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Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger dies
Asked at a Senate confirmation hearing if he had ever in public or private pinched a woman’s behind, Eagleburger replied: “Can I divide that into two questions?”
“He was a supremely talented diplomat and public servant. And very funny. I will miss him very much,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Saturday while traveling in Afghanistan.
Eagleburger named each of his three sons Lawrence — they use their middle names Scott, Andrew and Jason — and had a lack of pretension that was appreciated on Capitol Hill, and elsewhere.
“It was ego,” Eagleburger told The Washington Post about giving his sons the same first name. “And secondly, I wanted to screw up the Social Security system.”
Explaining Eagleburger’s rapport with Congress, then-Rep. Stephen Solarz, D-N.Y., said “he always conveys the impression that he’s speaking bluntly and candidly, and that goes a long way.”
“He’s a thoughtful, behind-the-scenes operator who allows you to believe he’s open to your advice,” said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., on another occasion.
During the Persian Gulf war, Bush sent Eagleburger to Israel, where he was held in high regard, to counsel patience as Iraq landed Scud missiles on the Jewish state. The Bush administration did not want Israel to retaliate, fearing it would shake the coalition with Arab nations that had joined in the fight to liberate Kuwait.
Eagleburger surveyed bombed-out rubble, supporting himself with a cane.
“I knew the Israelis. … (The missile attacks required) someone they know cares about them,” he said.
He also made clear he would hold to the American line even if they disagreed with it.
When he returned to Washington and a reporter asked about his poor health, Eagleburger retorted: “What are you writing for — some medical magazine?”
Eagleburger took on special missions to China and to Panama. His greatest concentration in overseas assignments was on Yugoslavia, where he spent seven of his 11 years abroad.
In 1992, he likened the country’s dissolution, which began a year earlier, to a Greek tragedy and predicted “a lot of people are going to die.”
At the same time, Eagleburger was not inclined to intervene militarily. “There are sometimes problems for which there is no immediate solution, and there are sometimes problems for which there is no solution,” the long-time problem-solver commented paradoxically.
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