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4.1 out of 5 stars
Statecraft: And How to Restore America's Standing in the World
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Dennis Ross' book on statecraft provides an insightful look into the world of diplomacy and negotiation, which are the two prime ingredients, the author claims, of statecraft. But the book is more than just a theoretical discussion: Ross combines his considerable real-world experience gained through his tenure in multiple administrations to move the discourse into the hard realities of the world as it actually exists, not just paper abstracts. And therein perhaps lays the greatest strength of this book. Yes, the book is a polemic of sorts, but there are probably not too many who would argue with the central premise of this book, that the U.S. has lost standing in the world, finds itself in a series of extremely difficult situations (perhaps mostly of our own making), and is now faced with a new structure of emerging and re-aligned world powers that require meaningful engagement if we are to restore the country to its former standing.

Not all will agree with Ross' political discourse in this book. Nevertheless, that should be no reason to either overlook the treasure trove of experiences which he brings to the table, nor neglect the impressive insight he shares on both past and present political dilemmas. There are commonalities he feels apply to all these situations (we are given twelve rules of negotiation, and eleven rules of mediation, for example), but there is great value in working through the individual, unique examples he provides as historical case studies in which statecraft was both successfully and unsuccessfully practiced. There can be little doubt that any person (or administration) wishing to improve its own negotiating and mediating prowess could learn from this series of important discourses.

One "extra" found in this book is the highly detailed and insider's view of the statecraft carried on by the Bush 41 administration in helping garner worldwide support to respond to the invasion of Kuwait. Ross is able to lay out in narrative detail the diplomatic steps that were taken both in and out of the public view to help build consensus, and ever better, a careful and meaningful comparison to the LACK of statecraft efforts by the current administration in building such a consensus. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the current administration's policies, we can almost cringe when we see the difference between how the father and the son handled these events. Ross lays it out in a manner that is virtually impossible to ignore.

Ross' book has one unintended outcome in my own mind. In spite of the fact that Ross actually addresses this particular item at various points in the book, the text lays out enough detail on some of today's most pressing world issues to the point to where they appear so difficult, so complicated, and so divergent that solutions simply appear to be out of reach. Of course, sometimes these situations contain a "Gordian Knot" that, once found, can be a key to unlocking seeming intractable problems. But work through some of Ross' examples and see if you agree. It's more of a commentary on the present set of problems in which the world finds itself than on any perceived shortcoming of Ross' skills as a negotiation expert, and the book indeed recommends a number of approaches that might be quite worthy of implementation. But there is a feeling of frustration lurking around the corners and between the lines in this book for any reader who possesses more than a passing familiarity with today's outstanding issues.

Regardless, this is an outstanding treatise on negotiation and mediation, and the author's suggestions probably have application in many areas of life, not just in intra-governmental settings. A great read that is an important addition to the discourse - or perhaps, to get the discourse started. Plan to spend a few days or perhaps a week on the text to get it down and be able to think carefully about it as you go.
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on January 3, 2015
Excellent reading for those involved with diplomacy or political science. Ross
states solutions that could possibly resolve America's dilemmas and change
our policies toward foreign countries indicating that the George W. Bush presidential years
were contrary to good foreign policy.
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on August 11, 2013
I've enjoyed this book. Was fortunate to hear Ross speak at Chautauqua Institute this summer. This helped me understand more of what I read in book. It's not a fast read, but it gives a good look at where our foreign policy has been.
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on October 19, 2007
This book reflects a brilliant and analytical mind. I heard the author speak at The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco and was blown away by Dennis Ross's clear and logical exposition of his thesis. The Bush administration's refusal to accept and even understand the concept of negotiation has lead to the low regard with which America is regarded at present. Read this book. It will absolutely provide a new understanding of the nature of mediation and negotiation, including specific examples of the Israel - the Palestinian conflict, Iranian nuclear ambition and the rise of China in the new century. Why Dennis Ross is no longer a part of US diplomacy shows anyone how little the current administration values statecraft in foreign policy.
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Denis Ross served both in the Bush 41 and the Clinton administrations, and gained general acclaim for his efforts as the Middle East envoy to try and negotiate an all-encompassing peace deal between the Israelis and the Palistinians. He previously has written about his Middle East experiences, and now comes back with a new book, about the under-appreciated art of "statecraft'.

