Known for his diplomatic work during the presidential administrations of Barack Obama, he held such titles as U.S. State Department Director of Policy Planning and Special Middle East, Southwest Asia, and Persian Gulf Adviser.
After graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles, he worked as an aide to Paul Wolfowitz, who was then serving as President Carter's Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense.
His foreign policy-themed publications include The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace and Acting with Caution: Middle East Policy Planning for the Second Reagan Administration.
He was brought up in Marin County, California, by his mother and stepfather. Though raised by a mother of Jewish heritage, he did not become active in the faith until the late 1960s; in the early 2000s, he helped found a synagogue in Maryland.
During the administration of United States President Barack Obama, he advised then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on foreign policy issues relating to the Southwest Asia and Persian Gulf regions.