The Foreign Service Journal, October 2023

[Marciel] makes a crucial argument that will have many detractors: engage even when we don’t like what a country is doing. THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | OCTOBER 2023 69 diplomacy, winning the prestigious Charles E. Cobb Jr. Award for Initiative and Success in Trade Development. He invited Lion Air CEO Rusdi Kirana to the ambassador’s residence to persuade him to purchase Boeing aircraft rather than Airbus for the budget airline. Marciel instructed staff to dispense with security protocols and wave in the CEO, determined to show him respect. The effort succeeded, resulting in an aircraft sale worth billions of dollars supporting tens of thousands of U.S. jobs. Marciel also recognized the limits on what could be accomplished in Indonesia: “Having been colonized by a private Dutch company that was mostly interested in their natural resources, it is not surprising that Indonesians have a strong nationalist streak vis-a-vis foreign investment.” In describing Suharto’s fall and the aftermath, Marciel provides a window into Indonesian culture where “forgiveness trumped accountability.” Among his recommendations for strengthening ties with the world’s third-largest democracy—and largest Muslim-majority nation on the planet—Marciel urges the U.S. to support Indonesia’s diplomatic efforts in the region. This is particularly relevant when we consider that Indonesia and Myanmar have both experienced long periods of military rule. Indonesia found a way to send the soldiers back to their barracks while providing a face-saving way for the generals to maintain income sources and status in society, preconditions for their withdrawal from politics. Marciel was a three-time ambassador when he had to manage the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, perhaps the thorniest challenge of his career. As ambassador, he came to know Aung San Suu Kyi, the democracy icon whose reputation was tarnished when, upon becoming a political leader, she (surprise!) behaved like a politician. Marciel also shares insights about Hillary Clinton who, as Secretary of State, supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, but later rejected it as a presidential candidate. Always Engage Some of Marciel’s recommendations are cautious and incremental. However, he makes a crucial argument that will have many detractors: engage even when we don’t like what a country is doing. While he champions the United States’ longtime, consistent support for democracy and human rights, he writes that, even when things go badly, Washington’s response should not be to sharply curtail or even eliminate seniorlevel discussions or impose sanctions but rather to keep high-level channels of communication open. Using the example of the Rohingya crisis, Marciel considers whether an intensive, high-level diplomatic campaign might have shaped the government and military’s behavior differently. A nuanced approach rather than disengagement, he argues, might have made a difference on the ground. He notes: “If we waited for Myanmar to fix all its problems before we did anything, we would lose any ability to influence developments.” Indeed, if I learned anything in three decades as a diplomat, it is that engagement creates the possibility of influencing change. By contrast, pulling back from engagement—even when the government in question is behaving in a heinous fashion—means we lose the ability to have an impact. A Foreign Service officer for nearly 30 years, Ted Osius served from 2014 to 2017 as U.S. ambassador to Vietnam. He is now president and CEO of the US-ASEAN Business Council, which helps U.S. companies succeed in Southeast Asia. A Tribute to Diplomacy Our Man in Tokyo: An American Ambassador and the Countdown to Pearl Harbor Steve Kemper, Mariner Books, 2022, $29.99/ hardcover, e-book available, 448 pages. Reviewed by John Limbert Read this book. If you cannot find a copy, I will lend you mine. Kemper has written both a fascinating account of diplomatic history and a case study of how Ambassador Joseph C. Grew (1880-1965), one of America’s most experienced and skilled diplomats, dealt with “mission impossible,” a situation that over his nine-year mission in Japan (1932-1941) went gradually out of control and ended in all-out war. First appointed by President Herbert Hoover in 1932, Grew remained in Tokyo under Roosevelt, whom he had known at Groton and Harvard. After Pearl Harbor, he and his embassy staff were interned until an exchange of diplomats in June 1942. He remained in Washington, D.C., until his retirement in 1945.