A harrowing exploration of the collapse of American diplomacy and the abdication of global leadership, by the winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Public Service.
US foreign policy is undergoing a dire transformation, forever changing America’s place in the world. Institutions of diplomacy and development are bleeding out after deep budget cuts; the diplomats who make America’s deals and protect its citizens around the world are walking out in droves. Offices across the State Department sit empty, while abroad the military-industrial complex has assumed the work once undertaken by peacemakers. We’re becoming a nation that shoots first and asks questions later.
In an astonishing journey from the corridors of power in Washington, DC, to some of the most remote and dangerous places on earth—Afghanistan, Somalia, and North Korea among them—acclaimed investigative journalist Ronan Farrow illuminates one of the most consequential and poorly understood changes in American history. His firsthand experience as a former State Department official affords a personal look at some of the last standard bearers of traditional statecraft, including Richard Holbrooke, who made peace in Bosnia and died while trying to do so in Afghanistan.
Drawing on newly unearthed documents, and richly informed by rare interviews with warlords, whistle-blowers, and policymakers—including every living former secretary of state from Henry Kissinger to Hillary Clinton to Rex Tillerson—War on Peace makes a powerful case for an endangered profession. Diplomacy, Farrow argues, has declined after decades of political cowardice, shortsightedness, and outright malice—but it may just offer America a way out of a world at war.
War has eclipsed diplomacy as the main instrument of U.S. foreign policy with dire consequences, according to this searching expos 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.