In This Review

Collateral Damage: Britain, America, and Europe in the Age of Trump
Collateral Damage: Britain, America, and Europe in the Age of Trump
By Kim Darroch
William Collins, 2020, 400 pp.

Darroch was the most successful British diplomat of his generation. A middling graduate in zoology from a regional university, he entered the Foreign Office with no special promise. Yet he rose to serve as a top adviser to Prime Minister Tony Blair, permanent representative to the European Union, national security adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron, and, finally, the British ambassador in Washington. But in 2019, his 40-year career ended abruptly when someone (probably a colleague in London) leaked one of his top-secret reports. It described U.S. President Donald Trump as “dysfunctional . . . clumsy and inept.” Trump responded by tweeting, “We will no longer deal with him,” and the Conservative politician Boris Johnson—at the time in a fight for leadership of his party and likely seeking to distinguish himself from other aspirants—refused to support Darroch. This book confirms what many in the foreign policy community know from personal experience: the author is reasonable, generous, and discreet. These are laudable qualities in a diplomat but lamentable in a writer of memoirs. Beyond a short accounting of his time in Washington, amusing depictions of the demeaning ways in which diplomats scramble for access, and a brief description of how inequality, immigration, and identity fueled the parallel rises of Trump and Johnson, one searches in vain in these pages for fresh insights or inside information about this tumultuous period.