In Memoriam

Ambassador Howard B Schaffer

22 Nov, 2017    ·   5396

Amb (Retd) Salman Haidar writes on Amb Howard Schaffer's life and legacy

The passing of Howard Schaffer will be deeply regretted by his many friends and associates. He was a top-flight diplomat of the US State Department who spent many years serving his country and rose high in the diplomatic service. Quite early in his career he chose to specialise in the affairs of South Asia which is where he spent the greater part of his career, serving in various capacities in US embassies in South Asia and also on the South Asian desk of the State Department. He rose eventually to the high position of his country’s ambassador in Bangladesh.

There was a good deal more to Howie Schaffer’s career than the official positions and honours that he gained. His intellectual interests and literary skill set him apart from the more usual sort of diplomat and he was able to find time in the midst of a demanding professional career to write two books about the lives of his senior contemporaries, Ambassadors Chester Bowles and Ellsworth Bunker, both towering diplomatic figures in their time. These books are not just narratives of the doings of the individuals concerned but penetrating inquiries into the nature and limits of diplomacy in the modern era. They have lasting value and are an important part of Howie Schaffer’s legacy, and they help explain why he remained so much in demand after he retired from diplomatic service,w hen he was inducted as a much admired professor in Washington’s Georgetown University. 

When we recall Howie (as he was widely known) we remember also his wife Teresita Schaffer, equally skilled as a diplomat and equally renowned as a South Asia specialist in her country’s foreign service. These two perfectly complemented each other as area specialists and as skilled envoys of their country.

India had a special place in Howie Schaffer’s career. He had served here, visited frequently, and had numerous Indian friends who waited for his annual visits to New Delhi. These visits kept the connection fresh as did the regular blog ‘South Asia Hand’ that the Schaffers jointly produced, which was always insightful and stimulating.

Howie Schaffer will be warmly remembered for his many skills and achievements, and as a valued friend and gracious human being.