Browse an archive of nearly 100 newly declassified cables, memos, and emails from Ambassador Burns’s thirty-three-year career—a sample of one diplomat’s imperfect efforts to provide ground truths, strategic advice, and—on occasion—disciplined dissent.

Apprenticeship

My diplomatic apprenticeship exposed me to the best—and worst—of American statecraft and its practitioners, from the early rituals of my first overseas tour to a junior role in a Reagan White House recovering from the self-inflicted wound of the Iran-Contra affair.

1982-
1989

Age of Terror

After the pain and surprise of 9/11, we cast aside the Bush 41 administration’s unique mix of caution and daring, opting instead for a disastrous mix of militancy and hubris—compounding regional dysfunctions, undercutting our influence, and fumbling an historic opportunity to reset America’s role in the world.

2001-
2005

Obama’s Long Game

Obama took office aiming to rebalance American policy and tools—molding an emerging international order, realigning relationships with major powers like China, India, and Russia, and reinvesting in diplomacy to tackle international threats.

2009-
2011

Iran and the Bomb

The back channel with Iran gave us a chance to prove that smart, hard-nosed diplomacy could resolve one of the world’s most combustible challenges. President Obama’s guidance was straight-forward: “Don’t screw it up.”

2008-
2014
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