M. Paul Claussen, history's friend: office of the historian suffers a big loss.
Dr. Claussen was born in the District of Columbia and raised in Northern Virginia. He studied Russian history and language at George Washington University, where he wrote a doctoral dissertation on Soviet-American relations and the Russian famine. He received his doctorate in history in 1976.
He joined the Department of State Historical Office in 1972 as a member of the division that prepared the official documentary series, Foreign Relations of the United States. Working closely with former Historical Office Director William Franklin, Dr. Claussen did the final editorial work on the series' 1948 volume on U.S. diplomacy and the birth of Israel. He also contributed to the expansion of the scope of foreign relations coverage by locating a collection of National Intelligence Estimates in the Department's files and advocating their inclusion in the series.
Beginning in 1976, Dr. Claussen supervised historians organized along geographic lines and assigned to simultaneously prepare the Foreign Relations series and respond to Department and public requests for historical information. His responsibilities covered primarily the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.
By 1980, Dr. Claussen had adopted an activist approach to the Office of the Historian's internal research program, reaching out to Department officers to better understand their needs for historical research. He then devised diverse and imaginative means of meeting those needs. He first sought funding for historical research from outside the Department in the mid-1980s, when he convinced the Defense Department to fund the publication of an update of Documents on Germany, a collection of public and previously classified documents of importance to the military and diplomatic authorities in Berlin.
He worked closely with the leadership of the Bureau of Public Affairs over the years, providing historical data to amplify the Bureau's message to the public. He always considered history to be supportive of policy and had the courage to take a position on sensitive political issues, as he did in 1985 when he and his staff politely supplied the White House with factual reasons indicating why it would not be a good idea for the President to visit Bitburg.
During these years, budget constraints and lack of bureaucratic support caused the Office's policy-supportive research program to be more reactive than proactive. Dr. Claussen's efforts to reinstate a dynamic historical research program responsive to the Department's needs came to fruition in the 21st century with the infusion of new human resources to the office. He understood how current and past bureaucracies operated and integrated that knowledge into his work.
Dr. Claussen's interest in the Department's history and the role of historical precedent in foreign policy developed into an expertise that he made readily available to those both inside and outside the Department. He taught about Department of State history at the Foreign Service Institute, represented the Department on interagency groups dealing with major historical questions, appeared on the Discovery Channel to speak about the Great Seal and, most recently, sought new ways to spread the historical word on the role of U.S. foreign policy through the Internet.
The Department of State has lost a unique asset. He shall be sorely missed.