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What is Diplomacy?

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Dr. Tony Corn writes in “COIN in Absurdistan: Saving the COIN Baby from the Afghan Bathwater (and Vice-Versa)” (full PDF):

Diplomacy is not simply “the art of remaining silent in several languages,” nor is it just the mastery of techniques and tactics of negotiation. Diplomacy must also be, at times, the art of brinkmanship. As Thomas Schelling remarked long ago:

“There can be times when a country wants to shake off the rules, to deny any assurance that its behavior is predictable, to shock the adversary, to catch an adversary off-balance, to display unreliability and to dare the opponent to respond in kind, to express hostility and to rupture the sense of diplomatic contact (…)This is still diplomacy: there are times to be rude, to break the rules, to do the unexpected, to shock, to dazzle, or to catch off guard, to display offense, whether in business diplomacy, military diplomacy, or other kinds of diplomacy.”

You have to be crazy, or at least let the other side think you are crazy, to succeed in foreign policy.


Written by hybriddiplomat

August 2, 2010 at 13:46

Cocktail Parties and Flak Jackets

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My Friends,

Please listen to the five segments of “Diplomacy Under Fire”.

“When I worked in the state department, we made the decision to put diplomats into the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s an entirely different proposition than serving in Rome.”
– Former Ambassador Nicholas Burns

The cocktail parties and communiqués of traditional diplomacy are giving way to counterinsurgency and crisis management missions in places like Iraq and Colombia. American diplomats are now required to serve in both embassies and embeds. But the Foreign Service is short on folks with the language and technical skills to fill these modern posts. Add to that a bureaucratic State Department short on funds and slow to adapt and you end up with the 82nd Airborne as the face of American foreign policy to the world.

Big names, big issues!

Written by hybriddiplomat

August 1, 2010 at 23:15

IT’S NOW’T TO DO WITH ME!: Social Media and International Diplomacy

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“There is a good Yorkshire saying: Hear all, see all, say now’t.”

In regards to the US-UK ambassadors bet on the World Cup game that ended in a tie, the HD suggested they go for Thai food.

Be sure to check out the recent New York Times article on Digital Diplomacy about State Department diplomats Jared Cohen (on Colbert) and Alec Ross.

Select quotes:

To hear Ross and Cohen tell it, even last year, in this age of rampant peer-to-peer connectivity, the State Department was still boxed into the world of communiqués, diplomatic cables and slow government-to-government negotiations, what Ross likes to call “white guys with white shirts and red ties talking to other white guys with white shirts and red ties, with flags in the background, determining the relationships.” And then Hillary Clinton arrived. “The secretary is the one who unleashed us,” Ross says. “She’s the godmother of 21st-century statecraft.”

“Diplomacy is, perhaps, one element of the U.S. government that should not be subject to the demands of ‘open government’; whenever it works, it is usually because it is done behind closed doors. But this may be increasingly hard to achieve in the age of Twittering bureaucrats.”

“The 21st century is a really terrible time to be a control freak,” Cohen said.

“The loss of control you fear is already in the past,” he told me. “You do not actually control the message, and if you believe you control the message, it merely means you no longer understand what’s going on.”


And also from the article: “In July 2009, there was China’s regional-information blockade, including a total shutdown of the Internet, following the Uighur uprisings (‘full’ Internet usage was restored to Xinjiang 10 months later).”

In other words, freedom is on the march!

And in conclusion, governments need to realize that losing control of the message is OK.

More on America and the networked world we live in from the State Department’s Director of Policy Planning, Anne-Marie Slaughter.

Written by hybriddiplomat

July 25, 2010 at 14:40

Absolute LAWLESSNESS in London!

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(via DiploPundit): Shoplifting, drunk driving, robbery, sexual assault, death threats, human trafficking, AND bad parenting?!

“But perhaps the single biggest offender – albeit on less serious allegations – is the US, which has run up £3,821,880 in unpaid fines incurred in a seven-year diplomatic stand-off over the congestion charge… Russia also owes Transport for London £3,204,990… Japan owes £2.76m… Afghanistan owes £34,780…”

A US embassy spokesman said: “The US embassy in London conscientiously abides by all UK laws, including paying fines for all traffic violations, such as parking and speeding violations. Our position on the direct tax established by Transport for London in 2003, more commonly known as the congestion charge, is based on the 1960 Vienna convention on diplomatic relations, which prohibits the direct taxation of diplomatic missions.”

Hey, the HD has relied on the Vienna convention NUMEROUS times!!

Written by hybriddiplomat

July 2, 2010 at 09:14

For Those in D.C.: “Diplomacy.Defense.Development: A Symposium on Complex Operations”

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Alas, other obligations prevent the HD from attending, but the Young Professionals in Foreign Policy event looks great.

Start Time: May 25, 2010 – 11:30pm
End Time: May 26, 2010 – 1:00am
Speaker(s): Ambassador John Herbst (Moderator), Blair Glencorse, Joshua Gross, Walker Hardy, Victor L. Marsh II, Matthew Parin, Maria Placht, Rachel Posner
Event Fees: none

11:30pm huh? Nothing like a little late night diplomacy!

Written by hybriddiplomat

May 24, 2010 at 13:46

Posted in defense, development, diplomacy

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NYTimes: Obama Offers Strategy Based in Diplomacy

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Article here. Counterpoint to the use of soft power and diplomacy is handled nicely by Charles Krauthammer in this article from July 2008.

However, it is tougher to show overt successes in diplomacy whereas military success is easier to see.

From the current failures in Zimbabwe, Burma, Sudan and “other godforsaken places”, one could add North Korea and Iran to the mix.

Krauthammer argues for successes in Kuwait, Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan, but Afghanistan now leaves much to be determined.

