Tuesday, September 22, 2015

E-BOOK The Perils of Unresolved Humanitarian Problems - 2002 monograph

The Kindle e-book by Jim Purcell is now online.  
Preface excerpt below.


Focus: The Middle East

James N. Purcell, Jr. 

Copyright (c) 2002; 2015 (Sept.)

" (See e-book online to Read inside)


Wednesday, September 16, 2015



Jim Purcell gave permission for me to write this brief post today. I am responsible for the opinions I express.

One of the many key protocols of crises--in Southeast Asia, Africa, Central America, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, USSR and South Asia--was safe regional asylum for refugees that made it from points of danger.


News today indicates that there has been no American or international planning for the Syrian refugee crisis. This fact stands in dark, glaring contrast to the enlightened global planning early in the Refugee Decade of the 1980s. Today, refugee help and problem-solving happen in the worst way. Panic, fear, and frustration drive flight and the ad hoc attempts by governments pressured to help. The ad hoc attempts now include punitive or military reaction. Where is evidence of foresight and consideration of unanticipated consequences? The effects of such confusion will rebound for generations. The U.S. could lead, but follows the same European approach--indecision. At home, some congressional leaders are proposing that the U.S. take as many as we can, thinking that when all is better those helped will return home, which would be unlikely.

Such reactions without thought for rational planning completely ignore the first solutions needed: seek to save and protect refugees; then, arrange for safe asylum in their home region.

As photos above and below clearly show, one country in the region, with similar cultural and religious traditions, is Saudi Arabia, ready to provide asylum. The tents are air conditioned and clothing and other support are on stand-by. Many of the tents are being used to house refugees now, from Syria. Why are not regional asylum options being used first? There was no preparation to steer refugees to temporary help close at hand. 

What is needed, in my view, is public outcry for revival and adaptation of protocols and methods already proven to work. They were not easy to find or implement; yet, they avoided the mass confusion that continues, five years on, regarding Syrian refugees.

Reaction without rational planning completely ignores the first solutions once a refugee crisis erupts: seek to protect human life and arrange safe asylum in the home region. For Syrian refugees, this would include preparations made by regional countries like Saudi Arabia. Jordan has been involved in asylum almost since the beginning of this crisis.

Jean P. Purcell

The writer is a co-editor for Jim Purcell's book, Hope of the Phoenix: how three presidents saved millions of refugee lives in a conflicted world.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Published - Kindle eBook from Jim Purcell

Published - October 2015

A re-release of Jim Purcell's Furman University speech monograph. His book is another writing, now in book agent hands. 

The Perils of Unresolved Humanitarian Problems

by Jim Purcell

Kindle eBook re-release of 2002 speech. 

Preface updated to reflect Syria refugee crisis.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Break the Official Silence about Not Doing Enough for Syrian Refugees


The power of the printed word and photos about Syrian refugees graphically remind me of "the refugee decade" in which I was centrally involved. It covered Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Central America and the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, South Asia, and the USSR from the mid-1970s into much of the 1980s. 

Since those times, refugee numbers have grown beyond imagining. In recent years, Washington Post pages have focused on Syria, an on-going producer of refugees. The Post's opinion articles have included impassioned calls for heightened public awareness and international response to the dire and increasing needs of Syrian refugees. More than ever, Syrian citizens and their neighbors in the region feel overwhelmed by dangers, needs, and the rising numbers. 

In a recent (April 19, 2015) opinion column, Who Cares about Syria, Valerie Amos, then U.N. under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, reported on "ordinary Syrians who are suffering...bombed out of their homes, tortured, abused and denied food, water and health care."

Ms. Amos championed the cause of Syrian citizens that were promised protection by their government only to be abandoned to an imperiled and uncertain fate. She has visited Syrian refugees numerous times in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Turkey, countries where they have received asylum.

"During every visit," she wrote, "I was asked the same thing: Why has the world abandoned us? Why does nobody care?"

These question are directed, wrote Valerie Amos, "at our leaders, perhaps particularly at the permanent members of the Security Council," where the U.S. is a member.

