Interviewer: Michael Kline
Place of Interview: Concord Free Public Library
Also Present:Carrie Nobel Kline and Mrs. Verona Wheeler.
Transcriptionist: Nancy McKinney
Michael Kline: Okay, if you would please, say, "My name is" and introduce yourself.
Joseph Wheeler: My name is Joseph Wheeler, Concord, Massachusetts.
MK: Okay. And we never ask people their ages but maybe you could tell us your date of birth so we could put this in some sort of historical perspective.
JW: I was born on Thoreau Farm in Concord in 1926.
MK: The date?
JW: November 21.
MK: November 21, 1926. Okay. Now, bearing in mind that we want to hear stories about your early life in Concord that gave shape to what you became later, bearing that mind, why don't you tell us about your people, and where you were raised, and how you grew up, and how you began to see the world?
JW: Well, my father was a dairy farmer on Virginia Road. And there were five boys in the family. We--. My mother was a person who became very much interested in local history. My eldest brother who was eight years older was a--. Became a Quaker in college, and he asked if I would be interested in going to a Quaker seminar after my freshman year in high school. And, I went, on a $20 scholarship that he provided, and there I got quite interested in world affairs. Of course they were talking about the period of World War II, and they were all interested in international affairs in those days. Of course I was interested in solving the problems of the world. And anyway, there I met Harris Wofford, who later became a U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, and a college president, and did other things in the Federal government. But, at that time he was interested in Union Now with Britain or Federal Union, the union of democracies. And--.
MK: Union Now?
JW: Union Now it was called. It was a book by Clarence Streit. Well, I came back and formed a Concord chapter of student federalists. We met in a storefront on the Milldam which was vacant because of the War. And it was to me looking back it seems amazing that a kid at that age would have been involved in something like that.
MK: So what age were you, and what shape did it all take?
JW: Well, I was between my freshman and sophomore years when this--. In high school. I went to Concord High School. And, anyway, I was involved in this kind of activity in college also. I went to Bowdoin College.
MK: Well tell me more about this organization, this initial organization. The storefront, tell me all about that.
JW: Well, Clarence Streit believed that there should be a union between democracies, and that involved at that time Britain and France and the United States and a few other countries, that this would be a way of dealing with international problems. The international system had broken down, else we wouldn't have had the War, would we? So other people extended that, this should be on a worldwide basis. This was before we recognized Russia, the Soviet Union, as an enemy, but rather saw them as an ally against Hitler. And, I think all of us became somewhat impractical as things went on, with the Cold War developing and so forth. But on the other hand, with the United Nations, they got established during this period. And although it was something less than we had been talking about in terms of world federation, it was an improvement on the League of Nations which had broken down with the failed, failure to stop the Italians from going into Ethiopia back in 1935. So anyway, after college--.
MK: I'm interested in more detail on this early organization.
JW: The early organization?
MK: We'll get to college. But tell me--. The storefront--.
JW: Students--. Students in high schools and then in colleges around the country gathered together to form talking groups about world federation. And in the process we learned what federation is. We were reminded of our own system and what its unique features were, and it was--. Among other things it was very educational, I think for a very young person to be getting into this sort of subject matter earlier than he otherwise would have.
So that the organization developed. It went beyond Clarence Streit and became an organization with chapters at the, mostly at the adult level, but also at the student level. And there was formed something called World Student Federalists. In the course of the following years, Student Federalists put on seminars at private schools in various parts of the country, and I was involved in organizing some of those. I remember taking a trip out to California. We had one of these at Pomona College. And--. And then after college, we graduated to the world scene. And there was World Federalists, a sort of federation of World Federalists organizations headed by a man named Lord Boyd Orr, who had been a head of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
MK: Lord Boyd Orr — O R R?
JW: O R R. And he was a wonderful man, a Brit, of course, from Scotland. And he--. Anyway we had a student--. World Student Federalist. It happened that after college I had an opportunity to go to Geneva for a year to study at the Graduate Institute of International Studies there. And because I was there, and there wasn't anybody else around, they made me president of this amorphous organization. And so it was--. It was a lot of fun for me. It gave me an opportunity to travel more than I would have in Europe and to meet people that I wouldn't have otherwise met. I found it a very exciting thing, even though the Federalists, which continue to this day, have more modest objectives than they did in those days when we were trying to solve all the problems of the world with a very simple solution.
MK: What sorts of solutions, and what did you--? What were the talking points of this movement?
JW: Well, the talking points were that there had to be better ways of solving problems among peoples. And the way to do this was, would be to emulate the American system in which the people in effect chose to delegate authority to, at various levels, at the state level and at the Federal level, in the same way that we would look for that to happen at the world level, and try to bring law to bear on the individuals, rather than attempt to solve problems by bringing force on nations as a whole. And, of course, today we have attempts to do this in, as--. Even as we speak, there is a trial going on of the former Liberian leader in The Hague, a World Court. And this is one of those incremental processes, beginning the process of applying law to individuals at the international level.
MK: And you were right in the, at the cutting edge of this?
JW: I was. I was at the cutting edge. It was very exciting. Now--. So I went to college--. I went to this Graduate Institute in Geneva. And then I went to the Littower School, which is now the Kennedy School for two years in Cambridge. And then--.
MK: What was it called, the Littower?
JW: The Littower School of Public Administration.
MK: Named for?
JW: At the Harvard, Harvard Graduate School of Public Administration I think it was called.
MK: And who was it named for?
JW: Oh, Mr. Littower I suppose was a major donor to the formation of this school. But, and it was succeeded by the Kennedy School now at Harvard. It's training people not only for public service but also for service for non-governmental organizations and plays, I think, a very important educational role. But, of course, similar roles are being played by many other institutions in the country and in the world today.
