Meet the Book’s Main Characters
American diplomacy has a real and lasting impact on millions of people in the United States and around the world every day — their safety and security, their ability to travel and communicate with people in other countries, and their employment and overall prosperity. Yet, little is known about U.S. diplomats, their skills and work. Meet some of the characters in America’s Other Army. The photos are courtesy of the State Department or the profiled Foreign Service members.
When Munter joined the Foreign Service in 1985, most U.S. diplomats looked like him — about 80 percent were men, with nearly 73 percent white male. Now women represent nearly 40 percent of the service, and it actively recruits minorities. As ambassador to Pakistan from 2010 to 2012, Munter tried to repair Washington’s relationship with Islamabad, which suffered a serious blow following Osama bin Laden’s assassination and other events. As ambassador to Serbia from 2007 to 2009, Munter helped behind the scenes to engineer the election loss of former Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Koštunica, after evidence emerged that he had approved an attack that burned down a part of the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade, following Washington’s recognition of Kosovo’s independence from Serbia. Munter has also served in Iraq, Poland, the Czech Republic and Germany.
Currently the assistant secretary of state for European affairs, Nuland has been entrusted with important positions by both Republican and Democratic administrations. She was a senior adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney during the Bush administration, and chief of staff to Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott during the Clinton administration. In addition to a successful diplomatic career, Nuland has managed to raise a family and keep her spouse, historian and writer Robert Kagan, happy. She attributes it to “lots of luck, great mentors and a heavy dose of bending the Foreign Service to be more modern” and accommodating. A former ambassador to NATO and State Department spokesperson, Nuland has been a Foreign Service officer since 1984. She has also served in China, Mongolia and Russia.
Bond hardly fits most people’s perceptions of a diplomat. Black and gay, he belongs to a very small minority in the Foreign Service, but his mere presence is a victory of sorts. When his now-spouse, Ted Osius, joined the service in 1989, those found out to be gay were often expelled — that did not change until 1994. Bond, who grew up in Detroit and holds master’s degrees from both Harvard and Oxford, became a Foreign Service officer on September 10, 2001, and has served in Colombia, India and Singapore. There have been many advances for gay diplomats in recent years, but the biggest achievement was the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, which allowed the State Department to bestow on same-sex spouses the rights and benefits other spouses had always had. Bond and Osius have since adopted a boy.
In February 2008, Kim was in North Korea, accompanying the New York Philharmonic during a rare concert tour in the communist country. In fact, Kim had helped negotiate the unprecedented visit, which Washington hoped would improve Pyongyang’s cooperation in efforts to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. She was involved in those efforts as well. In 2012, now in Turkey, Kim tried to persuade the country to use its influence with neighboring Syria to end the Damascus regime’s violent crackdown on anti-government protesters. A Korean-American, she joined the Foreign Service in 1996 and has also served in China, South Korea and Iraq. “We aspire to be elite, though not elitist,” she says of U.S. diplomats. “The best officers have a strategic vision, but also the guts to smash concrete to get things done. That’s the kind of Foreign Service officer I want to be.”
Burns was just 32 in 1988 when Colin Powell, at the time President Ronald Reagan’s national security adviser, put him in charge of the Middle East office at the National Security Council. “In the Foreign Service, how well you do depends a lot on who you work for and what you work on,” he says. “I was really lucky, but I know people who weren’t so lucky.” Having bosses who entrusted Burns with significant responsibilities helped him get promoted to the senior Foreign Service in 10 years, which is half the time it takes the average officer. He joined the service in 1982 and has been ambassador to Jordan and Russia, as well as assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs and undersecretary for political affairs. In 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appointed him her deputy.
Kenney, the ambassador to Thailand, always seems upbeat and chipper, but on the day America’s Other Army author Nicholas Kralev visited her in Bangkok in February 2012, she was especially excited, in anticipation of a rare event the next day. The Boeing Company was flying in its newest commercial plane, the Dreamliner, which she saw as an excellent opportunity to promote the U.S. aircraft industry, and American business in general. An added bonus was the fact that the president of Boeing for Southeast Asia was Ralph Boyce, one of Kenney’s recent predecessors at the embassy in Bangkok, whom many Thais still remembered because of his superb command of their language. Kenney’s husband, William Brownfield, is also a Foreign Service officer. She is a former ambassador to the Philippines and Ecuador.
