War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence

Ronan Farrow. Norton, $27.95 (432p) ISBN 978-0-393-65210-9
War has eclipsed diplomacy as the main instrument of U.S. foreign policy with dire consequences, according to this searching exposé of a crumbling State Department. New Yorker journalist Farrow, a former State Department official, examines the decadeslong waning of the department’s clout as its budgets were slashed and its diplomatic counsels ignored by presidents who pursued military solutions to global crises. The results, he argues, were disastrous. The U.S. backed brutal warlords in Afghanistan and rejected possible settlements with the Taliban; sponsored a counterinsurgency that killed countless civilians in Colombia; in Somalia supported warlords and an Ethiopian invasion against a relatively innocuous Islamic regime, sparking Islamist terrorism; and, in the Trump era, struggles with the damage from presidential policy-by-tweet. Farrow blends analysis with vivid reportage (his portrait of Afghan warlord Ahmed Rashid Dostum, in a palace furnished with reindeer, shark tank, and Christmas lights, is classic); his firsthand recollections of State Department icons, such as the brilliant, blustering Richard Holbrooke, make diplomacy feel colorful and dramatic rather than gray and polite. Farrow doesn’t quite demonstrate how diplomacy would succeed in quagmires like Afghanistan, but his indictment of the militarization of American foreign policy is persuasive. Photos. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 05/07/2018
Release date: 04/01/2018
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