Last time that an Eph was mentioned in a New York Times correction? Today! (Thanks to reader David H.T. Kane ’58)

An editorial on Sunday about Macedonia’s bid to join NATO misspelled the name of the United Nations mediator trying to resolve a dispute with Greece over Macedonia’s name. It is Matthew Nimetz, not Nimitz.

Nimetz is class of 1960 and a former trustee (jpg). The original editorial noted:

One thing about the Balkans, they have the most esoteric crises. NATO is holding its summit meeting next week, and wants to bring in three Balkan states — Albania, Croatia and Macedonia. But Greece, a NATO member since 1952, is threatening to veto Macedonia’s membership over its name.

The name “Macedonia,” is shared by the former Yugoslav republic and northern Greece. Viewed from outside, this seems hardly serious. But in the crowded Balkans, such spats invariably draw on centuries of carefully nurtured slights and myths — in this dispute, both sides have claimed Alexander the Great, the greatest of history’s Macedonians, dead for 2,331 years — and can quickly flare into conflicts.

From the moment Macedonia declared independence in 1991, the Greeks vehemently objected to the new state’s use of a name and symbols they regard as theirs. As a result, the United Nations provisionally designated the country as “the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,” or Fyrom. Athens has since normalized relations and many countries, including the United States, have abandoned the clumsy Fyrom in favor of Republic of Macedonia, which is what Macedonia calls itself.

A mediator for the United Nations, Matthew Nimetz, has proposed a bunch of what strike us as totally acceptable compromises, most recently Republic of Macedonia (Skopje).

With luck, this will not lead to endless dispute in the EphBlog comments between the Macedoniaphiles and Macedoniaphobes. [That means you, David Broadband!] Nimetz has been working on this controversy for more than a decade. Impressive patience!

Think that the life of a high level mediator is all fancy parties and high-level dialog? Consider some of the vitriol that Nimetz needs to deal with:

You recently issued a press release saying that you would continue as negotiator, after a number of years, in the Macedonian-Greek dispute. I would like to make the case that you should quit the role of negotiator, and issue a press release denouncing the US, EU and the UN for ignoring the plight of ethnic Macedonians in Greece in this negotiating process between Macedonian and Greece. Also, please write your memoirs on how this issue inflamed the Balkan wars in the 1990’s since no one in the Balkans can trust the US, EU or the UN to come to defend their human rights.

On a personal level you should accept responsibility for for participating in a process, which after all is akin to cultural genocide, because you, Matthew Nimetz, have studiously avoided any discussion of the plight of ethnic Macedonians in Greece, even though the US State Department report on Human Rights documented abuses. 1995 2006. It may be because of how your mandate was structured, but you could have responded to the Macedonian media by saying that Greece was wrong to suppress its Macedonian minority.

It is important to record your role, the role of the Greek Issues Caucus, the role of the US State Department, and the role of the UN in siding with the Greek government in it’s demand that Macedonians change the name of their country, The Republic of Macedonia, their religion, the Macedonian Orthodox Church, and their language, Macedonian and finally their national anthem Denes Nad Makedonija -Today Above Macedonia. Your memoir can help the US reform their foreign policy process to really support democracy and human rights around the world.

Thank you and God bless.

All right then! Moving on, here is a New York Times op-ed from Nimetz. Can you guess the date?


International law, never a dominating force in world affairs, has taken a battering in recent years. Many Americans seem indifferent to this trend and even scornful of the rule of law. In this, they are courting disaster. They do not see that it is in the interest of the United States, which stands to lose the most in a state of world anarchy, to take the lead in upholding international law and and the institutions than can protect it.

Again and again, token observance of the rule of law now gives way to cynical disregard, which in turn gives way to overt violation. The Soviet Union regularly violates human rights covenants and the Helsinki Final Act and has now added the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan to its suppression self-government in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland. Airplane hijackings,assassinations and other acts of terrorism are increasing throughout the world without concerted international reaction. Iran and Iraq openly flout the rule of law – Iran by its torture and genocidal policies toward adherents of the Bahai faith, Iraq by its use of chemical warfare against Iran.

Nor does the United States have a much better record. The Reagan Administration has at best ignored and often transgressed basic rules of international conduct. Consider, for example, the questionable embargo occasioned by the European-Soviet natural-gas pipeline, the invasion of Grenada, the active support of armed warfare to destabilize Nicaragua, the mining of Nicaraguan harbors and most recently the withdrawal of Central American disputes from the jurisdiction of the World Court.

What are we to make of this alarming trend? Many people simply dismiss international law: It has never been strictly observed, and mechanisms for enforcement are at best weak and imperfect. Moreover, this argument goes, the Soviet Union and radical third world countries are routinely cavalier about international rules of conduct. But these observations miss the important point: A world composed of 160-odd fractious nations, if it is to grope forward to a more civilized international regime, needs to strengthen the fragile strands of international law, not tear them down. The position of the United States is not defined solely by its pre-eminent power but also by its leadership in establishing relations with allies, trading partners and even with adversaries. These ties are founded on a concept of a world order that we took the lead in espousing, based on observance of rules – rules for dealing with security issues, economic arrangements, human rights, the world environment, telecommunications and so on – and the establishment of institutions to uphold them. When the United States petulantly refuses to play by the rules it took the lead in establishing, we lose credibility with friendly governments and world opinion. We also make it more difficult to establish ground rules for relations with the third world and the Soviet Union. For a country that frequently urges others to use the World Court, and went to the Court itself over the Iran hostages, to avoid Court jurisdiction in the case of Central America is a diplomatic and propaganda embarrassment. It also weakens a frail institution that it is in our long-term interest to reinforce. Of course, in the face of the Soviet Union’s open cynicism toward international law, the United States must reserve its freedom of action, particularly where our vital interests are at stake. But the United States cannot emulate the Soviet Union in international affairs. To do so is to expose ourselves to embarrassment, domestic discord and international repudiation.

The fact is we have many advantages over our adversary – our democratic system, our political traditions, the ties with our allies, our worldwide economic links and our aspirations for a world of peaceful, humane and free societies. These very strengths impose upon us a responsibility that the Russians do not fully share – namely, to foster a world order based on legal norms and responsible multilateral institutions.

The exercise of world leadership requires us to take international law seriously – and this in turn requires an intellectual integrity and self-discipline among our leaders that has been lacking in the last few years. It also requires American public opinion, reflected through the Congress and through private organizations, including the organized bar, to focus greater attention on violations of international law wherever they occur.

When America accepts this responsiblity, we enhance our leadership in the world community. To try to match the Russians in deviousness or the Libyans in irresponsibility or the Iranians in brutality is not only wrong but impossible for a country with our political culture, our allies and our long-term interests.

Matthew Nimetz, a lawyer, is a former counselor of the State Department and Under Secretary of State.

April 19, 1984. Nimetz has an impressive resume.

Matt Nimetz is a managing director of General Atlantic LLC, a leading private investment firm focusing globally on the information technology/communications sector. Prior to that, Mr. Nimetz was a partner (and former chair) of the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in New York City. He has also served as Under Secretary of State for Security Assistance, Science and Technology and as Counselor of the Department of State. Mr. Nimetz serves as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations; a director of The Nature Conservancy of New York, member and former chair of the Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe, chair of the Advisory Committee of Central European University and trustee of Committee for Economic Development.

See Wikipedia for more detail.

My point? There are dozens of alums with amazing life experiences who would make for much better commencement speakers than the rubber-chickencircuit crowd that the College usually chooses from. Why not Nimetz for Commencement Speaker in 2010, just a week before his 50th reunion?

Print  •  Email