Blue vivid image of globe. Globalization concept. Elements of this image are furnished by NASA

Diplomacy: An Anthology

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Diplomacy Ebook 2014Announcing the May 2014 Special Diplomacy eBook Issue

Featuring: Digital Diplomacy; City Diplomacy; Crisis and Disaster Diplomacy; Obama Diplomacy; Unordained Diplomats; The “Fine Art” of Diplomacy; Eulogy to Papal Diplomacy; and more!

As the broad topicality of this collection of articles illustrates, it is evident that both the rules and natural disposition of diplomacy are changing. Although there is a broadening pool of aspiring diplomats and state agents—largely attributable to globalization and increased connectivity amongst the younger generations—the nature of diplomacy will continue to change in pace with all other human institutions.

According to author Joel Hainsfurther, the USC Center on Public Diplomacy wrote that, “Traditional definitions of public diplomacy include government-sponsored cultural, educational, and informational programs, citizen exchanges and broadcasts used to promote the national interest of a country through understanding, informing, and influencing foreign audiences.” But inhabitants of the modern world rarely adhere to traditions without making aspects of them their own, and the practice of diplomacy is no different.

Civil Society and Citizen Diplomacy

One of the more recent trends in describing the outcome of the rapid globalization since the end of the 20th century is the notion of “citizen diplomacy”. This forum, and its wide range of inclusive activities, provides a unique opportunity for individuals who may feel marginalized by their legal representatives and decision makes to have a voice. These expressions allow non-state groups, individuals, and civil society actors to build durable relationships with a diverse array of stakeholders, who can then collaborate to exert pressure on their governments or call for meaningful change in myriad ways.

Beyond issues of self-interest are the seemingly altruistic methods of diplomacy, including those discussed in Human Rights Diplomacy and Medical Diplomacy. Yet while humanitarian and medical interventions may well be the quickest way to win hearts and minds, it must be asked if they are truly the most durable. Beyond one-time interventions that build goodwill amongst individuals, how are their scopes of influence useful or impactful? These are questions that are thoughtfully considered in the articles herein.

More than one author in this book referenced the olive branch of engagement between America and North Korea via the musical performances of the New York Philharmonic. Beyond fine arts exchanges of music and art is also the issue of sporting exchanges. Samantha Brletich’s article examines Kyrgyz-Russian tensions through the lens of a soccer match up, and John Bavoso discusses the role of athletes as diplomatic figures, whether they want to be representatives of their governments or not.

While many of these pieces examine interstate relationships, Michael Huang instead looked introspectively and approached the question of gender and diplomacy. His piece The Diplomatic Woman thoughtfully muses about whether women are better suited to the profession than men, as they resolve rather than react.

The overarching theme that unites many of these commentaries is that, globally, younger generations (and, inevitably, future diplomats) tend to be more attuned to a global worldview and broader sociocultural landscape given their consistent connectivity with the world through a variety of technologies. These bridges, from the individual “me”, to a group “us”, to an (often abstract) “them”, are critical infrastructure in the geography of diplomacy.

Messaging and Communication

In our modern world where more people have access to cell phones than flushing toilets the importance placed on connectivity and the ability to communicate across great distances and divides is of utmost importance. Individuals are now, more than ever, empowered by the internet, motivated by concrete successes, driven by ideological commitment to human rights and state sovereignty, and committed to self-expression and the complementary entitlement of voicing their opinions. Private citizens, often organized in groups around a specific cause in civil society, are affecting international events on an unprecedented scale.

America must break free from its accidental ethnocentrism and xenophobia, for its culture has become so isolated in a sub-world of its own making that Americans – even young ones with boundless information at their fingertips – drown in a sea of ‘unknown unknowns’. The youth of America, especially, does not realize what it does not know about the world beyond American borders because the media inundates programming with American-centric ideals.

This issue of xenocentrism touches on the question of the line differentiating strategic government messaging and public relations efforts, versus pure propaganda. In Public Diplomacy or Propaganda, Michele Acuto insightfully pondered, “The overall American ethos might be slowly changing, but some of the practices “on the ground” are still perilously hedging their bets between public diplomacy and propaganda.” Particularly given this tenuous territory of diplomatic space, it is vital to remember that even with smart phones, teleconferencing, and social media of all sorts that nothing will ever be as effective in diplomacy as a face-to-face meeting.

Diplomacy Ahead

In the future we will see increased resolution of issues through the channels of individual relationships, a practice already realized by the military, government, civil society, and academia, all of whom are increasingly funding and facilitating opportunities for international exchange with peers from foreign states. This importance of having established working relationships is examined in both the Crisis Diplomacy article, as well as Donna Roberson’s exemplary Disaster Diplomacy, which articulates the importance of timely responses in such dire circumstances.

Spanning beyond the reach of individual relationships and issues of state perception and national identity are the few collective global matters that overshadow all global citizens. The impact of topics like nuclear proliferation, international trade and commerce, and the world economy are inescapable, regardless of whether individual citizens or state governments want to opt in or out of such weighty considerations.   In an astute observation on the role of trade as a global unifier or divider, Ken Weisbrode wrote, “Trade is said to follow the flag, but it also happens the other way around. So too with peace.”

Just as Jon Haron-Feiertag exploration of the marked differences in Presidents’ Bush and Obama’s Administration’s approaches to diplomacy demonstrates, there will also be a change in the timbre of American foreign policy as a new president takes office in a few short years. This change will not only be visible through refined governmental approaches, but will also be evident through the choices that private citizens and other non-state actors make in the intervening years.

In a world that gets flatter, with a map that is shrinking, and with time that is condensed by technology it is vital for diplomats of all times to develop a holistic understanding of all facets of the modern world’s terrain, including political, social, economic, religious, social, and cultural, amongst others. This is a tall order for any global citizen, but, after all, what is diplomacy but finding common ground?