The Politics of Diplomacy: Revolution, War & Peace, 1989-1992

By Cate, Alan C. | Military Review, July/August 1997 | Go to article overview

The Politics of Diplomacy: Revolution, War & Peace, 1989-1992


Cate, Alan C., Military Review


THE POLITICS OF DIPLOMACY: Revolution, War & Peace,19891992 by James A. Baker III with Thomas M. DeFrank. 687 pages. G.P. Putnam's Sons. New York. 1996. $32.50).

Most people seem to agree that foreign policy was the most successful aspect of George Bush's presidency. As evidence, they point to his administration's successful management of Germany's reunification and the Soviet Union's disintegration and to Bush's ability to organize the international coalition against Iraq. Bush's critics point to the mess that followed our overwhelming victory in Operation Desert Storm, to US failure to take a stronger stand against the "butchers of Beijing" after Tiananmen Square and to the overall lack of vision for the post-Cold War world beyond vague talk about a "new world order."

Regardless of viewpoint, all would probably agree that the Bush presidency coincided with an unusual number of dramatic and important international events. As secretary of state for all but the last four months of the Bush administration, James A. Baker played a central role in them all. In The Politics of Diplomacy, Baker gives his account of US policy making and diplomacy during his tenure.

If there is any overarching theme to this sprawling and episodic 34-chapter book, it lies in Baker's evident belief in the primacy of politics over policy. This is implicit in the book's title. Baker writes that "international politics can be thought of as an ongoing negotiation . . . a series of discreet problems that require solution." Baker views himself as a "realist," who is "more comfortable with action than with reflection" and who sought to impose a "principled pragmatism" on a sometimes reluctant State Department bureaucracy. …

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