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text 2020-06-01 16:18
Reading Wrap Up: Stay at Home Edition March, April, May 2020
The Final Days - Carl Bernstein,Bob Woodward
War on Peace - Ronan Farrow
Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth - Sarah Smarsh
Pox: An American History - Michael Willrich
Eisenhower 1956: The President's Year of Crisis--Suez and the Brink of War - David A. Nichols
Beauty Queens - Libba Bray
Golden in Death - J.D. Robb
The Girls of Mischief Bay - Susan Mallery

So here is my reading wrap up for March, April, and May. 



1. Golden in Death (In Death #50) by JD Robb - 4 stars

2. Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera - 3.5 stars

3. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot - 2.5 stars



1. Pox: An American History by Michael Willrich - 4.5 stars

2. A Distant Melody (Wings of Glory #1) by Sarah Sundin - 3 stars

3. The Scandalous Suffragette by Eliza Redgold - 3 stars

4. The Final Days by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein - 5 stars

5. Beauty Queens by Libby Bray - 4 stars

6. The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, the Epidemic That Shaped Our History by Molly Caldwell Crosby - 4 stars



1. The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty - 1 star

2. Eisenhower 1956: The President's Year of Crisis - Suez and the Brink of War by David A. Nichols - 4 stars

3. War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence by Ronan Farrow - 5 stars

4. Oklahoma City: What the Investigation Missed - and Why It Still Matters by Andrew Gumbel and Roger G. Charles - DNF

5. Stillhouse Lake (Stillhouse Lake #1) by Rachel Caine - 1 star

6. Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh - 4.5 stars

7. The Dead & the Gone (Last Survivors #2) by Susan Beth Pfeffer - 3 stars

8. 1666: Plague, War, and Hellfire by Rebecca Rideal - 3 stars

9. The Girls of Mischief Bay (Mischief Bay #1) by Susan Mallery - 4 stars

10. A New Life (West Meets East #1) by Merry Farmer - 2.5 stars


Goals and Challenges:

GoodReads: 40/125 (32%)

Library Love: 17/24 (70%) - I am thinking of moving up my goal to the next level


Participated in BoB28

Participated BL's Snakes & Ladders 2020

Participated in Dewey RAT

Participated in 24 in 48 Stay at Home RAT



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review 2020-05-16 21:07
The Decimating of the State Department
War on Peace - Ronan Farrow

Title: War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence

Author: Ronan Farrow

Publish Date: April 24, 2018

Publisher: WW Norton & Company

Format: Hardcover

Page Count: 392

Source: Library

Date Read: May 6-10, 2020



A fascinating if also a sombering and somewhat depressing look at the state of the State Department and the US foreign policy. Ronan Farrow is now known as an investigative journalist, but before journalism he worked in the State Department under Secretary Clinton on Special Representative Richard Holbrooke's ISAP team. But the cracks in the department go back to White House policies of Clinton, Bush II, and Obama and are  accelerated by the policies of Trump. 


Farrow worked as a liaison between NGOs and the ISAP team, than as the lead on Clinton's global youth leadership initiative. He still had contacts within the departmental regulars and with former Secretaries of State, so there is a cross section of what the administration's views were (via the Secretaries) and the ground truth from diplomats, ambassadors, and those working in Washington DC. Part of the trouble was that the Secretaries were not there to be a voice of reason and truth, but to make the President look good and feel happy with the choices he made with regard to any number of situations going on in the world. 


The problem is, those Secretaries were also overwhelmed by the presidents' trust and confidence in the information and choices given by the CIA and the Pentagon - generals were increasingly taking over foreign policy and diplomatic relations. Generals also saw everything through the sights of M16 and so every situation called for combat (drone strikes, Special Ops, etc). The generals had no knowledge of the history and culture of a region/country, so there clumsy, sometimes deadly talks with people who could manipulate the US into agreeing with their side. 


What did those egg-headed nerds back at State know? Well, for one thing, they had a deep knowledge of the region and traditional cultures. For another, some have worked on nuclear de-escalation for decades. For others still, they had ties with NGOs that worked in the area and could fund important projects and knew how to work anti-drug trafficking into NGO work to stabilize villages in Latin America.


And for one State worker, Richard Holbrooke, they also knew that climate change would alter diplomatic relations and tried to work on the climate problem from a diplomacy angle. The presidents didn't see the correlation between climate change and foreign policy, and the Pentagon wouldn't care about climate change and how it alters the fighting force, much less foreign conflict, until about 2018. But Holbrooke raised just this in regards to Pakistan-India relations regarding water sources early in Obama's first term; Obama's "team" (made up of generals and retired generals and a young, inexperienced NSA Ben Rhodes) thought he was delusional - Obama took the side of the generals and Rhodes. What happened? It turns out Holbrooke was right to worry and work on just that area of climate change as this article from 2019 shows. Too bad Holbrooke died of a heart attack in 2010 and couldn't get the apology from Rhodes or Obama or Sec Clinton.


But nothing to worry about, because as the US influence dies at the hands of State budget cuts and a dearth of institutional knowledge, China is taking its place. Good times.


Highly recommend reading this book in conjunction with Michael Lewis' The Fifth Risk for all those civic minded readers.



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text 2020-05-09 03:23
War on Peace - Ronan Farrow

But Raphel was a bliever in an old-fashioned diplomatic maxim: you never stop talking...Now, in an era where diplomacy of any kind was being sidelined in America's most sensitive relationships, that behavior was more than unusual - it even looked criminal. "She was trying to work on the US national interest, doing things we all thought were important," one senior official told me, on condition of anonymity since the investigation was still a sore point with law enforcement. "And by doing that she looked to someone like a spy. The danger of the whole thing was criminalizing diplomacy.


When the Wall Street Journal profiled the Raphel case, it headlined the resulting article, "The Last Diplomat." As Raphel rose from our table, she shook her head at the characterization. "Ronan, can we please get this straight? I have had foreign policy come up and say, 'You were doing the old-fashioned thing and now there's a new thing.'" She fixed her blue eyes on me. "I wasn't doing the wrong thing. I wasn't doing the out of date thing. I was the real thing." Robin Raphel pulled on her coat and stepped back out into the cold.

-pg. 151 


I am only done with part one of this book, but I would highly recommend reading it as a companion with Michael Lewis' The Fifth Risk.

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text 2020-05-08 23:37
#FridayReads - May 8, 2020
War on Peace - Ronan Farrow
Eisenhower 1956: The President's Year of Crisis--Suez and the Brink of War - David A. Nichols

Happy Military Spouses Appreciation Day!


This weekend I am going to try to finish War on Peace and Eisenhower 1956

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text 2020-05-07 01:43
War on Peace - Ronan Farrow

But for all the ways in which the developments were shocking, to describe them as unprecendented was simply not true. The Trump administration brought to a new extreme a trend that had, in fact, been gathering force since September 11, 2001. From Mogadishu to Damascus to Islamabad, the United States cast civilian dialogue to the side, replacing the tools of diplomacy with direct, tactical deals between our military and foreign forces. At home, White Houses filled with generals....America has changed whom it brings to the table, and, by extension, it has changed who sits at the other side. Foreign ministries are still there. But foreign militaries and militias often have the better seats.

-Prologue p. xxi


Oh I can feel myself settling in quite nicely with this book as a counter balance to the Eisenhower book I am still reading.

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