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American Statecraft: The Story of the U.S. Foreign Service

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This magisterial work on American diplomacy by a veteran journalist and historian is the first complete history of the U.S. Foreign Service

American Statecraft is a fascinating and comprehensive look at the unsung men and women of the U.S. Foreign Service whose dedication and sacrifices have been a crucial part of our history for over two centuries. Fifteen years in the making, veteran journalist and historian Moskin has traveled the globe conducting hundreds of ...

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American Statecraft: The Story of the U.S. Foreign Service

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Overview

This magisterial work on American diplomacy by a veteran journalist and historian is the first complete history of the U.S. Foreign Service

American Statecraft is a fascinating and comprehensive look at the unsung men and women of the U.S. Foreign Service whose dedication and sacrifices have been a crucial part of our history for over two centuries. Fifteen years in the making, veteran journalist and historian Moskin has traveled the globe conducting hundreds of interviews both in and out of the State Department to look behind the scenes at America’s “militiamen of diplomacy.”

As the nation’s eyes and ears, our envoys pledge a substantial part of their lives in foreign lands working for the benefit of their nation. Endeavoring to use dialogue and negotiation as their instruments of change, our diplomats tirelessly work to find markets for American business, rescue its citizens in trouble abroad, and act in general as “America’s first line of defense” in policy negotiations, keeping America out of war. But it took generations to polish these skills, and Moskin traces America’s full diplomatic history, back to its amateur years coming up against seasoned Europeans during the days of Ben Franklin, now considered the father of the U.S. Foreign Service, and up to the recent Benghazi attack. Along the way, its members included many devoted and courageous public servants, and also some political spoilsmen and outright rogues.

An important contribution to the political canon, American Statecraft recounts the history of the United States through the lens of foreign diplomacy.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
09/02/2013
Some 15 years in the making, this impressive and massive tome sets out to tell the story of the U. S. Foreign Service, from its beginnings during the American Revolution into the 21st century. Former journalist Moskin (The U.S. Marine Corps Story) begins in the spring of 1776 when the Continental Congress sent Connecticut merchant Silas Deane on a secret mission to the court of French King Louis XVI to secure France’s support for the fight against the British. Working chronologically and writing journalistically, Moskin concentrates mainly on secretaries of state and ambassadors, including well-known figures such as Benjamin Franklin, regarded as the father of the U.S. Foreign Service, and Thomas Jefferson, the first American secretary of state. He also highlights lesser-known figures such as 20th-century Middle East specialist Alfred “Roy” Atherton, who began his three-decade career as a vice consul in Germany and went on to become ambassador to Egypt and then director general of the Foreign Service. Moskin clearly is a Foreign Service partisan—his book details the work of many “dedicated and courageous public servants,” as well as “some political spoilsmen and rogues,” concentrating on the former to provide a unique look at this oft-neglected field. (Nov.)
From the Publisher

“An ambitious, impressively researched history...” —Kirkus Reviews

“First, Moskin’s volume, the product of extensive (but not archival) research that included more than one hundred interviews worldwide, is a valuable reference work for little-known details (factoids?) about the U.S. Foreign Service…. As the book unfolds, this intriguing list of (to some) arcane information flows like Niagara Falls on steroids…  I’m willing to bet no medieval monk ever surpassed this hardworking note-taking scribler in his zeal for chronicling… A second reason to treasure this book is its subtle use of memorable quotations pertaining to the Foreign Service.”—American Diplomacy

“Some 15 years in the making, this impressive and massive tome sets out to tell the story of the U. S. Foreign Service, from its beginnings during the American Revolution into the 21st century. Former journalist Moskin (The U.S. Marine Corps Story) begins in the spring of 1776 when the Continental Congress sent Connecticut merchant Silas Deane on a secret mission to the court of French King Louis XVI to secure France’s support for the fight against the British. Working chronologically and writing journalistically, Moskin concentrates mainly on secretaries of state and ambassadors, including well-known figures such as Benjamin Franklin, regarded as the father of the U.S. Foreign Service, and Thomas Jefferson, the first American secretary of state. He also highlights lesser-known figures such as 20th-century Middle East specialist Alfred “Roy” Atherton, who began his three-decade career as a vice consul in Germany and went on to become ambassador to Egypt and then director general of the Foreign Service. Moskin clearly is a Foreign Service partisan—his book details the work of many ‘dedicated and courageous public servants,’ as well as ‘some political spoilsmen and rogues,’ concentrating on the former to provide a unique look at this oft-neglected field.”—Publishers Weekly

American Statecraft is a fascinating and long overdue account of the important work that our diplomats have done for the country from the days of Benjamin Franklin to present.  I recommend it highly to all students of American foreign policy.” —Richard N. Gardner, Ambassador and Professor Emeritus, Columbia Law School

