Kathryn (Bonnie) Schmiel
Popular Journal Authors Gene and Bonnie Schmiel Publish Foreign Service Memoirs
An Appreciation by Frank Crigler
In fundamental ways, the U.S. Foreign Service and America’s military services are first cousins. Both are instruments of foreign policy, the one relying upon “diplomatic” modes of persuasion, the other upon armed force to achieve policy objectives. Both function under the direction of the President as Commander-in-Chief. Both are intended to cope with challenges to our national interests. And both are deployed mainly outside the nation’s borders.
It’s remarkable, therefore, how little the American public knows about the Foreign Service—its tasks, its people, its problems—given how familiar most of us are with the men and women who compose our Army, Navy, and Air Force and with the jobs they do. Most have not heard of it at all; among those who have, the stereotype persists of non-stop cocktail parties, duty-free liquor, pampering servants, and taxpayer-paid tourism.
The stereotype is unfortunate and grossly unfair. It is in fact the unheralded Foreign Service whose everyday work is to head off problems with other nations, reconcile differences, negotiate workable agreements, defuse conflicts, and generally steer Americans out of harm’s way, precisely so that the Commander-in-Chief need not respond with deadly force to every challenge.
The collection of essays and narratives put together by Gene and Kathryn Schmiel should help overcome that stereotype, painting a human face on the skilled, dedicated, and highly motivated people who compose the U.S. Foreign Service. With humor, charm, and often poignance, they write from personal experience about the taxing, unglamorous work Foreign Service people do, day after day, all over the world, on behalf of Americans.
• Gene describes his rescue of a wayward young traveler from the clutches of an over-eager police officer who (wrongly) believes he has captured the fugitive Patty Hearst; and he recalls the grotesque difficulty of recovering and shipping home the mortal remains of an American sea captain whose life ended in a steamy tropical port with no refrigeration facilities in its morgue.
• Kathryn highlights even tougher challenges, those of nurturing family values and maintaining a semblance of American-style home life in a constantly changing, often hostile, environment. But her essays point up opportunities as well as difficulties: when a huge U.S. Navy aircraft carrier makes a port call, she takes advantage to show the children a glorious example of American technology, from stem to stern—and they’re thrilled, of course!
I’ve often thought to myself, “If Americans only knew Foreign Service people as I do, they’d be just as proud as they are of their troops in uniform.”
The Schmiels’ book ought to make lots of Americans proud!
Gene and Kathryn Schmiel’s book is entitled
The book is also available online from amazon.com.
Frank Crigler is Publisher of American Diplomacy.