Archive for the ‘Diplomacy’ Category


Finland, Australia and Luxembourg at the 2012 Security Council Elections

October 30, 2013

In 2012 Finland stood for election to a two year term on the UN Security Council.  It was competing for one of the two vacancies for states from the Western European and Others Group against Australia and Luxembourg and against expectations failed to get elected.  As a result the Finnish foreign ministry contracted the International Peace Institute to find out why they didn’t get elected.  The IPI conducted 50+ interviews with delegates from across the members of the UN and came up with some ideas why Finland didn’t make it.

It’s an interesting document because it casts light on a process I didn’t know anything about but also because of what it says about the importance of image even among diplomats and national decision makers.

The process of getting elected takes a long time; Luxembourg declared its candidacy in 2001 and Finland in 2002.  Australia didn’t start until 2008 but is estimated to have spent about $25m while Luxembourg and Finland spent one and two million Euros respectively.  The report makes the point that one of the mechanisms at work is trading  promises of votes on other elections so I would guess that if you start earlier it gives you more elections to trade off.   The elections are conducted by secret ballot so there’s no real guarantee that promises of support actually translate into votes.

Campaigns work at multiple levels.  Firstly each country tries to put forward a general narrative particularly about its contribution to the UN, secondly, countries try to secure promises of support on a bilateral basis and thirdly, they try to use connections to particular blocs of countries to get support.

One of Luxembourg’s assets was its size – 105 countries are members of the UN Forum of Small States, it also tried to leverage its status as a Francophone state, as a monarchy and reached out to Lusophone states because it has a substantial Portuguese community.  Australia used the Forum of the Pacific and the Commonwealth, Finland was limited to the Nordic and Baltic States.

Australia appeared to have an advantage because it’s not an EU member, given that there are already two EU members as permanent members of the UNSC there was certain resistance to effectively giving the EU four votes on the Council.  Reading between the lines of the report Australia could count on support from Britain and the US and Luxembourg and the apparent lack of united EU support for Finland was seen to weaken its broader campaign.

There’s also a sense that the international identity forged by the Nordic countries during the Cold War has faded

Many delegates stressed that Australia, Finland, and Luxembourg were all seen as “Western” or “mainstream candidates, and that “despite the fact that all three pretended to be different and except for their take on Middle East issues, there was no real difference in their policies.”

One delegate is quoted:

The Nordics used to be seen as countries of social democracy, closer to the developing world than the United States or the Soviet Union or other European countries. But the world has changed. Their image is not so strong anymore.  Developing countries have their own models

One point where the Finland and the other Nordic countries do have something of a distinctive identity is that they are seen as particularly militant defenders of “western values”

 a number of delegates, in particular among the Group of 77 (G77) countries, also expressed frustration at attitudes that, they believed, are sometimes not respectful enough of cultural differences. This was particularly the case, according to some delegations, with issues related to women’s rights or freedom of expression. As one delegate put it, the “Danish cartoons saga reflected badly on all the Nordic countries.”

One delegate explained: “We have difficulties with the Nordic attitude on social and human rights issues. The Nordics impose their definitions, which sometimes are not acceptable to Islamic countries. Other EU members may think the same, but the Nordics are in the lead; they are more vocal. We want them to understand that there are different views, other cultures, and that the UN is not only Western. You cannot achieve your goal and make the others feel bad.”

It is difficult to assess if these views had actual consequences in terms of votes. However, in discussing Finland’s candidacy, several delegates did indicate during interviews their reservations on the profile of Nordic states at the UN and their preference for more “modest” candidates. One delegate noted: “Luxembourg was seen as the underdog, a modest country, not one that imposes its views among the Western countries. Being the small one among the West, Luxembourg was considered to be more understanding of the G77.”

The irony here is that Australia was seen as having the vulnerability of being particularly close to the US on Middle East issues.

The report suggests that as a UN good citizen Finland routes much of its aid through multilateral organizations which has the effect of reducing the country’s visibility.



Latour to British Foreign Policy via Blair, Part IV: Still Looking for A Policy

October 15, 2013

In this post I want to make the connection between Blair’s globalist vision and some of the more normal concerns of this blog about the machinery of government in the UK.

The basic argument here is that we have seen the development of a gap between high level visionary abstraction of the Blairite persuasion and the workings of a modernizing government machinery.

I think a key element here is the conjunction of two factors at work in British foreign policy over the past decade and a half; firstly the failed state agenda and secondly, the push for modernization in government.