Anyway, that was back in 1950, '51, '52. Then I went to work--. I took a civil service exam. And in those days, believe or not, in the civil service there were quotas by state. And very few from Massachusetts--. Because we had so many educational institutions, it was very hard to get into the civil service, because I guess there was a quota on how many people from Massachusetts could be hired. But the civil service figured out a way around that. They devised an exam and then hired everybody who passed the exam, so that they avoided the problem of having to dole the jobs out by state.
So anyway, I, as you can see, was interested in international affairs.And at that time Harry Truman had announced the Point Four Program. It was the fourth point in his inaugural address, which was to help people in developing countries. And I think that he had a very simple view of life. He said, "You know those good farmers of Missouri, and of the, and in the United States, can teach people how to grow more food. And it will be a very positive thing." There was a big emphasis on education and technical training. So I got a job in the Education and Technical Training Unit of the Technical Cooperation Administration of the Department of State. And that eventually morphed into what today we know of as the Agency for International Development. Well, of course, in addition to the Point Four Program, we had in those days, the Marshall Plan. And I found myself getting in on the tail end of the Marshall Plan, working on bringing groups over--. They called them productivity teams to--. You know a group of shoemakers or a group of textile workers, or what have you, to come to the United States and see how we did it.
MK: This was part of the Marshall Plan?
JW: Yes, it was a small part of the Marshall Plan. The Marshall Plan was mostly about transfers of money to permit the Europeans to get back on their feet.
MK: So you were coming at the tail end of the Marshall Plan.
JW: Yeah, because that was a very successful program in which we developed--. We, the people--. Europe and the United States and associated countries developed something we called the Organization for European Economic Cooperation. And, Averill Harriman who ran the program from our point of view, said, "I want to deal with just one organization. You Europeans can just kind of manage the program yourselves." They developed something akin to, on a European scale, to the International Monetary Fund. And we created the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the IBRD, and now called the World Bank.
It was the beginning of a process. It didn't result in world federation, but it has gone a long way toward the development of multi-national institutions in Europe and European Union. People can now move freely across borders without passports in Europe. And--. So it's--. A lot of the objectives of the idealists of 1945 have been achieved at least at that level. And also the development of other international organizations I think has been a very positive move.
So, anyway, then I got involved in the Italy desk, where we, and the Greece desk, and the Turkey desk. And we were keeping track of the balance of payments almost on a daily basis.
MK: Balance of payments of?
JW: Of the various countries that we were helping in Europe, because it was very important that we keep those countries from going bankrupt. And it was--. I am amazed, thinking back, at what a great success the Marshall Plan was. And it brought the recovery of Europe, and it also developed, of course, the NATO and the coordinated process which took care of our defenses during the Cold War.
MK: And how were you keeping track of these various balance sheets? How did that go? That sounds like a lot to--.
JW: We got reporting from the countries, and the reporting from the countries was vetted in Paris which was where the OEEC was located. And then, we, of course, gave our own critical review of these things, and we matched them up with other things that were happening. I remember one time the Greece balance of payments improved a great deal because there was a very cloudy summer in France, and the French needed grapes with more sugar to make their wine. And the Greek balance of payments went zooming up. And we were following this kind of thing in great detail. It was fun. So I was Greece desk officer and Turkey desk officer. And then, long about that time, we had an election in which Jack Kennedy was elected. And--.
MK: Could we--? Before we get to Kennedy's election, you were talking about the early ‘50s and your development in this. Were you and your associates frustrated with developments in Korea at that time? How did that all play out?
JW: Well, that wasn't something I was working on. In addition to--. After Italy and Greece and Turkey, I also worked on the India Technical Assistance Program. And--.
MK: But, here we were sliding into a larger and larger, what, a police action they called it then, a larger conflict.
JW: Yeah. But that was a political military kind of thing rather than--. It's true that AID got involved in Korea, but I was just never involved in it.
JW: I'm going to get to the Peace Corps.
MK: Now we're getting to the election of--.
JW: Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was elected, and one of his things that he supported was the idea of establishing a Peace Corps. Sargent Shriver was made head of the Peace Corps, and who did he hire as one of his important staff members but Harris Wofford, the same Harris Wofford that I had met at this Quaker seminar when I was a--. After my freshman year in high school. And Harris wondered if I might be interested in joining the staff of the Peace Corps. And, so I did, and I quit AID and went over to the Peace Corps. I worked on Near East and South Asia. And during that time there was a need for an acting Peace Corps representative in India for several months. So I went out there, and it was at the time that Ambassador Galbraith was Ambassador there. And, that meant visiting the Peace--. The first volunteers that had arrived there and developing programs for later groups of volunteers. It was a very exciting time for me.
In the Peace Corps we--. We were inventing the Peace Corps as we went along, you know these policy issues that seem so trivial today. But you know--. Is it all right for the men to grow beards? Is it all right for Peace Corps volunteers to marry one another, or to marry a person from the country during their term of service? And we had to answer all of it. Should a volunteer have a refrigerator, or in order to be living at the level of the people that they were working with, should they forego the refrigerator? There were all kinds of issues about standards of living for the volunteers that we had to deal with. One thing I learned from Sargent Shriver--. Of course he had a special relationship in the government being the brother-in-law of the president, but I learned that you can do things that I didn't realize you could do, like you can fire people. [laughs] You can bring discipline to the process, and you can bring energy and ideas into the process to an extent that I had not realized would be possible. And I felt that this stood me in good stead in my future career.
