This is an interesting book for anyone, but particularly if you live in Ottawa. You often meet someone here who has served at one time in a Canadian embassy abroad. Sometimes they have become so “diplomatic” in their jobs that they don’t talk very frankly about what they did. In this book, David Reece, who had ten postings himself with Canada’s foreign service,five as ambassador, has found nineteen diplomats who share their experiences, with candor and insight.
There are notes on the big posts, Washington and London, but also pieces on coping with apartheid in S. Africa, developing foreign policy on frontiers such as Burma. It is not all simply a matter of sending good dispatches back to Canada and building good relations at receptions and dinner parties. Accounts from China, and Lebanon, tell of real danger, when wives and children are sent home while the host country is facing demonstrations or revolution.
The book makes a very good case for the continued value of diplomacy, of good personal relations, of humour and frankness in dealing with relations between countries. Even in an age of Email and instant communication, the human element is still reassuringly important.
Thanks to Anne McDougall for the Review!