Failed/fragile states have attracted a lot of policy attention -  Bosnia followed by the interventions in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Iraq in addition there’s been relatively sustained policy interest in countries like Pakistan and Somalia.

Modernization had many facets but it was ‘joined up’, getting different bits of government to work together and it developing defined objectives that would allow assessment of value for money.  This is not something that has just happened in the UK.  Here’s a comparison between the UK, Netherlands and the Nordics.

It’s the combination of these factors that has led to a degree of learning and innovation in British statecraft.  This also saw policy innovations such as the Conflict Pool – funding accessible by different departments – and efforts to think through how to deal with this problems eg the Building Stability Overseas Strategy.  The result was an extremely coherent account of British statecraft although accounts of the system in action are much less impressive.

Despite this in there has a been a growing concern over the lack of strategic thinking in British government.  Including in the military.

What’s going on?  How can we have strategies but no strategy?

I think that the Building Stability Overseas Strategy gives hefty clue.  It explains why stability matters to the UK, what produces instability and how, faced with a situation of instability, UK government departments will work together and with other people to address the problem.  If this was a military document it would be extremely clear what it is.  It’s doctrine not strategy.  Doctrine gives a common understanding of a problem and an approach to working together to address it.  It doesn’t tell you which circumstances the UK will become involved or in which cases, it doesn’t tell you about resources, it doesn’t give timeframes.

In 2010 The FCO put out a training booklet on policy skills which laid out a hierarchy in which  strategy was placed above policy. To a Clausewitzian like me this raises a red flag.  Clausewitz places policy at the top of the tree not because it’s a label but because politics is where different aspects of the world are composed.  It we have five different priorities which do we choose to pursue? How do they affect each other?  How do they affect other people?  Can we get others to support us in this particular situation?

There is a parallel with a critique that applies to the  British and American armed forces.  Because national  leaderships will not or cannot properly define objectives and strategies based on political realities military thinking has tended to expand the reach of operational thinking (Strachan 2005, 2010, 2013, Bailey, Iron and Strachan 2013, Ledwidge 2011) .   I think that the same has been going on in foreign affairs more generally;  there has been lots of thinking about means and instruments much less about politics, policy and strategy.  What we get is a gap between the broad generalities of the Blairite vision and the working level.  This is gap that capital D diplomacy should partially be filling.

In the UK as in the US it’s become more common to see diplomacy, defence and development referred to together but in the context of failed states it’s the diplomacy that gets squeezed between defence and development.  In the US it’s common to see complaints about the militarization of foreign policy but in the UK it would be more accurate to think in terms of developmentalization foreign policy becomes an adjunct to development.  If we’re thinking in terms of modernizing government development and defence do planning and projects, they spend money and as a result have lobbies, they also both feel nervous about politics.  That’s really what diplomacy should be doing but the 3D formulation tends also to reduce diplomacy to a small d instrument of policy rather than a mode of interacting with the world.

There’s a big gap at the heart of British foreign policy between a particular one world vision and a set of techniques and resources to build that world.

In the final post of this series I’ll try (emphasis on try) to suggest a way forward.

Bailey JBA, Iron R and Strachan H, eds (2013) British generals in Blair’s wars. Farnham: Ashgate.
Ledwidge F (2011) Losing Small Wars: British Military Failure in Iraq and Afghanistan. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Strachan H (2005) The Lost Meaning of Strategy, Survival, 47: 33–54.
Strachan H (2010) Strategy or Alibi? Obama, McChrystal and the Operational Level of War, Survival, 52: 157–182.
Strachan H (2013) British National Strategy: Who Does It?, Parameters, 43: 43–52.

From Bruno Latour to British Foreign Policy via Tony Blair, Part 1.

October 8, 2013

I’ve been meaning to pick up my discussion of the potential of Actor-Network Theory for International Relations and the study of diplomacy but it’s got tangled up with something else I’ve been thinking about quite a lot recently:  the state of British foreign policy both as it is and as it should be.    The result is something of an impasse and as way of moving forward on this I’m going to take (probably) three or four posts to work through these issues.  The argument in a nutshell is that the UK has quite a coherent theory of foreign policy, developed under Tony Blair, which is quite possibly wrong, Latour’s discussion of diplomacy tells us why it’s wrong.  A subsidiary theme of this is the disconnect between the theory of Diplomacy as it’s talked about at ISA and the contemporary practice of diplomacy.

The parts of this discussion are probably in the wrong order but as I need to push this ahead then we’ll take them as they come.

Firstly, Latour on politics.