In "Statecraft and How to Restore America's Standing in the World" (384 pages), Ross disects what exactly constitutes statecraft ("Knowing how best to integrate and use every asset or military, diplomatic, intelligence, public, economic, or psychological tool we possess (or can manipulate) to meet our objectives.") and how it has advanced issues and resolved conflicts. Past examples carefully reviewed by the author include the German reunification in 1990, Bosnia in the mid-90s, and the first Gulf War in 1990-91. The middle section of the book provides 12 basic rules on statecraft, and as such it becomes a manual for anyone who gets involved in negotiations, at whatever level. In the last part of the book the author examines how statecraft has been applied in presently on-going situations: the Israel-Palestine conflict, the war in Iraq, the stand-off with Iran over its nuclear program, and last but not least how to deal with China's emergence as a world power.

As you turn the pages, the author painfully exposes the utter failure of the Bush administration when it comes to applying statecraft, and the devastating consequences thereof. Please note that Ross is not grinding an axe as such with the administration or the President. Ross points out: "The conventional wisdom that the Bush policy is unilateralist is simply wrong. ... The Bush administration's failing has not been its instinct for unilateralism and its disdain for mulitlateralism. Its failing too often has been how poorly it has practiced multilateralism."

I had the opportunity to catch Dennis Ross on his "book tour" earlier this summer, and he was an outstanding and engaging speaker. Every year, I read a couple of books that truly amaze me and "Statecraft" is one of those. I can only hope that the much needed 'srt' of statecraft will make a comeback in US policy. This book is highly recommended, and ideally should be required reading at colleges and universities.
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on November 22, 2008
One of America's foremost practitioners of negotiation and mediation has produced the definitive guide for restoring America's leadership position in the world. As the Bush 43 administration comes to a close, the U.S. faces an uphill battle in dealing with a whole host of global problems. Ross defines statecraft as using all available assets or resources that a state has to pursue its interests and to affect the behavior of other states, while identifying attainable, practical goals. While the book is in large part a repudiation of Bush 43, Ross also criticizes other past administrations and also looks forward and identifies the methods than any future U.S. president should utilize.

Ross begins by examining contemporary cases where the U.S. had to engage in statecraft to respond to international issues and why these cases were successful or not. This section contains chapters on German unification in NATO, the 1991 Gulf War, responding to the breakup of Yugoslavia, and the 2003 Iraq War. In each of these cases Ross gives a lot of behind the scenes analysis of how the U.S. responded to each event, and why certain cased resulted in success, while others did not. Ross participated in many of the events discussed and makes a very compelling argument that the approach he advocates later in the book is absolutely necessary if the truly difficult issues are going to be resolved in our behavior. Having an insider's view of how the Bush 41 administration dealt with Germany's unification and inclusion in NATO was nothing short of remarkable, and quite possibly the best part of the book.

The next brief section deals with aspects of the current international environment that will pose the greatest challenges to the U.S., namely terrorism, weak or failing states, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Ross uses this discussion as a segue into the most important section of the book, which is the actual methods of negotiation and mediation. Here, Ross delves heavily into his experience as a chief U.S. participant trying to resolve the Israeli/Palestinian dispute. Ross gives a detailed list of rules to follow, an explanation why they're important for the U.S. getting back into a position of global leadership. This section of the book can be dry at times, but is nevertheless the most important part of the book. At no point does Ross claim that his recommendations will serve as a silver bullet, or that what he proscribes will cover every possible development, but he's offering as good a starting point as any.

Following this section are several chapters that analyze some of the most challenging problems facing the U.S. today. Here, Ross discusses the Israeli/Palestinian dispute, the rise of China, and also the somewhat interrelated problems of radical Islam and Iran's nuclear aspirations. In many ways, Ross explains how his recommendations can be applied to these problems. As someone who worked for so many years with the Israelis and Palestinians, Ross is well-suited to examine these other huge problems. One might say Ross was part of a failed effort, but that misses the point. Asking how much worse things would be had we not attempted to solve the problem is the right question, but one that is rarely asked. It's also not a fair criticism to say that Ross is excessively singing his own praises here by speaking of his own experiences. He's dealt with some of the most difficult problems facing the U.S., it would be a disservice to his audience to leave out his experience.

Ross ends the book with a call for a neoliberal foreign policy. By this, he sides with Fukuyama's 'realistic Wilsonianism,' calling for a foreign policy driven by ideals AND interests, but also one that recognizes the importance of what happens inside states and welcomes international institutions rather than shunning them. Again, Ross isn't offering up a silver bullet with his book, but what he's done is offer a comprehensive strategy for how America should regain its position of leadership in the world. The attacks of 9/11 may have turned out doing more long term damage to the United States than we have imagined. Thus, it is crucially important to get back on track, and that's what Ross's strategy may help achieve.
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on December 16, 2008
Dennis Ross is a foreign policy pro with diplomatic sensitivity and moderate neo-liberal leanings who has written an intelligent, nuanced guide for American policymakers with sensible suggestions in many areas. If America has experts as smart as Ross, why is American foreign policy so scattered, flaky, wishy-washy?

