OBITUARY : Thomas Enders

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Thomas Enders was managing director of the investment bank Salomon Brothers, after a distinguished and combative career as a versatile diplomat both in such war-torn places as Cambodia and Central America and in capitals, including Washington, Ottawa and Brussels, where his preoccupation was with economic and trade issues.

Tough as he was, however, he was not single-minded enough for the more militantly anti-Communist elements in the Reagan Administration, and he paid the bureaucratic pen-alty for falling between the two stools of diplomacy and war, as well as for an abrasive personality.

Tom Enders was born in 1931 in Hartford, Connecticut, into a family of wealthy American patricians. On his mother's side, he was descended from two of the founders of the Connecticut colony, and on his father's side from early Dutch settlers. His great-grandfather was a founder and president of the Aetna Insurance Company, his father and grandfather were both presidents of the Hartford National Bank, and his uncle, John Enders, won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1953.

Tom Enders compiled a brilliant record at Yale, where he was a member of one of the secret societies which are said to guarantee success in life. He graduated summa cum laude and first in his class in 1953. He later earned Masters degrees at the University of Paris and at Harvard.

In 1958 he joined the American foreign service and within 10 years he had become Deputy Assistant Secretary for Monetary Affairs. In 1971 he went to Cambodia at the time of the American bombing. He was three times the victim of assassination attempts, and on one occasion the car he had been riding in was totally destroyed.

Together with his ambassador, Emory C. Swank, he produced a long document, now deposited with the historical division of the Department of State, defending the B-52 carpet-bombing of that country against charges by the British journalist William Shawcross and others that it was indiscriminate and produced unnecessary casualties.

At the onset of the energy crisis, Enders was brought back to Washington to serve as Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs. In that job, between 1974 and 1976, he was one of the founders of the International Atomic Energy Authority. He then went as ambassador to Canada, where one of his achievements was the overcoming of the opposition to a new pipeline to take natural gas from Canada to the United States. From 1979 to 1981 he was US ambassador in Brussels.

Enders served as Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs from 1981 to 1983. He opposed the limited support the Reagan Administration gave to Britain in the Falklands conflict, taking the view that the damage to American interests in Latin America was more important than any damage to British interests.

He played a leading role in the Reagan Administration's "twin-track" policy in Central America. This advocated working for negotiated settlements of conflicts in the region while at the same time supporting anti-Communist forces, including the right-wing "Contra" rebels in Nicaragua. He was one of the architects of the San Jose Principles, which led to the "Contadora" peace process which eventually restored peace to Central America.

He also supported increased arms shipments to US allies, including the Contras. He was convinced that Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and even Surinam were the targets of a concerted, "falling dominoes" style Soviet and Cuban campaign to overthrow democracy.

In the end Enders's independent operating style lost the confidence of the State Department. At the same time his insistence that there should be diplomatic as well as covert military activity in Central America made him a target for those even more gung-ho Cold Warriors in the White House national security staff and elsewhere like Oliver North and Elliott Abrams who wanted to rely mainly on secret paramilitary activity. People put it about that Enders was "going soft" on El Salvador.

In 1983 Enders, who, one of his colleagues said, had "reaped the whirlwind" for having excluded so many people from his intrigues, was forced out and sent to Madrid as US ambassador. In 1986 he retired from the foreign service with the rank of career Minister.

Enders was six foot six or eight, according to various accounts. His manner was both aggressive and superior. Even to an admirer such as his boss George Shultz he was "imperious, intellectual and ironic". His analysis, Shultz commented, "conveyed an aura of brilliance even when he stated the obvious. People were impressed by his talents, but his sometimes smug smile and style could irritate even those who admired him most."

While in Madrid, Enders wrote a book, Latin America: the crisis of debt and growth. When he retired from the foreign service and joined Salomon Brothers, he recognised the growth potential of emerging markets in Latin America and played an important part in bringing borrowers in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico back to the New York market.

Enders's hobbies were walking and mountaineering. He climbed in the Canadian Rockies and the Alps, and explored pilgrimage roads in France and Spain. He was also interested in botany and generous in his support for botanical gardens, including Kew.

Godfrey Hodgson

Thomas Ostrom Enders, diplomat and banker: born Hartford, Connecticut 28 November 1931; Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Monetary Affairs 1968-69; Deputy Chief of Mission, Belgrade 1969-71, Phnom Penh 1971-74; Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs 1974-75; US Ambassador to Canada 1975-79, to EEC 1979-81, to Spain 1983-86; Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs 1981- 83; managing director, International Corporate Finance Department, Salomon Bros 1986-96; married 1955 Gaetana Marchegiano (one son, three daughters); died New York 17 March 1996.