Philip Habib

Philip Charles Habib (February 25, 1920 – May 25, 1992) was an American career diplomat. Called one of the "pre-eminent career diplomats in American post-war history",[5] he was best known for his work as Ronald Reagan's special envoy to the Middle East 1981–83. In that role he averted an Israel-Syria war and an Israel-PLO war in 1981, then negotiated a peaceful end to Israel's 1982 siege of Beirut. In 1986 he was instrumental in ending Ferdinand Marcos's attempt to steal the 1986 presidential election in the Philippines. As U.S. special envoy to Central America in 1986–87, he helped Costa Rican president Oscar Arias shape and sell the peace plan that led to the end of the region's civil wars. He had come out of retirement to take each of those assignments. During his 30-year career as a Foreign Service Officer, he had mostly specialized in Asia. In 1968, he was instrumental in halting the escalation of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.[6][7] After his death, The New York Times described him as "the outstanding professional diplomat of his generation in the United States."[8][9]


Philip Habib
Philip Habib
Habib in Lebanon in December 1982
9th Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
In office
July 1, 1976 – April 1, 1978
PresidentGerald Ford
Jimmy Carter
Preceded byJoseph J. Sisco
Succeeded byDavid D. Newsom
12th Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
In office
September 27, 1974 – June 30, 1976
PresidentGerald Ford
Preceded byRobert S. Ingersoll
Succeeded byArthur W. Hummel Jr.
9th United States Ambassador to Korea
In office
October 10, 1971 – August 19, 1974
PresidentRichard Nixon
Gerald Ford
Preceded byWilliam J. Porter
Succeeded byRichard Sneider
Personal details
Philip Charles Habib

February 25, 1920
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
DiedMay 25, 1992 (aged 72)
Puligny-Montrachet, France
Cause of deathCardiac arrhythmia
Resting placeGolden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, California
CitizenshipUnited States
Spouse(s)Marjorie W. Slightham[1]
(m.1943–1992, his death)[2]
Children2 daughters
ParentsIskander (Alex) Habib Jamous & Miriam (Mary) Spiridon Habib
ResidenceBelmont, California
Alma materUniversity of Idaho (B.S.)
University of California, Berkeley (Ph.D.)
Known forShuttle diplomacy
AwardsMedal of Freedom,
(Diplomacy, 1982)[3]
Légion d'Honneur
(France, 1988)[4]
Military service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service1942-1946
RankUS-O3 insignia.svg Captain

Early life

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Habib was raised in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood of its Bensonhurst section by Lebanese Maronite Catholic parents.[8] His father ran a grocery store.[10] Habib graduated from New Utrecht High School in Brooklyn[11] and worked as a shipping clerk before starting his undergraduate study in forestry out west at the University of Idaho in Moscow.[7][11] As a college student on the Palouse, he was well-regarded by his peers and was an accomplished poker player.[12][13][14] After graduating in 1942 from the UI's College of Forestry (now Natural Resources),[11][14] he served in the U.S. Army during World War II and attained the rank of captain. Discharged from the service in 1946, Habib continued his education via the G.I. Bill in a doctoral program in agricultural economics at the University of California in Berkeley, and earned a Ph.D. in 1952.[4]

In 1947, recruiters for the United States Foreign Service visited the Berkeley campus. They were particularly interested in candidates who did not fit the then-current mold of Ivy League blueblood WASPs. Though he had never given diplomacy a moment's thought, he enjoyed taking tests for intellectual challenge. He took the Foreign Service exam and scored in the top 10% nationally.[15]

Foreign service career

Habib and grand nephew Gregory Cohen in his offices at the State Department in 1976

Beginning in 1949, his foreign service career took him to Canada, New Zealand, South Korea (twice), and South Vietnam. He held the State Department position of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs from 1967–1969 and was chief of staff for the U.S. delegation to the Paris Peace Talks from 1968 to 1971. Habib acquired increasingly important posts, serving as Ambassador to South Korea (1971–1974), Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (1974–1976), and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (1976–1978).[16] When South Korean opposition leader Kim Dae-jung was kidnapped in 1973 while Habib was U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Habib's discreet but firm intervention saved Kim's life.[17][18] Kim later became the first opposition leader in South Korea to become president and also won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 for his reconciliation efforts with North Korea.

