James Dobbins Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

Nation Building: Conversation with Ambassador James Dobbins; Director, International Security and Defense Policy Center, Rand Corporation; February 28, 2005
by Harry Kreisler

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Ambassador Dobbins, welcome to Berkeley.

Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here.

Where were you born and raised?

Born and raised a bit in New York. My father worked for the government and we moved abroad to the Philippines when I was about ten, and I went to high school there.

Looking back, how do you think your parents shaped your perspectives on the world?

The fact that we did move abroad gave me obviously a different experience, led me to choose the Foreign Service as a career and ultimately led me to the career I have.

Where were you educated?


Did you do any advanced degree work or did you go right into the Foreign Service?

I went right into the Navy and did three and a half years in the U.S. Navy, and then into the Foreign Service.

What were some of your early postings in the Foreign Service?

The first posting was in Paris, which was a nice place to start -- downhill from there, but still a nice place to start! And it was an interesting time. I served for a year on the Vietnam peace talks with Averell Harriman and Cyrus Vance, the heads of the delegation. I spent the last part of my time there working for Sargent Shriver, who was the U.S. Ambassador to France at the time.

Had you studied Europe and European languages as an undergraduate at Georgetown, or did you acquire those skills later?

No, I hadn't particularly studied Europe. I did a course in international affairs which was pretty general in nature, and the Foreign Service did teach me French, at least at the very basic level, before sending me to Paris.

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