The Foreign Service Journal - January/February 2018

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 101 the affair, Moss says, that Nixon began to worry about his emotional stability. When back-channel diplomacy led in May 1971 to a breakthrough in the SALT talks, the policy shift had to be moved into regular channels, and Secretary Rogers caught on. “Why didn’t you tell me you were doing this?” said Rogers. “There’s no need for me to be involved, but I do need to be informed.” He offered to resign, but in the end he stayed on, increasingly margin- alized until Kissinger replaced him in September 1973. On the Soviet side, Dobrynin’s reports went to Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, who controlled their circulation in the Kremlin. “The irony was,” Moss writes, “that the back-channel reporting had significantly broader dissemination in the Soviet Union, a closed society,” than in the open United States. Back-channel diplomacy had many successes: the Soviet abandonment of plans for a military base at Cienfuegos, Cuba; the four-power agreement on Berlin; the 1971 SALT agreement; and the rapprochement with China. But the chan- nel failed to bring progress on Vietnam or in the Middle East, where Kissinger thought the State Department’s role was “murderously dangerous.” The back channel to Moscow, says Moss, built confidence, gave leaders a personal stake in success, made linkage possible and served as a safety valve for the release of U.S.-Soviet tensions. The channel was reserved for moving forward, not for reiteration of familiar positions or rhetoric. It functioned best when coordinated with official channels which, Kissinger later said, it was designed to augment, not replace. The channel had costs, as well, in a loss of technical expertise, a deterioration in institutional capacities and—unless its work could be moved into traditional dip- lomatic venues—a lingering doubt about the legitimacy of its achievements. And in the end, Moss says, the same impulse toward secrecy and control that brought the channel into being proved the undo- ing of Nixon’s presidency. Harry Kopp, a former FSO, was deputy assis- tant secretary of State for international trade policy in the Carter and Reagan adminis- trations; his foreign assignments included Warsaw and Brasilia. He is the author of Commercial Diplomacy and the National Interest (Academy of Diplomacy, 2004) and The Voice of the Foreign Service: A History of the American Foreign Service Association (FS Books, 2015), and the co-author of Career Diplomacy: Life andWork in the U.S. Foreign Service (Georgetown University Press, 2017). The Mess We’re In Patchworks B.A. East, Moonshine Cove Publishing LLC, 2017, $13.99/paperback, $6.99/Kindle, 226 pages. Reviewed By Daniel Whitman Step aside: Here comes the latest noir of B.A. East. Try reading this, as I did, on the runway of a three-hour-delayed overseas flight. Frustration fades, claus- trophobia dissipates, and chuckles and admiration lighten the confining space. East conveys preceding forms and genres, but mainly tongue-in-cheek, as he forges his own unlikely triumphs of under- endowed good over muscle-flexing evil. Apathy, mano-a-mano struggles with dark forces and immediately recogniz- able characters slip into his new noir , but East manages to use caricatures while also transcending them. The read is irresistible. A dystopian future is (believably enough) marked by the complete dominance of the National Rifle Association over the former America, here called “The Republic.”The astute observer catches on that this was more or less the case anyway; it just hadn’t been detailed yet in the mainstreammedia, for lack of evidence. Fiction fills in the few missing spaces amply. He reminds us through timely refer- ences that the calamitous future is near upon us. Bringing Wolf Blitzer (“that white-haired cockatoo”) frequently into the mix reminds us this future is months at most, not years, ahead. East parodies the news, but not by much. In his only slightly dislocated bureaucracy, “sequester,” “lockdown,” “forms,” “furlough,” “budget” and “shelter in place” become bugbears that leap from familiar daily routines to finely crafted howlers. How better to deal with the mess we’re in, than to laugh it off while we still can? Only in our cur- rent situation could an unpaid intern have the gall and patience to assert moral power, as Gabriel Dunne does in this novel. The David vs. Goliath theme is present, but caricatures give way to familiarity. The novelist’s hand is present, but more for our amusement than for the invention of new realities. Mass shootings continue at a steady clip in East’s new reality. The only differ- ence fromour own is that East’s go nearly unnoticed. The Republic is calibrated to expect and ignore them, notwithstanding the soulless Blitzer’s timely reminders. East constructs narratives as a cinema- tographer might. But cinema would not pack the same wallop with tone-perfect lines like the following: