The Foreign Service Journal, March 2020

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MARCH 2020 79 Syrian opposition, but grew increasingly frustrated: “He sensed he was making no headway and found it agonizing to hear the complaints of the Syrians and watch the war’s destruction at close range” (p. 270). Soon after, he retired. Like Crocker and Ford, Anne Patterson sought only the most challenging assign- ments; she served as ambassador to (among other places) Colombia, Pakistan and Egypt. Patterson was just as comfortable sharing her unvarnished views with Washington as she was delivering tough messages to Pakistan’s chief of army staff (Ashfaq Kayani) or Egypt’s newly elected president from the Muslim Brotherhood (Mohamed Morsi). In a speech before the 2013 military coup in Egypt, Patterson warned that “a military intervention is not the answer, as some would claim” (p. 252). Her words continue to resonate years later. The fourth ambassador portrayed in this book, the late Chris Stevens, served in Libya three times: as deputy chief of mission, as the U.S. envoy to the Libyan opposition during the waning days of the Gaddafi regime and, finally, as ambassa- dor in 2012. Stevens shared the same apprehen- sions about the U.S. invasion of Iraq as Crocker, Ford and other Arabists, but he chose not to serve there. Like them, however, he displayed the same sense of personal courage and mission focus. On returning to Libya in 2012, Richter notes, Stevens told a former aide: “I had a role in getting rid of Gaddafi, and nowmy mission is to rebuild the country” (p. 191). He gave his life in service to that mission on Sept. 11, 2012, in Benghazi, when the U.S. compound there was attacked. He and three other Americans were killed. While these four outstanding ambas- sadors have quite different personalities, they share several critical traits. First, they all pursued assignments in posts that were not only challenging but also dangerous. FSOs may be reluctant to talk about bravery, but one should never take their courage for granted. Second, they never shrank from call- ing it as they saw it, even when (as was so often the case) their informed views went against Washington orthodoxy. Third, and finally, they all believed that the United States can make a positive difference by playing a leading role in international affairs. This view was the foundation of their public service. Recent events have reminded us that the values held by the four figures profiled by Richter are also shared by many others who serve our country. The honesty and integrity of the public servants who testi- fied before Congress in November 2019 came as no surprise to those who know them personally. I hope that everyone who is unfamil- iar with the ways of Washington reads The Ambassadors because it conveys the professional ethos of the Foreign Service: courage, honesty and patriotism. The book’s cover photograph shows an attack on the outskirts of Damascus. Asked in an interviewwhy he chose it, Richter responded: “It illustrates the idea that these are a special class of diplomat who are attracted to work on the front lines.” In The Ambassadors , Richter does a masterful job explaining and describing what motivates this “special class of diplo- mat,” which makes this book so relevant today. n Gordon Gray is the chief operating officer at the Center for American Progress. He was a career Foreign Service officer who served as U.S. ambassador to Tunisia at the start of the Arab Spring and as deputy assistant sec- retary of State for Near Eastern affairs.