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

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  6,783 ratings  ·  794 reviews
American diplomacy is under siege. 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 account ranging from Washington, D.C., to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and North Korea in the years since 9/11, accl
Hardcover, First Edition, 392 pages
Published April 24th 2018 by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
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Alan Tomkins-Raney Nothing. I puzzled over the same thing for way too long before deciding that it must have been an error that escaped the proof reader's or editor's no…moreNothing. I puzzled over the same thing for way too long before deciding that it must have been an error that escaped the proof reader's or editor's notice. I finally just let it go and moved on with the book. (less)

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May 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-read, politics, usa
Yes, it's true that with this book, Pulitzer Prize winner Ronan Farrow shines a light on how the US has been decimating and sidelining its State Department for years, although - hey, kids! - diplomacy is crucial. But while this is of course an important point to make, it also amounts to stating the obvious, so I would argue that what makes this book so insightful and relevant is how Farrow takes his readers inside the political, military and diplomatic entanglements of some of the most complex i ...more
Aug 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Detailed and sharp, War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence surveys the erosion of the State Department and the rise of militarized foreign policy since the start of the War on Terror. Across three wide-ranging parts journalist and former diplomat Ronan Farrow offers a forceful critique of 21st-century America’s hyper-militarized approach to foreign intervention, from the decision to forgo negotiation with enemy forces to the promotion of generals to high-level g ...more
Who could have known Ronan Farrow would develop into such a remarkable thinker? He credits his mother, of whom he speaks with genuine awe in his voice. Not only has 30-year-old Ronan Farrow been a diplomat, in his early twenties working closely with Richard Holbrooke, special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the midst of American’s longest war, but just last year he broke the story published in The New Yorker which set America on a new trajectory for gender relations.

War on Peace is an exam
Riley Haas
May 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
This is a deeply flawed but fascinating book about the decline of the US foreign service and US diplomacy and general, the the ebbing of US influence as the American Empire slowly ends.
Farrow was an employee of the State Department at one point and perhaps he was too close to his subject. The first 100 or so pages are essentially an apologia for his boss, Richard Holbrooke. Holbrooke is no longer around to defend himself so Farrow seems to have taken it upon himself. I don't think it necessarily
3.5/4 Stars

To start with a very brief negative, I would say that the structure was a little hard to follow. From what I could tell, Farrow structures the book mainly around the countries whose foreign relations he discusses. I'm sure this structure would be easier to follow while reading a physical copy of the book, but as an audiobook listen, it was occasionally disorienting when he jumped from Pakistan to Somalia.

However, I think the positives far outweigh the negatives in this insanely well-r
Mikey B.
The premise of this book is that international diplomacy by the U.S. has given way to the military and the Pentagon. Rather than diplomacy, and after maybe war; it has become much more war followed by diplomacy – a far more complex and expensive scenario.

The budget for the Pentagon and military has gone up, while that for the State Department has gone down, including unprecedented layoffs of valuable personnel. Much of this started after 9/11.

The author spends a lot of attention on Richard Holbr
Jill Mackin
An excellent book of investigative journalism. The ongoing deterioration of the State Department and rise of Militarism as foreign policy.
Steven Z.
Jun 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
The advent of the Trump presidency has wreaked havoc with the traditional American approach to foreign policy that has been in place roughly for the last seventy years. Under the leadership of former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson the Foreign Service has been gutted as have the careers of life long diplomats leaving the United States with a lack of qualified personnel to conduct the daily work of the State Department, an essential component for an effective foreign policy. This is in large par ...more
May 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Riveting book I couldn’t put down

War on Peace” is a riveting and thought-provoking book exploring the reasons behind the declining, though one hopes not dying, art and craft of US foreign diplomacy negotiation. Ronan Farrow, former US State Department diplomat and current journalist, details how the use of diplomacy has diminished over the last several presidencies, at the hands of ever increasing military power that is now used by the US as a replacement to foreign diplomacy. This trend starte
May 12, 2018 marked it as to-read
Shelves: tweet-diplomacy
Ronan on playing "nice" with North Korea:

-"we're flying blind now"
-"they often lie"
-"risk: we get played"
-"they cheat"

Let's hope for the better on the 12th June.