A massive heart attack forced Habib to resign as Under Secretary, the top post for a career Foreign Service officer, in 1978. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan called him out of retirement to serve as special envoy to the Middle East.[2][19] Habib negotiated a peace that allowed the PLO to evacuate from the besieged city of Beirut. In 1982, for his efforts he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the highest official honor given to a U.S. citizen by the U.S. government.[3] He was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Senator Charles H. Percy, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.[16][20]

Early in 1986, Reagan sent Habib to the Philippines to convince President Ferdinand Marcos to step down. In March 1986, Reagan appointed him as a special envoy to Central America with the intention of furthering U.S. interests in the conflict in Nicaragua.[21] Administration hard-liners intended to use his fame and stature to advance a military solution, namely further funding of the Contras.[22]

Deciding that the Contadora Plan had run its course, Óscar Arias, the newly elected president of Costa Rica, drew up a plan that focused on democratization. While he viewed the Arias plan as riddled with loopholes, Habib worked to help revise it. "Phillip Habib became my ambassador to the rest of the Central American presidents," said Arias.

On August 7, 1987, the five Central American presidents, much to the shock of the rest of the world, agreed in principle to the Arias plan. Because further negotiating would require Habib to meet directly with Nicaragua's president, Daniel Ortega, President Reagan forbade him to travel. Believing he no longer had the confidence of the president, Habib resigned.[23][24][25]

Death and legacy

While on vacation in France in 1992, Habib suffered a cardiac arrhythmia in Puligny-Montrachet and died on May 25 at age 72.[26]

Former Secretary of State George Shultz spoke at his funeral in Belmont, California, and characterized Habib as "...a man who really made a difference."[10] He was buried nearby at the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, just south of San Francisco.[27] Speakers at his memorial service in Washington at the National Cathedral the following week included two former Secretaries of State, Henry Kissinger and Cyrus Vance, and a future one, former colleague Lawrence Eagleburger.[9]

At the time of his death, Habib was one of the University of Idaho's most famous and respected graduates; he co-chaired the university's centennial fund-raising campaign several years earlier, as well as several class reunions.[28] He moderated its Borah Symposium, an annual foreign affairs conference, in 1986,[29][30] and received the university's highest honors for alumni in 1969, 1974, and 1983.[31]

John Boykin's 2014 e-book "One Brief Miracle: The Diplomat, the Zealot, and the Wild Blundering Siege" told the story of how Habib negotiated a peaceful end to Israel's 1982 siege of Beirut. It was an updated, abridged version of his 2002 hardback edition, "Cursed Is the Peacemaker: The American Diplomat Versus the Israeli General, Beirut 1982."[32]

In 2006, Habib was featured on a United States postage stamp, one of a block of six featuring prominent diplomats.[33] In 2013, the city of Junieh, Lebanon, unveiled a bust of Habib among other "national heroes" in Friendship Square.[34]

Warren Zevon wrote the song "The Envoy", from his 1982 album of the same name, in honor of Habib.

Habib House, the Seoul residence of the United States Ambassador to Korea, is named for him.


