Jacob Kostrzewski, IRLS Program Coordinator, sat down with former U.S. Ambassador and current adjunct professor at the College of Law, Roderick Moore, to discuss his distinguished career in the U.S. Foreign Service, the simulated embassy team he leads in this semester’s Foreign Policy Design course, and advice he has for law students looking to work for the U.S. government upon graduation.
IRLS Dispatch: What were the most interesting, and the most challenging, posts you held in your distinguished career in the U.S. Foreign Service?
Ambassador Moore: I can honestly say that every one of my foreign postings was unique, rewarding, fascinating, and enjoyable. Haiti was not only my first assignment, but was also my first experience living abroad. Serving in Bulgaria during the first two years of that country’s historic post-communist revolution was so life-altering that I returned twice more to work at Embassy Sofia later in my career. Spending a year as the sole State Department representative in Macedonia, an unrecognized republic that was part of a disintegrating Yugoslavia, was pretty heady stuff for a third-tour officer. Three years in Croatia in the wake of a calamitous war opened my eyes to the challenges of post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation, as did a tour in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a senior official charged with helping to oversee implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords. However, I would have to say that serving as the first U.S. ambassador to Montenegro, then the newest independent state in the world, was the greatest privilege and honor of my professional career.
Dispatch: You were the first U.S. Ambassador to the newly independent country of Montenegro – did you have to build out your embassy’s team and capacity from scratch? What were some highlights of that experience?
Amb. Moore: Well, almost from scratch. The new embassy in Podgorica grew out of a small U.S. consulate that had been present there for a few years. One of my foremost responsibilities as the first chief of mission was to transform that small post into an effective and appropriately-staffed U.S. Embassy. Our organizational chart and budget grew substantially during my three years in Podgorica, as we brought on board new officers, new agencies, and new local colleagues to help us manage the burgeoning relationship with Montenegro – in areas such as commerce, defense, development, and rule of law.
Dispatch: Why did you choose the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan as the focus of this semester’s Foreign Policy Design course? Did the way the law students played out their roles surprise you?
Amb. Moore: I joined the ASU community in January 2020 when I was given the opportunity to teach an undergraduate course that also involved an Embassy simulation. The tradition had been to select a new “country of focus” every semester for that course. Colleagues with much more experience than me suggested that Afghanistan would be a good case study, and I agreed. As it turned out, 2020 turned out to be an historic year for U.S. engagement in Afghanistan – including an unprecedented agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban, and all the challenges that have accompanied its negotiation and implementation. Indeed, Afghanistan presented such a vast range of meaningful diplomatic challenges for the U.S. – made even more consequential during an election year – that I proposed we use it as the case study for the law course this past semester. Support from the law school faculty has been tremendous, including on the part of stellar colleagues who are experts in that region.
I have been thrilled with the way our students have taken to their roles in our simulated Embassy. We have all learned a lot together and have had several spirited debates about the future of the U.S. role in Afghanistan, for instance. Just last week, our students presented to an outside expert panel – including representatives of the U.S. and Afghan governments – a very well-received proposal on U.S. policy toward Afghanistan.
Dispatch: What do you hope the main takeaways were for law students that took your course this fall?
Amb. Moore: I hope that our students found the experience to be useful – and enjoyable, of course! I also hope that they gained an appreciation for the complexities, frustrations, limitations, and rewards of formulating and implementing U.S. foreign policy – particularly in a region that has the attention of the White House and the most senior officials in our executive and legislative branches.
Dispatch: What advice would you give to law students looking to enter the U.S. Foreign Service, or government service more broadly?
Amb. Moore: First of all, I have great respect for the law as a profession, and I recognize that most of our students will likely end up in the legal field. That said, the foreign policy community needs people with the analytical and other skills possessed by aspiring and practicing lawyers. Public service can be very gratifying from both a professional and personal standpoint, and I would strongly encourage those interested to seek out opportunities in government. As for the Foreign Service, there are a few pathways into it, but the most common one is via the examination process. I always advise those considering Foreign Service careers to take the exam as early as possible.