My Career as a Consultant
In Washington, everybody knows. If you call yourself a consultant, you
are probably underemployed, if not completely unemployed. Of course, there
are a few people who do make a lot of money at consulting. But they are
I was not an exception. But I dutifully
purchased the minimal trappings of a consultant: I had business cards
and stationery made up which announced, "Mark N. Katz, International Affairs
Consultant." I was fortunate to be living on Connecticut Ave., one of
the main arteries of Washington. A Connecticut Ave. address indicates
that you could actually be working in an office instead of at home. And
on a letterhead, an apartment can be miraculously transformed into a suite.
Going to all this trouble to establish a
respectable veneer is important for one reason: people will invite you
to receptions and conferences if you are a consultant, but not if you
are unemployed. And attending these receptions and conferences is important
because they are where you can make or renew contacts which can lead to
This process actually works: during my fifteen
month career as an independent consultant, I managed to get my share of
small research projects from a number of organizations.
What I really hoped to do, though, was obtain
large contracts from organizations working in the oil rich monarchies
of the Persian Gulf. In fact, the prospect of three potentially very lucrative
deals came up, but none of them worked out. All three, however, illustrated
some of the quirks of trying to become a successful consultant in Washington.
I met Joe
at an embassy reception--I think it was for Bahrain, but I'm not positive.
We exchanged cards and made small talk. He had recently left the U.S.
government and had opened his own international trading firm in New York.
As always on the day after attending a reception,
I went through the cards I had collected the previous night to evaluate
which were worth a follow-up call, which should be kept but not called,
and which should just be tossed out. Joe's was one of those which I tossed
out. It didn't seem to me that there was any possible business for me
with him since trade was hardly my field. And since there was only so
much room in my card box, out he went.
But Joe had kept my card. A couple of days
later, he called me from New York. He reminded me that I had said I was
about to go off on a trip to Saudi Arabia and several other countries
in the region. "You're still going, aren't you?" he asked.
When I told him I was, he said he wanted
to come back down to Washington to talk about a business deal with me.
We agreed to "do lunch." I suspected right away, though, that something
was wrong since the restaurant he chose was a relatively inexpensive one.
At our meeting, Joe told me that he had
a client for whom he was trying to buy fifty million barrels of Saudi
oil. He even thought he could get a good deal: he had spoken to a Saudi
Prince who had promised him a discount of two dollars per barrel. Joe,
however, was hoping to get a discount of $2.50. But the Prince was proving
to be a hard bargainer. He also needed something else: approval by Saudi
ARAMCO, the main oil company in the Kingdom, to become an authorized buyer.
Joe said he had hoped to be able to go over
to Saudi Arabia himself in order to complete the negotiations, but he
was having trouble getting a visa--a not uncommon problem. Since I had
a visa and would be over there soon, he hoped that I could do this for
him. If I succeeded, he would pay me a fee of half a cent per barrel.
I rapidly calculated that this would amount
to $250,000. Suddenly, I could see a new house, a Mercedes, and that trip
to Tibet my wife was always talking about. I also saw myself as being
one of the successful consultants with a real suite on Connecticut Ave.
Nor could I foresee any negative result from trying: it wouldn't take
much time and my only expense might be a few long distance phone calls.
I tried to look blasé. I told Joe
that I thought I could help him out. Joe gave me the telephone numbers
for his contact at Saudi ARAMCO and for the Prince. He had also prepared
two copies of a consulting agreement; we signed both and kept one each.
He also gave me another one of his business cards. This time, I put it
in my box.
I had only a week in Saudi Arabia. Soon
after I arrived, I called the man at Saudi ARAMCO. I told him that I was
calling on behalf of Joe's firm and that we wanted to become authorized
"You can't," he replied.
"We only sell to organizations with whom
we have long, established relationships."
"But how do you acquire new customers?"
"We don't need new customers. We can sell
all we want to our old ones."
I told him that Joe had been in touch with
Prince X, who had promised him a sale but that we were still negotiating
about the discount.
The ARAMCO man responded, "I've never heard
of him. We don't give discounts any more. If you're dealing with this
Prince, you're not dealing with us. Good-bye."
And that was that. I then tried several
times to get hold of Joe's Prince, but I was never able to reach him.
After I got back home, Joe and I talked
on the phone. I told him what ARAMCO had said and that I hadn't been able
to reach his Prince. Joe said that he too had been unable to contact the
He was disappointed and so was I. The apartment
I was living in had seemed just fine until I thought I was going to be
able to buy a house. My wife had already collected a number of tour brochures
featuring Tibetan treks. I told Joe that I thought I had another angle
which I could work.