  1. ^ "Profile - Philip Habib, Mideast envoy". Nashua Telegraph. UPI. May 8, 1981. p. 27.
  2. ^ a b Avrech, Mira (August 10, 1981). "When Philip Habib talks peace—with his hands—Israel and the Arabs pay heed". People. Retrieved March 6, 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Habib awarded highest civilian medal". Tuscaloosa News. Associated Press. September 8, 1982. p. 35.
  4. ^ a b "Philip Habib; U.S. envoy, trouble-shooter". Los Angeles Times. staff and wire reports. May 27, 1992. Retrieved March 6, 2014.
  5. ^ Holbrooke, Richard (19 Jun 1992). "Phillip Habib was a diplomat's diplomat". The Washington Post. Retrieved 3 July 2015.
  6. ^ "One Brief Miracle: The Diplomat, the Zealot, and the Wild Blundering Siege," chapters 1, 2; "Cursed Is the Peacemaker," Appendix C.
  7. ^ a b Molotsky, Irvin (May 28, 1981). "Man in the News; Tireless trouble-shooter for the U.S." New York Times. p. 3. Retrieved March 6, 2014.
  8. ^ a b Manegold, Catherine S. (May 27, 1992). "Philip C. Habib, a leading U.S. diplomat, dies at 72". New York Times. p. 21. Retrieved March 6, 2014.
  9. ^ a b "Habib remembered as a blunt diplomat who defied clichés". New York Times. June 11, 1992. p. 22. Retrieved March 6, 2014.
  10. ^ a b Myers, Laura (June 2, 1992). "Habib 'really made a difference'". Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Associated Press. p. 1A.
  11. ^ a b c "Seniors". Gem of the Mountains, University of Idaho yearbook. 1942. p. 274.
  12. ^ Watterson, Sylvia (August 9, 1982). "Habib always held his cards close to chest". Spokesman-Review. p. 6.
  13. ^ "UI alum Habib dies at 72". Moscow-Pullman Daily News. May 26, 1992. p. 1A.
  14. ^ a b Trillhaase, Marty (April 25, 1987). "Habib recalls 'poor and happy' UI days". Idahonian. Moscow, Idaho. p. 10.
  15. ^ "Cursed Is the Peacemaker," p. 16
  16. ^ a b "Habib's mark: quiet competence". Eugene Register-Guard. Associated Press. August 21, 1982. p. 3A.
  17. ^ "One Brief Miracle," chapter 1
  18. ^ Ranard, Donald A. (August 24, 2009). "Saving Kim Dae-jung: A tale of two dissident diplomats". The Boston Globe.
  19. ^ "One Brief Miracle," chapters 1 and 2
  20. ^ Feinsilber, Mike (August 22, 1982). "Habib plays it low-key, even in his hour of triumph". Milwaukee Journal. Associated Press. p. 3, part 1.
  21. ^ "Habib's new stand is in Nicaragua". Milwaukee Sentinel. UPI. March 8, 1986. p. 3, part 1.
  22. ^ Necessary illusions: thought control in democratic societies
  23. ^ "Habib resigns; frustration on Latin talks cited". Milwaukee Journal. Associated Press, (Los Angeles Times). August 15, 1987. p. 3A.
  24. ^ "Latin policy spat tied to Habib resignation". Pittsburgh Press. Associated Press. August 15, 1987. p. A1.
  25. ^ "Habib resigns as special aide; rift is reported". Toledo Blade. (New York Times). August 15, 1987. p. 1.
  26. ^ Rubin, Sydney (May 27, 1992). "Diplomat Philip Habib dies". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Associated Press. p. 2A.
  27. ^ "Golden Gate National Cemetery: Philip Habib". Retrieved March 6, 2014.
  28. ^ "Diplomatic trouble-shooter Philip Habib dies". Spokesman-Review. (New York Times). May 27, 1992. p. A2.
  29. ^ "Philip Habib to chair Borah Symposium". Spokane Chronicle. November 20, 1985. p. A5.
  30. ^ Devlin, Sherry (March 19, 1986). "Diplomat Philip Habib will moderate Borah Symposium". Spokane Chronicle. p. A3.
  31. ^ "UI officials laud famous grad". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Associated Press. May 27, 1992. p. 2A.
  32. ^
  33. ^ "SIX DISTINGUISHED DIPLOMATS HONORED ON U.S. POSTAGE STAMPS" (Press release). United States Postal Service. 2006-05-30. Retrieved 2015-05-08. Philip C. Habib (1920–1992) was renowned for his diplomacy in some of the world's most dangerous flashpoints. An authority on Southeast Asia, a peace negotiator in the Middle East, and a special envoy to Central America, Habib was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1982.
    and ed. William J. Gicker (2006). "Distinguished American Diplomats 39¢". USA Philatelic (print). 11 (3): 14.
  34. ^ "One Brief Miracle," chapter 16