One of the rules of the Peace Corps was you weren't supposed to stay too long. And after two years I was invited back to AID to run the Greece, Turkey, Iran, Cyprus and Central Treaty Organization Office. So this was a sort of step up in the hierarchy, and I had all these desk officers working for me. And that was an interesting period in which I was doing some negotiations on--. For example, an important example was negotiation on the financing of the Keban dam, a dam on the Euphrates in the, in Turkey, where we were very anxious that the Europeans make an appropriate contribution, that we had to insist that they provide their assistance on the same consensual basis that we were willing to provide our assistance, so that we would all be on a level playing field in the competition for contracts. That was--. It made me aware of some of the problems you get into in international development.
MK: Such as?
JW: Well, the need to have a certain amount of harmonization of the rules of international development among the donor community. Well, after a couple of years at that, I was asked to become the mission director in Jordan. Now--.
MK: What year are we talking about by this time?
JW: We're talking about 1965, '65 to '67. And Jordan was an interesting country. Back in--. Ten years earlier the British decided that they could no longer take the lead in being supportive of Jordan for financial reasons, and they asked the United States to take over that role, which we did. That meant we were making cash payments once a month to support their budget, and we were providing a lot of technical assistance. It happens that in Jordan, for some reason or other, contrary to what we were doing in the rest of the world, we concentrated a great deal on the development of their education system. And--. We--. Of course, we built schools, and we trained teachers, and we helped them develop textbooks, and all of the things that you have to do if you're going to have a good education system. And--. That means that Jordan today is, among Arab countries, is one of the most literate and has provided some of the best workers to the Gulf and so forth. And as--. And with the problems in Lebanon has also become something of a financial center.
Jordan was special because the Palestinians played a very important role. And Jordan at that time administered the West Bank. So my purview included the West Bank, including that part of Jerusalem which was run by the Jordanians. And our challenge was to consider, in this country which had very few resources other than human resources, sort of things that we could do which would make it possible for them to be a prosperous country. And--. And we came up with tourism as an important element and this is another exception to policy in Washington. We always looked down on Washington and its views. In Washington they said, "Tourism is bad. [emphasizes loudly] That's too trivial. Economic development is production." Well, the thing is that they had very little to produce in Jordan. So we persuaded the powers that be in Washington that it would be all right to bring the National Park Service out to Jordan to develop parks. Jordan has some of the great antiquities, Jerash and so forth. And so we--. Of course at that time they had the Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, and they had Jerusalem, the Old City of Jerusalem. So we developed this program and it was going along very nicely. And I recall I gave--. I had as a claim to fame flying below sea level because I took Secretary Udall, Secretary of the Interior Udall over to Qumran in a helicopter. And of course, Qumran is 1200 feet below sea level, and that was sort of an interesting experience. We wondered what would happen to the altimeters in the planes when they got below sea level.
But-- We worked very hard with farmers in the Jordan River valley and we also were interested in replicating something which the Israelis had developed on their side of the Dead Sea which was a potash. The Dead Sea is full of potash, potassium . . . , potassium chloride and that is an important element in fertilizer so--. There was a personal coincidence here, because I had a great uncle named Dale who had participated in the 1840s in an expedition of the Navy to study the origins of the River Jordan and the Dead Sea. And they had gone over there, and they had taken soundings all over the Dead Sea. And when the feasibility study for the plant for potassium came forward there was a map that my great uncle had devised as one of the touchstones in the history of the Dead Sea.
But, anyway, what happened--.
MK: Was there any resistance in Jordan to the ideas that higher education--?
JW: Oh, no, they liked it.
MK: They liked it. Who were you working with, and I don't mean necessarily names, but what sorts of leadership were you working with then in Jordan? Was it a tribal situation? Was it--?
JW: Well, Jordan has--. A large minority ran Jordan, what we called the Desert Arabs and the majority being Palestinians at that time. Palestinians culturally seem have a predilection toward education, and it's very important in their culture. So that--. And something like education was an area in the government that the Jordanians were quite happy to have the Palestinians running. So I think that they were very anxious to have this program and it--. And because they were anxious to have it, it worked out very well.
Now what happened, of course, is that all of a sudden there was the 1967 War. And I found myself dealing with a couple hundred thousand refugees. Of course, the Government of Jordan was primarily dealing with these refugees, but we gathered together all of these--. There was a brand that Sears Roebuck had of tents called the Ted Williams tent. And we gathered up all the Ted Williams tents in the United States and had them shipped to Jordan. And I was down in the valley helping, showing the refugees how to put these poles together to put up these very temporary shelters so they could get out of the sun. And--. That was a very traumatic time. U.S. AID played a bit of a brokering role all of a sudden it was important to develop an exchange rate between the shekel and the dinar. There hadn't been trade between the two countries and they didn't have an exchange rate. But all of a sudden it was very important to have an exchange rate, because the Israelis were occupying the West Bank, and they were continuing to use the dinar over there. So we had to--. I found myself passing messages back to Washington to go to the IMF to sort out these issues at a time when direct communications were not normal between those two entities.
So it was an exciting time. And I think we played a positive role in helping to begin the process of absorbing the refugees from the West Bank.
MK: But you must have been so undone by this War. Here you are somebody who already--. For 20 years you've been striving for world government and--.
MK: Federalism and world peace and now this--.
JW: Oh, yes, it was very disappointing.
MK: Talk about, a little more about the War and its impact on the policies you were trying to develop.
