The Foreign Service Journal, July-August 2022

58 JULY-AUGUST 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL FEATURE DIPLOMACY The Third Strand of During his Foreign Service career, Fletcher Burton served in Saudi Arabia, Germany, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. His remembrance of Ambassador Vernon Walters, “ From Boswell to Johnson, ” appeared in the June 2003 FSJ . (Author’s note: Burton has used the translation of War and Peace by Constance Garnett, a worn volume his mother read in 1957 and whose marginal markings accompanied him the entire way.) In Tolstoy’s great work, today’s diplomats can learn a lot about how a brilliant writer once viewed their profession and how many people still regard it. BY F L ETCHER M . BURTON R ussia’s invasion of Ukraine, unleashed by Vladimir Putin in February as a “special military operation,” has led to wanton carnage similar to that of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812—only this time Russia is the aggressor. To grasp the titanic forces clashing in war, we would do well to pull from the shelf one of the greatest epic novels of the 19th century, Count Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace (or Special Military Operation and Peace , as wags have called it). The first section of the novel appeared in 1865, the year the American Civil War ended. Tolstoy, a historian noted, towered over his age as did Michel- angelo and Beethoven in their day. And yet when he stooped to satire, and his massive novel is streaked with it, he lost none of his authority. Take, for instance, Tolstoy’s rendering of diplomats—his tone usually bemused, sometimes mocking, always insightful. Practitioners of the diplomatic profession today can learn a lot about how a brilliant writer once viewed this profession and how many people still regard it. Diplomacy is the fascinating third strand of War and Peace . Tolstoy portrays diplomacy through his vibrant characters and takes another stab at it in his polemical essay at the end. He compared his tour de force to the Iliad , but Homer lacked the Russian aristocrat’s uncanny sense of the motley practice of diplomacy. That understanding was almost a birthright. Born into Russian nobility, Tolstoy counted ambassadors as well as generals among his family’s ancestors. War and Peace