Most countries draw their ambassadors from the ranks of professional diplomats. The United States, in contrast, fills a large chunk of its ambassadorial spots with political appointees—since the 1950s, about a third of the total; under President Donald Trump, up to two-fifths. These outsiders account for some of the greatest highs and lowest lows of U.S. diplomacy, but their world is rarely explored. Bucharest Diary illuminates it well, taking the reader through the journey of a serious, responsible political appointee from start to finish. After some background on his earlier career, Moses traces how he became the U.S. ambassador to Romania in 1994 and what he did there over the next three years. He offers a welcome antidote to the cartoon versions of American foreign policy so prevalent in the popular consciousness, showing exactly what U.S. relations with other countries involve, day to day. In this case, the main issue was how to help a former Eastern-bloc backwater successfully join the West and become a thriving liberal democracy, so the book is also an important firsthand account of how the so-called third wave of democratization played out on the ground. The story is not sexy, but it has the virtue of being true.
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