I spent 39 years in the Foreign Service, toward the end as ambassador and State Department inspector general, which I assume is why the author asked me to critique his manuscript. Mr. Kralev provides a vibrant, accurate description of what American diplomats actually do, something little understood by their countrymen. Of course there is danger--nine of my friends and colleagues suffered a violent end--but this book dwells more on the wide variety of duties performed and the sense of national service that permeates this small corps of public servants. The author took advantage of his job as a journalist covering the State Department, which entailed traveling tens of thousands of miles with the Secretary. He interviewed scores of Foreign Service Officers and watched what went on in embassies, consulates, and some more remote locations. He describes the occasional excitement and glamor of the Foreign Service career, as well as the strain upon marriages, the challenge of educating children. He criticizes systemic flaws he finds. The narrative flows smoothly. If you are interested in an honest, often surprising account of America's "first line of defense", here it is.
Ripped from the headlines2012/9/13
The recent killing of American diplomats in Libya illustrates the main thesis of this important book in tragically dramatic fashion. The needs of national security in a volatile world have put U.S. Foreign Service officers on the front lines in new and sometimes extremely hazardous fashion.
Kralev's timely account of how the State Department represents America's interests around the world illuminates a vital component our security apparatus that remains too often in the shadows.
The author, a former diplomatic correspondent for two major newspapers, brings the Foreign Service to life with numerous profiles and anecdotes from diplomats he has encountered over the years. In addition, interviews with the current secretary of State and her recent predecessors provide invaluable insight into how America's diplomatic mission has evolved in recent years. The author's first-hand accounts of visits to American embassies around the world give the reader a taste of a life that is at times exotic, even glamorous, but often gritty and dangerous as well.
What comes through most strongly in this chronicle of several active and retired diplomats, however, is the sense of duty and mission that motivates their service. Kralev doesn't gloss over the shortcomings or problems in the State Department, but he lets the words and deeds of these public servants speak for themselves and the reader can't help but be impressed by their talent and dedication.
A Must Read on American Diplomacy2012/9/15
Nick Kralev provides an excellent account on not only the big picture of American diplomacy, but more importantly how the Foreign Service operates and how it fits into the bigger picture of US foreign policy. The book is extremely effective in providing a personal element to the Foreign Service as it utilizes the experiences of past and present Foreign Service Officers to illustrate to the reader what diplomats go through on a day-to-day basis.
Given recent events in North Africa, "America's Other Army" is an important read in order to gain a more complete understanding of the nuts and bolts of US diplomatic work abroad and not just the big picture policy objectives laid out from Washington. Furthermore, Kralev strives at all times to emphasize the people that make up the Foreign Service and the extraordinary talents they must possess in order to successfully fulfill the tasks asked of them in their work.
In all, "America's Other Army" provides an excellent overview of the work of the Foreign Service, which is a subject that is not explored enough as it should given the current importance of diplomacy for American interests.
Must read book on the foreign service2012/9/15
Nick Kralev had done a tremendous job describing what US foreign service officers really do -- from the mundane to the truly heroic. That his book comes out during the week that Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other brave Americans died in Libya makes his story even more poignant and urgent. Most Americans know what our military does but have no clue about how a tiny band of diplomats represents US interests abroad and advances American goals while trying to understand complex cultures. I highly recommend Nick's book to young Americans considering joining the foreign service and to anyone who wants to know what "America's Other Army" is all about.
Today's U.S. Foreign Service is America's Other Army2012/11/10
H. Kenneth Hill
As a successful foreign affairs journalist with The Washington Times and a stringer of the Financial Times, Nicholas Kralev became a member of the media pool that traveled with and became acquainted with Secretaries of State Albright, Powell, Rice, and Clinton. And he also frequently traveled on his own to many American embassies and consulates, establishing a wide range of contacts with Foreign Service Officers of all ranks from new consular officers up to ambassadors, engaged in a broad array of work assignments. This networking provided the research for his excellent new primer on the Service and American diplomacy in the 21st century. As a retired former Foreign Service Officer and retired ambassador, I recommend the book to anyone engaged in international affairs and business, education, journalism, and indeed for any Americans who want to understand how today's Foreign Service has in many places abroad come to resemble an army of diplomats confronting guerilla movements, terrorism, nation-building, and other dynamics of the post-9/11 world, in addition to their traditional tasks of political and economic reporting, consular work, and administration. However, readers will also learn that this "army" is not armed and occasionally is not adequately protected, as occurred recently, and tragically, in Benghazi, Libya.