JW: Well, actually I think that the Government of Jordan, after a period of adjustment, just went on, you know, not having responsibility any more for the West Bank, but it had its--. It had the East Bank, the Transjordan part of the country. And they went on, and that was--. Remember we had the oil crisis, and there was a great demand for Jordanians to help the oil rich countries to spend their money. And so that there were a lot of workers' remittances coming into Jordan, and they had a--. In the years following the War there was sort of a internal, almost a civil war between the Palestinians and the, what I am calling the Desert Arabs. They were the establishment in Jordan. And that worked itself out.
MK: What were the issues there?
JW: Well, it was just who was going to run the country. And King Hussein was a moderate who wanted to keep his ties open to other, the West, and of course eventually he participated in a reprochement with Israel. So he was well ahead of where public opinion was among the Palestinians at that time. But I am not an expert on the period following. It just is--. It is somewhat appalling to think that generations of diplomats have spent their entire diplomatic life dealing with these issues without having achieved settlement of the basic problems of the region. And so, far be it from me to suggest that there are simple solutions.
Well after that I was invited to come back to Washington to take a job as Deputy Assistant Administrator for Near East and South Asia.
MK: In the year of--?
JW: That would have been 1967, late '67. And I did that for a couple of years. And then I was invited to become the Mission Director to Pakistan, 1969. And I had a very long tenure there of eight years, which I think in terms of single management of mission that may be the record in the service. And, I met my wife in Pakistan, and we married. We were putting two families together, and we have been going on happily ever after. It was terrific having her there, because she had been living in Pakistan a couple of decades before and knew Pakistan in a way that very few people did. So I was very pleased to get her advice on many subjects. Whether I asked for it or not, she gave it to me.
And--. Well, Pakistan is a very interesting country. It's much more important than I think that most Americans have realized. Today it has about 175 million people, which is more than half the population of the United States. It's, I guess, I don't know, the sixth largest country in the world in population or something like that. When I left, it only had, only had 75 million people. But that was--. When I left, I left half a country, because in 1970 there was the events of 1970 which led to the independence of Bangladesh, which at that time represented 53% of the total population of Pakistan.
MK: Can you give us sort of the highlights of that?
JW: Well, East Pakistan and Bangladesh is somewhat different culturally. They share Muslim religion but I think that the, that--. They had different language. The Bangladeshis tend to be very articulate, very thoughtful, some people would say maybe a little less practical. And of course, they're shaped by their geography. I mean they are a delta and in the middle of the country, Dacca, is only 16 feet above sea level. So every year there is a huge flood in the spring which inundates much of the country. It also provides nutrients to the rice crop, but it's--. It's a country which always on the edge of a disaster. So when I went to Pakistan in 1969, I figured out that I should be giving priority to two things really, one, population as an issue and secondly, growing rice in East Pakistan. And we--. I think the joke is that after eight years I was much more successful in population in East Pakistan than in West, or I should say, they were much more successful, since most of the activity is theirs rather than ours. And--. But we were very successful in growing more wheat in West Pakistan.
MK: Now how do you explain those differences? In population, for example.
JW: Well, in the population issue this has to do with family planning, and I think that is, there is an easier relationship in East Pakistan and Bangladesh among people, probably less hierarchical, less--. Less feudal. And I think also that East Pakistan is a country about the size of Wisconsin, but today it has 150 million people in it, so that they recognize the issue more readily than they do in Pakistan which, today's Pakistan, which is much larger and seems to be much larger because of its mountains and the desert, which occupy a very large portion of the country. They give a sense of room.
So the government took the issue of family planning very seriously over there. So that it's a bit of a miracle, but this is since I left the program that they've brought their fertility rate, the number of children per family, down from close to 7 to about 3.3 over the last 25 years or so. That's--. That's almost a miracle because here we talk about family planning. The solution is girls' education. But, of course, people--. The girls in Bangladesh are not very well educated, and yet they've been very successful in this program. And it has to do with the development of a program which reached the smallest village, reached the groups of houses that would exist on somewhat higher levels of land surrounded by ponds and rivers. And it's only when development reaches the people in a real sense that you can say you've been successful. A lot of other things have happened in Bangladesh. This is where the idea of very small levels of loans, mini-loans was developed, and a Nobel Prize was given to Mohammed Abas or something--. I haven't got my name right--. Unis, who has got a system going where a woman can get the money to buy a sewing machine. All of a sudden she has a little income, or to buy some chickens, or to buy a cow, or you know. And they've done the same thing in education. They've hired girls with just a few years of education as teachers, teaching in a house in a village, and that's the beginning of the universal educational system. From there you get a more educated teacher and you get a more sophisticated school, but you begin by giving universality to the practice of education. And so they've done a number of things that are right over there, which I think is very important. But that's Bangladesh.
MK: The population issue was one though that your mission really, really locked onto.
JW: Yeah, we provided very generous aid in this field. And, we experimented on a large scale and learned lessons in our failures--.
MK: For example?
JW: Well, there was a theory that if you had, if you made condoms available universally in all the tea shops in the country, that they would get used. I think it turned out that, you know, all the statistics said we were being very successful as we were filling up the pipeline, but then we discovered that they weren't getting used at the end of the pipeline, at the retail level, because there was no one really, no person of the village talking to other people in the village about family planning. It was too concentrated at central and bureaucratic levels above the village so that, in Pakistan.
MK: Without that local connection then it would be too much of a distraction for people?
JW: Yes, yes, and Pakistan's fertility rate is over five today. So Pakistan is growing in numbers as fast as the United States in numbers even though we're growing at a very slow rate. I mean we're a little over a two-child family level whereas they're at five-child family level.
