American Diplomacy
Foreign Service Life

March 2007

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The Service Considered, Present and Past

Secretary Rice's "transformational diplomacy" concept aims to reprogram resources and refocus efforts from "traditional" missions in developed countries to more activist and "expeditionary" roles in newly emerging regional powers and areas of conflict. This has occasioned much discussion in the Foreign Service community, both active and retired. For many of the old hands, Foreign Service careers have always been more about non-traditional roles and high adventure in exotic, often dangerous, environments than about stereotypical images of formal receptions and state dinners in world capitals. To contribute to this discussion, and in response to interest generated by our previous re-publication of some classic first-person accounts from the pages of American Diplomacy, we offer five more "reprints" from among the gems in our Foreign Service Life collection, illustrating how an earlier generation of American diplomats met some of their professional challenges.


A young consular officer has to deal with a jailed, probably demented American who claims to have made a "death ray" machine. Or was he an important inventor?
Ed Williams, "End of Story," September 1996
LINK: www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/AD_Issues/amdipl_1/williams.html

The U.S. Charge d'affaires finds it difficult to raise the American flag in a hostile, newly-independent country.
Alfonso Arenales, "Mission to Mozambique" February 2002
LINK: www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/archives_roll/ 2002_01-03/arenales_mozamb/ arenales_mozamb.html

A respected Ambassador describes the challenges of his posting to Somalia and relations with its dictator in the mid-1980s.
Peter Bridges, "Sarfika: Envoy to Somalia," April 1998 
LINK: www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/AD_Issues/amdipl_7/bridges1.html

The U.S. Consul in Mombassa must deal with the gruesome death of an American yacht captain.
Gene Schmiel, "The Purple Captain's Final Voyage," October 1997
LINK: www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/AD_Issues/amdipl_5/schmiel.html

A young FSO on his first assignment struggles with French, and finds that even sixty years ago it was losing its status as the "language of diplomacy."
Amb. Francis Underhill, “French With a Few Tears” American Diplomacy, December 1996.
LINK: www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/AD_Issues/Amdipl_2/Underhill.html

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