It was with both excitement and trepidation that I learned of the assignment of my friend, Foreign Service Officer classmate (1969) and former roommate, Laurence Pope, as the US Charge d'Affaires in Tripoli, Libya. Following our Basic Officer Course in Washington at the Foreign Service Institute, where we shared an apartment a block from FSI, we were both assigned to Vietnam as our first overseas assignment, Larry to the US Embassy in Saigon and I to the pacification program in rural Vietnam in coastal Thanh Hai Province. Our assignments were curiously linked as we were the only members of our class assigned to Vietnam under protest.
During our time in Washington, the six members of our small class assigned to Vietnam became a closely bonded group, often spending our free time together. A favorite weekend was a trip to Dogue, Virginia where classmate Alan Hale had a farm. What I learned about Larry as his roommate was how brilliant he is. Before joining the Foreign Service, he had already been awarded a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant." Larry would consume one large book a day in his free time. And when he went to FSI to study Arabic, he eventually became more proficient in written Arabic than his instructors.
In Vietnam, we also got together as often as possible, I when I could swing a trip to Saigon on Air America. We would hang out at Larry's Saigon apartment, discussing our experiences in a country that fascinated us and a war that none of us really believed in. One of us, Ray Burghardt, eventually would become post-war, , the US Ambassador to Vietnam. Mike Hogan a former Marine with a handle bar moustache we labeled "the only tattoo in the Foreign Service." Hal Meinheit's and my claims to fame, were our dominance of spoken and written Vietnamese.
During the course of our Foreign Service careers, we would meet up in Washington when possible. But we were assigned to different parts of the world most of the time. Larry deserved to have been confirmed to the ambassadorship in Kuwait for which he was nominated, but typically would not sacrifice principle for personal advantage and refused to publicly separate himself from the views of his former boss at US Central Command, Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, and his nomination was blocked by former Senator Jesse Helms.
Upon retirement, both Larry and I worked with the military as contractors for the same company at then US Joint Forces Command, he as a part time Senior Mentor and I as a full time worker bee.
Larry also did a number of other part time gigs with the military. But he settled down to a peaceful, calm life in Maine, where he had gone to college and loved the slow life and unique people (He told the story about telling some Mainers that he had been accepted into the State Department, for them only to reply, "Yea, them state jobs is real good"), while writing his erudite books on classical French diplomacy.
Although, I often sent him tips on potential high level jobs where a former ambassador would be eligible, Larry was not interested in them. That is why I found it particularly interesting that he would accept the call of his country to return to diplomatic service to possibly the hottest and potentially toughest and most dangerous job abroad. Knowing him, it was an offer he could not refuse, given the importance to the United States of putting Humpty Dumpty back together again in Libya.