The problem is that America's foreign policy largely depends on the skill and savvy of one person -- the president -- and if this person is incompetent, America's foreign policy can suffer for at least four, perhaps eight years. Further, the president is often distracted by domestic matters as well as party political considerations, so rarely can this person focus exclusively on world politics. There is no requirement for persons who choose to run for president to be knowledgeable in world affairs -- rather, the one skill we can be sure presidents have mastered is that of getting elected president. Can they manage foreign policy? We won't know until they're in office. Hopefully a smart president will enlist the aid of intelligent foreign policy experts like Dennis Ross, but often they don't, and this can lead to grave mistakes, such as instigating unnecessary wars.

The problem is that the architecture of government is flawed. All Americans hope that president-elect Obama will bring more savvy to foreign policy than the outgoing president. But even if Obama is skillful, an intelligent argument remains that it's time to seriously reconsider how American government is organized. In four to eight years, we roll the dice again.

In the past the United States didn't have to be shrewd diplomatically because of its vast economy. If war came, it could produce more weapons and overwhelm an opponent logistically. Today, new nations challenge America in terms of economic productivity. In addition, there is the threat of nuclear terrorism. I argue it's time for a rethinking of America's constitution, and one of the many problems which should be fixed is the foreign policy architecture.

Thomas W. Sulcer
author of "The Second Constitution of the United States"
(free on web -- google title above + sulcer)
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VINE VOICEon August 10, 2007
From the mind of a man who assuredly counts among America's most thoughtful and experienced diplomats comes this timely important work on the subject of statecraft, an area much neglected in this administration in favor of what Ross calls "faith based diplomacy." While Ross has policy inclinations of his own, having thought long and hard on these topics and written on them widely both in his last book on the failed Oslo process and his column in the New Republic, his goal here is not to urge a particular goal but a process to the world of international relations. Like an academic, Ross moves through his topic, first defining statecraft, then elucidating his views on proper methodology.

For Ross, statecraft consists of reality based analysis which in turn leads policy makers to achievable end and plans to marshal the resources to achieve those ends. Not surprisingly he castigates the Bush administration, not merely for their eschewing of thoughtful analysis - As Stephen Colbert cleverly observed to President Bush "facts have a liberal bias" - but likewise for their failure to assemble the resources required to achieve their stated ends. In a perfect case he points to the Iraq War, arguing that even if the administration had been correct in their every prediction they still failed to bring enough forces to bear to secure the 900 sites they identified as related to weapons of mass destruction and the boarders to prevent from those weapons, had they existed, from slipping into Syria, Iran, or elsewhere. From Iraq to China, Ross offers examples of what he would imagine as the appropriate statecraft approaches to challenges on the world state.

Interestingly, despite his own neo-liberal perspective, Ross argues for statecraft as a means to achieve even those ends he might disagree with. Most telling, he points with admiration at Germany's Otto von Bismarck as the ultimate master of these methods. Ross explains that he wrote this book to inform the discussion in the current presidential race, leaving unsaid that it reads like a job application for Secretary or Deputy Secretary of State. Nonetheless, he has with its release done the US a great service; all citizens should read it and press the candidates to grapple with its implications.
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on August 20, 2007
I've seen Dennis Ross speak on the issues he discusses in Statecraft but I've never read a better book on the subject. This should be required reading for every serious presidential candidate and anyone interested in dead-on analysis of the Middle-East, Al-Queda and China along with the positive and negative examples of statecraft during German unification, the end of the Balkan war, the first gulf war and the current war in Iraq. It is accessibly written and you don't have to be a policy wonk to appreciate this highly informative and timely book.
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on December 7, 2008
What is supposed to be a textbook about "statecraft" and how to do it correctly, as outlined in the author's case studies and rules to follow for negotiation and mediation, is nothing more than a rationale for supporting the current U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. In his chapter on Practicing Statecraft, The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, his background and context section starts with the 1990's; such a viewpoint does not provide any significant historical understanding. For as long as the author himself has worked on the Roadmap for Peace between Israel and Palestine, he doesn't have much to show for results from his own practice of statecraft. The author calls himself a "neoliberal" and calls for a neoliberal agenda for U.S. foreign policy. He defines neoliberal foreign policy as follow:

A neoliberal foreign policy is one that would be guided
by principle. Like the neoconservatives, neoliberals would
be mindful of how regimes treated their people.

Such a definition excludes the author and refutes most of the foreign policy he promotes in his book.
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