External links

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
William J. Porter
United States Ambassador to South Korea
Succeeded by
Richard L. Sneider
Government offices
Preceded by
Robert S. Ingersoll
Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
September 27, 1974 – June 30, 1976
Succeeded by
Arthur W. Hummel, Jr.
1982 Lebanon War

The 1982 Lebanon War, dubbed Operation Peace for Galilee (Hebrew: מבצע שלום הגליל, or מבצע של"ג‎ Mivtsa Shlom HaGalil or Mivtsa Sheleg) by the Israeli government, later known in Israel as the Lebanon War or the First Lebanon War (Hebrew: מלחמת לבנון הראשונה‎, Milhemet Levanon Harishona), and known in Lebanon as "the invasion" (Arabic: الاجتياح‎, Al-ijtiyāḥ), began on 6 June 1982, when the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) invaded southern Lebanon, after repeated attacks and counter-attacks between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) operating in southern Lebanon and the IDF that had caused civilian casualties on both sides of the border. The military operation was launched after gunmen from Abu Nidal's organization attempted to assassinate Shlomo Argov, Israel's ambassador to the United Kingdom. Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin blamed Abu Nidal's enemy, the PLO, for the incident, and treated the incident as a casus belli for the invasion.After attacking the PLO – as well as Syrian, leftist, and Muslim Lebanese forces – the Israeli military, in cooperation with the Maronite allies and the self-proclaimed Free Lebanon State, occupied southern Lebanon, eventually surrounding the PLO and elements of the Syrian Army. Surrounded in West Beirut and subjected to heavy bombardment, the PLO forces and their allies negotiated passage from Lebanon with the aid of United States Special Envoy Philip Habib and the protection of international peacekeepers. The PLO, under the chairmanship of Yasser Arafat, had relocated its headquarters to Tripoli in June 1982. By expelling the PLO, removing Syrian influence over Lebanon, and installing a pro-Israeli Christian government led by President Bachir Gemayel, Israel hoped to sign a treaty which Menachem Begin promised would give Israel "forty years of peace".Following the assassination of Gemayel in September 1982, Israel's position in Beirut became untenable and the signing of a peace treaty became increasingly unlikely. Outrage following Israel's role in the Phalangist-perpetrated Sabra and Shatila massacre, of mostly Palestinians and Lebanese Shiites, and Israeli popular disillusionment with the war would lead to a gradual withdrawal from Beirut to the areas claimed by the self-proclaimed Free Lebanon State in southern Lebanon (later to become the South Lebanon security belt), which was initiated following the 17 May Agreement and Syria's change of attitude towards the PLO. After Israeli forces withdrew from most of Lebanon, the War of the Camps broke out between Lebanese factions, the remains of the PLO and Syria, in which Syria fought its former Palestinian allies. At the same time, Shi'a militant groups began consolidating and waging a low-intensity guerrilla war over the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon, leading to 15 years of low-scale armed conflict. The Lebanese Civil War would continue until 1990, at which point Syria had established complete dominance over Lebanon.

Arnold Kanter

Arnold Lee Kanter (February 27, 1945 – April 10, 2010) served as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from 1991 to 1993. Kanter also held a position on the White House staff from 1989 to 1991 as Special Assistant to the President and served in a variety of capacities in the State Department from 1977 to 1985. Kanter served on the faculty of both Ohio State University and the University of Michigan, and also worked for several years in the 1980s at the RAND Corporation.

Kanter was born in Chicago and was a founding member of The Scowcroft Group. Kanter died of cancer in April 2010.

