Summary: Lawrence Eagleburger, a lifetime civil servant in the diplomatic corps, was Secretary of State from 1992–93 under President George H.W. Bush. He also served as Assistant to National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger during the Nixon administration, U.S. Ambassador to Yugoslavia under President Carter, and Undersecretary of State under President Reagan.
Lawrence Sidney Eagleburger was born on August 1, 1930 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Since the early 1980s, while not working in Washington, he has made his home on a working farm in Charlottesville, VA, approximately two and a half hours southwest of Washington, DC.
He is an American statesman and career diplomat, who served briefly as the United States Secretary of State under President George H. W. Bush. Prior to that he served in lesser capacities under Presidents Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush.
Eagleburger earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He also served in the United States Army from 1952 to 1954, attaining the rank of First Lieutenant.
In 1957, Eagleburger joined the US Foreign Service, and served in various posts in embassies, consulates, and the State Department. From 1961 to 1965 he served as a staffer at the US Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, where he met his wife, Marlene, to whom he was married until her passing in July 2010.
Starting in 1969, he served in the Nixon administration as an assistant to National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, with whom he remains close friends to this day. He stayed in this appointment until 1971, after which he took on several positions, including advisor to the US Mission to North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Brussels, and, following Kissinger’s appointment as Secretary of State, a number of additional posts in the State Department.
Following Nixon’s resignation, he briefly left government service, but was soon appointed as ambassador to Yugoslavia by President Jimmy Carter, a post he held from 1977 to 1980.
In 1982, Reagan appointed him as Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs (the State Department’s third-ranking position), a position he held for several years. In 1989, President George H.W. Bush appointed him Deputy Secretary of State (the Department’s second-ranking position); he also served as the President’s primary advisor for affairs relating to the quickly disintegrating Yugoslavia.
On August 23, 1992, James A. Baker resigned as Secretary of State (to head up Bush’s unsuccessful re-election campaign), and Eagleburger served as Acting Secretary of State until Bush gave him a recess appointment for the remainder of his administration.
His period as adviser for Yugoslavian affairs from 1989 to 1992 was highly controversial. He gained a reputation for being a strong Serbian partisan, most controversially denying that Serbian paramilitaries and the Yugoslav National Army had committed atrocities in the breakaway republic of Croatia. This perceived partisanship led the European press to dub him “Lawrence of Serbia” (a reference to Lawrence of Arabia).
In 1991, President Bush awarded him the Presidential Citizens Medal. He is a member of the board of directors of the International Republican Institute.
Eagleburger became chairman of the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims, or ICHEIC, which was set up in 1998. The purpose of the Commission was to resolve unpaid Nazi-era insurance claims for survivors of the Holocaust. In 2005, Eagleburger announced that the ICHEIC was offering approximately 16 million dollars to Holocaust victims and their heirs, noting as he did so the research ability of the ICHEIC staff which allowed them to evaluate claims from companies which no longer existed.
In the years prior to this there had been some controversy about the Commission, including reports that it was over-budgeted and too slow, and that insurance companies which had previously agreed to work with the ICHEIC had failed to disclose policyholder lists. Eagleburger responded to these accusations by saying, among other things, that it was difficult to work quickly when many of the claimants lacked basic information such as the name of the insurance company involved.
He has caused some discussion with public comments about President George W. Bush’s foreign policy. In August 2002, Eagleburger questioned the timing of possible military action in Iraq, saying, “I am not at all convinced now that this is something we have to do this very moment.” He did indicate he believed that Iraqi regime change could be a legitimate US endeavor at some point, but that at that time he did not believe the administration was fully prepared for such a conflict.
In April 2003, following warnings by the Bush administration to the government of Syria, Eagleburger condemned the possibility of military action in Syria or Iran, saying that public opinion would not support such a move and that “If President Bush were to try it now, even I would feel he should be skinned alive.”
On January 5, 2006, he participated in a meeting at the White House of former Secretaries of Defense and State to discuss United States foreign policy with Bush administration officials. On November 10, 2006 it was announced that he would replace Secretary of Defense designate Robert Gates in the Iraq Study Group.
After the election of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Eagleburger seemed to think that Iran was moving in a direction which may at some point call for military action, saying in an interview that while “we should try everything else we can first,” at some point it would probably be necessary to use force to ensure that Iran did not obtain or use nuclear weapons.
He is Chairman of the Board of Trustees for The Forum for International Policy, and a member of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) Board of Advisers.
Sec. Eagleburger has three sons, Scott, Drew and Jason.
TIMELINE (needs editing)
University: BS, University of Wisconsin at Madison (1952)
University: MS, University of Wisconsin at Madison (1957)
Administrator: Board of Visitors, College of William and Mary (1996-)
US Secretary of State (8-Dec-1992 to 19-Jan-1993 under George H.W. Bush)
US Deputy Secretary of State (1989-92)
Kissinger Associates President (1984-89)
US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (1982-84)
US Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (1981-82)
US Ambassador to Yugoslavia (1977-81)
US State Department Deputy Under Secretary for Management (1975-77)
US State Department Executive Assistant to Henry Kissinger (1973-75)
White House Staff Deputy Asst. to the President, National Security Operations (1971-73)
US Defense Department Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (1971-73)
US State Department Chief of the Political Section, US Mission to NATO (1969-71)
White House Staff Executive Assistant to Henry Kissinger (1968-69)
US National Security Council European Affairs (1967-68)
US State Department Staff, European Affairs, Secretariat (1965-66)
US State Department Economic section, Belgrade, Yugoslavia (1961-65)
US State Department Intelligence Research Specialist on Cuba (1959-61)
US State Department Vice Consul, Tegucigalpa, Honduras (1957-59)
Baker Donelson Bearman & Caldwell
Baker, Worthington, Crossley, Stansberry & Woolf Foreign Policy Advisor
Member of the Board of Dresser Industries (-1998)
Member of the Board of Phillips Petroleum (1993-2000)
Member of the Board of Halliburton (1998-)
Alfalfa Club 1992
America-Israel Friendship League U.S. National Advisory Board
American Academy of Diplomacy Chairman Emeritus
American Institute for Stuttering Board of Directors
American Red Cross international ambassador-at-large (1999)
AmeriCares Advisory Committee
Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Honorary Member, Board of Directors
Atlantic Institute for International Affairs
Bretton Woods Committee
Campaign for American Leadership in the Middle East
Cordell Hull Institute Board of Directors
Council on Foreign Relations
Forum for International Policy Chairman
International Republican Institute
It’s My Party Too Board of Directors
John McCain 2008
John O. Marsh Institute Honorary Member, Advisory Committee
Republicans Abroad Advisory Committee
Washington Institute for Near East Policy Board of Advisors
Knight of the British Empire 1994 honorary