Joseph J. Sisco

Joseph J. Sisco

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Joseph John Sisco was a diplomat who played a major role in then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger
Henry Kissinger
Heinz Alfred "Henry" Kissinger is a German-born American academic, political scientist, diplomat, and businessman. He is a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He served as National Security Advisor and later concurrently as Secretary of State in the administrations of Presidents Richard Nixon and...

's shuttle diplomacy
Shuttle diplomacy
In diplomacy and international relations, shuttle diplomacy is the action of an outside party in serving as an intermediary between principals in a dispute, without direct principal-to-principal contact...

 in the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 and whose career in the State Department
United States Department of State
The United States Department of State , is the United States federal executive department responsible for international relations of the United States, equivalent to the foreign ministries of other countries...

 spanned five presidential administrations and numerous foreign-policy crises.

Early life


A Chicago native, Dr. Sisco was the son of Italian immigrants. His mother died when he was 9, and his father, a tailor, raised the five Sisco children in modest circumstances. He graduated from high school in 1937, briefly attended junior college and then transferred to Knox College
Knox College, Illinois
Knox College is a four-year coeducational private liberal arts college located in Galesburg, Illinois. Knox is classified as a more selective institution by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and is ranked 75th among liberal arts colleges by the 2011 edition of America's Best...

 in Galesburg, Illinois
Galesburg, Illinois
Galesburg is a city in Knox County, Illinois, in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 32,195. It is the county seat of Knox County....

. He graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1941. He worked for a short time as a high school teacher and then joined the Army, where he served as a first lieutenant with the 41st Infantry Division in the Pacific. He was discharged in 1945. At the University of Chicago
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...

, he received a master's degree in 1947 and a doctorate in 1950, specializing in Soviet affairs. He became a Central Intelligence Agency
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

 officer in 1950 and joined the State Department
United States Department of State
The United States Department of State , is the United States federal executive department responsible for international relations of the United States, equivalent to the foreign ministries of other countries...

 the next year.

Diplomatic Career


As a State Department negotiator, Dr. Sisco was involved in diplomatic hot spots that included Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

's invasion of Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

 in 1970, the India-Pakistan war in 1971
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
The Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 was a military conflict between India and Pakistan. Indian, Bangladeshi and international sources consider the beginning of the war to be Operation Chengiz Khan, Pakistan's December 3, 1971 pre-emptive strike on 11 Indian airbases...

, and Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 and Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

's peace negotiations in 1974.

From 1951 to 1965, he served as a foreign affairs officer, specializing in issues involving the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 and other international organizations. In 1965, Secretary of State Dean Rusk
Dean Rusk
David Dean Rusk was the United States Secretary of State from 1961 to 1969 under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Rusk is the second-longest serving U.S...

 appointed Dr. Sisco assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs.

His deep involvement in Middle East diplomacy began at about the time Arthur J. Goldberg succeeded Adlai Stevenson as ambassador to the United Nations. Because Rusk was devoting much of his time to Vietnam, Goldberg was, in essence, in charge of U.S. policy in the Middle East during and after the Six-Day War
Six-Day War
The Six-Day War , also known as the June War, 1967 Arab-Israeli War, or Third Arab-Israeli War, was fought between June 5 and 10, 1967, by Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt , Jordan, and Syria...

 in June 1967. Dr. Sisco worked closely with Goldberg until the U.N. ambassador left government service in the spring of 1968. Dr. Sisco became the chief U.S. mediator in the Middle East.

On January 30, 1969, President Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon
Richard Milhous Nixon was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. The only president to resign the office, Nixon had previously served as a US representative and senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961 under...

 appointed him assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs. Later that year, his policy paper on the Middle East became the basis for the president's Middle East policy.
Dr. Sisco's strategy involved containing the Soviet Union's growing influence in the Middle East, convincing the Arab states that the Nixon administration was being evenhanded and coaxing Israel to withdraw from occupied Arab territory. Although the approach did not work as planned, it eventually led to a fragile cease-fire along the Suez Canal
Suez Canal
The Suez Canal , also known by the nickname "The Highway to India", is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation...

, beginning on August 7, 1970, with Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

, Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 and Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 agreeing to stop shooting.

In July 1974, as Kissinger's chief deputy, Undersecretary of state for political affairs, he was dispatched to seek a solution to the Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

 crisis that erupted after a Greek-inspired coup deposing the country's president, Archbishop Makarios, triggered a Turkish invasion five days later. Shuttling between Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

 and Ankara
Ankara
Ankara is the capital of Turkey and the country's second largest city after Istanbul. The city has a mean elevation of , and as of 2010 the metropolitan area in the entire Ankara Province had a population of 4.4 million....

, he helped tamp down war rumblings between the two countries.

In 1976, Dr. Sisco left government service and became president of American University
American University
American University is a private, Methodist, liberal arts, and research university in Washington, D.C. The university was chartered by an Act of Congress on December 5, 1892 as "The American University", which was approved by President Benjamin Harrison on February 24, 1893...

. During his time there, he worked to elevate undergraduate admission standards and oversaw the construction of a long-delayed library and athletics arena, but it was not a particularly happy phase of his professional life. Trustees and faculty members questioned the amount of time he spent on AU affairs, as well as his lucrative speaking fees and board memberships. He resigned in 1980, saying he was "absolutely fed up with fundraising."

In June of 1980, he joined CNN
CNN
Cable News Network is a U.S. cable news channel founded in 1980 by Ted Turner. Upon its launch, CNN was the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage, and the first all-news television channel in the United States...

 as a columnist, appearing occasionally on air as an expert on Middle Eastern and Asian affairs.

In 1981, he launched what he called his "third career," becoming a partner of Sisco Associates, an international management and consulting firm that his wife, Jean Head Sisco, founded two years earlier. Dr. Sisco specialized in political and economic risk analysis for U.S. and foreign companies. He also wrote op-ed pieces and journal articles, made TV appearances and lectured. He continued to speak out on foreign policy issues until a few weeks before his death.

Dr. Sisco's wife, whom he married in 1946 while they were students at the University of Chicago, died in 1990.

Service Chronology

Joseph J. Sisco's Diplomatic Chronology
Position Host country or organization Year
US Foreign Service  1951 to 1965
US Foreign Service  U.S.A., Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs 1965 to 1969
US Foreign Service  U.S.A., Assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asian Affairs 1969 to 1974
US Foreign Service  U.S.A., Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs 1974 to 1976

External links