The Foreign Service Journal, November 2023

66 NOVEMBER 2023 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Fletcher M. Burton, a former ambassador to the OSCE Mission to Bosnia, spent more than a decade of his Foreign Service career in nation-building deployments, working most closely with James Dobbins on Kosovo. He was the first civilian head of a provincial reconstruction team (PRT), a prototype established in Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan, and later used in Iraq, where he served as the PRT leader in Kirkuk. Nation-building—disavowed as a policy by Republicans and Democrats alike, sullied by failures in Afghanistan and Iraq, slighted as an overly ethnic term by European diplomats who favor “state-building,” yet honored more in the practice than in the breach after military interventions—lost its greatest explicator in James F. “Jim” Dobbins, who died on July 3 at age 81 (see also obituary on page 69). Architect of Nation-Building James F. “Jim” Dobbins 1942-2023 APPRECIATION BY FLETCHER M. BURTON His obituary in The New York Times hailed him as the “world’s leading authority on nation-building.” This theme wound its way through many of the tributes. Yet readers might wonder about the nation-building scoresheet. The NYT and The Washington Post obituaries do not cite any successes except Kosovo. And in its depiction, the Post called Kosovo an “outcome celebrated by the U.S. and its allies”—a bit of sophistry, a phrasing that Vladimir Putin could easily adapt to describe his swallowing of Crimea. Further, the tributes emphasize Dobbins’ withering criticism of U.S. actions, including nation-building, in Afghanistan and Iraq. Did the leading authority leave with too few prizes? Readers will have to turn to Dobbins’ fine memoir, Foreign Service, to find a better reckoning of successes. For example, regarding the Balkans, he asserts: Bosnia pacified, Kosovo liberated, Croatia and Serbia democratized, Macedonia and Albania stabilized. A region transformed from the smoking ruins of Yugoslavia. What made Dobbins so thoughtful in his defense of nationbuilding was his strategic cast of mind or, more precisely, his