Eric Steven Edelman (born 1951) is a former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey (2003–2005), former U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Finland (1998–2001), and former Principal Deputy Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs (2001–2003). A career Foreign Service Officer, Edelman entered the Senior Foreign Service in 1992. He is a recipient of the Secretary of Defense’s award for Distinguished Civilian Service (1993) and the State Department’s Superior Honor Award (1990 and 1996).
He retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in May 2009 and is a visiting scholar at the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and Distinguished Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. He was also an advisor for the 2012 Mitt Romney presidential campaign.
Edelman currently serves as co-chair for the Bipartisan Policy Center's Turkey Initiative.
Edelman received a B.A. in history and government from Cornell University in 1972, and a Ph.D. in U.S. diplomatic history from Yale University in 1981.
His diplomatic career began in 1980 when he was a member of the U.S. Middle East Delegation to the West Bank/Gaza Autonomy Talks Delegations (1980–1981). He was later a Watch Officer in the State Department Operations Center (1981–1982) and a Staff Officer on the Secretariat Staff (1982). From 1982 to 1984 he acted as Special Assistant to Secretary of State George P. Shultz. Then, from 1984 to 1986, he served as Director of Soviet Policies at the Office of Soviet Affairs at the Department of State. From 1987 to 1989, he was Head of the External Political Section at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. This was followed by an appointtment as Special Assistant to the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs (April 1989–April 1990).
In April 1990 Edelman became the Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Soviet and East European Affairs. He held this position until April 1993, at which point he became Deputy to the Ambassador-at-Large and Special Advisor to the Secretary of State on the New Independent States (April 1993–July 1993). He moved to the Czech Republic in June 1994 where he took on the role of Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Prague. He held this position until June 1996, at which time he became Executive Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of State (June 1996–July 1998).
His first ambassadorial appointment came in 1998 when he was made Ambassador to the Republic of Finland. This three-year position (1998–2001) was followed by his appointment as Principal Deputy Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs (February 2001–July 2003)—in which he became a member of Dick Cheney's staff working under Scooter Libby.
His second term as ambassador was from July 2003 to June 2005 as Ambassador to the Republic of Turkey. Edelman took on this role after the second Iraq invasion, during which anti-American tensions within Turkey were high. He was next appointed to the position of Undersecretary of Defense for Policy on August 9, 2005, via recess appointment by George W. Bush, after his nomination was stalled in the Senate. Edelman replaced Douglas Feith, who had resigned. The appointment since his confirmation by the senate would have been impossible to achieve, set to expire in January 2007 when a new Congress convened, was confirmed by the Senate on February 9, 2006.
In July 2007, Edelman attracted media attention for criticizing Senator Hillary Clinton, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. In a private letter to Senator Clinton in response to a request made to the Pentagon in May 2007 for an outline plans for withdrawing troops from combat in Iraq, Edelman rebuffed her request and wrote:
"Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia."
The Associated Press described his criticisms as "stinging". According to the Associated Press, Edelman's comments were: “unusual, particularly because it was directed at a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee”. The Associated Press pointed out that fellow committee member Republican Senator Richard Lugar had also called for discussions of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, but had escaped Edelman's criticism. Clinton has said she is "shocked by the timeworn tactic of once again impugning the patriotism of any of us who raise serious questions" about the Iraq war. In a letter to Secretary of Defense Gates, Senator Clinton reiterated her request for plans on troop redeployment and protested Edelman's criticism and asked if Edelman's letter accurately reflected Gates' views as Secretary of Defense. In reference to Clinton's comments, Secretary of Defense Gates has said "I believe that congressional debate on Iraq has been constructive and appropriate."