But, in an area that was of great interest to them, we had enormous success in our wheat program. This is The Green Revolution. And The Green Revolution involves a number of things. It did involve the magic of the new seeds. These are seeds which the plants would, if they were fertilized, would not grow taller and taller, but rather would put up more shoots and thus have more grain per acre, much more grain per acre. If you--. In the old varieties of wheat, fertilizer would cause the wheat to grow higher and higher. And then in a wind storm or rain storm, it would lodge and rot, and you wouldn't get the production. Well, all right, so you have to have the magic of the seed, and you have to have fertilizer, and you have to have water. So we developed a fertilizer strategy--. This had to do with major policy issues. The price that the government would pay farmers for a unit of wheat and the price that would be, the fertilizer would be available at. At that time this was the period that Prime Minister Bhutto was in charge. And he had a socialist attitude toward things, and I think even well meaning, his idea was that in the remotest part of the country you should pay the same for fertilizer as you do in the, near the fertilizer plant. And from the idealistic point of view, that sounds right, doesn't it? But, from a marketing point of view, it doesn't take into account the cost of marketing in the remote areas.
And the result was that with a general shortage of fertilizer, the fertilizer was being monopolized by farmers near the fertilizer plant, and there just wasn't any available for the people that they meant to serve. So we wanted to get these to free up from socialist control, so to speak, from government control, the distribution of the fertilizer to get fully adequate supplies of fertilizer in the country, including the increase in production of fertilizer in Pakistan. And so we had a whole strategy that the government of Pakistan bought into it. There was--.
MK: Who bought into it?
JW: The Government of Pakistan. There was a dramatic moment when the Prime Minister signed off. It happened that I was out of town that day, but my wife sat next to the Prime Minister and he said to her, "Well, your husband will be happy with me today. I signed off on the fertilizer policy change." [laughs] And--.
MK: And this came after a period, a long period of working with him on this?
JW: Well, we worked with the government. We didn't work directly with him. He worked with his advisors. But--. We--. It was economic diplomacy at its best, I would say. I was very pleased, and we had worked very hard on it and had done lots of papers, analyses, and so forth. And the Pakistanis are a very able group of people. The people running planning commission and aid programs are very well educated and understood these issues. And so they were able to take the analysis up the political ladder to the Prime Minister and get his assent. But it was of such political importance that it had to be signed off on at the top. Now the other--.
MK: Did the mission have a philosophic problem with socialism, in addition to the fact that it wasn't working in this particular case? I mean was there this feeling that we have to--?
JW: Well, I think that people who are skeptical about socialism tend not to be so philosophical about it as pragmatic. The thing is that the profit motive is a great engine in the economical process and we--. Whereas we very much wanted to help the total population to achieve a better life, we had a different approach to how that better life might be achieved. And I don't think I should need to go into the argument, but you can see that there was a real problem the way the government was running the fertilizer industry at the time.
Now--. The, one of the things we thought was that the production of fertilizer should be in the private sector. And we financed a fertilizer plant during that period which was almost in the private sector. It was run by the retired officers of the Army but which was sort of a separate authority decision making separate from the government. So there was a strategy that in the long run has worked very well.
MK: To provide a model, an alternative model?
JW: Yes, but it's not just a model. We were producing wheat for the whole country. I mean our goal was to double the wheat production in a matter of five years. And we saw it happen. Since I left Pakistan--. I mean at the beginning of this process, it was between four and five million ton crop. And then it went up to nine to ten millions tons. And now it's over 20 million tons. So that one feels that a process got going that has been successful ever since.
Now I've left out of this equation the need for water. And water is everything. You know Pakistan basically is a desert with rivers flowing through it. Maybe it's a little bit like California, I don't know. But the Punjab, which is a big province--. Punjab means five rivers. And at the time of partition between India and Pakistan, the head waters of two of those rivers were in India. And the Indians decided that they would like to use the water in those rivers for themselves. Now this may be under international law there is something called riparian rights. And you're not supposed to take water away from the lower riparians. And there was a big Indus Basin dispute just before my time in Pakistan. And there was a negotiation that took place with the World Bank taking the lead in the negotiation, in which India was able to keep the water from its rivers, but Pakistan got it replaced by the building of major dams, which would make more efficient use of the Indus River and two other rivers that are part of that Punjab. And then they had canals. They would take whole rivers of water from one river to the next, replacing the water that is now flowing or not flowing into Pakistan but being used in India. And it was--. But then we discovered that there is a sort of a process that goes on. Too much irrigation raises the water table. And when the water table breaks surface, you get an evaporation and a salt residue. And millions of acres of water were being lost--. Of land were being lost to agriculture.
They brought in one of our Renaissance men, Roger Ravell, who had a team that would come up with a scheme for dealing with this. And the scheme that was developed was to put in major tube wells, so you had electricity going to the tube wells, tube wells bringing the water up out of the ground, lowering the water table, flushing the salts back down into the subsoil or off into the drainage system. And--. So this was known as Salinity Control and Reclamation Program or SCRP [pronounced scarp]. Well, it--. This was still going on in my day. And I was very anxious to take that program further steps. And we developed what was known as on farm water management. We discovered that most of the water that arrived at the farmer's field was wasted. It was wasted because the field was not as flat as this table, and therefore in order to get water to a higher part of the field, you put too much water on another part. And so it needed to be flattened out, the movement of soil. And then there was a need for developing, because there was a certain flow from the clay water channels into the field, there was erosion, and there was a need to have something that we called a "puka nuka," an improved way of getting the water from the water channel to the field.
And we worked on this with local artisans and developed a local industry building these inexpensive land levelers that could be pulled with an ordinary tractor and get rid of the bulldozers. And so this was a very important development during my eight years in Pakistan.
MK: You know one thing we didn't touch on earlier was your relationship to farming as a child.
MK: Could you reflect on that for just a little bit here and how that experience shaped your--?
