Frontline Diplomacy: The Foreign Affairs Oral History Collection of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training at the Library of Congress makes available interview transcripts from the oral history archives of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST). These transcripts present a window into the lives of U.S. diplomats and the major diplomatic crisis and issues that the United States faced during the second half of the 20th century and the early part of the 21st.
Most of the interviews involve post-World War II diplomacy, from the late 1940s to the present day, but the collection also includes accounts of Americans involved in Iraq and Afghanistan after 2003. It also contains interviews from special projects on oral histories, including women ambassadors, minority officers, foreign assistance officers, labor specialists, and Foreign Service spouses. New interviews are continually being conducted and added to the collection.
The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training
ADST is an independent, nonprofit organization founded in 1986. It advances knowledge of U.S. diplomacy and supports training of personnel at the State Department’s George P. Shultz National Foreign Affairs Training Center, where it is located.
ADST’s activities include programs in diplomatic oral history, book publication, exhibits, research, and training of student interns. It also sponsors the U.S. Diplomacy.org Web site. For more information about ADST, see www.adst.org (external link). Tables of Contents for the interviews can be found at www.adst.org/int.htm (external link).
The Foreign Affairs Oral History Collection
The first release of the online collection consisted of 1,301 searchable interview transcripts. It now numbers over 1,700. These transcripts are a unique and invaluable resource for anyone interested in an up-close view of how foreign policy is formulated in Washington and then implemented at our embassies abroad. Hundreds of interviews with senior American diplomats, both career Foreign Service Officers and political appointees, serve as a door to the foreign policy process not normally open to the public.
Since 1986, ADST has interviewed, and continues to interview, American diplomats as soon as possible after their departure from government service. With fresh memories and undiminished passion about their work, these diplomats offer candid personal and professional assessments of American and foreign leaders, successful and unsuccessful policies, and foreign conflicts. Their personal recollections and opinions are not official statements of the U.S. Government or ADST and interviewees have agreed not to divulge classified information. This restriction makes the transcripts no less edifying or entertaining.
These interviews offer more than individual personal perspectives on the formulation and implementation of American foreign policy. They also represent a slice of American life and social history. Some reach back to a time when a small elite made foreign policy and the Foreign Service was "a pretty good club" overwhelmingly comprised of white men educated at East Coast universities. At that time, women and minorities were rare in the Service, and even rarer in positions of responsibility. The evolution of American society has changed our diplomatic service, making it more representative of the United States at large. Further, the growth of American power and rapid technological advances have infused the work of the Foreign Service with urgency and immediacy unimagined in earlier years.