One view expressed by Ms. Amos is that "narrow national interests are overriding broader global responsibilities, despite the efforts of the U.N. secretary general’s three special envoys to chart a way out of the crisis."

The Syrian government continues to speak about citizen protection while ignoring pleas to "stop targeting civilians and discontinue the use of so-called 'barrel bombs'," according to Amos's reporting. 

The UN cites the fact of the world now feeling overwhelmed by global refugee crises in numbers never experienced before. That's according to Antonio Guterres, the deeply concerned UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

More than a year before Ms. Amos's commentary in the Washington Post, "Unattended Misery: Americans Remain Strikingly Detached from the Humanitarian Crisis in Syria" (December 6, 2013) raised another alarm. Written by revered former U.S. ambassador and foreign service officer, Morton Abramowitz, the article also appeared in West Hawaii Today with the same dateline and headlined Syrian Misery Goes Unheeded

Ambassador Abramowitz wrote that "...our public and government have been complacent in the face of massive human suffering. Recall Rwanda and Cambodia*. More recently the U.S. public has watched passively for well over two years the continuing destruction of a highly developed state: Syria." (*Note: Both disasters received public demands for action.) In my view, nothing changed over the next year and up to now. 

Many nations, including the U.S., face new humanitarian challenges of seemingly impossible proportions. We have risen to such challenges in the past. We have shown that dedicated people in government, foreign service and civilian life can achieve dramatic turnarounds. In spite of the current difficulties, both Morton Abramowitz and Valerie Amos have praised the work under very trying circumstances of the humanitarian organizations in Syria and the region. 

As an avowed humanitarian nation, the U.S. government and the American public need to ask and answer: Will the U.S. lead again as in the refugee decade, rising to do far more than we thought possible on humanitarian fronts? Will we put in place bold policies and strategies as we did in the past when faced with equally, though different, global humanitarian challenges?  

The executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government need to break the silence on humanitarian action regarding Syrian refugees. Along with domestic and international partner organizations, the U.S., UN and others need to "put ordinary people at the heart of decision-making," as Ms. Amos calls for in her commentary. To do would require leadership by which humanitarian actions, such as "no fly zones," are woven into the fabric of government policies and responses at home. 

You might also like to read: 
Fred Hiatt, "The Defense of Inaction," The Washington Post, April 19, 2015

For this article, Mr. Purcell drew on the epilogue draft of his book manuscript. 

Jim Purcell lives outside Washington, DC.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

BRIEF FLASH on Book Progress

  • Book agent queries on-going.
  • Hope of the Phoenix Foreword by U.S. policy leader
  • Short e-books on current Middle East-Europe crisis and U.S. past humanitarian work being adapted for early printing.
  • Hope of the Phoenix book proposal has been underway for a few weeks of writing, editing, and review by an experienced proposal guide. Update: Proposal complete. 
  • When a fresh overview of the book is finished, the marketing section will have final touches added. Complete.
  • Current refugee and aid worker crises,lagging supplies and continuing danger for citizens of Syria and beyond, in Middle East, continue to demand attention and answers soon. --Blog editor. 7/15

Saturday, May 9, 2015


Inside Book 1-Awake and Rise: The International Geneva Conference on Boat People
For readers interested in, yet not familiar with, refugee issues of the 1970s and '80s, links are provided for some of the information below. 

A Geneva Conference
on Indochina-photo en.wikipedia.com
In the early times of World War II, President Roosevelt called for a meeting in Evian, France, to focus on refugee plight. However, the U. S. sent an unofficial representative, unlike other governments. Engagement or isolation remained two opposing principles of United States foreign policy.

Evacuations during Saigon, South Vietnam's chaos of 1975, as North Vietnam troops advanced toward Saigon and the U.S. embassy, were not the end as some hoped. A sea of refugee numbers swelled, and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher proposed the Geneva Conference on Boat People for two days in July 1979.  