JW: Well, dairy farm in Concord was--. We did not have the best land in Concord down on Virginia Road. But we had some land which was pretty good. And so we had some for swamp land where we grew trees, [laugh] our wood shed, and we had some sandy land that we used for asparagus, and we had some very heavy loamy land that could be cultivated with some difficulty, and we had some pretty good fields. And in the course of my time, we converted from horse-driven equipment to machine-driven equipment, and so I saw--. I mean we weren't pioneers in this area, but I saw it happening on our farm. And I saw the experiments that the Soil Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture had persuaded my father to try fertilizer plots and the remarkable increase in the amount of hay that he was able to get as a result of this, and the various ways he did in conservation and putting in water retarding systems to retard the flow of water so that it would go into the ground water. And it was--. Having that immediate experience I suppose made me especially interested in the whole problem of how you grow wheat. The--. I think The Green Revolution phenomenon hasn't been written enough about.
MK: In Pakistan or--?
JW: In the world. I--. When I was office director for the countries including Turkey, we had a mission director in Turkey who wanted to increase the wheat production in Turkey, so he got all the experts together on the Turkish side and the American side, and they studied, and they worked, and they figured out what would be needed. And there were maybe 25 interventions would be needed, some at the policy level and some in terms of equipment and supplies, and--. They took this to the Prime Minister of Turkey and said, "You know this is something we would like to make a major effort on. But we'll only make it if you will appoint one person reporting to you weekly on the progress being made on the program. And we'll also bring together the, coordinate this disparate effort, complicated effort." Well, the person that they selected was an engineer who later, was Turgut Ozal, who became Prime Minister of Turkey. And so, it served an example of how you have to work both at the political level and throughout the hierarchy and at the farmer level in order to achieve what needs to be achieved.
Well, Jim Grant, the mission director, who later became head of UNICEF, before that he ran our AID program in Vietnam. And of course, Vietnam is a very controversial subject, but one of the things we did in Vietnam during the heyday of development there, was to work on their rice crop. And--.
MK: That year would have been?
JW: Well, I don't remember the years to tell the truth, but I guess it would have been--.
MK: Early '60s.
JW: Late '60s
MK: Late '60s.
JW: And the--. And that was a great success and we actually got a tremendous increase in the rice crop.
MK: How did you do that?
JW: Well, with the improved varieties which were developed at international, at to some extent, at international research centers. In the case of rice it was in the Philippines, and in the case of wheat it was in Mexico, and in the case of maize or corn it was also in Mexico. And these international research institutions contributed the seed varieties with a lot of experimentation, of course, and adaptation and gradual changes and improvements. It's easy to over-simplify these things, but you need to in order to communicate about them I guess. But anyway, so that the Turkey experience led to that Vietnam experience and then we got into the India experience and the Pakistan experience. And India has had a great success in improving its grain production, and well it had--. I mean it really needed to because their population has gone up four fold in this 50-year period. So they would be in bad shape if they hadn't succeeded in increasing their wheat crop and their rice crop.
MK: Four fold as well or more?
JW: Yea, well I think that--. I guess for the country as a whole I think it's perhaps four fold. I haven't looked at the statistics lately.
Carrie Kline: What country?
JW: India. But Pakistan--. Pakistan has the largest integrated irrigation system in the world. And so it's particularly well suited for a Green Revolution kind of an operation. And so it was--. I think one of the things--. These days as we talk, Pakistan is in a time of troubles. And we're very concerned about how things are going to turn out politically. But it's very important, I think, to realize that this is not a stagnant situation, that this is a country which has grown enormously from a point of view of agriculture production, from a point of view of manufacturing, and from a point of view of the education of its elite. Whereas I have complaints about policy in Pakistan--. It's not giving enough attention to education at the primary school level, to health systems, and so forth, there is no question but what they have enormous capacity and have made great strides. And so we shouldn't underestimate the importance of the country or the importance of the gains that it has made.
MK: You had early, fairly early cooperation from Bhutto. You had other connections with the family too, did you over the years?
JW: Well, Bhutto had a family. And his eldest was Benazir Bhutto who was recently assassinated, and she went to school with two of our daughters at Radcliffe. So she was in the house a couple of times in Islamabad, and my kids visited her in Karachi. They had a home there. So yes, we had that relationship. Mrs. Bhutto was I think a very positive force. She was head of the Red Cross.
Verona Wheeler: She was a very fine person. She really cared about her family.
JW: Yeah. And Vernie got to know her a little bit. Generally AID directors didn't deal at the prime ministerial level. It was--. I would accompany the AID administrator to meetings at Mr. Bhutto's office from time to time, training up my administrators to say the right things in support of our program.
MK: Literally putting words in their mouths.
JW: Yeah, right. [laughs] And we--. I saw him--. I remember one particular lunch we had in Balochistan when my boss from Washington, Murray Williams, was President Nixon's Disaster Relief Coordinator. After independence--. After Bangladesh and Pakistan broke up, there was a new disaster which was a terrible flood that covered a couple million acres. And we wanted to be helpful on that. And so Murray came out and he had this message from the President to deliver, and so we arranged to have lunch with him in Balochistan. I had my interesting contacts in that sense. But in general we worked with the high levels, but not the highest levels of bureaucracy.
MK: So that the events in Pakistan over the past month must have been particularly excruciating for you to see her come back, to see this wave of popular excitement and--.
