The Foreign Service Journal, November 2022

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | NOVEMBER 2022 11 LETTERS SecState Visits to Africa Thank you for the focus on engage- ment with Africa (September 2022 FSJ ) . I want to mention that Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s most recent trip to Africa, pointed to in the Letter from the Editor, was not his first time on the conti- nent as Secretary. My team and I hosted him here in Abuja, Nigeria, in November 2021. It was my second time hosting him at a post after leaving his protection detail. The first time I hosted Secretary Blinken was in September 2021 as a regional security officer in Doha, Qatar, during Operation Allied Refuge (OAR). He and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III came to Al Udeid Air Base to visit with the scores of volunteers and assigned personnel staffing the OAR mission. There, the Secretar- ies took time to meet our team, including our Afghan interpreters, who had been evacuated from Kabul yet stayed on in Doha, separated from their families, to assist us and their fellow Afghans. We had a great team. Nico Figueroa Special Agent/Assistant Regional Security Officer U.S. Embassy Abuja, Nigeria Reading Tolstoy in Tehran: Family Endures Reading Fletcher Burton’s excellent article on the diplomats in War and Peace ( “Diplomacy, theThird Strand of War and Peace, ” July-August 2022 FSJ ) reminded me of my own encounters—17 years apart—with Tolstoy’s masterpiece. I first read it in a college course, “Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy.” For whatever reason— perhaps my determination that classes not interfere with my education—I failed to get much from that reading. Discovery and appre- ciation came 17 years later, in a basement room at the U.S. embassy in Tehran. In December 1979, as our hopes for any resolution of the hostage crisis were disappearing fast, my family sent me a care package that included copies of War and Peace , The Brothers Karamazov , and George Eliot’s massive work, Middlemarch . Average length of each: 1,000 pages. The message was clear. “You aren’t going anywhere soon. You will have plenty of time to read these epics.” The Russian novels were most welcome. I must confess, however, that I could never get beyond the first 150 pages of Middlemarch . Too boring for me, even under those circumstances. Re-reading War and Peace , however, was a revelation and delight. So many riches in its pages! I found myself so captivated that I had to put the book down and ration myself to reading only 30 pages a day. What did I discover? Others have noted Tolstoy’s views of history, diplomacy, and historical personalities. For me, the attraction was different. It was his narra- tive of family and its power. I found myself riveted by the fortunes of the Rostovs, Bolkonskys, Bezhukovs, and, of course, the depraved Kuragins and Dolokhovs. As war and destruction raged across the world, family became all. When the degenerate Anatole Kuragin’s friend, the villainous Fyodor Dolokhov (a character based on Tolstoy’s cousin Fyodor), cheats the young and naive officer Nikolai Rostov out of 43,000 rubles at cards, the boy’s father, Count Ilya Rostov, never hesitates. His family had already faced disgrace when the same Kuragin almost seduced the count’s daughter, the beautiful and innocent Natasha. But family honor is all. Debts are to be paid. The count never reproaches his son but sells and mort- gages what he must to pay the debt and save his son (and his family’s) good name. In 1979, amid the madness that ruled Tehran at the time, what better way to find sanity and fight despair than to savor slowly the nobility and depravity, the honor and dishonor, and the strengths and weaknesses of Tolstoy’s amazing charac- ters and their families? Amid chaos and insanity, human- ity and family endure. John Limbert Ambassador, retired New York, New York A candid shot from the Abuja Airport right before Secretary of State Antony Blinken departed in November 2021. From left to right: Special Agent in Charge John Keith, Assistant to the Secretary of State Evan Glover, Figueroa, and Secretary Blinken. RONNYPRZYSUHA