The Dissent Channel: American Diplomacy in a Dishonest Age

Elizabeth Shackelford. PublicAffairs, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-1-5417-2448-8
Shackelford, a former U.S. Foreign Service officer best known for her 2017 resignation letter accusing the Trump administration of abandoning human rights as a priority, debuts with an indignant and unvarnished portrait of her diplomatic life in South Sudan as the world’s youngest nation descended into civil war in 2013. Shackelford expresses frustration that the U.S. wielded little influence over local strongmen and bad actors, despite being South Sudan’s largest donor; criticizes national security advisor Susan Rice, Secretary of State John Kerry, and U.S. Ambassador Susan Page for not using the tools of American diplomacy to hold the South Sudanese military accountable for human rights abuses; and denounces the U.S. government’s “vague condemnations of ‘abuse by both sides.’ ” Though she vividly describes the daily challenges of serving in a conflict zone and the valiant efforts of embassy personnel to evacuate U.S. citizens as the civil war erupted, Shackelford’s overview of the history of America’s foreign relations lacks depth, and her shock that U.S. diplomacy isn’t governed by an overriding interest in promoting human rights comes across as naive. Still, this bracing takedown provides concrete answers to the question of what’s wrong with U.S. foreign policy. Agent: David Kuhn, Aevitas Creative Management. (May)
Reviewed on : 05/21/2020
Release date: 05/12/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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