“Moskin has written an incisive and fascinating account of the central role the U.S. Foreign Service has played in American diplomacy since the beginning of the republic. Its story of two centuries of American struggles and triumphs on the world stage provides a unique argument for the continuing value of the Foreign Service to our nation.” —Nicholas Burns, Ambassador and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and Professor, Harvard Kennedy School

“Through meticulous research and hundreds of interviews over 18 years, Robert Moskin has expertly filled a huge gap in our knowledge of what the Foreign Service is and how its members serve America, often under harrowing conditions. His book is studded with lively portraits of individuals, well known and obscure, who constitute the Foreign Service. Moskin’s narrative unfolds against the successes and failures of American statecraft from Jefferson to Obama, and efforts at reform. Even-handed and fair, written in a highly readable style, this book is indispensable to teachers and students, foreign ministries and their diplomats, and the general reader. There is no other book like this.” —Ambassador (Ret.) Brandon Grove, President Emeritus, The American Academy of Diplomacy

“Moskin has brought together with care and lucidity an inside history of American diplomacy written through the eyes of the many diplomats who conceived and carried it out over 225 years. You experience the challenges, successes, and foibles. Over time, the Foreign Service evolved into a professional cadre serving the public and presidents, often at the peril of their lives. Anyone interested in understanding our diplomacy, what makes it tick, and how it strives to serve the public interest should read this masterful history.” —Thomas R Pickering, former Ambassador and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
 
"Beginning with the first envoys, Moskin recounts the stories of numerous American diplomats up to the present, creating a concrete impression of how their duties and experiences have changed over time.  Aspirants to the foreign service will surely want Moskin's history." -- Booklist

Kirkus Reviews
A massively thorough survey of the formation of the U.S. Foreign Service, from Benjamin Franklin's early efforts to convince European powers to back the colonists' cause to Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens' tragic death in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012. Created as an arm of the executive branch, the U.S. Department of Foreign Affairs was conceived in 1781. For one "glorious moment" in 1784, the diplomatic team for the fledgling U.S. in Paris was represented by Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, their missions being to instill confidence abroad for the young nation, negotiate treaties, open markets and protect U.S. seamen overseas, among other duties. With the ratification of the Constitution, the U.S. Department of State was formally created, and it reported only to the president, with Thomas Jefferson serving as the first secretary of state. Despite the ensuing rocky relations between Britain and France, one high point of diplomatic negotiation included the bargaining for the Louisiana Territory with Napoleon, while an early foreign-service "professional," William Brown Hodgson, with his quick study of Arabic, helped to anchor the growing nation by establishing relations with the Ottoman Empire. Moskin (Mr. Truman's War: The Final Victories of World War II and the Birth of the Postwar World, 1998, etc.) gallops chronologically over the decades to pin some of the milestones in foreign-service evolution, such as the ongoing correction of the "spoils system" (awarding political cronies and big donors with consulates) in favor of service meritocracy. The author looks at the many hotspots around the world where diplomacy has been crucial in resolving debates concerning expansion, slavery and empire, from Mexico to China to Russia to the "diplomacy of oil" in the Middle East. An ambitious, impressively researched history, though the writing tends toward the ploddingly scholarly.
Library Journal
02/01/2014
Moskin (Mr. Truman's War) presents an extensive survey of the U.S. Foreign Service from 1776 to the present when our global affairs require diplomacy to play a critical part in world security. After covering the early history of the service, when men such as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were active diplomats, the author moves to the dawn of the 20th century and focuses on the evolution of the service (both diplomatic and consular) as we moved from a passive to active role and became a world power. Part 3 details the emergence of the current foreign service with its changes (e.g., employing women and minorities) and challenges (e.g., enacting public diplomacy that appeals to a country's people as a whole, rather than just its government). Moskin reviews historical highlights such as dealing with Communist China in the midst of the domestic hysteria of McCarthyism. VERDICT Covering so much ground is a daunting task. Even at 900-plus pages, Moskin's book can sometimes merely touch on a topic. (U.S. involvement in World War II gets 11 pages.) Yet the author knows his subject, has done considerable primary source research, and succeeds at getting at the gist of the foreign service's essence and evolution. For all relevant subject collections.—Krista Bush, Shelton, CT
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250037459
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 11/19/2013
  • Pages: 944
  • Sales rank: 328,422
  • Product dimensions: 6.56 (w) x 9.46 (h) x 2.27 (d)

Meet the Author

An award-winning historian and journalist, J. ROBERT MOSKIN has written nine books including a definitive history of the U.S. Marine Corps and an account of the final battles of WWII. He served for nineteen years as an editor of Look magazine, spending the last five years as its Foreign Editor. He has also served as an editor of Collier’s and The Saturday Review, as well as the editorial director of The Aspen Institute and The Commonwealth Fund. He lives in New York City and Massachusetts.

