ryan crocker following the flag

Spokane and the Inland Empire hold a deep respect for military service. Such respect was exemplified by Ryan Crocker’s father, born in Spokane, who had a distinguished career in the Army Air Corps during World War II and in the Air Force afterward, serving several tours at Fairchild. He retired in the Valley, where Ryan grew up.

This admiration for service is also celebrated annually during the Lilac Festival with the Armed Forces Torchlight Parade.

Ryan Crocker, instead of following a military path, opted for the Foreign Service of the United States, which was his professional home for nearly 40 years.

This month marks the centennial of the modern Foreign Service. Established in 1924 through the Rogers Act, the Foreign Service combined the Diplomatic and Consular Services into a single professional entity based on merit, moving away from political patronage.

This professional body consists of 14,000 people, with 8,300 being generalist officers.

These diplomats, 44% of whom are women, make up a force comparable to the size of a Navy carrier strike group, of which there are 11.

Diplomacy is considerably less expensive than warfare, consuming less than 2% of the federal budget, as highlighted by Jim Mattis, a notable figure from Eastern Washington.

The Foreign Service is the most expeditionary among U.S. services, with approximately 70% of its personnel deployed abroad daily. With embassies in 175 countries, the service is both global and hazardous.

Crocker witnessed the perils firsthand, losing colleagues during the Beirut embassy bombing in 1983. Over his career, he served as an ambassador six times—to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait, and Lebanon. Notably, in some of these countries, his predecessors were killed while serving.

Crocker’s career underscores the nonpartisan nature of the Foreign Service. He served under both Democratic and Republican administrations, always prioritizing the American people’s interests.

One of the Foreign Service’s primary duties is to protect American citizens abroad. A poignant example is Crocker’s time in Beirut, where he facilitated the rescue of an American woman and her children who were being held against their will.

The post-Cold War era demands tight coordination between diplomatic efforts and military power. This nexus of diplomacy and military strength has been a hallmark of Crocker’s career, especially in hotspots like Afghanistan and Iraq.

His tenure as ambassador to Kuwait in the 1990s involved deterring Iraq’s Saddam Hussein from another invasion, which exemplifies victories achieved through deterrence rather than warfare.

Throughout his career, Crocker has worked closely with all branches of the U.S. military and holds them in high regard, particularly the Marines.

Marine security guards have been a crucial part of U.S. embassies since World War II. Crocker recalls an incident in 1998 in Syria where a small group of Marines defended the embassy from a mob, underscoring the Marines’ critical role in protecting American interests overseas.

Crocker’s journey began at Whitman College, not far from his roots in Spokane. Despite his global assignments, he always maintained a connection to Spokane.

His ties were further deepened by personal milestones, such as his mother passing away while he was serving in Iraq.

Returning to Spokane, he reflects on having navigated challenging global terrains as a diplomat among warriors.

Today, Ryan Crocker resides in Spokane Valley and holds the Distinguished Chair in Diplomacy and Security at RAND. He continues to contribute to discussions on international relations and security as a member of the Afghanistan War Commission.

His story is one of dedication to service, whether through the Foreign Service or in support of military efforts, always rooted in the values instilled by his upbringing in Spokane.

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