'The Rudest Man I Ever Met'Issue: Spring 2003
John Boykin, a writer and communications consultant in San Francisco, has written a clear, detailed and well-organized tribute to one of the Foreign Service's heroes, Philip Habib. Boykin's tale of how Habib dislodged PLO fighters from war-torn Beirut conveys the excitement of a novel, but without distorting what was a most portentous reality. The extraction of the PLO from Lebanon could have turned into a massacre of the PLO by the Israeli Defense Forces and the Phalange militia, and it could have provoked a wider conflict involving Syria. Instead, thanks to Habib's drive, clear vision and the support of President Reagan, the PLO was on its way to Tunis on September 1, 1982. A grateful republic recognized Habib's work: in a White House ceremony, President Reagan awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, making Habib the first career diplomat ever to receive the nation's highest civilian award.