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Read an Excerpt

1
 
 
Making a Difference
 
Today, many Americans cannot identify the U.S. Foreign Service, even though it is the nation’s first line of defense. It is both a highly trained organization stationed in 190 countries and also a community of 58,000 men and women who spend most of their lives in foreign lands serving their fellow Americans.
The members of the Foreign Service—and thousands more who do not pass its tough entrance tests—are motivated, more than anything else, by the desire to “make a difference.” They want to create and carry out American foreign policy in creative, effective ways.
To make a difference, a Foreign Service officer must have both the ability and the authority to make decisions and take action—often under the pressure of crisis and danger. Here, for example, are the stories of two modern American diplomats who made a difference.
“HE WAS ONE OF A KIND, UNIQUE”
William A. Eddy masterminded the historic meeting between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia during World War II.
Eddy was born in Syria to Presbyterian missionary parents and grandparents. During boyhood summers, his father sent him to live in the desert with the nomadic Bedouins and learn their language and culture. He played varsity basketball at Princeton, and, after graduating in June 1917, he was sent to France with the Sixth Marines.
Eddy led daring reconnaissance patrols, and, within a few months, received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, and two Silver Stars, all for valor, before he was seriously wounded in the battle for Belleau Wood. His regimental commander, Colonel Albertus W. Catlin, a Medal of Honor winner himself, called Eddy “a daredevil who loved nothing better than to stalk German sentries in Indian fashion.”
After World War I, Eddy earned a Ph.D. at Princeton, taught at the American University in Cairo and at Dartmouth College, and then became president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He rejoined the Marine Corps in World War II and served as a naval attaché in Tangier before the Allies landed in French North Africa on November 8, 1942. The attaché title was a cover; he headed the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) for North Africa, working with Ambassador Robert Murphy, who represented the State Department, and Brigadier General William J. Donovan, who led the OSS. Ambassador Murphy said of Eddy: “He was one of a kind, unique; we could have used a hundred like him.”
In November 1943, the State Department asked the OSS to return Colonel Eddy for temporary duty, and President Roosevelt sent him to Saudi Arabia as the American minister. When FDR decided to meet with Ibn Saud on his way home from the Yalta Conference in February 1945, Colonel Eddy organized the secret meeting between the self-taught warrior-hunter Saudi king and the sophisticated, Harvard-educated American president.
Eddy was charged to bring them together aboard the brand-new heavy cruiser USS Quincy on the Great Bitter Lake in the middle of the Suez Canal. If word of the meeting leaked out, Quincy would be a stunning target for German bomber pilots.
Eddy arranged for the destroyer USS Murphy to drop anchor in Jeddah harbor on Sunday, February 11. It was supposed to look like a routine visit, but no American warship had ever stopped at Jeddah. Meanwhile, Ibn Saud and his entourage traveled overland from Mecca to Jeddah. And Eddy convinced the king to reduce his party on board from a hundred to forty-eight (still exceeding the dozen visitors the destroyer had room for).
When the Murphy sailed for Suez the next day, some Saudis ashore feared their king had abdicated, others that he had been kidnapped. The ladies of the harem dressed in mourning clothes.
To steam to Suez took two nights and a day. The king insisted on sleeping on deck; a tent was raised and rugs spread over the gray steel. His cooks prepared his traditional lamb and rice. At ten o’clock on Wednesday morning, February 14, Valentine’s Day, Murphy tied up alongside the USS Quincy; and the king, three princes, and two ministers crossed the gangplank to meet with President Roosevelt, who was sitting in his wheelchair on the cruiser’s deck. The President and king talked for more than an hour. Eddy was their sole interpreter; dressed in his U.S. Marine uniform, he worked kneeling on one knee between the heads of state.
Eddy then escorted the king to FDR’s private suite and to lunch. The only other Americans at the table were Roosevelt; Admiral William D. Leahy, chief of staff to the commander in chief; and Foreign Service officer Charles “Chip” Bohlen, FDR’s Russian interpreter at Yalta.
After lunch, the king and President resumed their talk, joined by the Saudi foreign minister and Eddy. The two most significant topics they discussed were American access to Saudi Arabian oil and the settlement of more Jewish survivors of the Holocaust in Palestine. The king favored the first and strongly opposed the second.
Eddy later said that Roosevelt assured the king that “(1) he personally, as president, would never do anything which might prove hostile to the Arabs; and (2) the U.S. Government would make no change in its basic policy in Palestine without full and prior consultation with both Jews and Arabs.” Eddy always believed that the meeting on the Great Bitter Lake enabled “the leader of Islam to face West and bind his fortunes to ours.”
