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Ronan Farrow talks about ‘War On Peace’

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Investigative reporter Ronan Farrow comes to San Francisco to promote his new book about changing U.S. foreign policy. (Courtesy Brigitte Lacombe)

First, he called attention to trans discrimination in his coverage of the so-called “bathroom bills” for MSNBC and NBC. Then he brought to light sexual assault and harassment allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein in his Pulitzer Prize-winning five-part series for The New Yorker.

Now, investigative journalist Ronan Farrow is raising the alarm about President Donald Trump’s purging of the State Department and the disastrous effects of replacing diplomats with soldiers and spies in “War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence.”

“The United States has been undergoing a transformation in how it relates to the rest of the world, dating back to the Clinton administration,” says Farrow, 30, who appears at the Marines’ Memorial Theatre Monday as part of Commonwealth Club’s Inforum series.

“But administration after administration has failed to learn the lessons of the past, that every single time we gut our diplomatic capacity, it sabotages our chances to strike political settlements that could have kept us out of conflicts in places like North Korea and Iran.”

For the book, Farrow, the son of director Woody Allen and actress and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow, draws upon his own experiences serving as a junior State Department official in Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2009-12, first working under the late diplomat Richard Holbrooke and later under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

He expands on his reminiscences with interviews with whistleblowers, ambassadors, generals, spies and warlords, not to mention every living former secretary of state from Henry Kissinger to just-ousted Rex Tillerson, and discusses the release of once-secret documents.

Farrow says he knew early on that “some people” would object to the book’s candid revelations. But he was emboldened to move forward with the project by brave sources who went on the record to share their truths with him.

He says he took similar courage from the 13 women — including actresses Asia Argento, Mira Sorvino, Rosanna Arquette, Annabella Sciorra, Daryl Hannah and Rose McGowan — who risked life and career to chronicle Weinstein’s alleged abuses for his New Yorker exposé.

“I think any time sources put something on the line and speak about something difficult and do so at personal risk or risk to their jobs, I feel driven to do right by that,” Farrow says. “They have done something important to expose something important, and the least I can do is try to see that over the finish line and make sure people hear it.”

IF YOU GO
Ronan Farrow
Presented by Inforum at The Commonwealth Club
Where: Marines’ Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter St,, S.F.
When: 6:30 p.m. April 30
Tickets: $15 to $70
Contact: (415) 597-6700, www.commonwealthclub.org

BOOK NOTES
War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence
Written by: Ronan Farrow
Published by: W.W. Norton Company
Pages: 424
Price: $27.95

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