American foreign policy during the post-WW II era has been marked by U.S. intervention around the globe. Presidents, regardless of political party or ideology, have consistently sought to bolster the country’s role overseas, stretching from Europe to Asia to South America.
But, despite the appearance of consensus across presidential administrations, U.S. policy has been fiercely debated behind closed doors.
In the recently released The Dissent Papers: The Voices of Diplomats in the Cold War and Beyond (Columbia University Press), Hannah Gurman, a clinical assistant professor at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, explores the overlooked opposition of U.S. diplomats to American foreign policy in the latter half of the 20th century, beginning with the Cold War and concluding with the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
During America's reign as a dominant world power, U.S. presidents and senior foreign policy officials largely ignored or rejected their diplomats’ reports, memos, and telegrams, especially when they challenged key policies relating to the Cold War, China, and the wars in Vietnam and Iraq. The Dissent Papers recovers these diplomats’ perspective and their commitment to the transformative power of diplomatic writing.
Gurman showcases the work of diplomats whose opposition enjoyed some success. George Kennan, John Stewart Service, John Paton Davies, George Ball, and John Brady Kiesling all caught the attention of sitting presidents and policymakers, achieving temporary triumphs yet ultimately failing to change the status quo. Gurman follows the circulation of documents within the State Department, the National Security Council, the C.I.A., and the military, and she details the rationale behind “The Dissent Channel,” instituted by the State Department in the 1970s, to both encourage and contain dissent.
Gurman, who writes for Salon, the Huffington Post, and Small Wars Journal, connects the erosion of the diplomatic establishment and the weakening of the diplomatic writing tradition to larger political and ideological trends while, at the same time, foreshadowing the resurgent significance of diplomatic writing in the age of Wikileaks.
For review copies, contact Meredith Howard, Columbia University Press, at 212.459.0600, ext. 7126 or email@example.com.