Unlike the Evian Conference in 1938, when Europe was already at war against Hitler, the Geneva conference related to aftershocks of the Vietnam War attracted big actors on the international scene, including the American vice president. A British Parliament afterward praised the meeting's success:

 "In concentrating international attention on the plight of the refugees and on the urgent need to help them and the countries in which they have sought refuge, the conference was humanitarian. But it was widely agreed that the problem could not be solved unless attention was also given to its root causes and that these have been the inhumane policies of Vietnam.
      "The conference resulted in a massive increase in offers of resettlement places, from 125,000 to 260,000, and in new pledges of additional financial support for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' activities amounting to 190 million United States dollars…." (emphasis added; 1979 dollars)

U.S. Vice-President Walter F. Mondale said that the Geneva conference was intended to "turn the heat up" on the crisis of refugee boat people. He led the American delegation and gave an emotional speech, paying attention to the fact that the Geneva conference marked the highest level government delegation ever to attend an international refugee meeting.  In Mondale's view, engagement was and should be the guiding principle of the immediate post-Vietnam War era and into the future. 

"I would have loved to be there," Jim Purcell said. He stayed in Washington, DC, under the rationale that the new U.S. refugee organization was shaky, in early stages, and he wanted to be in place, in case. An official congressional decision and State Department announcement of the new refugee program's 'home,' its capacities and roles, had only recently been made firm. As the conference met, the bureau's launch from Washington's State Department was made official. 

Historically, State had been either uninvolved in running programs or assessed as unsuccessful in their operation. The new bureau for refugees would be a test on many levels, and eyes were on it from the nation's capital, to towns where volunteer citizens lived, and across the international community. 

At home, the State Department and Capitol Hill would need to address urgent budgetary needs on behalf of refugees. The proverbial ball had finally started rolling, and Jim Purcell was to be the point person, watchman on the wall, and planner for the long haul, although he did not yet realize it. 

Well-known appointees would come and go as directors of the program, some seeming to have more commitment than others. As a deputy, manager, and acting director in an unavoidable see-saw fashion between appointees, Jim was made the official director by appointment of Secretary of State George P. Shultz in 1983, four years after the program's launch. 

In early days organizing State's refugee program, one of Jim Purcell's chief interests was the history of U.S. policy and action regarding refugees. The unsuccessful Evian-les-Bain conference seemed, to him, to be a missed opportunity for the U. S. to avoid repeating later. The Geneva Conference on Boat People formally marked a major shift in U. S. foreign and refugee policy.  As one reader has put it, "significant change in American involvement."

"Hope of the Phoenix" author hopes to reach Gen-Xers and Millennials about the Refugee Decade

Hope of the Phoenix

 The Reawakening and Rise of America's Humanitarian Spirit 
from the Ashes of Vietnam, 1975-1986

Early draft notes
James N. (Jim) Purcell, Jr.

Hope of the Phoenix is two or three weeks away from a finished  manuscript. The author's 400 pages establish a historical record about a team that saved post-Vietnam War Refugees (1975), then refugees in Cambodia and Laos, followed quickly by global refugee emergency rescues from 1979 onward. The years of the mid-1970s into the 1980s have often been referred to as "the refugee decade."

The pages show ideals, risks, and results of the leading nation in the world reawakened to its humanitarian spirit, joined under complementary policies, and a noble spirit sometimes forgotten and even avoided.

Refugee numbers exploded in an aftershock of global upheavals--the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, Central America and the Caribbean, South Asia, and the USSR--that forced civilians to flee across borders. The USSR, on the other hand, ignored advocate please around the world to release any Soviet Jews and other persecuted minorities that wanted to emigrate.   

"This story needs to be told before eyewitnesses are gone." That is the energy behind the Hope of the Phoenix being finished now, decades after events. It's history largely unrecorded about brave actors around the world in different places, positions of influence, and power.

Millennials and the as-yet-unnamed generations after them should also hear of their nation's duty, and theirs, to help refugees in whatever ways possible. They need a purpose beyond themselves. They deserve a well-told, inspiring first-hand true story of how a nation combined policy and action at a critical period of its history.

To Gen-Xers and Millennials, the Vietnam War and its aftermath is like ancient history unless their interest is awakened to millions of refugee sagas, globally, that affected public policies and still have value for how America will lead and respond to "what's next?" questions of how and when to rescue and restore lives torn and taken by armed conflicts. 

