Diplomatic Ties | Social Sciences, April 2019

A discerning, judicious accounting of negotiations from the perspective of Burns, surprisingly one of the lesser-known significant diplomatic figures of the last several decades; an insightful and indispensable rendering of an intriguing and accomplished figure who persisted in the pursuit of peace

The Back ChannelBurns, William J. The Back Channel: A Memoir of American Diplomacy and the Case for Its Renewal. Random. Mar. 2019. 512p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780525508861. $32; ebk. ISBN 9780525508878. BIOG
Career diplomat Burns, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, offers a nuanced assessment of post–Cold War overseas ventures based on recently declassified memos and cables. His account compares with Madeleine Albright’s Madam Secretary and Condoleezza Rice’s No Higher Honor as well as George Packer’s Our Man. Burns summarizes his time as a foreign service office beginning in 1982 and subsequently ambassador to Jordan, 1998–2001; assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, 2001–05; ambassador to Russia, 2005–08; under secretary of state for political affairs, 2008–11; and deputy secretary of state, 2011–14. Burns maintains that the United States needs to return to being a pivotal, not dominant, world power. Told in conversational prose, and providing insights into noteworthy world players including ­Yasser Arafat, James Baker, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Vladimir Putin, this memoir offers much to both policy scholars and general readers.
VERDICT A discerning, judicious accounting of negotiations from the perspective of Burns, surprisingly one of the lesser-known significant diplomatic figures of the last several decades. [See Prepub Alert, 11/5/18.]—Frederick J. Augustyn Jr., Lib. of Congress, Washington, DC

redstarPacker, George. Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century. Knopf. May 2019. 608p. photos. notes. ISBN Our Man. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780307958037. BIOG
During his time as a career diplomat, Richard Holbrooke (1941–2010) helped broker the peace in Bosnia that led to the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords and most recently served as U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan under President Obama and ambassador to the UN under President Clinton. In this first treatment of the politician since Derek Chollet’s The Unquiet American and the HBO filmThe Diplomat, directed by Holbrooke’s son David, New Yorker journalist Packer (The Unwinding) gives a balanced analysis of Holbrooke, suggesting he was arguably one of the most significant international policy advisors not to serve as secretary of state. Focusing on the private life and public career of a restless, and at times assertive, politician and political advisor, the author mines interviews conducted with more than 200 people for background, whose accounts are thus individually unattributed; the Holbrooke Papers, to which he had special access; as well as secondary sources.
VERDICT An insightful and indispensable rendering of an intriguing and accomplished figure who persisted in the pursuit of peace. [See Prepub Alert, 11/12/18.]—Frederick J. Augustyn Jr., Lib. of Congress, Washington, DC

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