I read this one in part as a truce with my dad, who loooves to talk about politics, but soon got sucked into what felt like a lesson in global civics told in terms of a horror story.
WAR ON PEACE is a breakdown of the systematic sabotage of the State Department and the Foreign Service, and the atrocities that occur when military escalation takes the place of diplomacy.
The most resonant accounts are from Farrow himself: the absurd decadence of the Vice President’s palace in Kabul, the heartbreaking interview with the mother of a terrorist, and a categorical description of ambassadors in terms of their ties.
A good portion of the book is a eulogy to Ronan Farrow’s old boss, Richard Holbrooke, and a farewell to Tom Countryman, two diplomats who marked the end of an era of the US as a superpower. Timelines of their careers tell us not just who they were, but how the job is done, and how attitudes and regimes shape the process of keeping peace.
As I read, I felt more and more naive, boggled by the amounts of money spent to keep the US pertinent on the world stage, and overwhelmed by the horrors of proxy wars we’ve funded.
The ending feels ambiguous, with a scrapbook of photos that don’t shed light or hope into the future, and perhaps that is what Farrow intends to say.