One reason that I’m interested in Latour is because he frequently talks about diplomacy and politics as positive activities, in fact one of the basic problems with the modern world is that there isn’t enough of them. 

The importance of politics follows directly from his sociology.  As he argues, particularly in Reassembling The Social, sociology has been too ready to use ‘society’ to explain things when the real question is how can society exist in the first place.  In Latour’s world the mystery that needs to be explained is how things hang together rather than flying off in different directions.  Thus, politics is the way that assemblage of people and things are brought together and maintained.  This is a practical art, that in dealing with people places a heavy burden on rhetoric.  In his essay ‘What if we Talked Politics a Little’ he argues that it is precisely this effort to create the community that ensures that political speech always seems slippery but to demand that it follows the requirements of ‘straight’ talk either in the everyday sense or in a Habermasian version of ideal communication is to fundamentally misunderstand what political speech is about.  Pandora’s Hope (Chaps 7+8) contains a long dissection of Plato’s Gorgias where he argues that Socrates’s defeat of the sophists effectively replaces the necessary practical skills of politics with a version of  science  that is useless in practice.   This affects both how we understand politics and science by theoretically separating the two we become unable to effectively deal with the increasing numbers of hybrid issues where they are intertwined.

Tomorrow: Latour on Diplomacy, on Thursday Tony Blair.

Latour B (1999) Pandora’s hope: essays on the reality of science studies. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
Latour B (2003) What if we Talked Politics a Little?, Contemporary Political Theory, 2: 143–64. Copy here
Latour B (2007) Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-network-theory. Oxford: OUP Oxford.




Digital Diplomacy: Forget the Hype and Just Get on With It

September 10, 2013

I’ve been meaning to write about digital diplomacy for a while.  Two weeks ago Ben Scott (formerly one of Hilary Clinton’s crew at State) and I , were in Tallinn to talk  to Estonian ambassadors and this forced me to think about the issue.  I’ve always thought of myself as a bit of a sceptic about the whole thing but perhaps less so than I realized.

The argument for digital diplomacy typically advances in two parts.  1. The world is being revolutionized by digital technology.  2. Diplomats should use social media.  What I’m sceptical about is actually 1 but I’m totally on board with 2.

The problem with the revolution argument is that it really depends on the loss of perspective that I commented on here.  The reason that diplomats should use social media is exactly the same reason why I don’t think that there’s a revolution:  diplomacy has always been a matter of networks.  Diplomats are expected to build networks in order to find out what’s going on and create influence.  Ben made the valuable point that one of the great contributions of social media, particularly Twitter is as a tool for listening, by identifying important voices in country it offers a rapid way to get a broader understanding of what’s going on from there they can think about intervening in debates.  As a mode of gathering information and insight  It’s exactly the same thing, as  that staple of diplomatic routine, reading the papers

There is a bit of a digital diplomacy backlash going on at the moment (examples here and here) but the problem is not with the practice but with the overblown claims derived from the radical technology literature which tend to abstract the impact of digital media from any social, cultural or political context.

The point is not that social media changes nothing but it is better seen as part of the evolution of diplomatic practice. In a way the potential of Twitter is that it allows a diplomat to more rapidly explore the networks of their host society than it would be possible to do using other methods.  Jules Jusserand was the French Ambassador in Washington from 1902 to 1925 if you don’t have 23 years to build your networks maybe twitter is a useful accelerant to the process.


Fridtjof Nansen and the Birth of Celebrity Diplomacy

August 7, 2013

One of the basic problems in the way that we make sense of the world is that we look at the present and the past through different lenses.  We see the present through the news or twitter so it appears to be rapidly changing and complex we see the past through the lens of limited reading and often through extreme theoretical simplifications that we picked up in higher education. If you studied international relations the Westphalian system or the ‘nation-state’ is normally taken for a description of the past rather than an idealization.  The problem is that we tend the juxtapose the simplification with our experience of the present and assume that the difference between past and present reflects real differences not a difference in our viewpoint.  As a result we overstate the degree of discontinuity.

I was really struck by this  during a recent visit to Norway when I visited the museum in Oslo that houses the Fram, this was the ship used by Fritdjof Nansen (1861-1930) and Roald Amundsen in their polar expeditions at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.  I was particularly intrigued by Nansen as an exemplar of celebrity diplomacy rather than being a product of Live Aid and the internet the polar explorer was outdoing Bono a century earlier.


