to him on the off-chance he could help their family members and persons at risk of retaliation from the Taliban. Most were not going to make the cut for evacuation or reach an entry point to the airport on time. Across mostly one day and work- ing almost on impulse, Aronson found himself stationed at the Glory Gate entry point, which is the subject of the book’s title. The latter was a secret access point for the most at-risk Afghan contacts and employees of the U.S. government, but the number of people allowed to use it also increased over time. It was at some remove from the crush of thousands of people at other entrances, includ- ing Abbey Gate where a terrorist suicide bomb killed 13 U.S. military and more than 170 Afghans. Access through Glory Gate was strictly controlled. Although Aronson was just on the inside, the people he was seeking to assist were either en route or across the street, and not on the lists of authorized evacuees. As Aronson juggled the career implications of violating instructions, he made the decision to get people through the gate and walk them through process- ing. He depended on the acquiescence, assistance, and bravery of an interpreter and the Afghan and American security personnel at the concertina wire and barricades. The final pages of Zuckoff’s narra- tive race through the effort to convince Qaderi to leave her family, and Aronson’s personal risk-taking to secure her entry, with her son and brother, into the airport. He, and others, would later receive hero- ism awards from the State Department for the extraordinary lengths they went to to save lives. This book is not a hagiography, and some observations may grate. There is also the reality that many Afghans who should have been evacuated were left behind. The decision to withdraw fromAfghanistan will continue to be hotly debated. That said, The Secret Gate should resonate with Foreign Service audiences. So many of them, in less publicized situ- ations, have had to make the personal decision to go well beyond guidelines, and take the risks to help people in danger. I served with many of them in Kabul, where I was once ambassador. Zuckoff’s book, through Aronson’s experiences, brings their sacrifices and commitment to life. It may not have been his intention, but Zuckoff makes me proud of what Foreign Service personnel put on the line, away from the cameras, and for no personal gain. No congressional committee hear- ing, and especially one with partisan intent, will change that reality. P. Michael McKinley was in the Foreign Service for 37 years until his resignation in October 2019. He served as the U.S. ambassador to Brazil, Colombia, Peru, and Afghanistan. He has written articles on the withdrawal from Afghanistan, including “We All Lost Afghanistan” published in For- eign Affairs on Aug. 16, 2021. He is now with The Cohen Group in Washington, D.C.