Saturday, October 21, 2006

Hermann Eilts: A Great Man

Hermann Eilts was a great man and a tribute to the highest ideals of the State Department. I first got to know him in Saudi Arabia when as Ambassador to Egypt, he sent me a letter congratulating me on an airgram on the general political situation in Saudi Arabia. Later, he sent me congrats on another airgram concerning an interview I had with Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then an Air Force Wing Leader in the SAAF, but tipped by insider Saudis to be a Saudi government insider. [I was Pol/Mil Officer at the time.]

I only got to know Ambassador Eilts personally in Washington at the Department and then up in Boston when I saw him several times in the '80s at his home in Wellesley and at Boston U. He once told me the following amazing story:

Just before Sadat went to the podium to give his famous speech that ended "I will go to Jerusalem, Eilts said he asked the Egyptian president if an intelligence rumor were true that he would make such an announcement. Sadat looked at Eilts and replied: "I really don't know. I guess it depends on how I feel at the end of the speech."

This is the great man theory of history, which goes counter to the Marxian determinism taught at many leading universities. Great events and the consequences that ensue often are made on the whim of a moment, like the Kaiser's rage at not being given a parade in Paris during a visit led to his blustering arms race and eventually to World War I.

What would have happened had Sadat finished his stemwinder with just another closing like a vow to someday pray at the Al Aqsa Mosque rather than make peace with Israel?

Sadat might have lived much longer than he did, Dr. Zawahiri and his terrorists would not have been inspired by the devil to become his emissaries, and Israel would still be in the Sinai and the Suez Canal would still be closed. And many other consequences we can only guess at in a counterfactual sequence of speculation.

[More about Prince Bandar in a subsequent post.]

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