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The Dissent Papers

The Dissent Papers: The Voices of Diplomats in the Cold War and Beyond

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    The Dissent Papers
    Book Description:

    Beginning with the Cold War and concluding with the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Hannah Gurman explores the overlooked opposition of U.S. diplomats to American foreign policy in the latter half of the twentieth century. 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' invaluable 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. Advancing an alternative narrative of modern U.S. history, she 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53035-4
    Subjects: Political Science, History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-xii)
    (pp. 1-20)

    ON NOVEMBER 28, 2010, a date that some called “the September eleventh of diplomacy,” the Internet whistleblower organization WikiLeaks dropped its latest bombshell of classified information—251,287 State Department cables, mostly written in the last three years, exchanged between U.S. embassies and Washington. “Cablegate,” as WikiLeaks called it, constituted the biggest leak of classified information in history. Hundreds of the leaked documents were posted immediately on the WikiLeaks Web site, and the organization’s founder, Julian Assange, promised to post them all in the course of the ensuing days and weeks. Unlike the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs released in previous...

  5. one THE PEN AS SWORD: George Kennan and the Politics of Authorship in the Early Cold War
    (pp. 21-70)

    IN 1943, JUST MONTHS after he had been released from a Nazi internment camp at Bad Nauheim near Frankfurt, George Kennan wrote a letter to the administrative office of the State Department. In the letter, he did not complain about the fact that the American government had contacted the internees only once during the five and half months of their imprisonment, nor did he register any dissatisfaction with the one telegram that was sent, which matter-of-factly informed the imprisoned State Department employees that they would not be paid for the term of their internment.¹

    While the State Department’s obvious lack...

  6. two “LEARN TO WRITE WELL”: The China Hands and the Communist-ification of Diplomatic Reporting
    (pp. 71-118)

    JACK SERVICE FIRST MET Madame Chiang, wife of Chinese president Chiang Kai-shek, in 1941 at an official banquet hosted by the Chinese government. “Service—what a lovely name! We hope you’ll be of service to China,” she had said to him then, with the conident yet feminine demeanor that had charmed so many of his fellow countrymen. Service, though, was not exactly amused by the pun on his name. He was a U.S. Foreign Service officer, and as such had no particular duty to China.¹

    John Davies met Madame Chiang for the first time the following April. He was delivering...

  7. three REVISING THE VIETNAM BALANCE SHEET: The Rhetorical Logic of Escalation Versus George Ball’s Writerly Logic of Diplomacy
    (pp. 119-168)

    GEORGE WILDMAN BALL was obsessed with revisions. When he wrote an important piece of policy analysis or speech, he would scribble all over the drafts, condensing phrases, qualifying claims, and shifting paragraphs around, literally cutting sections of his paper and stapling them to others. He would mark documents in need of revision with a note at the top—“To be Revised”—and track successive drafts by putting a number in parentheses at the top left corner of the page.¹ “It was a rare paper,” Ball recollected of one important writing stint in the 1950s, “that did not go through at...

  8. four THE OTHER PLUMBERS UNIT: The Dissent Channel of the U.S. State Department
    (pp. 169-198)

    “IF I HAVE DONE a good job of anything since I’ve been President, it’s to ensure that there are plenty of dissenters.”¹ Lyndon Johnson called attention to this bitter irony at a press conference in November 1967. Though Johnson had worked hard to maintain public support for the war in Vietnam, by the end of 1967 an increasing number of Americans vocally disapproved of the administration’s handling of the war.

    For many, opposition to the war stemmed not just from disagreement with U.S. intervention in Vietnam but also from the fact that Johnson had kept the extent of such intervention...

  9. Conclusion THE LIFE AFTER: From Internal Dissenter to Public Prophet
    (pp. 199-208)

    “THE SUCCESS OR FAILURE of a country’s foreign policy and its ability to preserve peace will depend upon the reliability of the diplomat’s reports.”¹ When Hans Morgenthau wrote these lines in 1948, he was not describing the actual role of American diplomats so much as establishing an ideal. Morgenthau looked to the American diplomatic establishment as the antidote to the poison of ideological fervor that had characterized American foreign policy and that threatened to contaminate international relations in the postwar era. As Morgenthau argued in Politics Among Nations, it was the diplomat’s duty to analyze the present state of foreign...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 209-248)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 249-268)
  12. Index
    (pp. 269-280)