The Embassy: A Story of War and Diplomacy
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About the Author
Dante Paradiso is a writer, lawyer, and career Foreign Service Officer who has served extensively in Africa and Asia. He is the author of The Pure Life, a novel, and has contributed opinion pieces to the online editions of Foreign Affairs, National Geographic Voices, and, through the Tribune News Service, the Miami Herald, the Tampa Tribune, the Akron Beacon Journal, and Newsday, among others. Prior to joining the U.S. Department of State, Mr. Paradiso practiced financial services and bankruptcy law with Goodwin Procter LLP in Boston. Mr. Paradiso received his J.D. from the University of California at Los Angeles and his B.A. in Political Science from Yale, after preparing at The Horace Mann School. He is a recipient of the State Department's Heroism Award (group) and Superior Honor Award, and the U.S. Army's Superior Civilian Service Award. He comes from New York City and when not on assignment makes his home in Portland, Oregon with his wife, son, and dog.
In a country at war, embassies are sort of a ship in a storm--stable and self-contained but yawing wildly in the turmoil around them. More than that, though, they are the forward point of America, a place where our country engages the rest of the world. America starts at its embassies, and the inner working of them are fascinating, largely unknown and incalculably important. The Embassy is a truly harrowing and important account of an American embassy in what [was] arguably the most chaotic and violent country in the world... It is, I think, a book that every reading American should have.--Sebastian Junger, Bestselling author of "The Perfect Storm"
Dante Paradiso has performed a singular public service in bringing this tale of modern American diplomacy to life. This story of Liberia amid human tragedy and regime change is the real thing... The narrative is gripping. The reader gets an unvarnished portrait of a traumatized society and the extraordinary efforts of a handful of American public servants in Monrovia and Washington to bring desperately needed change. Here are heroes just doing their job.--Chester A. Crocker, James R. Schlesinger Professor of Strategic Studies Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service Georgetown University
The Embassy: A Story of War and Diplomacy by Dante Paradiso tells the inside story of how Blaney and his team kept the embassy open, risked their lives to cross the front lines to meet with General Cobra, and played a crucial role in negotiating a complicated sequence that included Taylor being forced into exile, the rebels allowing ECOWAS peacekeepers to reopen the port, and getting peace negotiators back to the table. Paradiso, a foreign service officer who served in that embassy, skillfully tells the story through the eyes of several unsung heroes: the ambassador, a defense attaché, a diplomatic security officer, a local Liberian staffer, and a humble and unnamed "Political Officer" that can only be the author. Although the book is nonfiction, it keeps pace like a thriller and includes just enough context to keep the reader well-informed without bogging down the story. The dialogue between the officials is authentic and at times jarringly human. The Embassy is a riveting quick read and a dramatic firsthand account of a fascinating and frightening series of events. As a policy analyst and former diplomat, several aspects of The Embassy's tale especially caught my attention. First, is the unheralded courage of the embassy staff. The ambassador and his colleagues faced immense personal danger to represent their country and to save innocent lives. This is a must-read for anyone who thinks diplomacy is about fancy cocktail parties.--Todd Moss, former American diplomat in West Africa and senior fellow at the Center for Global Development "Center for Global Development "
Bravo to Paradiso for bringing us this incredible story. There may just be a message in here, for the possibilities of foreign policy by consensus and not by tweet, for our better angels driving smart policy, as opposed to the dark forces with which we're all too familiar. In short, not only is The Embassy a gripping story you won't be able to put down once you start, it provides thought-provoking lessons on what we can do better as a country, and a reminder that we can and must be a force for good in the world. We're going to need to remember these lessons going forward.--Bob Cesca, Huffington Post
Paradiso's book tells a story about people who took on the seemingly impossible task of keeping all hell from breaking loose. He has a novelist's sense of pacing and character, assembling the story from the perspectives of the various people involved--from those who witnessed the events from the embassy offices to others in the streets of the capital. Paradiso's prose captures the surreal landscape of his subject, although he takes pains not to exoticize or romanticize the various groups involved: "The world press, which otherwise ignored the country, was quick to run images of child fighters dressed in lurid wigs and wedding dresses, wearing necklaces of human fingers." Overall, this book offers an engaging story that will be unfamiliar to many American readers as well as a nuanced look at the grittiness and complexity of war and diplomacy.
A compelling account of an obscure international crisis.--Kirkus
The book then is a blow by blow, conversation by conversation, policy thought by policy thought of what transpired inside the embassy during this period. It gives an inside look at how diplomats saw the crisis and what they did in response. Indeed, they were collectively a heroic bunch. They put their lives on the line more than once, no more so than when the ambassador led a foray across the battle lines into rebel held territory to meet with rebel leaders. Certainly it was this activism and later follow-ups that compelled the rebels to withdraw and to turn over their positions to the regional peacekeeping force. The book is written in the present tense, so the reader remains engaged as the saga unfolds. The author employs lots of quotations, citations that were obviously drawn from memory and recorded during interviews with folks many years afterwards. This, of course, permited selective recall of what one would have hoped to say. Additionally, the book is interesting because the author did not rely upon any official documents so there are no references to embassy reporting that would have unequivocally buttressed the narrative. However, despite the fact that this is an unconventional history, it is an accurate one. The events described did happen and did unroll along the lines discussed. Praise is due to the ambassador and his team for their insight, perseverance and competence in damping down a war and helping Liberia achieve peace and progress.--Robert Gribbin, Africa Reflections