William J. Burns spent three decades as an American diplomat and played a central role in the most consequential diplomatic episodes of his time. Our time. The bloodless end of the Cold War. The collapse of post-Cold War relations with Putin’s Russia. The post-9/11 tumult in the Middle East. The secrete nuclear talks with Iran. With compelling detail, incisive analysis and newly declassified cables and memos, he recounts some of the seminal moments of his career and delivers a rare look at diplomacy in action. His dispatches from war-torn Chechnya and Qaddafi’s bizarre camp in the Libyan desert, and his warnings of the “Perfect Storm” the Iraq War would unleash will reshape our understanding of history—and inform the policy debates of the future. Burns sketches the contours of effective American leadership in a world that resembles neither the zero-sum Cold War contest of his early years as a diplomat nor the “unipolar moment” of American primacy that followed. He also delivers a powerful reminder, in a time of great turmoil, of the enduring importance of diplomacy.
Advance praise for The Back Channel
“Bill Burns is simply one of the finest U.S. diplomats of the last half century. The Back Channel demonstrates his rare and precious combination of strategic insight and policy action. It is full of riveting historical detail but also, more important, shrewd insights into how we can advance our interests and values in a world where U.S. leadership remains the linchpin of international order.”—James A. Baker III
“From one of America’s consummate diplomats, The Back Channel is an incisive and sorely needed case for the revitalization of diplomacy—what Burns wisely describes as our ‘tool of first resort.’”—Henry Kissinger
“Burns not only offers a vivid account of how American diplomacy works, he also puts forward a compelling vision for its future that will surely inspire new generations to follow his incredible example.”—Madeleine K. Albright