I next phoned a friend of mine at the Saudi
Embassy; I'll call him Ahmed. I told him exactly what had happened. I
asked him if there was any way he could help me complete this deal for
"I have heard rumors about 'royal oil' sold
outside ARAMCO," he answered, "but I don't know if they are true. I'm
not that closely plugged in to the oil business, but I have a friend who
is. He's also a Prince. I'll see what I can do."
A couple of weeks later, Ahmed and I met
for lunch at an Arab restaurant in Georgetown. I showed up half an hour
late, but he didn't mind since he didn't arrive for another half hour
When we got down to business, he said, "I
spoke to my Prince. There are some members of the royal family who are
allowed to sell oil for their own account. But they follow standard ARAMCO
practice. If ARAMCO isn't offering a discount, neither do they. And if
you think about it, why should they offer a discount when there are customers
prepared to pay full price?"
I reminded him that Prince X had offered
Joe a discount of two dollars per barrel.
Ahmed shook his head and smiled, "My Prince
had something to say about him. It turns out that your Prince is
only eighteen years old. He has not been authorized to make any transactions
in oil or anything else. Didn't this Joe realize he was talking to a kid?"
My vision of the new house, the Mercedes,
and the trip to Tibet all disappeared. As soon as I returned to my "suite,"
I got Joe's card out of the box, tore it into several pieces, and threw
I still can't
remember where I met David. But I must have met him somewhere and given
him one of my cards, because he called me up to talk about a business
He was an investment banker in New York.
It was 1989, and the rage on Wall Street was leveraged buy-outs (in which
investor groups borrowed a large sum to buy a company and then used the
company's profits to pay off the loan after they acquired it later).
David told me he and his new firm were on
the "fast track" to becoming "major players" in the leveraged buy-out
scene. They had already raised $50 million "or so," he told me. Of course,
they would raise more in the U.S. But what David wanted to do was to raise
money in the oil rich Arab states. With Arab money behind him, he could
really "go into action" in the leveraged buy-out game.
I had learned to be a little wary from my
previous experience. I told David that I was interested in taking him
on as a client, but that I would need to check out his bona fides.
He gave me several references at large, well known institutions. They
all said he was legitimate.
A few days later, I called David with the
good news that I had decided to take him on as a client. He was suitably
pleased. He said that his firm would pay me in any one of three ways I
chose: a flat fee agreed upon in advance, a percentage of the amount initially
invested, or a lower percentage of the average annual amount which investors
I brought in maintained with the firm annually.
David pointed out that this last method
of payment was probably the most lucrative for me since account balances
would undoubtedly be growing rapidly and no one would want to withdraw
their investments then. "Pretty soon," he added jovially, "you would earn
enough in fees to make our minimum $500,000 initial investment yourself."
All of a sudden, the image of the house,
Mercedes, and trip to Tibet came back into my mind. Only this time, it
was far more specific. The house was in the affluent suburb of McLean,
Virginia. The Mercedes became two Mercedes. And the trip to Tibet became
the first in a series of semi-annual expeditions to exotic locales.
"Of course," David said, "you only earn
your fee when we actually receive the investors' money. That's standard
practice on Wall Street."
That seemed reasonable to me. The next day,
I set out to call my best friends from Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf
monarchies. The conversations, though, were less satisfactory than I had
hoped. I rapidly discovered that people who were eager to talk with me
about politics suddenly became extremely wary when I raised the subject
One Saudi asked me, "Can this David guarantee
I said that he could not. Investing in stocks
involved the risk of loss. My Saudi friend indicated that under those
circumstances, he was not interested. Others said essentially the same
Ahmed finally told me, "Look, a lot of Saudis
have lost a lot of money investing in stocks. Most have come to the conclusion
that they don't need high rates of return if substantial risk is involved.
They would rather buy U.S. Treasury bills; you don't earn much, but at
least you keep what you have."
But I didn't want to give up. It was common
knowledge that rich Arabs from the Gulf had invested substantial sums
of money in the West. News reports indicated that these investments were
highly profitable. Surely David and I could raise some money from them
if only we went about it in the right way.
I decided to call Jim. Jim is also an international
affairs consultant. Unlike me, however, Jim is a highly successful one.
When I first decided to become a consultant (or more accurately, when
circumstances forced me to become one), I had lunch with Jim in order
to find out about this business. "How much do you charge?" I asked him.