*The U.S. Refugee Program was renamed later as Population, Refugees, and Migration within State, serving refugees and others. In these days, the world watches the another expanding critical mass of desperate victims of conflict.    

Wednesday, May 6, 2015



Hope of the Phoenix
The Reawakening and Rise of America's Humanitarian Spirit 
from the Ashes of Vietnam

"The work of people in this Department has saved countless lives. Your dedication to the refugees of Indochina marks one of the shining moments of the Foreign Service." 

Secretary of State George Shultz spoke those words to State Department officers in a speech, the "Meaning of Vietnam." All gathered in and around State's front entrance hall on April 25, 1985, five days prior to the 10th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon. 

Jim met with George P. Shultz in California on Tuesday, April 28, 2015, in the Secretary's office at the Hoover Institution, on the Stanford University campus. Jim briefed Mr. Shultz about Hope of the Phoenix, and they reminisced about that crucial era - "the refugee decade."

The two men noted that their meeting about Jim's book coincided almost to the day with the 40th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon, April 30, 1975, when cries for help for thousands, then millions, of Southeast Asia refugees began. 

As Secretary of State for President Reagan, Mr.Shultz spoke up for refugee haven, aid, and assistance. He spoke before Congress on behalf of humanitarian immigration for Amerasian children. He participated in foreign policy negotiations with governments needing U.S. insistence on changes (e.g., the USSR and Soviet Jews and other religious minorities) as part of negotiations on other vital global interests.   

Refugee issues were an integral part of U.S. foreign policy decisions during three presidential administrations: Ford, Carter, and Reagan, each of whom recognized and acted upon humanitarian elements of foreign policy.      

Hope of the Phoenix: The Reawakening and Rise of America's Humanitarian Spirit from the Ashes of Vietnam, 1975-1986 brings to life a remarkable slice of U.S. history regarding refugees. The insider's view of the interim and then appointed director of the new Bureau for Refugee Programs, 1979-1986, is full of region-wide accounts.

From Southeast Asia, an array of global crises erupted: the Middle East,USSR (as mentioned), Africa, Eastern Europe, Central America, the Mediterranean, and South Asia. Their plight needed the organization and convincing outreach of the United States.

The State Department and its Refugee Program led the way with its in-house team, foreign embassy teams, other U.S. agencies at home and abroad, the U.S. Congress, the UN and its affected agencies, including the Red Cross, International Red Cross, UNHCR, World Food Program, and many others.

What highly recommends the book is its thorough research: recorded interviews of others on-the-scene, peer reviews from the same, and an array of news and other reports of the time.

Five Books (parts/sections) include chapters according to regions. The fifth and briefest of all the books is being written and is under peer review and comments.

All of this and more Jim and George P. Shultz, whom Jim has considered a mentor since 1970, experienced up close to strategic and tactical decisions and actions. 

Jim appreciated Mr. Shultz's recent encouragement for the book.   

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Hope of the Phoenix
The Reawakening and Rise oF America's Humanitarian Spirit 
from the Ashes of Vietnam

Presidents Carter and Reagan (photo credit: History.com)
Author Jim (James N., Jr.) Purcell remembers when President Reagan took the torch and heartily supported the new Bureau for Refugee Programs at the State Department.  George P. Shultz was President Reagan's Secretary of State after Alexander Haig.

In 1979, President Carter's State Department geared up to establish a new bureau for refugee programs to deal with the continuing and increasingly critical flow of refugees from Southeast Asia after the Fall of Saigon, April 30, 1975--40 years ago. 

Incoming in 1981, President Reagan gave full support to State's growing Bureau for Refugee Programs, today known as Bureau for Population, Refugees, and Migration.  

The author has considered Secretary Shultz to be a professional mentor since 1976, when President Nixon appointed Mr. Shultz to be director of the Bureau of the Budget, now known as the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the author, a young budget analyst, met him at the outset and told his own staff, "This time, we got a good one."  