JW: Yes, I think that we find Pakistan a very complex place. You have so many different cultures, so many different languages, points of view represented. It's really hard to, for the outsider, even for the insider, to fully understand how things work in Pakistan. But we have a special interest right now because Verona's eldest daughter is working with the AID mission on earthquake relief and she is an Urdu speaker and is--. You know there was the earthquake two years ago that killed I think 75,000 people, and it eliminated many villages and left others in pretty much of a rubble, and so that there has been an effort to rebuild facilities and to provide health and education and transportation and job opportunities for people, housing potential. So she's been working on that program with AID in the embassy, so we keep a very close touch with Pakistan.
MK: What is her name?
JW: Marilee Kane.
MK: Marilee Kane. Well, this is just fascinating.
JW: Yeah. So yes, our lives keep crossing. We went out to visit Marilee in February. And we had an opportunity to meet with some of our old friends, who are 30 years older than when we left Pakistan in 1977, and to have conversations with them and sort of catch up with things. That was really just before the current problems emerged in a serious way. But--.
MK: Before Musharraf took power?
JW: Yes, well no, he had taken power some years ago, eight years ago, but before he declared martial law or the equivalent of marital law. So anyway, I finished up in Pakistan in 1977. Came back to Washington and became Assistant Administrator of AID for Near East. And the exciting thing there was of course two fold. I think one is supporting our budget before those committees of Congress. And I remember the terrific time I had testifying before Congressman Hamilton's committee and the difficult times I had before Congressman Long's Appropriation Committee--.
MK: Give some of the highlights of that that were so memorable for you.
JW: Well, I think on the Hamilton committee, these are people who know a lot about the area that I was dealing with, and so they were interested in going into more substance on programs than might otherwise have been the case. And at one point, my staff and their staff got together and decided that we would do a hearing in which we would discuss only the future, only emerging trends. And, it was an interesting exercise I found because what we discovered was that we hadn't been paying as much attention as we should have in paying to the phenomenon of urbanization to--. Haven't been treating as important as it was the phenomenon of workers' remittances--.
MK: Workers' remittances.
JW: Yeah, this is where Egyptians are working in another country and sending money home. And that becomes a very important engine of development, and it goes to family members. That means that you're building houses, and you're giving education opportunities and lots of things. It's an engine of growth. Things, issues of that sort that we were able to talk about. And I appreciated Congressman Hamilton being receptive to the idea of looking at these new ideas. They were ideas that were new to both him and us. And then--. I think that one thing I--. We're very critical, we Americans, of the political problems that occur in countries where they simply are unable to adopt the policies we think they ought to adopt. Today we're talking about it in terms of Iraq. But, of course, for me it was in Pakistan, or in Egypt, and so forth.
The trouble is that we have the same problem in our own political system. I mean we've wasted enormous amounts of money, because we've insisted that grain that we supply has to go on American bottoms, ships. And this becomes a subsidy to the American shipping industry. And it costs maybe twice as much to send something to--.
[end of pt. 1]
[Start pt. 2]
JW: And it costs maybe twice as much to send something to India, or to Pakistan, on an American ship, as it does on a flag of another color. And the insistence on buying everything in the United States--. You know in spite of our belief in free trade and competition, we have not--. You can understand politically that a congressman from a state wants to feel that the money that is being spent on foreign aid is being spent in part in his or her district. But, from a--. We had an interesting example in Pakistan. We wanted to get--. We felt that we had provided the very best equipment for certain procedures in the family planning process. This is medical equipment. So, we brought it all in, and we opened up the packages, and we discovered that yes, they came from the United States, but they were made in Pakistan. And Pakistan is so good [emphasizes good] at producing this particular medical equipment that the best doctors in New York use it. But--. And so we went through the whole process, you know, shipping this, it being shipped, I should say, in the commercial market to the United States and then being bought in the United States and shipped back [laughs] to Pakistan as aid. And we could have got it a lot cheaper if we had just bought it in, [laughs] from the manufacturers in Pakistan.
MK: The stipulation was to buy from--.
JW: We had to buy it from American suppliers. Another kind of example of the waste of our political system is when we provide wheat to Pakistan, the insistence is that Pakistan cannot export wheat. Well, actually Pakistan's a big country, and the deficit in wheat in Pakistan is in Karachi, which is a huge city in the desert in the south, a port city. But there's always a surplus of wheat in the north. Well the natural market for that is in Afghanistan. Well, we--. In providing wheat to Afghanistan we've insisted that it had to come from the United States, so we brought wheat into Karachi, shipped it all the way up a thousand miles through Pakistan into Afghanistan. From a rational point of view, we should have been providing wheat to Pakistan with the understanding that they would export wheat to Afghanistan from their big producing area. They would have been able to provide the cheaper food source, and we would have saved a lot of money on transportation.
MK: And it generates trade within that region.
JW: And it generates trade within the region. So there are all these anomalies in our own political system, which I think we are hesitant to face up to which make our program less efficient than it ought to be. I just say--. I say this not to be too complaining, but rather to try to give some perspective, recognize that the political process in every country works and does not always work to the greatest efficiency standards that we would like to see applied.
MK: For those of us who are unusually critical about the way things operate in other places--.
JW: Yeah, we need to have some humility, I think. And it doesn't mean that we don't want to keep pushing on the policy level, as I did in connection with the fertilizer price relationships in Pakistan. And--. It just--. One needs to understand why good rational policy is not automatically understood, but rather needs to be talked about with a whole lot of people before you convince them to do something. [laughs]
So anyway, after Pakistan I went back to Washington and had this job as Assistant Administrator. And then I was invited to be Deputy Administrator of AID in the last year of the Jimmy Carter period. And I was kept on for a year into the Reagan presidency. And one of the interesting things that happened the day of the inauguration of President Reagan, at noon time I became Acting Administrator, because my boss was a political appointee who had to resign automatically as of noon time on the 20th of January. And I had, however, been asked to represent the United States at a conference that the Egyptians were holding on Egyptian development in Aswan. So in the morning--. There is seven hours difference. In the morning, I greeted the meeting on behalf of President Carter. And at 7:00 in the evening, the meeting was still going on, and I greeted the meeting on behalf of President Reagan. And I had a statement to read from him. And so I was the first spokesperson for President Reagan anywhere in the world, because that happened exactly [emphasizes exactly] at 7:00 as he was taking the oath of office.