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs

The Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs is the head of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs within the United States Department of State. The Assistant Secretary guides operation of the U.S. diplomatic establishment in the countries of the Asia-Pacific region and advises the Secretary of State and the Under Secretary for Political Affairs on matters relating to the area. The last permanent Assistant Secretary was Daniel R. Russel, who left on March 8, 2017. Susan Thornton is now Acting Assistant Secretary.The Department of State established the position of Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs in 1949, after the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of Government recommended that certain offices be upgraded to bureau level and after Congress increased the number of Assistant Secretaries of State from six to ten. On November 1, 1966, the Department by administrative action changed the incumbent's designation to Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. The Division of Far Eastern Affairs, established in 1908, was the first geographical division to be established in the Department of State.

Bachir Gemayel

Bachir Gemayel (Arabic: بشير الجميّل‎ Bashīr al-Jimayyel, also romanized al-Jumayyil and El Gemaiel, Arabic pronunciation: [baˈʃiːr ʤɪ'ma.jjɪl]; 10 November 1947 – 14 September 1982), also Bashir Gemayel was a senior member of the right-wing Christian Phalange party and the founder and supreme commander of the Lebanese Forces militia during the early years of the Lebanese Civil War (1975–90). He was the youngest president-elect and one of the most controversial figures in Lebanese history.

He was elected president on 23 August 1982 while the country was torn by civil war and occupied by both Israel and Syria. He was assassinated on 14 September 1982, along with 26 others, when a bomb exploded in Beirut Phalange headquarters. While some have accused Habib Tanious Shartouni, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation blamed the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP).

February 25

February 25 is the 56th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 309 days remaining until the end of the year (310 in leap years).

George C. McGhee

George Crews McGhee (March 10, 1912 – July 4, 2005) was an oilman and a career diplomat in the United States foreign service.


Habib (Arabic: حبيب‎, translit. ḥabīb; Arabic pronunciation: [ħabiːb ]), sometimes written as Habeeb, is an Arabic masculine given name and occasional surname with the meaning "beloved".The name is popular throughout the Muslim World, though particularly in the Middle East and Africa. In other countries, especially in Yemen and Southeast Asian countries such as Brunei, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia, it is an honorific to address a Muslim scholar of Sayyid (a descendant of Muhammad) families and where it is one of the names of Prophet Muhammad - حبيب الله Habib Allah (Habibullah/ Habiballah).

The name, as is the case with other Arabic names, is not confined to Muslims. Notable examples of Christian individuals named Habib include 'Habib the Deacon' and Gabriel Habib and the Philosopher Habib.

Henry Habib

Henri Habib is the Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Concordia University. He established the Political Science Department at Loyola College, and was instrumental in establishing the Global Forum for International Co-operation (GFIC). He is a well-known authority on Middle Eastern politics.

Habib received his Bachelor's degree in political science from the American University of Beirut in Beirut, Lebanon; his M.A. from Fordham University; and his Ph.D. from McGill University.

He is of Lebanese Christian descent and is currently in semi-retirement, teaching courses in World History, Middle Eastern politics and international law at Concordia University, McGill University, University of Ottawa and Carleton University. He currently lives in Ottawa. He is also the second cousin of renowned diplomat Philip Habib.

Henry Habib's grandfather was a lieutenant governor for the Ottoman Empire in Jerusalem; he was responsible for Christian and Jewish affairs in Jerusalem.

Joseph J. Sisco

Joseph John Sisco (October 31, 1919 – November 23, 2004) was a diplomat who played a major role in then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East. His career in the State Department spanned five presidential administrations.

List of Secretaries of State of the United States

This is a list of Secretaries of State of the United States.

List of people from Idaho

Following is a list of notable people who were either born in the American state of Idaho or lived there for a substantial amount of time.

Michael Armacost

Michael Hayden Armacost (born April 15, 1937) is a fellow at Stanford University's Freeman Spogli Institute. He was the president of the Brookings Institution from 1995 to 2002.