In 1982, President Reagan appointed Mr. Shultz to the State Department, and he was the author's boss in the Refugee program, where the author served from 1979 to 1986.

April 28, 2015, in the finishing stages of writing Hope of the Phoenix, Jim Purcell is scheduled to visit at the Hoover Institution, not far from San Francisco, to meet with former Secretary of State George P. Shultz .

The meeting with "the boss" will set a cherished milestone for the author.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Book Progress Update April 2015

Hope of the Phoenix
The Reawakening and Rise of America's Humanitarian Spirit 
from the Ashes of Vietnam
James N. Purcell, Jr.
Genres: Memoir; Refugees; Public Policy; History (U.S.State Department refugee program, 1975-1986) 

UPDATE-April 2015 


Calendar -Jim is scheduled to meet with former U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz at the Hoover Institution, not far from San Francisco, CA, at the end of April 2015. This will be a milestone for the author for whom Secretary Shultz has been a professional mentor. In 1976, President Nixon appointed Mr. Shultz to be director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) where Jim was an analyst. Later, Secretary Shultz was Jim's boss when Jim served in the U.S. Refugee Program at State.

Travel under discussion- Jim's wife Jean is discussing with him her possible visit to the Truman Library in Independence, MO, while Jim is in California, end of April. Of special interest to them are archived papers of George Warren, whose unpublished manuscript is a resource noted in Hope of the Phoenix.  George Warren assisted at the Evian Conference, Evian-les-Bains, France, 1938, a disappointing yet important initiative of President Roosevelt to discuss with European leaders their rising refugee crisis, early World War II. (The conference failure led to better work at a London meeting the next month-covered in Hope of the Phoenix). Mr. Warren also assisted Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt's work to obtain approval for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Mr. Warren serrved in other refugee-related capacities, including the post-WWII Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration.

Peer Reviews

Incorporation of selected peer review input is 99 % finished. Reviewers' comments and questions have lent clarification and correction overall.    

Book Proposal

The proposal draft for Hope of the Phoenix has been agreed with a book proposal expert.

What is the time-line for completion of the book/manuscript?

Completion date amended: The author does not want to publish an estimated completion date yet.

Comments on this blog are welcome.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

From a Book's Base Camp

An Author's Assistant Reports
I have been here as the Book Alps have been climbed, and now in view is the top of the final, or almost-final, draft.

Some reviewer comments are yet to come in. Once received and accepted, those will be integrated. However, the author's view from the front is is that the journey has still a long way to go.

Like the ascent of writing, the descent record will include painstaking efforts for the full bibliography, correct and formatted end notes, and more fact-checking, including reviewing audio taped interviews, to name a few items.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Author Remembers Humanitarian Response during Carter Administration

Copyright (c) 2014
(Web version with links added. Based on published article using manuscript notes and reflections about President Carter for forthcoming book.)

From The Carter-Mondale Letter, Fall 2014

Administrator Reflects on U.S. Refugee Policy in the 1970s

By Jim Purcell

To set the stage for these reflections, I return to two separate eras: 
(1) my earlier career in President Ford’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the State Department’s Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs (CU) and 

(2) President Carter’s 1979 decision in favor of increased American resettlement of Indochina refugees. 

From my vantage point, both periods contributed to immense growth in American understanding and appreciation of the rest of the world. 

In President Ford’s Office of Management and Budget in 1974, I had been the International Affair’s examiner for the State Department’s educational and cultural programs, known as CU. As budget examiners are prone to do, I posed a number of far-out options for the OMB Director during an annual process we formally called “Director’s Review.”   

The President's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director at the time was Roy Ash. I had questioned the necessity of sizable federal expenditures for international educational and cultural exchange programs, such as the famous Fulbright Fellowships, rather than placing greater reliance on private sector fellowships and exchanges. 

Private academic exchanges dwarfed federally-funded programs then, as now.  To test my ideas, I spent most of six months hunting data on private academic exchanges, and I was loaded for bear during the review. Of course, I had also articulated the case for the prevailing scenario, continued Federal support sufficient to garner enhanced understanding of and support for U.S. foreign policy goals.

