Foreign Service

Five Decades on the Frontlines of American Diplomacy

James Dobbins
Robert Zoellick
Release Date: June 20, 2017
Inside Look:

A behind the scenes look at 50 years of US diplomacy.

From Vietnam in the 1960s to the Afghanistan of this decade, James Dobbins was on the frontline of American diplomacy and working to advance U.S. national interests in some of the world’s most difficult and troubled situations.

In Foreign Service, Dobbins takes the reader behind the scenes at the Vietnam peace talks, the darkest dates of the Cold War, the reunification of Germany, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the U.S. military interventions in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Haiti, Kosovo, and Somalia. He provides a thoughtful insider’s account of all these ventures, analyzes the sources of both success and failure, and provides incisive portraits of many of the chief actors.

Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama turned repeatedly to Dobbins as a diplomatic trouble-shooter with the right instincts and experience to help find creative solutions for seemingly irresolvable problems. Now readers can benefit from his insights, learning that, while specific situations in world affairs are different, the basic principles and techniques for defending U.S. interests on the global stage remain constant.

Listen to the audio from the June 26, 2017 Brookings Book Club event with Ambassador Dobbins and New York Times White House correspondent Peter Baker.

Advance Praise

Jim Dobbins has taken on a remarkable array of complex diplomatic challenges. As his book explains, he has succeeded with an unmatched commitment to the lessons of history, the importance of facts, and the power of analysis. His career demonstrates what’s possible when rigor is combined with persistence, and his memoir illuminates the richness of a life dedicated to service.

—Michael Rich, president of the RAND Corporation


James Dobbins served as Assistant Secretary of State for Europe, Special Assistant to the President for the Western Hemisphere, Special Adviser to the President and Secretary of State for the Balkans, Ambassador to the European Community, and special envoy for Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo, and Afghanistan. He holds the Distinguished Chair for Diplomacy and Security at the RAND Corporation.