A Professional Foreigner


A Professional Foreigner

Life in Diplomacy

Edward Marks

304 pages
19 photographs, index


April 2023


$34.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

April 2023


$34.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

April 2023


$34.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Young American Foreign Service officers are accustomed to being teased by friends and relatives as to what they do in the “Foreign Legion” or the “Forest Service.” In the United States, unlike in many countries, the role of a professional diplomat is little known or understood. In A Professional Foreigner Edward Marks describes his life as an American diplomat who served during the last four decades of the twentieth century, from 1959 to 2001.

Serving primarily in Africa and Asia, Marks was present during the era of decolonization in Africa (but always seemed to be at the opposite end of the continent from the hottest developments), was intimately involved in the early days of the U.S. government’s antiterrorism programs, observed the unfolding of a nasty and tragic ethnic conflict in one of the most charming countries in the world, and saw the end of the Cold War at UN headquarters in New York. Along the way Marks served as the U.S. ambassador to two African nations.

In this memoir Marks depicts a Foreign Service officer’s daily life, providing insight into the profession itself and what it was like to play a role in the steady stream of history, in a world of quotidian events often out of the view of the media and the attention of the world. Marks’s stories—such as rescuing an American citizen from a house of ill repute in Mexico and the attempt to recruit mongooses for drug intervention in Sri Lanka—are both entertaining and instructive on the work of diplomats and their contributions to the American story.

Author Bio

Edward Marks, a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer, served as the State Department Advisor on Terrorism and is a founding trustee of the Command and General Staff College Foundation. He is the coauthor of U.S. Counterterrorism: From Nixon to Trump—Key Challenges, Issues, and Responses and U.S. Government Counterterrorism: A Guide to Who Does What and the author of Complex Emergencies: Bureaucratic Arrangements in the UN Secretariat.


“Edward Marks’s highly engaging and poignant memoir is also a valuable primer on the profession and art of diplomacy and the inner workings of institutions such as the U.S. State Department, the military, and the United Nations. Marks’s memoir is a paean to the golden age of diplomacy and multilateralism. . . . [Readers] will come away with admiration for his modesty, quiet humor, and commitment to service and to creating a better world.”—Milinda Moragoda, high commissioner of Sri Lanka to India, founder of the Pathfinder Foundation, and former cabinet minister in Sri Lanka

“Edward Marks’s literate memoir of four decades practicing diplomacy in Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America is highly readable—as well as fun. A sharp observer of social and political behavior, he shows how the contrasting characters of European colonizers left lasting effects on their former colonies. . . . Highly recommended.”—William Harrop, former U.S. ambassador

“A relatively small corps of several thousand American Foreign Service officers . . . promote and defend U.S. interests every day of the year as diplomats based in American embassies, consulates, and missions in every country in the world. How they carry out their responsibilities, and how they meet the many challenges that arise, constitutes a fascinating story. After a long and varied career in diplomacy, Edward Marks relates that story with sharp insights and nonstop amusement.”—Herman J. Cohen, former assistant secretary of state for African Affairs

“Edward Marks takes us to the diplomatic coalface––the ‘workaday life of the American Foreign Service Officer.’ His main tools are observation, listening, and putting the results into language that bosses back home can understand. This is your handbook on what diplomacy is all about. . . . In a feast of anecdotes, you can smell the atmosphere in downtown Bissau, Luanda, Lubumbashi, Lusaka, and Nairobi––‘small Foreign Service posts . . . on the periphery of mainstream diplomacy,’ much more interesting than Paris, Moscow, or Beijing.”—Robert Cox, former European Union official and occasional diplomat

“A seasoned diplomat’s memoir adds to our knowledge of practice, appealing to readers across countries. . . . The hallmark of Marks’s writing is his gentle humor, cloaking his passion.”—Kishan S. Rana, former ambassador, Indian Foreign Service

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations



1. Taking the Oath

2. About Diplomats

3. Apprenticeship

4. Nairobi, Nuevo Laredo, Luanda

5. Zambia

6. The Belgian World

7. Guinea-Bissau

8. Guinea-Bissau Politics and Economics

9. Cape Verde

10. Fort McNair

11. Colombo

12. The Diplomatic Village

13. Ethnic Strife in the “Blessed Isle”

14. Winding Up

15. Turtle Bay

16. Washington Entr’actes

17. Three Years before the Mast



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