In 1997, Hammer did advance work on President Bill Clinton’s visit to Vancouver for the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. Once the president’s party arrived, Hammer, a political officer with nine years of experience in the Foreign Service at the time, was asked to make a dinner reservation for Clinton on very short notice, and he didn’t mind it a bit. About a year later, Hammer applied for a position at the National Security Council (NSC), where the officer he had helped out in Vancouver held a top position. So Hammer got the first press job in his career, which eventually led to his appointment as the first NSC spokesman in the Obama White House, and later as assistant secretary of state for public affairs. “If someone comes to you, and you are able to do little things right, you might be given bigger opportunities,” says Hammer, who has also served in Denmark, Iceland and Bolivia.
Modern diplomacy is not all glamour. In Thailand from 2010 to 2012, Sen wore flip-flops much more often than suits, because she was “in refugee camps most of the time,” she says. During that tour — her second in the Foreign Service — she worked to secure protection for refugees from across East Asia, and to resettle some of them in the United States. “We were in a situation where no one was willing to speak for these people but us,” she says. “We don’t get out and tell the story very much. We do humanitarian work, but we don’t benefit from it necessarily.” On the personal front, “many of us join the service as double-income families, but then all of a sudden we drop to a single income,” she adds. “In most cases, we have partners who are just as educated and motivated, and we are asking them to sit out on their career for lengthy periods of time. That’s the aspect of the Foreign Service life that’s very difficult.”
In July 2003, armed Filipino military officers took over an apartment tower in Manila, in a peculiar attempt to overthrow the government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Ricciardone, who was the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines at the time, was alarmed by reports that Arroyo was considering a military response, which most likely would have resulted in civilian casualties. “I had to tell her she shouldn’t send tanks in and blow up the building,” Ricciardone recalls. “She didn’t do it. She waited it out.” Ricciardone, who was later ambassador to Egypt and Turkey before retiring in 2014, says Foreign Service officers should have “a broad understanding of government, politics, economics and science” in the U.S. and other countries. “We need to be entrepreneurial, figure things out and find opportunities that lie beyond the daily threats and distractions,” he says.
Life in the Foreign Service offers a wide variety of experiences, and Hazzard has made the best of it. She joined the service as a secretary in 1973 at age 24. After all these years, she has chosen to remain what the State Department now calls an office-management specialist, rather than become a Foreign Service officer. She has served in nearly 80 countries — both on permanent and temporary assignments — and visited more than 100 countries. The photo with the snake was taken in the African country of Benin. Hazzard has witnessed the glamour associated with the world of diplomacy — her office at the embassy in Rome, a former royal palace where she worked in the late 1990s, used to be the Italian queen’s drawing room, says Hazzard, who met Pope John Paul II during that tour. But she has also lived in places where the water and electricity went out for hours every day. “Places like this make me more compassionate,” she says.
As deputy chief of mission in Haiti in 2010, Lindwall managed the search for missing U.S. citizens after the country’s devastating earthquake and helped the local government recover from the disaster. Lindwall’s house collapsed from the seismic shock, and he escaped what would have been certain death had he been there at the time. However, his colleague Victoria DeLong, the embassy’s cultural affairs officer, wasn’t so lucky — she was killed when the quake destroyed her house. A few years earlier, Lindwall had participated in successful efforts to reform Guatemala’s previously corrupt child-adoption system, which many Americans use, and to improve child nutrition. In 2012 in Iraq, he worked on deals to sell U.S. military aircraft and other equipment worth billions of dollars to the government in Baghdad. After that assignment, Lindwall became consul-general at the U.S. Consulate in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
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This book has no connection to the U.S. government. The Department of State provided the author with access to embassies, consulates and diplomats, but it did not commission or review the book, and has not endorsed it.