ADDRESSES: Offıce—2721 Poplar St. NW, Department of State, Washington, DC 20007.
CAREER: Diplomat and author. U.S. ambassador to Yugoslavia, 1989-92. Foreign Service, member, 1961; Secretary of state, speechwriter, 1970-73; Political Section, Moscow, deputy chief, 1973-75; Bureau of European Affairs, special assistant for policy planning, 1975-77; Bureau of Intelligence and Research, staff member, 1980-81; Council on Foreign Relations, visiting fellow, 1984-85. Served as U.S. delegate to numerous international conferences and meetings and as the directory of the Bureau for Refugee Progress.
AWARDS, HONORS: Fulbright scholar, 1958; two Superior Honor awards, U.S. Department of state; numerous Presidential Meritorious Service awards.
Origins of a Catastrophe: Yugoslavia and Its Destroyers, Times Books (New York, NY), 1996.
First Great Triumph: How Five Americans Made Their Country a World Power, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: Warren Zimmermann is a diplomat and former U.S. ambassador to Yugoslavia. Throughout a decades-long diplomatic and government service career, Zimmermann has served as a speechwriter for the U.S. secretary of state, as a foreign-policy planner, and as a delegate to numerous conferences and summits on topics such as nuclear and space arms, security and cooperation, and refugee issues. At what might have been the height of his diplomatic career, Zimmermann resigned in 1994 as the ambassador to Yugoslavia, "in part because he could no longer support the Clinton administration's policy of leaving the Bosnian mess to the Europeans to sort out," wrote Michael Dobbs in Washington Post Book World.
In Origins of a Catastrophe: Yugoslavia and Its Destroyers Zimmermann offers a "fluently written memoir of his four years as U.S. ambassador to Yugoslavia," wrote Stephen Miller in Wilson Quarterly. The book covers Zimmermann's diplomatic tenure from 1989 to 1992, during which he was a first-hand witness to the political unrest and ethnic war that ultimately led to the destruction of Yugoslavia. Zimmermann's "authoritative diplomatic history" is "literate and engrossing," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
In the book, Zimmermann "writes mainly about the leaders who destroyed the country," wrote Laura Silber in New York Times Book Review. "No one, he believes, is guiltier than the Serbian President, Slobodan Milosevic. Mr. Milosevic's counterpart from Croatia, President Franjo Tudjman, is not far behind." Zimmermann argues that U.S. foreign policy was a contributor to the breakup of Yugoslavia. The United States "could have contained the slaughter by the timely application of limited military force," Miller wrote, but instead the West pursued non-military options and continued diplomatic efforts, which were not effective and did not stop either the breakup of Yugoslavia nor the ethnic wars associated with it. "Western diplomacy was reduced to a kind of cynical theater, to a pretense of useful activity, to a way of disguising a lack of will," Zimmermann argues. "Diplomacy without force became an unloaded weapon, impotent and ridiculous." Weak diplomacy was not and could not be the solution to the problem. "The failure of the Bush administration to commit American power early in the Bosnia war," Zimmerman notes, "was our greatest mistake of the entire Yugoslav crisis."
The final blame for the disaster in Yugoslavia rests with Milosevic and Tudjman. Batic Bacevic, writing in New Leader, commented, "Zimmermann's portraits of Serbian and Croatian presidents Slobodan Milosevic and Franjo Tudjman, the main actors in Yugoslavia's self-immolation, are exceptionally well done." Silber offered similar observations. "Full of anecdotes, his book brings us inside the negotiations, the dinners, even the tennis games, with the leaders who were all too eager to go to war," Silber remarked. "In vivid detail, Mr. Zimmerman recounts surreal conversations with Mr. Milosevic and Mr. Tudjman. He urged reason and compromise. Neither was willing to listen." Although Silber commented that the book would have benefitted from more consideration of the reasons why the U.S. administration "chose to ignore the warning signs in Yugoslavia," Origins of a Catastrophe remains "an important contribution to the growing body of work on Yugoslavia." Gilbert Taylor, writing in Booklist, called the volume "A well-written, edifying insider's narrative" that illustrates "an unedifying diplomatic failure."
Zimmermann's 2002 book First Great Triumph: How Five Americans Made Their Country a World Power examines America's rise as a major world player in the years between 1898 and 1903. Five men, significant players in various areas of the U.S. government, were responsible for the ascent of America: Theodore Roosevelt, Rough Rider and later president; Henry Cabot Lodge, a republican senator from Massachusetts; John Hay, secretary of state for presidents McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt; Elihu Root, a New York corporate attorney who later served as administrator of newly acquired U.S. island territorial possessions; and Admiral Alfred T. Mahan, a naval strategist and proponent of the development of American military might.