"Three thousand dollars a day plus expenses,"
he replied calmly, "but you should probably charge somewhat less than
that until you've built up a strong client base." I thought that was good
I told Jim what David wanted to do. Jim
said it was do-able. In fact, he knew of several American firms that had
successfully raised investment money from the rich Arabs.
"How is it done?" I asked.
"Basically, the firm has to find someone
with excellent contacts in the Gulf. If someone from the firm goes over
with that person to introduce him around, they will invest. But if someone
from the firm goes over by himself, he won't get anywhere. He might not
even get visas."
"Who do the rich Arabs trust to advise them
"There are probably several different types,"
Jim responded. "They tend to be people with long experience in the area.
The people whom I know who have successfully done this include former
U.S. ambassadors to those countries as well as former assistant or deputy
assistant secretaries of State for Near Eastern affairs."
I was fully aware that Jim himself had been
one of these select few. Clearly, he was nominating himself for this assignment.
Jim went on to tell me how a former assistant secretary of State had just
accompanied an investment banker from Texas over to the region and had
succeeded in raising a significant amount of money. "Of course, his fee
was pretty steep." The implication of this statement was that Jim's would
not be quite as steep.
Since he had raised the subject of fees,
I decided to brief him on the payment options that David had offered.
"I'm afraid they're not acceptable," Jim
said. "The small number of people who do this are in such high demand
that they can insist on being paid their regular daily rate while trying
to raise money no matter what the result, plus some percentage of the
average annual value of the investment that is raised."
"What about me?" I asked.
"There would be no point in you going over
since you don't have the contacts a former high level State Department
official would have. But you would be entitled to a commission on the
daily rate of the senior person whom you connect with the investment firm
plus a share of his percentage on the average annual investment."
After we agreed on just what my commission
and share of the percentage would be, I called David to explain what it
would take to get someone like Jim to work with him. David had always
been unctuously polite in our previous conversations, but this time he
was angry. "Absolutely not!" he said. "A fee is paid only after the money
is raised. No daily fee will be paid for trying to raise money--especially
not $3,000 a day! That's just not how it's done. Remember: since I'm the
one who's paying, I set the terms. Your only choice is to accept or reject
them. Who do these former State Department guys think they are trying
to tell me how to do business?"
I called Jim back to give him a censored
summary of what David had said. Jim laughed softly. "Almost every
investment firm wants to raise Arab money, but there are only a very few
people like me who can actually do it. Therefore it is we who set the
terms, not the people who want the money. Tell your friend that the rules
of the game that Wall Street usually practices simply don't apply in the
Middle East. It's quite obvious," Jim added, "that David hasn't
had any experience in that part of the world."
I called David one more time to explain
the situation. He wouldn't budge from his position. As a result, three
things did not happen: 1) Jim didn't go to the region with David to raise
money; 2) David never raised any Arab money for his leveraged buy-out
venture; and 3) I didn't get the house in McLean, the two Mercedes, or
the expeditions to Tibet, etc.
* * *
I was getting
discouraged. The big deals weren't coming through. And being a small-scale
consultant was really three jobs in one: I was constantly looking for
new work, I was busy doing as good a job I could possibly do on the projects
I had so the same organizations would hire me again, and I was always
trying to get paid for the work I had already done. I learned that most
firms don't mail checks to consultants until two months after they turn
in their work. One firm took six months to pay just $500!
I thought maybe the time had come to search
for a regular job. Doing that, of course, was another time-consuming job
to add to the other three I was already doing.
Then out of the blue my Saudi friend Ahmed
called. He asked me to lunch at a fancy French restaurant. When we met,
he told me that he'd mentioned my name to his Prince whom we had consulted
earlier about the oil business. The Prince was interested in me supplying
him reports on a regular basis about Soviet foreign and domestic policies.
"The Soviet Union--not oil--really is your area of expertise," Ahmed kindly
But this Prince was not the only one interested
in the Soviets. The Saudi Foreign Ministry was too, and also a few other
organizations and prominent individuals in the Kingdom. Putting all these
various parties together, Ahmed envisioned that a service agreement could
be worked out whereby I would receive $10-15,000 per month. "Would that
be acceptable?" Ahmed asked. The house in McLean, the Mercedes, and the
exotic expeditions all came back into focus again.
"Yes," I said, "I think that would be acceptable."
"But first," Ahmed said, "my Prince would
like to see a sample of what you can do for him. Could you write up a
twenty-page report describing what the aims of Gorbachev's reforms are?"
