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Updated by Charles Ray on Jul 13, 2013
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Charles Ray Charles Ray
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Diplomatic Life

A series of blogs about the life of an American diplomat

Free flow of ideas is the cornerstone of democracy

Okay, here I am again; out of sequence and taking another detour in what was to be a simple series of blogs about my career in the diplomatic service done in reverse. But, I keep getting these stray thoughts about things that cross several of my assignments, or that seem to highlight some issue that I consider important, for instance, my previous missive on defying conventional wisdom.

Free flow of ideas is the cornerstone of democracy

In the summer of 1992, I made another of those career decisions that many of my colleagues, laden as they are with conventional wisdom, considered unwise. In the Foreign Service, we submit our request for the next assignment, called a bid list, a year before the end of the current assignment, and I was a year away from reassignment eligibility.

Free flow of ideas is the cornerstone of democracy

During the academic year 1996-97, I was a student at the National War College. During that time the decision was made to open a consulate general in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam - the mission in Hanoi had been upgraded to embassy status, and former congressman Douglas 'Pete' Peterson had been nominated to be the first ambassador.

Free flow of ideas is the cornerstone of democracy

I'm breaking my own schedule in this series of posts; first, by coming out early with a post instead of the approximately weekly schedule I posited at first, and secondly, taking a detour from the walk 'back through time' I planned at the outset.

Free flow of ideas is the cornerstone of democracy

On the day after Christmas, 2002, I arrived in Cambodia to take up my post as ambassador. My wife and I had spent Christmas Day in Bangkok, walking the streets we remembered so well from our time in Thailand back in the 1980s, and having khao soi, which is fragrant curried noodle soup, popular in the north, for our Christmas dinner.

Free flow of ideas is the cornerstone of democracy

When I left my position as ambassador to Cambodia in 2005, I was being considered for the post of ambassador to East Timor. Unfortunately, the political appointee who had the job had other ideas - some of which might have been related to not caring a whole lot for me being the one to replace him, but that's another story - and he put pressure on to stay.

Free flow of ideas is the cornerstone of democracy

After completing a tour of duty as diplomat-in-residence at the University of Houston, I spent the summer of 2006 chairing a State Department promotion board. Finally, in September, I received White House approval and was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Prisoners of War/Missing Personnel Affairs, with concurrent duty as director of the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office, an independent defense agency.

Free flow of ideas is the cornerstone of democracy

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Free flow of ideas is the cornerstone of democracy

This week's post will be short. I'll be talking about my two-year stint as special assistant to the director of the Office of Defense Trade Controls in the State Department 's Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs (PM). I took the job in the summer of 1991 so I could be in the U.S.