Raymond Seitz

Blessed is the Peacemaker

The Back Channel: A Memoir of American Diplomacy and the Case for Its Renewal


Hurst 501pp £25 order from our bookshop

Make a little room on your library shelf for this essential book on American diplomacy. Both memoir and history, it belongs right up there with other works by Acheson and Kennan, Kissinger and Shultz.

Bill Burns, who is now president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was for thirty-three years a Foreign Service officer, becoming the premier American diplomat of his generation. Fluent in French, Arabic and Russian, he was twice posted to Moscow, the second time as US ambassador (from 2005 to 2008). He also served as ambassador to Jordan. In the State Department, he worked as assistant secretary for the Near East, under-secretary for political affairs, and for three years before his retirement in 2014, deputy secretary of state, a position almost always held by a political appointee. Rumour had it that if Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 presidential election, she would have named Burns as secretary of state (life is a composite of missed opportunities).

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • The mystery of Jack the Ripper's identity has long been agonised over. But what do we know about his victims?… ,
    • A piece of Literary Review history from way back in 1983: John Haffenden talks to the great Iris Murdoch. ,
    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,
    • 'The heroic male nude could not, I think, be used today to signify civic pride and glory', as Michelangelo’s 'David… ,
    • 'Munch’s later works show us a man liberated from the torments that gave rise to some of the best-known early works… ,