To the Editor:
Your tribute to Ambassador Hume Horan was moving and richly deserved. He was a man of extraordinary decency, integrity, and ability.
The only sentence in the piece with which I'd quibble is the one that reads, "Horan's clash with State Department Arabists ended in his recall from Saudi Arabia." I had the privilege of serving under Ambassador Horan in Saudi Arabia at the time in question and can attest that there was no clash with State Department Arabists. Arabists at the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh at the time were shocked and angered at the treatment of Ambassador Horan, and by report, so were Arabists at other U.S. embassies and in the Department of State. The tale that reached us was that, against the advice of the Near East Affairs bureau, Secretary of State George Shultz determined that there would be no diplomatic sanction for the Saudis' undiplomatic behavior and that Ambassador Horan would be promptly replaced by Ambassador Walter Cutler, a good and decent man, but no Arabist.
The Saudi demand for Horan's removal and the subsequent shabby treatment of Ambassador Horan, we were given to understand, was caused by a failure of communication between National Security Council staff and the Department of State: Ambassador Horan carried out a harsh demarche to King Fahd, as instructed by the department. National Security Council staff, however, had reportedly decided not to make such a demarche and had communicated this to the Saudis, but not to the department or to Ambassador Horan.
Ambassador Horan required no interpreter but was able to carry out his instructions promptly, in his elegant Arabic. Thus the king was able to believe, or to affect to believe, that Ambassador Horan was speaking for himself and not for the U. S. government and demanded his removal.
Ambassador Horan clashed with no one but was a model of competence, professionalism, courtesy, self-discipline, and integrity through the entire mess, as I understand him to have been throughout his entire professional life.
Retired foreign service officer
Political Section, U.S. Embassy, Riyadh