“Looking out at the ice-cold water all around me
I can’t feel any traces of that other place”
–Vampire Weekend, “Diplomat’s Son”
Less than a year ago, The New Yorker published Ronan Farrow’s article “From Aggressive Overtures To Sexual Assault: Harvey Weinstein’s Accusers Tell Their Stories.” It propelled the young journalist, son of Mia Farrow, into the spotlight, which wasn’t the point; Farrow insisted that the stage belonged to the brave women who had been willing to risk their careers, and more, to tell their stories. Still, the article earned him his place among the most important journalists working today.
War On Peace, his first book, does not focus on the Me too movement (although that book is forthcoming). Instead, it discusses recent trends in American government away from diplomacy and toward military solutions, with sometimes disastrous results.
Farrow, who had served in the State Department, makes use of his access while never making the book about himself. In its best pages, he provides character studies (such as his late boss Richard Holbrooke), miniature histories (of the complexities of Pakistan, for instance) or both. He has an eye for detail, an ear for a well-placed quote, and a quiet humor that never overwhelms the narrative. His prose is taut and effective, even if he’s overly smitten with “graying” (surely some hair is, simply, gray).
It’s an overly ambitious book. There’s simply too much to get in, so a controversial subject like the Iran deal, which could easily have consumed 300+ pages on its own, is only sketchily addressed before the last chapter ends.
Farrow is smart, talented, and driven, and he makes a compelling case that bipartisan sidelining of State, which has accelerated under Trump, has made the world more dangerous. It’s a strong first book. His next has the potential to be a world-changer.