The Foreign Service Journal - September 2017
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resilient. Both institutions have evolved

profoundly, continuously enhanc-

ing their ability to help maintain our

nation’s security, advance its prosperity

and promote American values.

It should come as no surprise that

many of the presidents and Secretaries

of State who first questioned the loyalty

of both institutions have left office

impressed by the knowledge, determina-

tion, energy and discretion of America’s

career diplomats.

Kopp and Naland quote Henry Kiss-

inger, for example, who declares that he

knew of no Secretary of State who did not

come to “admire the dedicated men and

women who supply the continuity and

expertise of our foreign policy. I entered

the State Department a skeptic. I left a


Career Diplomacy

reveals why.

Ambassador (ret.) Carey Cavanaugh is a

professor at the University of Kentucky’s Pat-

terson School of Diplomacy and Interna-

tional Commerce. During his Foreign Service

career, Amb. Cavanaugh served overseas in

Berlin, Moscow, Tbilisi, Rome and Bern, in

addition to assignments at the State Depart-

ment, Pentagon and on Capitol Hill.

The Ambassatrix Speaks

Dirty Wars and Polished Silver

Lynda Schuster, Melville House, 2017,

$26.99/hardcover, 321 pages.

Reviewed By

Donna Scaramastra Gorman

Sixteen-year-old Lynda Schuster is bored

at home in the Midwest, angry about her

parents’ divorce and embarrassed by

her mother, a dull suburban housewife.

In search of adventure and eager to put

some distance between herself and her

mother, Schuster flies to London, osten-

sibly to visit her father, then secretly

buys a ticket to Israel, where she intends

to volunteer on a kibbutz.

But it’s the summer of 1973, and

shortly after she arrives at the kibbutz,

located near the Golan Heights, she

finds herself in the middle of the Arab-

Israeli War. Hooked on the fear, excite-

ment and adrenaline rush of war, she

ultimately decides to become a foreign

correspondent, working in wartorn and

otherwise dangerous locales as far from

her suburban upbringing (and from her

annoying mother) as possible.

The early part of the book chronicles

Schuster’s almost accidental entry into

the world of journalism and her subse-

quent adventures as a foreign corre-

spondent in Central and South America,

the Middle East and Mexico, where she

writes mostly about war and terrorism.

She meets, marries and

loses her first husband, a

much older war corre-

spondent for a compet-

ing newspaper, within

the span of a year; the

story of how they meet

and fall in love takes up

prime real estate in this


Eventually the

young widow meets

another man, U.S. diplomat Dennis

Jett, and begins a long-distance relation-

ship with him. When he is assigned to

Malawi as the deputy chief of mission,

she decides to marry him and move her

career to Southern Africa.

Like many Foreign Service spouses

before and since, she ultimately realizes

she isn’t going to be able to hold on to

both husband and career, so she quits

her job to become a full-time diplomat’s

spouse. Sound familiar?

Foreign Service readers will nod

their heads in recognition as Schuster

chafes against the limitations placed on

her by her position as the DCM’s wife.

Some of the odd linguistic choices she

makes, however, may jar the Foreign

Service ear.

For example, she calls the DCM the

“deputy ambassador” and, after her

husband is promoted, refers to herself

as an “ambassatrix” and writes about

attending what she calls “Ambassatrix

School.” Perhaps it’s just a nod to her

non-FS audience, but such word play

might instead be a deliberate roast

of diplomatic culture (or at least its

buttoned-down caricature).

The book is a curious mix of ridicule

and respect for the Foreign Service spouses

and employees she meets: ridicule when

she encounters spouses who are trying

their best to live within the confines of

their diplomatic prisons and don’t seem as

impressively fearless as her journal-

ist friends; and begrudging respect

for some of those diplomats and

their spouses who work well within

the system, surviving evacuations

and war just as successfully as they

survive boring dinner parties with

their foreign counterparts.

Schuster survives an evacuation

of her own, from Liberia in 1989. It

isn’t until she is ordered to leave her

husband and dogs behind that she

realizes that “in marrying a diplomat,

I’d married the State Department, too,

and ceded my independence.”

Still thinking of herself as a tough

war correspondent, she is surprised at

the level of helplessness she feels as the

fighting in Liberia inches ever closer to

the capital while she is forced to stay

inside, away from danger. “To be on the

ground during a conflict as a civilian,”

she writes, “watching the inexorable

march of violence headed my way, is

very different from watching—clear-