The Foreign Service Journal - November 2014 - page 55

The State Department:
More Than Just Diplomacy
George Gedda, AuthorHouse, 2014,
$16.95/paperback, $3.99/Kindle,
166 pages.
Longtime readers of
The Foreign Service
will instantly recognize the byline of
George Gedda, who for 39 years covered the
State Department for the Associated Press
and frequently contributed articles to these pages. He is also the
author of
Cuba: The Audacious Revolution
(CreateSpace, 2011).
This memoir draws on that impressive body of work to reveal
(in the author’s own words) “the good, bad and ugly” about State,
but always does so with the respect for the work of professional
diplomats that has characterized his entire career.
Contributing Editor Steven Alan Honley observed in his
review of the book (July-August
): “If anyone can engage a ‘lay’
audience that is at least theoretically interested in a book about
the State Department, while offering some deeper insights for
those who already know the subject, it is George Gedda.”
How Not to Become a Spy: A Memoir
of Love at the End of the Cold War
Justin Lifflander, Gilbo Shed Books, 2014,
$14, paperback, 267 pages.
In this comic memoir set at the end of the
Cold War, Justin Lifflander proceeds from
internships at the FBI and State Department
to Moscow, and on to provincial Votkinsk,
the birthplace of Tchaikovsky and the finest
ICBMs ever made. There he falls in love with his KGB-assigned
escort, confounds Soviet authorities with pink lawn flamingos, hot
tubs and pet goats, and learns that Russians and Americans are
more alike than they realize.
In his foreword, the author cites the need to address the cur-
rent “crisis of misunderstanding” between the United States and
Russia, and urges us to challenge everything we think we know in
that effort. He hopes that his story might help.
Justin Lifflander holds dual U.S. and Russian citizenship and
resides in Moscow with his wife, son and mother-in-law. After
Votkinsk, he worked for Hewlett-Packard Russia in Moscow for
20 years and served as business editor for the
Moscow Times
2010 to 2014.
Ping-Pong Diplomacy:
The Secret History of the
Game that Changed the World
Nicholas Griffin, Simon & Schuster, 2014,
$26/hardcover, $11.89/Kindle, 352 pages.
The spring of 1971 heralded the greatest geopo-
litical realignment in a generation. After 22 years
of antagonism, Beijing and Washington suddenly
moved toward a détente—achieved not by politicians, but by
ping-pong players. The Western press delighted in the absurdity
of the moment and branded it “Ping-Pong Diplomacy.” But for
the Chinese, the game was always political, a strategic cog in Mao
Zedong’s foreign policy. In
Ping-Pong Diplomacy
, Nicholas Griffin
traces this crucial intersection of sports and society.
Griffin, a seasoned journalist and novelist, tells the strange
and tragic story of how the game was manipulated at the highest
levels. Through a cast of eccentric characters, from spies to hip-
pies and from generals obsessed with ping-pong to atom-bomb
survivors, Griffin explores how a neglected sport was used to help
realign the balance of worldwide diplomacy.
The result is a page-turner that will interest not just China
hands, but general readers, as well.
Pot Shards: Fragments
of a Life Lived in CIA,
the White House and the Two Koreas
Donald P. Gregg, New Academia/Vellum,
2014, $26, paperback, 344 pages.
Donald P. Gregg spent 31 years as an opera-
tions officer in the CIA and 10 years in the
White House under Jimmy Carter, Ronald
Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Pot Shards
is a window into the Cold War era and the agency’s failings and
successes, including Gregg’s role in saving the life of KimDae
Jung, a Korean political dissident who later, as South Korea’s presi-
dent, won the Nobel Peace Prize.
As he recounts here, the author returned to Seoul in 1989 to
serve as U.S. ambassador for four years. And in retirement, he has
made six trips to Pyongyang (most recently in April), stressing
dialogue over demonization.
Gregg colorfully describes his CIA tours in Japan, Burma,
Vietnam and South Korea. His experiences in Vietnam illustrate
the difficulties of speaking truth to power, including sharp-edged
encounters with Robert McNamara and Curtis LeMay, among
others. This is an ADST-DACOR Diplomats and Diplomacy Book.
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