Korn, David A. 1930–

views updated

Korn, David A. 1930–

(David Adolph Korn)


Born September 1, 1930, in Wichita Falls, TX; married Roberta Cohen. Education: Attended Institut d'Etudes Politiques, 1953-56, and Johns Hopkins University, 1956-57.


Home—Washington, DC; Mallorca, Spain.


U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC, foreign service officer, 1957-88, charge d'affaires, American Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Africa, 1982-85, and American Ambassador in Lome, Togo, Africa, 1986-88; writer.


Ethiopia, the United States and the Soviet Union, Southern Illinois University Press (Carbondale, IL), 1986.

Human Rights in Iraq, Yale University Press/Middle East Watch (New Haven, CT), 1990.

Stalemate: Israel, Egypt, and Great Power Diplomacy in the Middle East, 1967-1970, Westview (Boulder, CO), 1992.

Assassination in Khartoum, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1993.

Exodus within Borders: An Introduction to the Crisis of Internal Displacement, Brookings Institution Press (Washington, DC), 1999.

(With Thomas G. Weiss) Internal Displacement: Conceptualization and Its Consequences, Routledge (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor of articles to periodicals.


David A. Korn, former American Ambassador in Togo and charge d'affaires in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is the author of works exploring political situations in various parts of the world. In his first book, Ethiopia, the United States and the Soviet Union, published in 1986, the author focuses on the famine that took place in Ethiopia from 1984 to 1985, exploring the roles the United States and the Soviet Union played in the disaster. An extremely poor country that has suffered numerous droughts, Ethiopia endured a bloody struggle, beginning in the late 1960s, due in large part to the problem of hunger. Various student and guerilla secessionist groups were dissatisfied with Emperor Haile Selassie's handling of the problem, and sought a more equitable distribution of wealth and power. In 1974, a number of military officers staged a coup d'etat, successfully overthrowing Selassie and establishing a new government. Korn argues that America was neglectful of the civil war in Ethiopia, pointing to presidents Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter, both of whom, in his view, chose not to become involved in Ethiopia's affairs. The author also discusses the influence of Ethiopian colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, who seized power in the late 1970s. According to Korn, Mengistu was pro-Soviet and made it difficult for the United States to establish cordial relations with Ethiopia. While the United States and other nations were engaged in a famine relief effort, the author believes that Mengistu "seemed to regard the famine as a test of the steadfastness of his alliance with Moscow." New York Times Book Review contributor Clifford D. May commented that on account of its limited scope, Ethiopia, the United States and the Soviet Union "is unlikely to stand as the last word" on the subject. He added, however, that the work "should frame the debate for some time to come."

In his 1990 book, Human Rights in Iraq, Korn explores the systematic abuses of human rights in Iraq, which may be viewed as precursors to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's decision to invade Kuwait in 1990. The information in Korn's work originally appeared as a report, written to inform Human Rights Watch, an American organization, of the situation. It was intended both to put pressure on the Iraqi government to change its ways and to encourage the United States government to become involved. The initial chapters in Human Rights in Iraq outline Iraqi politics and introduce the secret police and other organizations which allegedly use their power to commit human rights violations. The remainder of the work details their methods of torture, brutality, and execution. Korn also notes Hussein's possible motivations for tormenting the Iraqi people in this manner; he asserts that the dictator may have believed it would deter others from attempting to overthrow him.

Assassination in Khartoum, which was published in 1993, recounts the events of 1973, when the Saudi Arabian embassy in Khartoum was attacked by members of the Palestinian group Black September. The attack was arranged to coincide with a reception that was being held, the guests for which included two American diplomats and a Belgian. The gunmen demanded that a number of political prisoners be released to them, including Sirhan Sirhan, who had been convicted of the assassination of Robert Kennedy, in exchange for the safe evacuation of the embassy. Then-President Richard Nixon refused to negotiate with the terrorists, setting a precedent for modern-day U.S. hostage negotiations policies. This action resulted in the deaths of the three hostages in Khartoum. The ensuing international uproar regarding what was perceived as callous treatment of Americans in other countries forced the U.S. government as a whole to issue a number of statements in defense of the president and his decision. Korn looks at the hostage situation and speculates regarding other potential motivations behind Black September's actions. Daniel Pipes, reviewing the book for the American Spectator, noted in 1994 that it is "more than a compelling account of the incident and its repercussions: it has a current significance the author could not possibly have anticipated. With the recent signing of an Israel-PLO accord, Korn's meticulous inquiry raises important questions about the PLO as an institution, the character of its chairman, and American policy."

Exodus within Borders: An Introduction to the Crisis of Internal Displacement addresses the issue of refugees and how best to serve both these displaced individuals and the nations' that offer them shelter. The book looks at various problems that naturally arise in refugee situations, including famine and disease, and ways in which the process of aiding refugees could be streamlined and made more effective. Vera Laska, in a review for World and I, found the book more accurate in its itemization of the issues than its suggestions for ways in which to combat those issues, commenting: "Now let us wish for a sequel that will spell out practical solutions."



Korn, David A., Ethiopia, the United States and the Soviet Union, Southern Illinois University Press (Carbondale, IL), 1986.


American Spectator, February 1, 1994, Daniel Pipes, review of Assassination in Khartoum, p. 96.

New York Times Book Review, June 28, 1987, Clifford D. May, review of Ethiopia, the United States and the Soviet Union, p. 35.

World and I, February 1, 2005, Vera Laska, "The World's Refugee Epidemic."