I readily agreed.
"Now it's up to you, of course," Ahmed continued,
"but I wouldn't charge too much for this one. You've been to the Kingdom
twice. You know how sensitive the Saudis are about all the people who
think that because we're rich we can be easily ripped off. You wouldn't
want anyone to think that about you."
That sounded reasonable to me. "To whom
should I send the bill?" I asked. He told me to address it to the Prince's
office manager, but to send it to himself at the Embassy.
I spent the next day eagerly working on
the report. The following day, I hand-delivered it to the Saudi Embassy.
A week later I called Ahmed to ask how he liked it. "It was great! It
was just what I hoped you'd do!"
With his enthusiastic endorsement ringing
in my ears, I set about drawing up an invoice. As Ahmed had warned, I
didn't want to charge too much. But then again, I didn't want to charge
too little either. I finally arrived at a figure of $1,350. Not bad for
a day's work, I thought, and a bargain compared to what Jim would have
I addressed the bill as Ahmed instructed
and forwarded it to him. Six weeks went by during which I heard nothing
from Ahmed or any other Saudi. I called Ahmed up. "Did I charge too much?"
"Not at all!" he assured me. "In fact, I
expected it to be more."
Did his friends like the report? Did they
want me to start work for them on a regular basis? "I'll give you a call
as soon as the word comes through," he responded. "The Saudi bureaucratic
process can be slow sometimes."
Another six weeks went by without me hearing
anything from the Saudis. No check arrived either. I called Ahmed again.
He seemed a little distant on the phone. But he invited me to lunch at
another French restaurant. His secretary called to postpone our meeting
a couple of times, but finally we met up.
Ahmed seemed to be in very high spirits.
He had gained additional responsibilities at the embassy recently. He
had met with several Senators and Congressmen. He had all kinds of things
to say about their level of intelligence and other attributes. He was
not going to bring up the subject of my consulting work.
After awhile, his stream of conversation
slowed down, so I brought up the subject. "Are your friends in the Kingdom
still interested in having me do consulting work for them?"
He looked at me sharply. "What consulting
work? There's no consulting work for you."
I reminded him of what he had told me before.
"Did your Prince not like the paper I wrote for him?"
"Oh that," he said, looking a little embarrassed.
"The Prince never saw the paper. The Foreign Ministry had asked me to
write something on Gorbachev's reforms. I was busy, so I had you write
I felt betrayed and angry. "Are you at least
going to pay me for the paper I wrote for you?"
"We Saudis never pay for anything that we
don't have to pay for," he said. He even seemed a little sad when
he said it.
We both knew that he had diplomatic immunity
and therefore could not be sued. There was no way I could make him pay
if he didn't want to.
Mercifully, the maitre d' brought the bill
to our table. He addressed Ahmed in a low, ingratiating voice, "I
hate to mention it, sir, but your account is past due. We hope you can
do something about it."
"Next week!" said Ahmed in a loud,
"Please, sir," the maitre d' pleaded.
"Oh, all right!" said Ahmed impatiently.
He took a check out of his pocket, quickly filled it out, and handed it
to the maitre d'.
"Thank you, sir, thank you!"
months later, a check arrived from Ahmed for $1,350. There was a note
attached: "Sorry for the delay."
I had long since decided to end my career
as a consultant. In fact, it was on the way back from that last lunch
with Ahmed that I realized that I was not going to become one of the few
successful consultants who did business in Saudi Arabia and the other
Gulf states. And being a less than successful consultant was no longer
as amusing as it had been at first.
Soon thereafter, I accepted a professorship
at George Mason University. Instead of buying that house in McLean, we
bought a townhouse in a more modest northern Virginia suburb. Instead
of buying two Mercedes, we bought one much less expensive car. And instead
of going on the expeditions to Tibet and other exotic places, we drove
the car down to Richmond for a weekend.
Sic Transit Gloria
Glory is fleeting. It's great while it lasts. And you sure miss it when
it goes. This is true even when it's a fairly modest sort of glory. I
At the very beginning of January 1986, a
book that I had spent three years writing was published. The title of
the book was Russia and Arabia: Soviet Foreign Policy toward the Arabian
Peninsula. If you didn't happen to read the book back then, I wouldn't
bother with it now. Among its many other effects, the collapse of the
Soviet Union in 1991 resulted in the instant obsolescence of virtually
all previously published books about Soviet foreign policy--including,
most unfortunately, my own.
