On Thursday, September 15, The Institute of World Politics hosted a book lecture by Ambassador Middendorf for his new book Potomac Fever: A Memoir of Politics and Public Service. His most noted service roles include Former Secretary of the Navy, and Former Ambassador to the Netherlands, to the European Communities, and to the Organization of American States.
Ambassador Middendorf shared with his audience insights about the pitfalls of leading a life in government, the type of life one has to live, and his personal mistakes along the way. From lengthy confirmation hearings to having to make decisions that impact the whereabouts of one's family, this type of life can be very hard. Listeners learned that Potomac Fever is a useful book for students who are looking to start a career in government. It will give them an idea of what a future career and life can hold. It is also a good read for people in the middle of their careers, who can compare their experiences and outlook with those of Ambassador Middendorf.
The Ambassador noted that his favorite job was Secretary of the Navy. He loved dealing with patriots and working with the most wonderful people. They had a tough enemy in the Soviets, so that made it an exciting job. He also enjoyed serving as Ambassador to the Netherlands. It was a great place to be involved in foreign diplomacy because it is the heart of NATO and the European Union.
Ambassador Middendorf noted that his most challenging professional position was his appointment to Ambassador to the Organization of American States under President Carter, who had a differing geopolitical outlook. Complications with the Shah of Iran, the Sandinistas, Cuba, and Latin America made it a difficult period.
The Ambassador finished his lecture by discussing our two biggest current threats, the Middle East and China. He observed that China is improving its capabilities beyond what we know and is building up its nuclear arsenal. This nation is also our biggest threat when it comes to cyber war, a very serious possibility in this day and age. He also remarked that the recent Arab Spring will most likely not lead to the formation of Jeffersonian democracy, just as the overthrow of Iran's Shah in 1979 did not.