Only the second career diplomat to serve as Deputy Secretary of State, Ambassador William J. Burns (now President Biden’s CIA Director) reflects on the successes, shortcomings, and uncommon developments as a foreign service officer from the Cold War to today. Spanning a career in both Republican and Democratic administrations, Burns’s storytelling approach to his own experiences illustrates the dynamic nature of American foreign policy. Writing during the Trump administration, he makes a passionate case for American diplomacy’s revival as its decline continues to put a freer world at risk. The diplomat’s personal accounts and anecdotes bring life to powerful figures, some of them still making policy today.
Atlantic staff writer Packer illuminates both beltway veterans and policy newcomers alike with his vivid portrait of senior American diplomat Richard Holbrooke, the only person to have been Assistant Secretary of State for two separate regions. From his early days in the Foreign Service in Vietnam, climbing the administrative ladder in Foggy Bottom, and negotiating an end to the Balkan Wars in the 1990s, Holbrooke’s unbridled ambition to become the most accomplished American statesman of his generation ultimately contributed to his untimely death in 2010, while serving as the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Classic Washington intrigue is reinvented in this page-turning journalistic biography.