VW: And that was with Sadat there too.
JW: Well, yes. Mr. Sadat had us to tea. And he looked at me and saw my face and said, "You're from the IMF." And he was--. [laughs] And everyone laughed, because I wasn't. I was from U.S. AID. He had got confused about that. People had a good--. Felt that was a good joke on me because he was being very critical of the IMF at that time, but was actually very pleased with what the U.S. AID was doing. [laughs]
MK: You had the right hat on then.
JW: [laughs] After a year in the Reagan Administration, it was discovered that I was, in political circles, that I was a Jimmy Carter appointee. Even though I was a career man, I was a Jimmy Carter appointee, and it was time for me to leave. So then I was suggested to the United Nations Environment Program as Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program in Nairobi. And I did that for a couple of years, and that was very interesting. We were working on a variety of programs which later became much more important at the time of the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. And--.
MK: What were some of the highlights of those programs?
JW: Well, we had--. One of the programs that I thought was particularly interesting was what we called the Regional Seas Program. Our interest in UNEP was to bring countries together to, on a voluntary basis, to develop programs to clean up their regional seas. Now you can imagine how important this would be in the Mediterranean which doesn't have much connection with the oceans outside, and with heavy population density of the area it was very important. And so we had an office in Geneva which worked with the countries. And they had meetings every so often and subgroups and so forth working on various aspects of cleaning up the Mediterranean Sea. Very important for all of the members. But you know it's--. It's all done in a unanimity principle, but it gets to be--. It shows you the value of the UN as an intermediary among countries in convening meetings in which they can make positive decisions that improve things.
And during that time I found myself speaking at an inaugural meeting in the migration of endangered species of birds and animals. And, the--. We were developing the program that became the climate treaty and the biological diversity treaty. So they were very interesting things, and it was a very small staff. Almost everything happened because of the leadership of a few countries including especially the United Kingdom and the United States. So--. I did that for a couple of years. And then I was invited to be the U.S. candidate to be Chairman of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Now at the beginning of this interview, I talked about the OEEC, the European organization that ran the Marshall Plan. At the end of the Marshall Plan period, it was felt that this collaboration that had taken place among the Europeans was so important that it should be continued, but with the United States as a member, and Canada, and Australia, New Zealand, and then eventually Japan, and now a number of other countries including Mexico and Turkey and so forth. So they developed this OECD, and you may note that every once in a while in the New York Times there is an article about, "OECD states that" such and such is a problem, or is happening in the economy or one of the member countries, they have peer reviews. And they take up issues, and they meet at all levels. They go to the Secretary of State and Treasury once a year, but they meet at intermediate levels, and they have committees. There's a committee on agriculture, a committee on education, a committee on economics and so forth. And one of the committees that we urged them to develop was the Development Assistance Committee, because we wanted the Europeans to participate in the financial load of helping developing countries.
And--. So, we did that, and we provided the Chairman for the first 25 years of this group. And--. So I was provided by the United States, secunded, so to speak from the United States, but elected once a year for five years. And we had meetings every two weeks, and we had a review of the French program or the Danish program or the American program, and then we would have meetings on subjects. The United States was very much interested in getting others to be more interested in the status of women and the role of women in development. So we had a little subgroup working on the role of women in development. And we had another one working on environment. And we had another group on statistics, because we compared our statistics to make sure that we were being honest in our--. And accurate in our reporting of the effort we were making in economic development.
So we meet on the average of every two weeks. It was a full time chairman job. And once a year I issued a report. And actually this is sort of the--. It's the--. It's a job--. From a bureaucratic point of view, it's the top job in the development business in the world. From a policy point of view obviously World Bank presidency is more important, [laughs] and the IMF head is more important. But the DAC Chairman has this unique role of chairing the bilateral donors with the World Bank and UNDP sitting in. So that was a very interesting experience for me.
Mrs. JW: We got to live in Paris for five years.
JW: Yes, we did. And--.
CK: You did what, I didn't hear that.
JW: Oh, my wife said, "And we lived in Paris for five years." [laugh] Which you know after many years in Pakistan and a couple of years in Kenya with the United Nations Environment Program, and so forth, it was sort of fun to live in Paris for a while.
And then the last regular job I had in my career was I was invited to be sort of the number three person in the staff in Geneva that was preparing for the Rio Earth Summit that took place in 1992. So in 1991 and in early '92 we were in Geneva. And in that meeting, there was a process of negotiation of policies in all kinds of areas from oceans to agriculture to [cough] handling of chemicals, and population health education, and so forth. So had chapters of a document called Agenda 21 for the 21st century. And so I was the coordinator for this document, and we had about 20 staff members working on it. And there groups all over the world meeting, developing these chapters. And they had to follow my format. And then, of course, it went to the Earth Summit itself. And I was sort of the Secretary for the Finance Committee, and my wife worked on the non-governmental organizations as a volunteer. And we watched President Bush sign the Climate Treaty, the first President Bush. Unfortunately, later on the protocol was developed out of that. The Kyoto Protocol was not signed by the United States. That was a disappointment for us, but--.
[CD abruptly stops as original interview tape comes to an end]