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War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence Hardcover – April 24, 2018
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“Farrow draws on both government experience and fresh reporting to offer a lament for the plight of America’s diplomats―and an argument for why it matters. ‘Classic, old-school diplomacy,’ he observes, is ‘frustrating’ and involves ‘a lot of jet lag.’ Yet his wry voice and storytelling take work that is often grueling and dull and make it seem…vividly human.”
- Daniel Kurtz-Phelan, The New York Times
“Offers lively writing, astute commentary, and plenty of great stories, laced through with passion and outrage....Farrow is a natural storyteller, and his empathy and imagination breathe life even into the endless, awkward Thanksgiving dinner that constitutes diplomacy.”
- Rosa Brooks, Washington Post
“Dogged research and persuasive argument....Farrow brings to his book astonishing access....[he is] an indefatigable and imaginative reporter.”
- David Shribman, The Globe and Mail
“A masterpiece….The writing sparkles.”
- Dan Simpson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“A compelling mixture of political analysis and personal anecdote.”
- Andrew Anthony, The Guardian
“Has the United States turned its back on diplomacy, and on its diplomats? And if so, at what cost? Farrow makes a good case that we have, and that the cost will be high....He captures extraordinarily well what the work of diplomacy means.”
- Barbara K. Bodine, San Francisco Chronicle
“With astonishing reporting and gripping prose, Ronan Farrow tells the powerful story of the gutting of American diplomacy…War on Peace is an indispensable and fascinating revelation of what diplomats actually do for our country and why undermining them is so dangerous. Farrow is a riveting storyteller with a great eye for colorful characters. This is one of the most important books of our time.”
- Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs and professor of history, Tulane
“Ronan Farrow has scooped us all (again). And it is no wonder. A gifted writer with a powerful intellect and a passion for truth, Farrow has become one of this generation’s finest journalists and War on Peace a book that will be required reading for generations to come. It is perhaps the most riveting and relatable book on foreign policy and diplomacy I have ever read. I have covered these same corridors of diplomatic power, these same bloody war zones, yet on every page of War on Peace I was astonished by what I learned.”
- Martha Raddatz, ABC News chief global affairs correspondent and author of The Long Road Home
“US diplomacy has failed to keep up with the times. Part insider account and part sober analysis, War on Peace traces the fall of American diplomacy and pulls no punches. Only someone as incisive and unflinching as Farrow could have written this book―and we should all be thankful that he did. A must-read.”
- Ian Bremmer, editor-at-large, Time magazine, and president, Eurasia group
“It's hard to imagine there is a single important diplomat Ronan Farrow didn't speak to in the course of reporting this remarkable account of American diplomacy in decline. This is no surprise: who better than a diplomat-turned-investigative-reporter to bring this deeply reported, acutely observed, and morally righteous chronicle of a nation that has all but abandoned diplomacy in favor of high-tech, high-ticket military action at just the perilous moment when steely and patient diplomacy is needed more than ever. This scoop-laden book is essential reading for those of us who yearn for peace and American moral leadership on a fractious planet.”
- Lydia Polgreen, former editorial director, New York Times Global, and editor-in-chief, HuffPost
About the Author
Ronan Farrow is an investigative journalist who writes for The New Yorker and makes documentaries for HBO. He has been an anchor and reporter at MSNBC and NBC News, and his writing has appeared in publications including The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. He is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the George Polk Award, and the National Magazine Award, among other commendations, and has been named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People. He is also an attorney and former State Department official. He lives in New York City.
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Farrow describes the increased emphasis placed by our government on military efforts rather than diplomacy and the way it has caused problems in such places as Somalia.
Farrow's account of the virtual decimation of the State Department under Tillerson underscores the difficulty we will have in the future conducting serious diplomacy.
Farrow has done meticulous research for his book. He interviewed over 200 key players, including all living former US Secretaries of State, numerous career diplomats, and military officials. Clearly his access helps give his book tremendous weight. His close work with the late Richard Holbrook, the legendary diplomatist, is masterfully portrayed in this book — as a man whose skills are of a time past and was significantly under-appreciated and under-utilized at the time of his death.
Still Farrow was a young diplomat (at his time of service), and so I sometimes felt that his book’s conclusions about some diplomatic decisions, now portrayed through his eyes as a young journalist, were sometimes too judgmental. He may have felt the outcomes were only too obvious, but in hindsight only which is what he forgets. The decisions were not always clear at the time of negotiation; the reality of diplomacy is that it is usually intensely complex and clear-cut answers aren’t always evident or possible. Compromise must happen and only time will reveal that certain decisions may have been right or wrong ones, even when they might all appear positive at the time.
I also think that Farrow could have been a little more objective in his approach. He admires Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who administration he worked under. Yet he doesn’t mention at all under her watch the foreign policy disasters of the Embassy bombing in Libya or the email scandal that ultimately sank her own bid for the presidency. I suspect those two events also harmed the credibility of the State Department in many ways as well, something he should have explored more to present a fuller picture leading to the current State Department.
This book was truly amazing though. I could hardly put it down, it was that good. Because of it, I found myself dwelling pondering the state of US diplomacy over the last many presidencies. I’m a strong believer in diplomacy, and hope that someday diplomacy will again ascend to its rightful place as the primary tool of foreign negotiation.
Combining careful research and analysis with first person interviews, Farrow illustrates the direction the United States government has taken over the past few decades in valuing militarism, devaluing diplomacy, and the disappointing and dire consequences for having done so.
His accounts of where diplomacy has worked are realistic, not overly rosy. He portrays diplomacy as a messy, difficult, process, carried out by flawed human beings, and fraught with compromises that often do not leave the parties involved fully satisfied. And yet, the alternative--force--is clearly worse and, in the long run, does not seem to work to make either the US or any other place in the world safer. In fact, the opposite is mostly true.
From reading this book, I got the impression that diplomats are often forced into positions of having to tolerate and even condone a certain amount of militarism. Farrow can't help but wonder if Democrats and Republicans valued diplomatic efforts more than these Pyrrhic proxy wars (and if the State Department and USAID were fully funded so as to be staffed with experienced and dedicated career diplomats, with a deep knowledge of the part of the world they were addressing, combined with their having sophisticated negotiating skills), if conditions here and abroad would not be so much better. Instead, over the years, and especially now, the State Department and USAID are being gutted of skilled, career professionals in favor of militarism and "might makes right."
According to Farrow, this gutting of State, while seeming to reach its apex with Trump, was moving in that direction under other heads of state, such as Clinton, Bush and Obama. Farrow implies that Obama somewhat redeemed himself during his second four years with the Paris Accord, Iran Deal, and rapprochement with Cuba, all of which might be reversed under Trump. Farrow quotes Secretary John Kerry, who worked tirelessly on the Iran deal, as saying about Trump's threat to kill it, "If that's the art of the deal, you can see why this guy went belly up seven times."
A quote by Cicero in the Epilogue sums up this thoughtful read: There are two types of military dispute, the one settled by negotiation and the other by force. Since the first is characteristic of human beings and the second of beasts, we must have recourse to the second only if we cannot exploit the first.
Farrow's tone is measured but left me wishing that my country could move away from the direction of beasts.