State’s program at that time operated under provisions of the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1962, authored by Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. The term “mutual” related to the need for foreigners to understand more about the U.S. and its policies, as well as for better U.S. understanding of the rest of the world.

After listening to my arguments, OMB Director Ash made a surprising decision that was later endorsed by the President: He opted for elimination of future Federal support for educational exchanges in favor of private funding.   

The decision hit the CU bureau and others who supported continued Federal support for academic exchanges like a torrent of Arctic blasts. I felt especially bad, since my analysis had been the likely instigator of this decision, although I had advocated for better balance between public and private exchanges and had not envisioned the either/or consequence.

CU’s Executive Director, Don Leidel, knew of my dismay and decided that I was, perhaps, the right person to undo this decision. His Assistant Secretary, John Richardson, agreed, and Don approached me about leaving OMB and coming to State/CU. I made the move during President Ford’s time in office. ...

"The decision hit the CU bureau and others who supported continued Federal support for academic exchanges like a torrent of Arctic blasts. I felt especially bad, since my analysis had been the likely instigator...."

I had been contemplating a move to the foreign policy side of the government for some time. 

Based on the advice of Professor Roscoe Martin of Syracuse University’s Maxwell Graduate School, I spent the first ten years of my career developing expertise in the key skills of budgeting, personnel, contracting, congressional relations, conflict resolution, and management. 

After several years as the senior career budget analyst in OMB’s International Division, I felt ready and prepared to leave the ivory tower and begin to apply these skills to modern-day international affairs programs management on the ground.  

During my first year in State/CU, we assembled our arguments against elimination of future federal support of international educational exchange programs.  Assistant Secretary Richardson was particularly taken with the assertion that whereas almost every foreigner knows or has heard much about the U.S., Americans in turn know little about the rest of the world.  We were isolated in our thinking and understanding. 
American Learning
If the U.S. wanted to play an increasingly important role in the emerging global community, we would have to substantially increase our world knowledge and outreach. Scholars, government and business leaders and global political leaders rallied around this hypothesis. John referred to our efforts as “American learning.”

We made a special presentation to OMB during the next year’s budget cycle. Director James Lynn conducted the annual Director’s Review for State that year.  After listening to the arguments, he not only reversed the previous year’s decision, he also substantially increased the budget for these academic exchange programs. The Ford Administration agreed that our global future depended in large part on better American learning and understanding of the rest of the world.

A few years down the road, President Jimmy Carter significantly increased Indochina refugee resettlement levels to the U.S. to 14,000 persons per month. This landmark decision, announced by Vice President Mondale at the Geneva Conference, brought the American public into the Indochina refugee program in a big and special way, resulting in quantum boosts to American learning and understanding of foreigners. 

Before long, almost every community, congregation, and parish in America was hard at work helping refugees assimilate and integrate into U.S. society. In most cases, U.S. citizens concerned themselves with the needs of foreigners for the very first time. Our horizons and our outlook began to expand and have continued to do so. This, I believe, was American learning at its best.

Jimmy Carter’s 1979 initiatives led to the saving of hundreds of thousands of lives over the ensuing years and the stabilization of an important region of the world. Even though these decisions were made for foreign policy and humanitarian reasons, the by-product, expanding American learning and understanding of the world beyond, was, in my view, equally beneficial.

"This, I believe, was American learning at its best."
Therefore, I will always recall the Carter years as a time in which we broadened our American leadership paradigm in global humanitarian matters and in the wider world beyond. Even though the political leaders that the Carter Administration assigned to the refugee program left much to be desired, his example guided people who stayed and kept their shoulders to the wheel, moving forward. I was proud to be among them.

Significant to me personally, I had landed in the State Department and would remain there for a while to see what was to come.  

Carter-Mondale Newsletter Editor note Jim Purcell headed the Refugee Bureau at the State Department during the Carter administration. 

Purcell, Jim. "Administrator Reflects on U.S. Refugee Policy in the 1970s." The Carter-Mondale Letter, Vol. 9, Issue 2. (Fall 2014): 6-7.  (The Carter-Mondale Letter is different from The Carter Center News.)