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MARCH 2015



Ambassador’s Memoir Illustrates Diplomacy in Action


On Jan. 8 the American

Foreign Service Association

hosted Ambassador Chris-

topher Hill at AFSA head-

quarters for a Book Notes

discussion of his new memoir,

Outpost: Life on the Frontlines

of American Diplomacy.

Currently dean of the Josef

Korbel School of International

Studies at the University of

Denver, Amb. Hill is a retired

career diplomat and four-

time ambassador, whose last

post was Baghdad (2009-

2010). Prior to that, he served

as assistant secretary of

State for East Asian and

Pacific affairs (2005-2009);

ambassador to South Korea

(2004-2005); ambassador to

Poland (2000-2004); ambas-

sador to Macedonia (1996-

1999) and special envoy to

Kosovo (1998-1999), among

many other assignments.

Over the course of his

Foreign Service career, Hill

received many State Depart-

ment awards, including the

Secretary of State’s Distin-

guished Service Award and

the Robert A. Frasure Award

for Peace Negotiations.

AFSA President Robert J.

Silverman introduced Hill by

observing that reading Hill’s

memoir reminded him of

“how cool it is to be a Foreign

Service officer.”

Hill opened with a light-

hearted jab at his writing

experience. “I never thought

I’d write a book,” he said. “In

the Foreign Service, I don’t

think I ever wrote anything

longer than two pages, and

no one ever read page two,”

he continued. “It was kind of

weird to get to page three and

realize I was in terra incog-


Though diplomacy is “not

the oldest profession in the

world,” Hill observed that it

has “been around for a long

time.” He emphasized the

importance of building rela-

tionships in the practice of

diplomacy, citing their value

when he served as special

envoy to Kosovo, negotiated

with the North Koreans and

led Embassy Baghdad.

Describing Iraq as “one

of the most difficult issues

for the Foreign Service,”

Hill noted that “the State

Department put itself in the

position where we were seen

as the organization that

would somehow provide the

continuity once the military

was gone: war by other

means.” However, he noted,

“we should not be sending

soldiers to do a diplomat’s

job, and to some extent I think

that’s what happened in Iraq.”

Hill added that he does not

call Iraq a “big mistake” in his

book, but “we need to think

things through a little better

before we find ourselves in

circumstances of that kind.”

Before taking enthusiastic

questions from the capacity

audience, Hill declared that

the Foreign Service profession

is in “good shape.” He also

pointed out that he dedicated

his book not just to his own

family, but to all the men and

women of the Foreign Service

and their families.

“Anyone who has been

to the outposts knows that

you don’t always have the

option of waiting for guid-

ance,” he said. “You have to

make decisions; you have to

take a chance; you have to

make these tough calls. And

the men and women of our

Foreign Service have done

that very, very well over the



—Debra Blome,

Associate Editor

Secretary of State John Kerry swears in FSO Ted Osius as U.S.

ambassador to Vietnam on Dec. 10. His spouse, former AFSA Governing

Board member Clayton Bond, their son, TABO, and Osius’ mother,

Nancy Zimmerman, look on. Amb. Osius is the first openly gay officer to

serve as a U.S. ambassador in Southeast Asia.



Ambassador Christopher Hill.