Fascinating interactive map: Where U.S. secretaries of state have traveled since 1989

January 24, 2013

Outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, it is often said, has visited more countries than any predecessor. But the picture is more complicated than that, as this great interactive from a Washington Post team (graphics producer Emily Chow with Glenn Kessler, a former diplomatic correspondent and now Fact Checker columnist) demonstrates.

The map shows the number of Secretary of State visits that each country has gotten since the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. It also shows the individual travel records of all six Secretaries of State since then. You can see who traveled where, which country got more visits from whom, and how things changed over time. Check it out, then scroll back down here for some initial thoughts.

One of the first things you might notice, clicking through the secretaries' travel records, is that Clinton traveled widely but not deeply, particularly compared to predecessors. Madeleine Albright, who served under Bill Clinton, focused heavily on central and eastern Europe, likely in response to the crises and wars following Yugoslavia's breakup.

The most visited country by far is Israel, which got 90 visits over this 24-year period. The race is not even close; the second-most visited, Egypt, got 61. Israel's other neighbors are also hot spots for U.S. Secretaries of State: 13 trips to Lebanon, 35 to Jordan, 47 to the Palestinian Authority, and 48 to Syria.

The other most-visited countries are in western Europe, with about 50 each to Britain, France, Germany and Belgium, where NATO is headquartered.

Clinton's record of visits to individual countries, for whatever merit that metric might have in measuring a secretary's focus, doesn't show as many repeat visits as her predecessors. She visited China the most, with seven trips – one more than Condoleezza Rice. She also had the most trips to Haiti: four. But she visited Israel the least; same with Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. Clinton hit her astonishing record – most countries ever visited by a secretary of state – in part by traveling a lot, but also in part, it seems, by taking fewer trips to the Middle East.

She did travel widely in sub-Saharan Africa, hitting countries such as Zambia and Ivory Coast as well as making repeat visits to Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, and others.

There are so many fascinating stories embedded in this data. You can see Warren Christopher's dozens of trips to Israel and Jordan, between whom he helped negotiate a formal peace treaty, as well as to Syria, where he tried and failed to achieve the same. And you can see Rice's flurry of trips to Russia and Georgia, which fought a brief war at the end of George W. Bush's second term. There's a lot to consider here.

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Max Fisher · January 24, 2013