Phyllis E. Oakley

Phyllis Elliott Oakley (born 1934 in Omaha, Nebraska) is a diplomat who served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration (1994–97) and Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research (1997–99). She was married to former Ambassador Robert B. Oakley and is a member of the American Academy of Diplomacy and the Council on Foreign Relations. Oakley is a graduate of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, at Tufts University.

Ms. Oakley held a variety of positions within the U.S. foreign service. She was a Staff Assistant to Under Secretary Philip Habib, an Afghanistan Desk Officer and a Cultural Affairs Officer in Kinshasa (on loan to the United States Information Agency, USIA). She worked with the Agency for International Development (AID) Afghanistan’s cross-border humanitarian assistance program in Pakistan and served in Congressional Affairs for the Near Eastern Bureau of the State Department.

Currently an Adjunct Professor at the Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies, Phyllis Oakley is teaching a course on functional issues in American foreign policy. She has also been a visiting professor at Mount Holyoke College and Northwestern University and serves on the visiting board of the College of Arts and Sciences of Northwestern University and the advisory board for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University. She was chair of the board at Americans for UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) from 2003 to 2007 while also serving as chair of the Public Affairs Committee and Nominating Committee at Americans for UNFPA.

Richard Sneider

Richard Lee Sneider (June 29, 1922 – August 16, 1986) was an American diplomat who served as United States Ambassador to South Korea and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs.

Siege of Beirut

The Siege of Beirut took place in the summer of 1982, as part of the 1982 Lebanon War, which resulted from the breakdown of the cease-fire effected by the United Nations. The siege ended with the Palestinian Liberation Organization being forced out of Beirut and Lebanon.

Timeline of the People Power Revolution

The People Power Revolution (also known as the EDSA Revolution and the Philippine Revolution of 1986) was a series of popular demonstrations in the Philippines that began in 1983 and culminated in 1986. The methods used amounted to a sustained campaign of civil resistance against regime violence and electoral fraud. This case of nonviolent revolution led to the toppling of President Ferdinand Marcos and the restoration of the country's democracy.

Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs

The Under Secretary for Political Affairs is currently the third ranking position in the United States Department of State, after the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary. While the positions of Secretary and Deputy Secretary are occupied by political appointees, the position of Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs is usually (but not always) occupied by a career Foreign Service Officer, making the occupant the highest-ranking member of the Foreign Service. The current Under Secretary is David Hale, who assumed office on August 30, 2018.The Under Secretary serves as the day-to-day manager of overall regional and bilateral policy issues, and oversees the bureaus for Africa, East Asia and the Pacific, Europe and Eurasia, the Near East, South and Central Asia, the Western Hemisphere, and International Organizations. The Under Secretary is advised by Assistant Secretaries of the geographic bureaus, who guide U.S. diplomatic missions within their regional jurisdiction.The political bureaus were first overseen in 1949 by a "Deputy Under Secretary for Political Affairs". Prior to the creation of the position of Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs in August 1959, the Deputy Under Secretary for Political Affairs assisted the Secretary and Under Secretary of State in the formulation and conduct of U.S. foreign policy. After August 1959, the Deputy Under Secretary for Political Affairs served as a focal point for interdepartmental relations, especially those dealing with politico-military issues. During 1969, the Department discontinued the position and created a new Bureau for Politico-Military Affairs, which exists today as the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs under another Under Secretary.

Walter J. Stoessel Jr.

Walter John Stoessel Jr. (January 24, 1920 – December 9, 1986) was an American diplomat.

William J. Porter

William James Porter (September 1, 1914 – March 15, 1988) was an American diplomat who from 1971 to 1973 headed the U.S. delegation to the Paris Peace Talks to end the Vietnam War. Porter was the first-ever United States Ambassador to Algeria, and also served as Ambassador to South Korea, Canada, and Saudi Arabia.

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