Written by hybriddiplomat

May 24, 2010 at 13:40

NYTimes: British Diplomat, Bonding With U.S. Commander, Takes Key Afghan Role

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May 15, 2010

WASHINGTON — When military officers and diplomats gathered in a secure room in the Pentagon on a recent Friday to get a video briefing from the Afghan battlefield, they were startled to see a youthful British diplomat in an open-neck shirt, rather than the familiar face and camouflage fatigues of Gen.Stanley A. McChrystal, the American commander.

The diplomat’s name is Mark Sedwill, the new senior civilian representative of NATO in Afghanistan, and on that day, he was acting as General McChrystal’s proxy. It is a role Mr. Sedwill, 45, has taken on with increasing regularity in recent weeks, forging a tight relationship with the general that associates say carries echoes of the one in Iraq between Gen. David H. Petraeus and the American ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan C. Crocker.

Their mission also bears striking similarities to the “surge” those men carried out in Iraq: forging a combined military-civilian offensive to drive out a stubborn insurgency and allow a competent local government to take root. As the protracted struggle to bring order to the southern Afghan town of Marja demonstrates, it has been an uphill battle so far.

The two men travel together every other week to hot spots around Afghanistan. They often team up to visit President Hamid Karzai. And with General McChrystal’s support, Mr. Sedwill has turned what had been a low-profile adviser’s role into a key civilian leadership post — one in which he vies for visibility with the American ambassador in Kabul, Karl W. Eikenberry.

“Partly because of his interpersonal skills and partly because of his backing by McChrystal, he has emerged very fast,” said Richard C. Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan. “McChrystal immediately and with great skill began using Sedwill as his political arm, thus improving his effectiveness.”

Inevitably, Mr. Sedwill’s rise raises questions about the relationship between General McChrystal and Ambassador Eikenberry, a retired general who was once himself the commander in Afghanistan. Both men insist that they work closely together, too, and that reports of tension between them are inaccurate. With a multinational coalition like that in Afghanistan, Ambassador Eikenberry said, it is essential to have non-Americans in leadership posts.

“That’s a very powerful signal that this is a true alliance,” he said, adding that Mr. Sedwill was an “absolutely superb diplomat.”

A career member of the British Foreign Office who once worked as a United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq, Mr. Sedwill first crossed paths with General McChrystal in 2009 when he was the British ambassador in Kabul. General McChrystal had just assumed command of the International Security Assistance Force, the combined NATO and American presence in Afghanistan.

“We kind of hit it off personally, straightaway,” Mr. Sedwill said in a telephone interview from Kabul. General McChrystal was traveling this week, his aides said, and unavailable for an interview. Referring to the general’s ascetic lifestyle, Mr. Sedwill said, “We’ve obviously got very different backgrounds. I certainly eat more than him; I sleep less than him. I hit the gym, but not as much as he does. As far as an undisciplined diplomat,” he joked, “I’m about as close to Stan as I could be.”

Mr. Sedwill expanded what had been a sleepy NATO civilian operation under his predecessor, Fernando Gentilini, an Italian diplomat. Mr. Gentilini had a staff of just 6 people; under Mr. Sedwill, the staff is expanding to 24, drawn from the United States, Britain, Denmark, Canada and Australia. His goal, he said, is to better coordinate NATO’s far-flung civilian operations so that the so-called provincial-reconstruction teams sponsored by European countries in Afghan districts work more closely with one another and with the local Afghan authorities.

As a British diplomat, it is easier for Mr. Sedwill to press fellow Europeans than it would be for an American. NATO officials said he had ruffled feathers among some European countries for criticizing the way they ran their civilian operations. Mr. Sedwill “is not shy about poking some of NATO’s sacred cows,” a senior alliance official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of diplomatic protocol.

Mr. Sedwill said he was trying to get the civilian teams to help the local Afghan authorities deliver services rather than doing it themselves. That would address what he conceded was a hurdle in the campaign so far: the lack of trust Afghans have in their government. In Marja, for instance, the troops drove out the Taliban with little trouble, but the Afghans and Americans have struggled to put a credible local government in place.

“If I can claim credit for anything, it is for really getting people involved in the political issues that fuel the process,” he said. “The language we now use is that we talk about a political campaign with a military phase.”

Mr. Sedwill is trying to apply the lessons from Marja to Kandahar, a much larger city with a more complex political landscape. There, a big question is how to deal with Mr. Karzai’s brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, the head of the Kandahar provincial council and a divisive figure whom many American and Afghan officials accuse of having ties to drug traffickers and Taliban insurgents.

“Ahmed Wali plays a very powerful role,” Mr. Sedwill said. “We’re in a close dialogue, and are encouraging him to use his influence, his power, to build a genuine political deal.”

While it may be too much to suggest that General McChrystal engineered Mr. Sedwill’s appointment, NATO officials said he clearly made his preference known when other candidates’ names surfaced first.

Mr. Sedwill’s emergence also laid to rest a long-simmering debate over how to structure the civilian leadership of the Afghan campaign. The United States had initially wanted to install a powerful viceroy who would have functioned as a counterpart to the military commander. Previous efforts to install a powerful civilian chief had foundered because of Hamid Karzai’s objections and European fears that a viceroy would dilute the authority of the United Nations’ special representative.

Now, Mr. Sedwill fills out what Mr. Holbrooke described as a quartet of civilian leaders: Ambassador Eikenberry; Staffan de Mistura, an Italian-Swedish diplomat who represents the United Nations; and Vygaudas Usackas, a Lithuanian who is the European Union’s special representative.

Of these four, though, only Mr. Sedwill can call himself General McChrystal’s wingman. “I wouldn’t have taken the job if I hadn’t been confident in my relationship with McChrystal,” he said. “He probably would have sought to block anyone he didn’t have confidence in.”