In detailed profiles, Zimmermann traces each individual's rise to power and the group effect they had on U.S. foreign policy and expansionism in the early part of the twentieth century. The title of the book derives from Roosevelt's comment in a letter to his sister. While he was en route to Cuba with the Rough Riders, he claimed that liberating Cuba from Spain would be "the first great triumph" toward "the emergence of the United States as a world power," according to Joan W. Sloan on the Houston Chronicle Web site. With the war against Spain a success, the United States assumed a protectorate in Cuba, and in short order annexed several territories, including Hawaii, Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico. In approximately fifteen weeks the United States "gained island possessions on both the Atlantic and Pacific sides of its continental mass," Zimmermann notes. "It had put under its protection and control more than 10 million people: whites, blacks, Hispanics, Indians, Polynesians, Chinese, Japanese, and the polyethnic people of the Philippine Archipelago."
America's expansion throughout the world was considered incredible and, in some ways, unlikely. "How did a country isolated on its side of the Atlantic, with virtually no army or navy and, more important, no imperial ambitions, acquire the attributes of nascent superpowerdom in so short a time?," asked Bernstein on the International Herald Tribune Online. "Warren Zimmermann's book is a readable and cogent answer to that question." For Zimmermann, wrote Richard Holbrooke in Foreign Affairs, "the interaction of these five men turned manifest destiny from a phrase into a full-bodied imperial policy just as the United States reached its natural continental limits. It is one of the strengths of this immensely enjoyable book that Zimmermann neither glorifies nor denigrates the people and the events he describes." Especially important to the expansion were Roosevelt, both before and after he came to the presidency, and Mahan, credited by Zimmermann as the "intellectual father of U.S. imperialism," Sloan remarked.
David Nasaw, writing on the New York Times on the Web, observed that "Zimmermann's biographical approach makes for an engaging narrative, though it occasionally obscures the larger structural imperatives, primarily economic, that underlay American expansionism." "The story Zimmermann tells is essential background for anyone interested in how the United States arrived at its present place in the world," wrote Richard Holbrooke in Foreign Affairs.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 1, 1996, Gilbert Taylor, review of Origins of a Catastrophe: Yugoslavia and Its Destroyers,, p. 60.
Foreign Affairs, November-December, 1996, Robert Legvold, review of Origins of a Catastrophe: Yugoslavia and Its Destroyers, p. 161; November-December, 2002, Richard Holbrooke, "In the Beginning: A Fresh Look at the Early Years of American Empire," review of First Great Triumph: How Five Americans Made Their Country a World Power, p. 148.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2002, review of First Great Triumph: How Five Americans Made Their Country a World Power, pp. 1115-1116.
Library Journal, August, 1996, review of Origins of a Catastrophe: Yugoslavia and Its Destroyers,, p. 94; October 1, 2002, Charles L. Lumpkins, review of First Great Triumph: How Five Americans Made Their Country a World Power, p. 115.
Los Angeles Times, January 7, 1994, Norman Kempster, "Ex-Envoy to Yugoslavia Leaving State Dept.," p. A7.
New Leader, November 4, 1996, Batic Bacevic, review of Origins of a Catastrophe: Yugoslavia and Its Destroyers, pp. 16-17.
New York Times, June 14, 1992, David Binder, "Haunted by What the U.S. Didn't Do in Yugoslavia," p. E9; April 15, 1994, Anthony Lewis, "Do What It Takes," p. A31.
People, June 19, 1995, Mary Esselman, "A Cry for Action" (interview), p. 97.
Publishers Weekly, August 5, 1996, review of Origins of a Catastrophe: Yugoslavia and Its Destroyers, p. 426; August 5, 2002, review of First Great Triumph: How Five Americans Made Their Country a World Power, p. 62.
Washington Post, January 7, 1994, John M. Goshko, "Diplomat Quits; Bosnia Rift Hinted," p. A5; January 13, 1994, Richard Cohen, "Diversity Kick."
Washington Post Book World, November 17, 1996, Michael Dobbs, "Bosnia's Bloody Demise," p. 5.
Wilson Quarterly, autumn, 1996, Stephen Miller, review of Origins of a Catastrophe: Yugoslavia and Its Destroyers, pp. 100-101.
Houston Chronicle Web site,http://www.chron.com/ (October 11, 2002), John W. Sloan, "Power Players: Former Envoy Credits Five Men with U.S. Ascendancy."
International Herald Tribune Online,http://www.iht.com/ (October 29, 2002), Richard Bernstein, review of First Great Triumph: How Five Americans Made Their Country a World Power.
New York Times on the Web,http://www.nytimes.com/ (October 13, 1996), Laura Silver, "Blundering into War"; (November 24, 2002) David Nasaw, review of First Great Triumph: How Five Americans Made Their Country a World Power.*