The U.S. Institute of Peace mourns the loss of Richard H. Solomon, a distinguished diplomat, scholar and the institute’s third president, who devoted his life to the building of peace. Solomon served as USIP’s president from 1993 to 2012, guiding its evolution from a small, mainly academic institute into a center for global peacebuilding that combines research, education and direct work to resolve violent conflicts abroad.
"Dick Solomon has been an inspiration for many years here at USIP. All of us have heavy hearts today as we mourn his loss,” said USIP President Nancy Lindborg. “But we also celebrate the enormous contributions he made throughout his life, as a scholar, diplomat and in his many years here at USIP. Dick's vision and energy transformed both USIP and the broader field of peacebuilding."
Former Assistant Secretary of State Chester Crocker, who served alongside Solomon as the chair of USIP’s Board of Directors, said, “Under his leadership, USIP became the conceptual hub for conflict management scholars and practitioners inside and outside government.”
“His lasting legacy was to mainstream conflict management as an integral part of foreign policy.” Crocker said.
Amb. Richard H. Solomon died March 13. He was a political science professor and China scholar in the 1960s before beginning a foreign policy career under the Nixon administration. He joined the staff of the National Security Council, working under National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger as Kissinger and President Richard Nixon prepared to normalize relations with China.
After subsequent years as a RAND Corporation scholar, Solomon moved to the State Department to direct policy planning. President George H. W. Bush appointed him assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, a position in which he helped negotiated the 1991 Paris Peace Accords that ended the 14-year war between Cambodia and Vietnam. He then served as ambassador to the Philippines.
In the early 1990s, USIP’s first long-term president, Amb. Samuel Lewis, rejoined the State Department, and the institute sought a new leader. With academic and diplomatic careers behind him, “Dick Solomon was a kind of polymath who brought both an intellectual side and the diplomatic skills” that USIP needed, recalled Charles Smith, who served as the institute’s first general counsel.
“He made the institute more operational out in the world, while also maintaining the excellence of its training and education side,” Smith said.
When Solomon joined USIP, it had operated in various rented office spaces in Washington. Solomon, who “was held in great respect in Congress,” Smith said, worked with legislative leaders to gather support for the building of the permanent USIP headquarters on what had been a Navy-owned parking lot beside the National Mall.
Under Solomon’s tenure, the institute conducted its first field mission to a conflict zone in 1995, supporting the post-war stabilization of Bosnia-Herzegovina. It soon expanded its management of peace and stability operations to other regions. Solomon guided USIP’s entry into Iraq and Afghanistan following the U.S.-led interventions there.
Sending USIP to Iraq
In Iraq, USIP began work within weeks after major combat ended in 2003. It trained and supported Iraqis as peace mediators to promote stability and curb civil conflict. In 2007, Iraqi community leaders and the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division asked USIP to help end sectarian and clan warfare in a region south of Baghdad that had been nicknamed the “Triangle of Death.” USIP and its Iraqi partners worked with tribal and community leaders and local officials to produce a peace accord. The agreement allowed normalization of life, an economic recovery and an 80-percent reduction in U.S. forces in the area.
Under Solomon’s leadership, USIP helped to professionalize its field by establishing an Academy for International Conflict Management and Peacebuilding. The academy has since trained more than 65,000 government officials, military officers, civil society leaders and others in skills such as conflict analysis and negotiation. Solomon also supported a new USIP focus on using emerging technologies to prevent conflict.
Solomon strengthened USIP’s role as a bipartisan problem-solving institution on foreign policy and conflict issues. During his tenure, the institute hosted and advised several high-level, bipartisan policy analyses. These reviews presented U.S. policy options on issues including the prevention of genocide, the U.S. intervention in Iraq and, at the request of Congress, the U.S. strategic nuclear posture. Solomon also initiated USIP’s practice of convening national security officials of the incoming and outgoing U.S. administrations to facilitate their transitions of power, an event that became known as “Passing the Baton.”
Scholar and Author
After nearly two decades leading the institute, Solomon announced his plan to step down in 2012. He returned to RAND as a senior fellow, focusing his research on international diplomacy and nation-building. Solomon also served as a member on the advisory board of the Partnership for a Secure America, a nonpartisan center working to advance bipartisanship on national security and foreign policy.
Born in 1937, Solomon earned degrees, including a Ph.D. in political science, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He taught at the University of Michigan from 1966 to 1971 before joining the Nixon White House staff.
Solomon wrote numerous books on Asia and diplomacy. Examples include Mao’s Revolution and the Chinese Political Culture (1971); The China Factor: Sino-American Relations and the Global Scene (1981); and Exiting Indochina: U.S. Leadership of the Cambodia Settlement & Normalization with Vietnam (2000). With Nigel Quinney, he co-authored American Negotiating Behavior: Wheeler-Dealers, Legal Eagles, Bullies, and Preachers (2010).
In 1995, the State Department awarded Solomon its Foreign Affairs Award for Public Service. He received awards for policy initiatives from the governments of Korea and Thailand. In 2005, he received the American Political Science Association’s Hubert H. Humphrey career award for “notable public service by a political scientist.”