The Dissent Papers

The Voices of Diplomats in the Cold War and Beyond

Hannah Gurman

Columbia University Press

The Dissent Papers

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Pub Date: January 2012

ISBN: 9780231158725

296 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $65.00£48.00

Pub Date: January 2012

ISBN: 9780231530354

296 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $64.99£48.00

The Dissent Papers

The Voices of Diplomats in the Cold War and Beyond

Hannah Gurman

Columbia University Press

Beginning with the Cold War and concluding with the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Hannah Gurman explores the overlooked opposition of U.S. diplomats to American foreign policy in the latter half of the twentieth century. During America's reign as a dominant world power, U.S. presidents and senior foreign policy officials largely ignored or rejected their diplomats' reports, memos, and telegrams, especially when they challenged key policies relating to the Cold War, China, and the wars in Vietnam and Iraq. The Dissent Papers recovers these diplomats' invaluable perspective and their commitment to the transformative power of diplomatic writing.

Gurman showcases the work of diplomats whose opposition enjoyed some success. George Kennan, John Stewart Service, John Paton Davies, George Ball, and John Brady Kiesling all caught the attention of sitting presidents and policymakers, achieving temporary triumphs yet ultimately failing to change the status quo. Gurman follows the circulation of documents within the State Department, the National Security Council, the C.I.A., and the military, and she details the rationale behind "The Dissent Channel," instituted by the State Department in the 1970s, to both encourage and contain dissent. Advancing an alternative narrative of modern U.S. history, she connects the erosion of the diplomatic establishment and the weakening of the diplomatic writing tradition to larger political and ideological trends while, at the same time, foreshadowing the resurgent significance of diplomatic writing in the age of Wikileaks.

The Dissent Papers is an outstanding account of dissent in the State Department since the Second World War. I know of no other work that treats the issue in this synoptic manner. The volume's later chapters present new material in a particularly subtle and provocative way. The book is fresh, unique, and stimulating.

Frank Ninkovich, St. John's University, author of Global Dawn: The Cultural Foundation of American Imperialism, 1865–1890

Hannah Gurman's approach and evidence are fresh and original. She brings disparate yet connected stories together to show how diplomats used the primary tool given to them: language.

Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman, San Diego State University, author of Broken Promises: A Novel of the Civil War

...well-researched and spared of academic jargon...

John H. Brown, American Diplomacy

...a welcome celebration of elegent prose and careful analysis.

Laura Belmonte, H-Diplo Roundtable

One of the best compliments that can be paid to a book is to say that it made the reader think and this book certainly accomplished that.

Javan Frazier, H-War

Fluent and insightful, The Dissent Papers is a highly impressive debut.

David Milne, American Historical Review
Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. The Pen as Sword: George Kennan and the Politics of Authorship in the Early Cold War
2. "Learn to Write Well" The China Hands and the Communist-ification of Diplomatic Reporting
3. Revising the Vietnam Balance Sheet: The Rhetorical Logic of Escalation Versus George Ball's Writerly Logic of Diplomacy
4. The Other Plumbers Unit: The Dissent Channel of the U.S. State Department
Conclusion. The Life After: From Internal Dissenter to Public Prophet
Notes
Bibliography
Index
Web Features:

VIDEO: Hannah Gurman discusses the book at The American Foreign Service Association:

About the Author

Hannah Gurman is a clinical assistant professor at New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study, where she teaches history, literature, and culture of the United States in the world. Her writing has appeared in Salon and Foreign Policy in Focus, as well as The Journal of Contemporary History, Diplomatic History, and Small Wars Journal.