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Inside Foggy Bottom

Foggy Bottom, so called because its location alongside the Potomac made it susceptible to dense concentrations of fog and industrial smoke, refers not only to that neighborhood of Washington, DC, but also to the State Department itself. (Some would say that moniker is all-too appropriate.) In this feature, we will try to dispel that fog and smoke and cast light on some of the lesser known aspects of the State Department and diplomatic history. (For a brief history of U.S. diplomatic history, check out this segment on US





As in so many other professions, integrity is the hallmark of a good diplomat. In most cases. As Henry Wooton famously said way back in 1604, “An ambassador is an honest man sent to lie abroad for the good of his country” (or, for you classics students, “Legatus est vir bonus peregre missus ad mentiendum rei publicae causa”).

And while the examples provided below do not deal with lying per se (well, most of them anyway), they do show diplomats using untoward language in the heat of the moment. (And if you didn’t guess already, yes, they do contain Not-Safe-For-Work language, so you have herewith been forewarned.)



The Iran Hostage Crisis — A Graphic Look

The 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis was a yearlong, emotionally wrenching drama that still reverberates today. Here’s a quick overview. For first-person accounts from those who were hostages, read these excerpts from Mike Metrinko, John Limbert, and Bruce Laingen. Read Kathleen Stafford‘s account of her time as a “house guest” of the Canadian ambassador, immortalized in the movie Argo.


1989 — A Swift Look at an Incredible Year

A year filled with magic, madness, heaven and sin. Among the defining years of the 20th century, 1989 had a lasting impact on the social, political and economic structures of modern diplomacy. Ruthless dictatorships, which seemed impervious to change, suddenly began falling one after another, so much so that 1989 is commonly referred to as anno mirabilis, the year of wonders. So grab your passport and a pen, because here are 1989’s greatest hits.




Tracking the Elusive Moment — A Guide for New Interns

The Summer 2015 interns as the most productive ADST interns of all time, were given the difficult task of putting what made us so successful in writing. The main factor behind their productivity was their ability to research effectively.  Here are some of the tactics they used to pump out Moments at a record pace.



Celebrating the History of Black Diplomatic Leadership

Ask any five people on an American college campus or maybe even on the streets of any major city, to name the first Black American that comes to their mind when they think of U.S. foreign affairs. Those well-versed in U.S. diplomatic and foreign affairs may mention Dr. Ralph Bunche. However, there are still many of their Black diplomatic peers and contemporaries who are less known who have served – and continue to serve – the United States as its leaders in official diplomatic missions, international organizations, and on designated global policy issues of critical national interest across the world.


Diplomats by training, if not by disposition, are calm, level-headed types. They may be called on to deliver a harsh message about your human rights situation or those tanks amassing on the border but will do so in a polished, genteel manner. “A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way you look forward to the trip” as the saying goes. However, once in a while, if they’re particularly peeved, they can unleash an eruption of foul-mouthed epithets that could embarrass a fishmonger’s wife. Herewith some of the choicest examples from various Foreign Service Officers and a few others sprinkled in for good measure. (And if you didn’t guess already, yes, they do contain some raw, Not-Safe-For-Work language, so be forewarned. And kids, don’t try this at home.)


Take Our Diplomatic History Quiz!

We know you’ve been good and are a frequent visitor to the site. But just how closely have you been paying attention? We put together ten tough questions ranging from the USS Pueblo to the Iran hostage crisis and Cuban agents killing the family dog.






Schmoozing for Diplomats 

To the uninitiated (or to those who simply watch too many B-movies), an ambassador’s life seems to be nothing but dinner parties and cocktail receptions. As Governor of Illinois and Ambassador to the UN Adlai Stevenson famously said, “A diplomat’s life is made up of three ingredients:  protocol, Geritol and alcohol.” While other issues such as embassy security may have greater prominence, protocol and the ability to network with a wide range of people continue to occupy a central role in any well-run diplomatic mission.



ADST is On the Air!