Et Voilá:

Sugarpuss O'Shea
This is one of those books that will keep you up at night. I know it did me. At every turn, we have f'ed things up -- Nixon put off ending Vietnam in order to get reelected; Reagan made Colombian drug lords richer in the name of counterterrorism; Clinton started slashing our civilian presence in the world & cut the budgets to State at the same levels Trump has today; G W Bush turned diplomacy over to the Pentagon & could've ended the Afghan war (by talking to the Taliban), but the military would ...more
Apr 26, 2018 marked it as maybe

Tillerson parroted China talking points written by Kushner. Rachel Maddoow looks at past reporting on Jared Kushner's sketchy meetings with Chinese officials, and notes the tie-in to a scoop in Ronan Farrow's new book "War on Peace" that found Kushner to be the source of Rex Tillerson remarks parroting China's preferred perspective on U.S. China relations.

Farrow is a high-flyer with a very rosy future.
Mike Kanner
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was ok
As always, my disclosure. I am a lecturer in security studies and foreign policy in a major university. While still in government, I worked with DoS in Central America and Europe.

Despite the praise of so many, I found this a mediocre history plagued with selection bias. The first third (and sprinkled throughout) is praise of Richard Holbrooke who served as the author's mentor. The rest is a hit and miss picture of high-level aspects of foreign policy from about 2000 on often losing sight of the
Ml Lalonde
May 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This dense, gripping, impossibly detailed account of the decline of American diplomacy leaves me wondering how a single country can give birth to both Donald Trump and Ronan Farrow. How does this young scholar, investigative journalist and public servant even coexist in the same air space as Trump's government? You'll be hiding under the bed to read this. One wonders if the ancient Romans knew their empire was declining while it was happening. Thanks to Ronan Farrow, the Americans will know for ...more
Jun 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Ronan Farrow is an investigative journalist who began his career as a State department staffer. In this book he makes the case that the State department has been minimized over the years, to the detriment of our country and security.

The emphasis throughout the book is on how and why diplomatic negotiations have been shuttled off to Defense and Intelligence, as opposed to civilian diplomacy under the State Department. In his mind this approach began with the Clinton administration, continued thro
Oct 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, nonfiction
4.5 - Ronan Farrow has achieved way too much in his 31 years on this earth. Graduating from university at 15 and from law school at 21. He’s a lawyer and has also worked for the US State Department. Not to mention winning the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting that exposed Harvey Weinstein. So of course he had to go and write a book on top of all that. STOP MAKING THE REST OF US LOOK LAZY AND UNACCOMPLISHED RONAN.

War on Peace is a non-fiction book which examines the declining role of the US dipl
Nov 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Ronan Farrow is a genius and US foreign policy is generally horrifying.

That's it, that's the review.

No, in all seriousness, this was a super fascinating read and definitely gave me more of an understanding of the ever-growing decline in diplomacy and increase in military use in US foreign policy. Ronan Farrow does an incredible job with this seriously well-sourced book. He got so, so many people on the record, not just every living US Secretary of State, a plethora of diplomats, and a couple of
Jun 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2018
This book is a must read for anyone who is interested in the state of the world today. It is a fascinating and sometimes frightening look at the decline of diplomacy in the modern era.
May 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone Who Wants to Learn More about the US Role in International Diplomacy
Recommended to Julianna by: Foothills Book Club
Reviewed for THC Reviews
I’ve only somewhat recently become familiar with Ronan Farrow through his Pulitzer-prize-winning work for the New Yorker covering the Harvey Weinstein scandal that led to the #MeToo movement being raised into our collective consciences. Then he also covered the breaking news story of Deborah Ramirez, one of Brett Kavanaugh’s accusers, during the recent Supreme Court confirmation hearings. I honestly didn’t know that Mr. Farrow had written a book until War on Peace came up
May 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Clear, sharp, intelligent, to-the-point and sometimes even emotional account of the state of Diplomacy in the largest empire in the history of the world. The demise of the State Department and its peace-bringing mission is told through interviews and stories. READ IT.
Lubinka Dimitrova
This world is doomed.

Doomed to be destroyed by the morons we elect to rule us. By the morons who elect morons to rule over them and over the fate of the planet. It only remains to be seen how it will all end.
Meg Northrup
Apr 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
As other reviewers have noted, the central argument/narrative of this book is so obvious as to be cliche at this point. The DoD has not only been encroaching on DoS for years, it has eclipsed it in many spheres. The interviews though! I found the interviews alone well worth the read, and the supporting details fascinating.
Scott Rhee
Diplomacy is dead. This is the main take-away of Ronan Farrow’s recent book “War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence”, a frightening look at the first stages of a growing new world military order and the death of hope for mankind.

The book starts with the Mahogany Row Massacre, the name given to Trump’s sweeping blanket firing within the State Department during his initial first weeks in office. Virtually every ambassador, diplomat, and consultant that was involve
Doug Orleans
I read this for a book club, and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have read it otherwise, but I don't regret reading it. I wasn't wowed, though...

