Memoirist tells inside story of three decades of U.S. foreign policy

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Victor Fic is a veteran journalist on East Asia now living in Toronto.

American William Stearman shot raccoons as a cowboy, fought imperial Japan, outfoxed the KGB in Vienna, predicted the rise of the Berlin Wall, warned Henry Kissinger against unwise concessions to Hanoi - and lived in a haunted Washington house. He recalls the highlights of his storied career as a US foreign service officer and national security council member in this exclusive interview with Asia Times Online contributor Victor Fic based on his recent memoir, An American Adventure: From Early Years Through Three Wars to the White House.

Stearman's academic experience includes part-time service as professor of international relations, faculty of law, University of Saigon, Vietnam (1965-1967) and adjunct professor of international affairs at Georgetown University, Washington, DC (1977-1993). He became a Foreign Service officer after serving in the navy during World War II and was stationed in Austria, Germany and Vietnam. Stearman joined the National Security Council Staff in February 1981 after serving as a member of governor Ronald Reagan's foreign policy advisory team.

Victor Fic: Why do you assert that your dad "quite rightly" is in the aviation hall of fame?

William Stearman: He designed and guided production of the U.S.'s first production-line civilian aircraft, the Swallow. He founded the Stearman Aircraft Company that became Boeing Wichita and there designed, among other planes, the prototype of the primary trainer that most U.S. Army Air Force, U.S. Navy and Royal Navy pilots learned to fly in during World War II. Hundreds still fly today. He was the first president of Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, now Lockheed Martin, one of the world's largest defense contractors, and basically designed, with considerable input from others, the Electra 10 airliner...

VF: What is your inside account of the Kennedy-Khrushchev summit?

WS: The June 1961 Vienna summit meeting between President Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was a disaster. Kennedy made a weak and indecisive impression on Khrushchev who was acting the bully. I was privy to the meetings in that I was with our delegation in Vienna. When I started to teach students of international relations at Georgetown University in 1977, I characterized it as "Little Boy Blue meets [gangster] Al Capone." I am convinced that Khrushchev's assessment of Kennedy led him to install missiles in Cuba in 1962, thus bringing us to the brink of World War III. The lesson is summit meetings with hostile leaders can be dangerous or counter productive. But during the Cuban crisis, JFK showed considerable skill in resolving it peacefully....

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