A DARING ESCAPE
A second story of an American diplomat who made a difference is that of U.S. Consul General J. Hall Paxton. When Mao Tse-tung’s Communist armies swept across China in August 1949, Paxton led out the people of the American consulate at Tihwa in China’s remote northwestern corner. The Chinese had already cut the escape routes to the east and halted all air and rail traffic. Paxton had no choice but to flee by the ancient and precarious Leh caravan route over the Himalayas into India.
The son of a missionary, Paxton had first come to China when he was two. He graduated from Yale; he entered the Foreign Service in 1925 and was serving as a vice consul in Nanking in 1927. Ten years later, he was aboard the gunboat USS Panay when Japanese bombers sank her in the Yangtze River. During World War II the Japanese interned him. By 1949, he was fifty years old and in charge at the walled city of Tihwa, only 150 miles from the Russian and Mongolian borders. The primitive consulate had no indoor plumbing, and whitewashed stables served as guest rooms. The Americans were stationed at Tihwa detecting Soviet atomic bomb activity.
Consul General Paxton’s party of ten adults and six children left Tihwa on August 16, just ahead of the Chinese armies. The party included three Americans (Paxton; his wife, Vincoe, who had been a missionary nurse; and Vice Consul Robert B. Dreessen, a former U.S. Marine) and two White Russian drivers; their families; and an interpreter, his wife, and their three-month-old baby.
They left behind Vice Consul Douglas S. Mackiernan, who was actually an undercover CIA agent. A skilled meteorologist trained at MIT, he had been stationed at Tihwa during World War II. Now, the CIA ordered Mackiernan, the last American in Tihwa, to stay where he was.
Two weeks after Paxton left, the Russians exploded their first atomic bomb. Eleven days later, twenty-eight-year-old Frank B. Bessac, who had served in the OSS and CIA, arrived in Tihwa. And on September 27, Mackiernan closed the consulate. On October 1, Mao Tse-tung established the People’s Republic of China.
Mackiernan and Bessac tried to escape China through Tibet. They traveled for months, mostly riding Asian ponies. Mackiernan kept in touch by radio with his CIA handler and with W. Walton Butterworth, assistant secretary for Far Eastern affairs at the State Department. Mackiernan’s biographer, Thomas Laird, says that the State Department and CIA were feuding and failed to ask the Tibetans for permission for the Mackiernan party to pass through Tibet.
At the border on April 29, Tibetan border guards shot and killed Mackiernan. Permission to let the Americans pass reached the border guards two days after Mackiernan had been killed. He was the first CIA man killed in action and was thus honored by the State Department. Frank Bessac and one White Russian in their party survived and finally made their way home.
After leaving Mackiernan at Tihwa, Consul General Paxton drove an ancient jeep carrying his wife and Vice Consul Dreessen; the others piled into an army truck. They covered nearly a thousand miles, crossing the edge of a vast desert in 108-degree heat. At Kashgar, an oasis on the Russian border, they abandoned their vehicles and hired a caravan.
Five weeks after leaving Tihwa, they reached the last Chinese border outpost. The Chinese border guards allowed Paxton’s party to go on. They entered the Himalayas, climbed through treacherous three-mile-high Karakoram Pass, crossed and recrossed icy rapids, and suffered frostbite and high-altitude nausea. Breathing was painful. Nine packhorses died. For sixteen days they did not see another human being. Near the end, Paxton’s party had to slog ahead and leave the pack train behind.
The terrain on the India side of the mountains was even more difficult, with deep canyons and steep narrow paths. They reached altitudes above seventeen thousand feet and gasped for oxygen in the thin air. When they came to the first tiny Indian settlement, they still had to pick their way over a perilous four-hundred-foot glacier.
After their ten-week ordeal, they staggered into Leh, the capital of Ladakh. A U.S. embassy plane arrived and flew them to New Delhi. Paxton died in 1962 while serving as consul in Isfahan, Iran. His feat of leadership became a Foreign Service legend, encouraging others to take tremendous risks to achieve their goals.

 
Copyright © 2013 by J. Robert Moskin

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  • Posted January 7, 2014

    Come with an open mind

    This book covers it all. At times it reads like an employee handbook. Other times it reads like a recruiting brochure. But mostly it is a fascinating history of the U.S. Foreign Service. There are familiar names that do not warrant their sterling reputation, and unfamiliar names that turn out to be heroic. Of course there are some names that totally agree with their reputation. Well researched, many of the chapters would be worth a book in themselves, It's a long book, but it covers a lot of time and a lot of territory. Well worth the time.

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