EP 315 The Ambassadors: America’s Diplomats on the Front Lines

The perception of the diplomatic corps for many is a well connected person who takes on a plush assignment overseas with all the trappings of privilege.  Yet throughout the impeachment hearings in the U.S. House of Representatives, the public was introduced to career diplomats whose love of country, precision in the use of language, meticulous note taking and general acumen about their posts was anything but that stereotype.  Apart from the careerist Foreign Service types, we also saw a donor diplomat, Gordon Sondland, who was clear in saying that he was not from that school and did not take careful notes.  America has a combination of approximately seventy percent career diplomats to thirty percent who are political appointees by the President.  (Most Western allies do not have such political appointments.) With that said, either can be effective, depending on their backgrounds and suitability for the assignment.  And then there are ‘expeditionary diplomats’ who are sent time and again to some of the hottest spots in the world to take on some of the most difficult assignments where chaos reigns and the normal functions of government are barely present.  Paul Richter, the author of ‘The Ambassadors’ describes four such diplomats whose duties are varied, complex and vital to America’s role in the world. Their understanding of political organization,  the cultures in which they are immersed and the necessity for improvisation in such circumstances is truly remarkable.