Actually, the book became partly out of
date less than two weeks after it was published. For on January 13, 1986,
there began a short, sharp civil war between rival factions of the Marxist-Leninist
party ruling South Yemen in which 10,000 people were reportedly killed
while at least another 10,000 fled the country (including South Yemen's
president, 'Ali Nasir Muhammad).
Russia and Arabia didn't exactly
make it onto The New York Times bestseller list. But the coincidence
of its publication right when this conflict took place led to a degree
of publicity for the book which it probably would not have received otherwise.
While conflict is a tragedy for the people involved in it, the outbreak
of war often results in immediate and insistent demand for commentary
from writers and scholars knowledgeable about the region where it is taking
I appeared on "The MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour."
I was quoted in several newspapers, including The New York Times, The
Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. The Washington Post
ran a piece I wrote rebutting a column by Jeane Kirkpatrick claiming the
Soviets had orchestrated the whole conflict.
When the South Yemeni civil war ended in
early February 1986, so did the media attention I had been receiving.
I thought that life would then return to normal until the next time there
was a crisis in Yemen. But it turned out that my wife was not the only
person who remembered my brief media fame. Somehow or other, I had also
been noticed by Vice President George Bush.
Bush was planning a trip during the first
part of April to four Arabian Peninsula countries: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain,
Oman, and North Yemen. I was one of six scholars invited to meet with
him in a roundtable discussion of issues in the region before he departed.
The meeting was held in the Old Executive
Office Building. The participants gathered before the arrival of the Vice
President. We six scholars sat at a long table in the middle of the room
where Bush would also sit. The other scholars present were a former ambassador
to several Muslim countries, a former assistant secretary of state for
Near Eastern affairs, a well known analyst of military affairs in the
Gulf, a high powered attorney who had previously played a key role in
various Middle East negotiations, and a former White House aide. All of
them were currently either at think tanks or law firms. I was by far the
youngest and least experienced member of the group.
There were also chairs placed along the
walls of the room where staff members from the Vice President's office
and the National Security Council sat. A lady from the NSC staff came
up to me before the meeting started. She told me that if I believed that
American foreign policy should pay more attention to the Yemens, I should
be sure to say so. (There were two Yemens back then; there's only one
"This is no time to be shy!" she said
Bush arrived somewhat late; his previous
meeting had run longer than anticipated. Except for me, he knew every
person in the room. What struck me about him most during the course of
the meeting was that he possessed an extraordinarily detailed knowledge
of international relations.
The meeting began with each scholar giving
a three-minute presentation on what he thought should be important considerations
for Bush on the upcoming trip. I was amazed that each speaker bluntly
told the Vice President to "do this" or "say that" when he got to the
region. I decided that I would follow their example when it was my turn.
During my three minutes, I quickly recounted
the convoluted tale of the international relations of the two Yemens.
A border war erupted between Marxist South Yemen and non-Marxist North
Yemen in early 1979. As the South was getting the best of the battle,
the Carter Administration announced an emergency shipment of half a billion
dollars worth of weapons to the North. Because impoverished North Yemen
could not pay for them, its rich neighbor, Saudi Arabia, agreed to do
so. The U.S. transported the arms to the Saudis who would then transfer
them to North Yemen.
When the border war between the two Yemens
ended three weeks after it had begun, the Saudis stopped shipping the
American arms they had bought to the North. However, a Marxist insurgency
against the North soon got under way which the South supported. The non-Marxist
government of the North begged both Saudi Arabia and the U.S. for more
arms to fight the insurgents. The Saudis, however, would not help them;
they apparently did not think the insurgency was very serious and feared
that if the North acquired more weapons, it might conceivably threaten
Saudi Arabia. For its part, the U.S. would not send arms directly to the
North for fear of offending the Saudis--our primary allies in the region.
Becoming desperate for weapons to fight
its internal opponents, the North Yemeni government turned to the Soviets
for military assistance--and received it. Why the Soviets helped the non-Marxist
North Yemeni government fight its Marxist opponents (which Moscow was
also backing via South Yemen) is, like so many things Moscow did, still
not clear. Perhaps the Kremlin was uncertain of the outcome and decided
to hedge its bets by backing both parties. That way, it would be on the
winning side no matter who won. But whatever Moscow's reasoning (or lack
of it) may have been, the North Yemeni government successfully employed
its Soviet weaponry to defeat the Soviet/South Yemeni-backed insurgency
I concluded my statement to Bush by telling
him that while almost nobody in the U.S. paid attention to these events,
the memory of them would be quite sharp among the North Yemeni government
officials he would meet with. I also suggested that if a Marxist insurgency
against the North Yemeni government ever broke out again, we could hardly
count on Moscow to help defeat it for us next time. The U.S., I advised,
should provide direct economic and military assistance to North Yemen.
