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Rogue Diplomats
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Book description

Many of America's most significant political, economic, territorial, and geostrategic accomplishments from 1776 to the present day came about because a U.S. diplomat disobeyed orders. The magnificent terms granted to the infant republic by Britain at the close of the American Revolution, the bloodless acquisition of France's massive Louisiana territory in 1803, the procurement of an even vaster expanse of land from Mexico forty years later, the preservation of the Anglo-American 'special relationship' during World War I—these and other milestones in the history of U.S. geopolitics derived in large part from the refusal of ambassadors, ministers, and envoys to heed the instructions given to them by their superiors back home. Historians have neglected this pattern of insubordination—until now. Rogue Diplomats makes a seminal contribution to scholarship on U.S. geopolitics and provides a provocative response to the question that has vexed so many diplomatic historians: is there a distinctively “American” foreign policy?


'It turns out that the practice of American diplomats disobeying orders is not new to the Trump era. In this fast paced and stylish account, Seth Jacobs helps us to see that when diplomats went rogue at key moments from the American Revolution to the wars for Vietnam, the United States often emerged more secure than if Washington had fully called the shots.'

Mark Philip Bradley - University of Chicago

'Is there a distinctive American way of diplomacy? In this hugely readable book, Seth Jacobs shows that there most certainly is, but perhaps not as we might assume. Unlike their counterparts from other countries, American diplomats, many of them amateurs, have a long history of disobedient freelancing. Jacobs shows why this is a peculiarly American tradition, and why it matters.'

Andrew Preston - author of American Foreign Relations: A Very Short Introduction

'I don’t think I have ever laughed so hard when reading a work about diplomacy. Rogue Diplomats is one of the most original, entertaining, and relevant books that I have read about American foreign policy. Seth Jacobs uncovers a recurring pattern of unqualified American diplomats disobeying elected leaders - from the American Revolution and the Mexican-American War to the Second World War and America’s quagmire in Vietnam. Jacobs shows that rebellious and insubordinate diplomats reflected larger patterns in American society, and he argues that they frequently improved the nation’s foreign policy, while also examining the failures. Anyone trying to make sense of why American policy is plagued by rogue actors today must read this book.'

Jeremi Suri - author of The Impossible Presidency: The Rise and Fall of America’s Highest Office

‘… this is a timely book and will likely remain so, as diplomats are often at odds with secretaries of state and presidents.’

J. R. Clardie Source: Choice

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