Context. If a sense of history is essential to navigating the future, understanding the context that shapes historical events provides the azimuth necessary to seeing beyond the horizon. Simply knowing what happened is not enough; we need to understand why events occurred. With Diplomats & Admirals, author and historian Dale Jenkins takes a step back from the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941, to set the context for the events that spurred the United States into war with Japan and, ultimately, World War II.

Most historians are content with recounting those events with a somewhat myopic perspective, focusing on the weeks and even months prior to the fateful attack. A rare few will expand that focus to encompass military planning tracing back to the 1920s. Jenkins, however, reaches back further still, examining the key political, diplomatic, and military events that shaped the course of history and moved Operation Z from the battle room to the high seas. While other historical volumes might offer more detail on the attack—and aftermath—on that “date which will live in infamy,” Diplomats & Admirals presents a thoroughly informative and readable narrative of the decades leading to Pearl Harbor.

The enduring value of Diplomats & Admirals comes with that context. The first 100 pages of the book weave together the complex and often befuddling course of events that virtually assured the two nations would eventually grope their way to war, all while setting the stage for how those nations navigated strategically in the wake of Pearl Harbor. The result is a captivating story of how flawed treaty negotiations and fatal misjudgments can lead to cataclysm. That lesson lingers throughout Diplomats & Admirals.

A former United States Navy officer with extensive service throughout the Pacific, Dale Jenkins brings to bear a lifelong interest in naval and international affairs. Jenkins has degrees in history and business from Harvard and Columbia that, combined with his operational experience in the region, allow for unique insights into the diplomatic and strategic events leading up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. A former staff director at the Council on Foreign Relations, Jenkins currently serves on the Samuel Eliot Morison Committee of the Naval Order of the United States and as a Regional Director of the Naval War College Foundation.

A cautionary historical tale with haunting contemporary relevance, Diplomats & Admirals is a phenomenal book and a “must read” for anyone in search of a deeper understanding of World War II, or even a clearer perspective on how seemingly minor events can cascade into a moment of incredible historical importance. Jenkins is a wonderful storyteller with a rare ability to transform what might otherwise be a dry historical study into a truly captivating and provocative fireside chat. Diplomats & Admirals is a necessary addition to the library of any professional diplomat or strategist.


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Steve Leonard is a former senior military strategist and the creative force behind the defense microblog, Doctrine Man!!. A career writer and speaker with a passion for developing and mentoring the next generation of thought leaders, he is a senior fellow at the Modern War Institute; the co-founder of the national security blog, Divergent Options, and the podcast, The Smell of Victory; co-founder and former board member of the Military Writers Guild; and a member of the editorial review board of the Arthur D. Simons Center’s Interagency Journal. He is the author of five books, numerous professional articles, countless blog posts, and is a prolific military cartoonist.