The Foreign Service Journal, June 2003

plicate U.S. relations with other capi- tals, particularly Moscow. Walters’ record on German devel- opments was not spotless. He lost his bet, for instance, that Kohl would win re-election in 1998. Yet, as was said of Johnson, his talk “may not show the minute-hand, but strikes the hour very correctly.” All in all, Walters exhibited a sense of history matched by few other American officials. Both Observer and Shaper And what if Walters had been wrong about German unity? Historians now contend that Germany slipped through a narrow window in 1989-90: Unification would not have been possible earlier or later, given the historical circum- stances. Had his vision on unity been clouded, Walters might have gone down as an over-the-hill eccen- tric — exactly how some Germans regarded him when he arrived as ambassador in April 1989. But the sleeping dogs awoke. Walters was indeed clairvoyant. Not only did he sense the tide that would sweep away the Berlin Wall, he also made the conceptual connection — by no means conventional wisdom at the time — that German unity would be the natural outcome of political developments. Walters thus capped his career with the end of the Cold War, a con- flict that had lasted his entire adult life. By his own account, the most exciting moment came with the fall of the wall — fittingly, at the very end of his career. Vernon Walters was unique. His career, with its unusual continuities and dramatic bisection, was one of a kind. In his eulogy at Arlington Cemetery, former Secretary of State Alexander Haig called him “both an observer and a shaper of history.” Precisely; he was both. ■ Fletcher M. Burton is consul general for the states of Saxony, Saxony- Anhalt and Thuringia at Consulate General Leipzig. He joined the Foreign Service in 1988, and has served in Bonn, Berlin, Pristina, Sarajevo, Riyadh and Washington. Mr. Burton first met VernonWalters in 1990. He served as staff aide to Ambassador Walters at Embassy Bonn during 1991, the last year of Walters’ tenure, and thereafter main- tained contact withWalters for the rest of his life. J U N E 2 0 0 3 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 61 A P P R E C I A T I O N