While the Saudis might not like this, I suggested that such a policy would
serve both Saudi and American interests. A strong non-Marxist North Yemen
was certainly a better alternative to a Yemen united under Marxist auspices.
After our presentations, there was a general
debate among the scholars which Bush also participated in. There were
strong differences on several issues among the scholars, but they were
stated in quiet, civil tones. Everyone was on his best behavior.
Almost all the other scholars disagreed
with me about my policy recommendations concerning Yemen. They cited the
urgent need "not to offend Saudi Arabia" and pointed out, gratuitously
I thought, that Saudi Arabia was a far more important country to the U.S.
than the two Yemens combined. I argued that it was precisely Saudi Arabia's
importance that made neighboring Yemen important too.
The debate about North Yemen ended when
Bush himself intervened. I remember that he looked at me and said, "I
think you're right. I think we have to do something for North Yemen to
make sure that the Marxists don't take it over." (Although it seems hard
to believe now, we used to worry about Marxists taking over countries
The NSC lady beamed at me from the sidelines.
After the session was over, she told me I had done a good job. Someone
else from the NSC staff predicted that I might become a "regular" at Bush's
foreign policy briefing sessions. But I never was invited back (although
Bush did send me a nice thank you note). The fact that I had met with
him at all, however, led many people to conclude that I "played a role"
in formulating American foreign policy toward the region.
Shortly afterward, I suddenly found myself
in great demand with all sorts of people who wanted a summary of what
took place at the meeting: various offices at State, Defense, and other
U.S. government agencies, the media, and several embassies in Washington.
The Yemenis in particular thought I was highly important.
During the next couple of years, I received
a stream of Yemeni visitors asking me to pass on messages for them to
Vice President Bush, or to arrange meetings for them with him or lesser
luminaries such as the Secretary of Defense and the National Security
Adviser. Some came with warnings that the North Yemeni government was
moving too close to Moscow and presented me with elaborate coup plans
they had worked out for the U.S. to put them and their friends in power.
They never seemed to doubt that I could arrange for the U.S. government
to back them; it was only a question of whether I would do so.
Admittedly, some of these people were a
little odd. But even high level Yemeni officials and politicians saw me
as a conduit to Bush. When I visited North Yemen in February 1988, everyone
I met with seemed to know about my meeting with Bush almost two years
previously. They all earnestly sought my opinion about Bush's prospects
in the upcoming presidential election in November. Because his visit to
Yemen as Vice President had gone well in 1986, they assumed that North
Yemen and the U.S. would practically become allies if he was elected President.
Among those whom I met on this trip was
'Ali Nasir Muhammad--the ex-president of Marxist South Yemen who had to
flee his country during the 1986 civil war there. He had been told in
advance about my meeting with Bush and had concluded that I was Bush's
emissary. He let me know that he would be happy to accept American military
assistance as part of the Reagan Doctrine (the policy of supporting the
opponents of pro-Soviet Marxist Third World regimes) so that he could
toss out his former colleagues who had ousted him from South Yemen in
1986. The more I insisted that I had no connection with the U.S. government
or Bush, the more convinced he became that I had.
But the high point of Yemeni expectations
about my influence came the day after Bush's election to the presidency
when I received a phone call from one of North Yemen's top diplomats.
"I just called," he said breathlessly, "to
congratulate you on Bush's election!"
"Thank you," I replied graciously.
"And the next time you talk with him, give
him my regards!"
I promised that I would. He seemed to think
that Bush and I were on the phone daily discussing the latest developments
But all good things must come to an end.
Yemeni-American ties did in fact improve after Bush became president,
if only briefly. As the reader undoubtedly recalls, the high point in
the relationship came in January 1990 when the North Yemeni president,
'Ali 'Abdallah Salih, paid a state visit to the United States at the invitation
of President Bush. (You don't remember? Don't worry--I won't tell anyone.)
But no one on either the American or the Yemeni side called me for advice
or assistance in furthering the relationship. Nor was I invited to any
of the dinners or receptions given in honor of President Salih's visit
to Washington. The two governments had apparently concluded that they
could manage their relationship quite well without me, thank you. Sic