Men’s Book Club
The Back Channel: A Memoir of American Diplomacy and the Case for its Renewal by William J. Burns covers the author’s three-and-a-half decades as a Foreign Service Officer in hot spots and crucial diplomatic missions around the world. Burns served as a Foreign Service Officer during the administrations of five Presidents from both parties. Before he retired in 2014, he became the highest ranking career officer in the State Department and the Deputy Secretary of State, the second highest position in the State Department.
In The Back Channel, Burns eloquently describes the first Bush Administration’s diplomatic initiatives following the fall of the USSR during which US power seemed transcendent, his service as a young head of the important Bureau of Near East Affairs within the State Department after 9/11, his role as ambassador to Russia during its resurgence under Vladimir Putin, his service under President Obama during the Arab Spring and its harsh aftermath and his leadership of the negotiations with Iran to terminate its military nuclear program.
This book is more than an engaging historical narrative; it is also a call to reinvigorate our commitment to diplomacy. With the rise of China, the resurgence of Russia power, and the expansion of ethnic and religious extremism, Burns acknowledges that American leadership in the world is no longer a given. Rather than engaging in a lament for the “good old days,” he offers a series of pragmatic recommendations to reform the State Department and to modify our increasing reliance on military measures and threats as the principal means to achieve our objectives. Diplomacy, he argues, should be restored to its status as the tool of “first resort” to approach and manage our global affairs. In making these arguments, he is sharply critical of the Trump Administration’s distrust and misuse of diplomacy and deeply concerned about its implications for our nation.
Please join us at 7:30 pm on Wednesday, November 13th to discuss this well-written, provocative, and very timely book.