Listen to Emily Kopp of Federal News Radio as she focuses on three major events in the Foreign Service:  the Embassy Beirut bombing; the Clayton Lonetree spy scandal in Moscow; and the Iran hostage crisis. This program draws from ADST’s extensive oral history collection. Stu Kennedy helps set the stage for some of the most dramatic episodes in U.S. foreign policy in the past half century.





Turning the Tables:  An Interview with Stu Kennedy

In this interview with the Foreign Service Journal, Charles Stuart Kennedy talks about his Foreign Service career and pioneering work creating American diplomacy’s oral history program. On June 18, 2014, Stu was given the American Foreign Service Association’s (AFSA) Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy Award in recognition of his distinguished Foreign Service career and lifetime of public service. In 1986, after retiring from the Foreign Service, Stu became managing director of The George Washington University’s Foreign Service History Center. There he created the Foreign Affairs Oral History Collection and began recording the insights and experiences of American diplomats. The program moved to Georgetown University and then, in 1988, to the Association of Diplomatic Studies and Training, where he serves as its Director for Oral History.




How to Survive an Internship at ADST

It can be a cruel, relentless, merciless grind working as an ADST intern. That’s why most of them don’t last longer than 10 or 12 weeks. Thankfully, Rebecca, Caroline, Naomi, Kate & Anamaria, have provided these Words of Wisdom.



How to Handle a Crisis — Ambassador Edition

As part of its Ambassadorial Seminar, the Foreign Service Institute gives each of the participants a copy of “This Worked for Me,” a collection of insights and best practices from recent ambassadors to assist newly minted ambassadors on how to conduct relations with their host-country counterparts while motivating and leading embassy personnel. In this segment, a few nuggets of wisdom taken from the chapter on security and crisis management that even us non-ambassadors could use should the occasion arise (and we hope it never does).  (And for those of you who REALLY want to be prepared, there is DOD’s official CONPLAN 8888 to be used in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse (or as they call it “Counter-Zombie Dominance Operations.”)


 A Brief History of the Consular Service

When most people think about consular matters, if they think about them at all, it’s only because they are having difficulties in a foreign country or because they have to apply for a visa to travel, study, or immigrate abroad. However, in focusing only on these functions, we overlook the rich history and the key role consuls have played in international trade and diplomacy. Herewith a brief history of the consular service from the time of the pharaohs to the courts of France to the growing pains of the American Republic.





Top Ten Things You Learn from a Hostage Situation

As we discussed previously, sometimes it just ain’t easy working for the State Department. If you go through the lengthy history of the Foreign Service in the second half of the 20th Century, there are a surprising number of diplomats who have been held hostage. And while the situations and political context are very different, certain things do stand out.


8 Weird Things You Didn’t Know About American Diplomats

OK, when you think about State Department types — if you think about them at all — chances are they’re pretty dull. And make no mistake, they do a lot of boring crap, just like the guys in the CIA or the Pentagon, except those guys have Bond movies and Seal Team Six and therefore a better rep. But when the time is right – or when they get really pissed off – the khakis-and-blazer set can surprise you, and not always in a good way.



Diplomatic Uniforms — Every Girl’s Crazy ‘Bout a Sharp Dressed Man

Until 1817, U.S. diplomats designed their own uniforms. The Department of State officially created uniforms based on those worn by U.S. delegates to the Conference of Ghent in 1814 but by the early 20th Century, the diplomatic uniform fell into disuse. No more saber-rattling at cocktail parties!




When Ambassadors Were Rock Stars

It is difficult in this day and age to imagine any ambassador being on the cover of a major magazine touted for his or her accomplishments. With the notable exception of a few Secretaries of State or a Richard Holbrooke, the vast majority of ambassadors never enjoy time in the limelight. But go back a few decades and ambassadors were regularly featured on Time magazine. Perhaps it is a reflection of the critical — and often  dramatic — foreign policy  issues  which captured the nation’s attention — the Cold War, the arms race, the incipient rumblings of Vietnam.