It's a weird mish-mash of personal memoirs of Farrow's time in the state department working on Pakistan relations, a biography of Richard Holbrooke's last years, investigative reporting (about the mass graves in Afghanistan shortly after we went to war there, and about a British teenager who joined al-Shabaab in Somalia), and a general survey of the effects
I really enjoyed this one although there were moments initially where a few of the people seemed to be written as caricatures, for instance the Ambassador to Pakistan accused of espionage, and the tone was a bit too gossipy. Shortly after though the author seemed to settle into his argument and this came across in a leveling of tone and slightly more developed players in Parts 2 and 3.

The subject itself is broad in scope and the people interviewed cover the relevant perspectives BUT I wanted mo
May 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Good but not great. First, what makes it good?

Farrow notes with detail about how presidents of both parties, from Bill Clinton on, have contributed toward an increased use of the military as a tool of, or substitute for, diplomacy. He spells out specific instances of this. Second, he notes that, without wielding a meat-ax, State could use some budget trimming and reorganization as well. By focusing on Holbrooke, and his being knee-capped, Farrow shows one possible specific way in which reorganiz
Mack Hayden
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: world, politics, america
I’m bummed out that I didn’t take to this book. The subject is immensely interesting to me and Ronan Farrow is one of our best reporters. There just seemed to be a lack of direction here; it felt more like an excuse for Farrow to do PR for his cantankerous old boss, Richard Holbrooke, and interview a bunch of notable diplomats and leaders. While I agree diplomacy is always the best course of action and the rapid collapse of the State department is nothing to scoff at, it seemed like all Farrow w ...more
Aug 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I was expecting a book that focused on the decline of the role of diplomacy in US foreign relations. This turned out to be a book about Afghanistan, Pakistan and Richard Holbrooke, with a couple of other regions thrown in more briefly. It’s part journalism and part memoir, with enough analysis to perhaps make for a decent New Yorker or maybe Foreign Policy article. I’m a bit bewildered by the 4.25 star rating, and wonder how much of that is based on Farrow’s name and reputation, and the access t ...more
Seán Lee
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“Diplomacy really ought to be the tool of the first resort internationally. It can sometime achieve things at far less cost, both financially and in terms of American lives, than the use of the military can.” -Bill Burns
Dec 02, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: peacemakers
Was hoping for stories highlighting U.S. soft power decline with an argument for how to renew the Department of State. Instead felt it read mostly like an insiders memoir.
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Ronan Farrow is a contributing writer to The New Yorker, where his investigative reporting has won the Pulitzer Prize for public service, the National Magazine Award, and the George Polk Award, among other honors. He previously worked as an anchor and investigative reporter at MSNBC and NBC News, with his print commentary and reporting appearing in publications including the Wall Street Journal, t ...more

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When it comes to whiling away the dog days of summer, nothing is better than a good book. Or two. Or three. Let’s say ten! We’re getting...
30 likes · 6 comments
“I know that war is the failure of diplomacy and the failure of leaders to make alternative decisions.” 15 likes
“The fears of militarization Holbrooke had expressed in his final, desperate memos, had come to pass on a scale he could have never anticipated. President Trump had concentrated ever more power in the Pentagon, granting it nearly unilateral authority in areas of policy once orchestrated across multiple agencies, including the State Department. In Iraq and Syria, the White House quietly delegated more decisions on troop deployments to the military. In Yemen and Somalia, field commanders were given authority to launch raids without White House approval. In Afghanistan, Trump granted the secretary of defense, General James Mattis, sweeping authority to set troop levels. In public statements, the White House downplayed the move, saying the Pentagon still had to adhere to the broad strokes of policies set by the White House. But in practice, the fate of thousands of troops in a diplomatic tinderbox of a conflict had, for the first time in recent history, been placed solely in military hands. Diplomats were no longer losing the argument on Afghanistan: they weren’t in it. In early 2018, the military began publicly rolling out a new surge: in the following months, up to a thousand new troops would join the fourteen thousand already in place. Back home, the White House itself was crowded with military voices. A few months into the Trump administration, at least ten of twenty-five senior leadership positions on the president’s National Security Council were held by current or retired military officials. As the churn of firings and hirings continued, that number grew to include the White House chief of staff, a position given to former general John Kelly. At the same time, the White House ended the practice of “detailing” State Department officers to the National Security Council. There would now be fewer diplomatic voices in the policy process, by design.” 3 likes
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