As a skiing champion and a pioneer of scientific study of the Artic Nansen was able to attract the support he needed to mount his own polar expeditions.  In turn his crossing of Greenland in 1888 and his attempt to reach the North Pole in 1893-96 made him an international celebrity – a status that was cemented by best-selling books and international promotional tours.  Nansen was also a staunch advocate of Norwegian independence from Sweden and his standing in scientific as well as popular culture networks helped to build the identity and reputation of Norway.  Thus with the approach of independence in 1905 Nansen was pressed into service to persuade Prince Charles of Denmark to accept the Norwegian throne and then he was dispatched as ambassador to London where he oversaw the conclusion of a treaty to guarantee Norwegian independence.  During the First World War he was called back into diplomatic service to secure food supplies for Norway in the face of the British blockade.  An advocate of the League of Nations he was a pioneering figure in humanitarian aid for refugees.

The point is that the literature on ‘super-empowered individuals’ or celebrity diplomacy  treats this as a new development whereas Nansen was able to use build his own celebrity using the social and media networks of the late 19th century in a way that was useful to the Norwegian proto-state.


Can Non State Actors Do Public Diplomacy?

May 10, 2013

Is public diplomacy something that is only done by states? Can non-state actors do public diplomacy?   This is a discussion that parallels a debate that has been going on in the Diplomatic Studies community for several years.

The canon of diplomatic theory for instance represented by Nicolson (1963), treats diplomacy as about the relations between states.  The visibility of non-governmental organizations, substate governments, multinational corporations with the space of international policy making has led some scholars to argue that these are also diplomatic actors.  In 2005 Jönsson and Hall published Essence of Diplomacy, this argued that diplomacy was marked by three essential features, communication, representation and the reproduction of the international order. In Contemporary Diplomacy (2010) Geoff Pigman cuts this list down to communication and representation with the consequence that his concern is with the ‘representation and communication between global actors, including (but not limited to) governments, multilateral institutions, civil society organizations and large firms.’ (p. 11).  Some have (eg L’Etang 2009) argued for the overlap between PR and diplomacy.   Indeed former state diplomats port their diplomatic skills into the corporate realm.

If you follow this line of argument that it would make sense to argue that the same applies to public diplomacy and that ‘engaging with foreign publics’ by non-state actors can also be counted as ‘public diplomacy’.  The problem is with that is then any international engagement activity gets moved into the diplomacy column and that almost all international communication becomes public diplomacy. Is it useful to treat the promotional campaign for the new Star Trek movie as public diplomacy?  I would argue that it’s better thought of as marketing.

The Jönsson/Hall/Pigman argument focuses on the processes of diplomacy but I would respond with an analogy from domestic politics.  This is a like saying that because political parties and interest groups both campaign they are engaged in the same activity.  There is certainly an overlap in the activities of parties and interest groups but the objectives, structures, constraints and opportunities of the two types of actor are different.  States and other actors are different types of actors and each has different resources and constraints. PD (or foreign public engagement or whatever you call it) is the way that it is because it is done by states; the response to it is due to the fact that it’s done by France or Israel or the US.  PD is much harder than marketing a movie because states are much more complicated entities.  Some of the processes are the same but the nature of the entities and relationships involved are different and this makes me reluctant to see non-state entities as doing PD unless they are acting on behalf of states.


Jönsson, C., and M. Hall (2005) Essence of diplomacy. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire ; New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Nicolson, H. (1963) Diplomacy. 3rd Edition. London: Oxford University Press .

L’Etang, J. (2009) ‘Public Relations and Diplomacy in a Globalized World: An Issue of Public Communication’, American Behavioral Scientist, 53: 607–626.

Pigman, G. (2010) Contemporary Diplomacy: Representation and Communication in a Globalized World. Cambridge: Polity Press.


Post ISA Thoughts

April 12, 2013

I’ve been having a few days off recovering from last week’s trip to the International Studies Association convention in San Francisco.  Three observations.

  1. Public diplomacy research is developing.  More of the papers that I heard/read this year had more data, more attention to issues of comparison,  greater engagement with questions of diplomacy and diplomatic studies and with debates in International Relations more broadly. For instance the idea of practice and practices has been attracting greater attention in the IR theory community over the past few years and several of the PD papers that I heard/read are explicitly engaging with the development.  However, there’s still a lot more room for development, comparative studies are still underdeveloped and I was pleased to hear that Eytan Gilboa has a major comparative project in the works.
  1. Realism vs idealism:  To what extent is public diplomacy an instrument of foreign policy and to what extent does it offer a way of generating transformation in international relationships?  This is a theme that has been bubbling under the surface for a while but really became explicit in some of the panels this year – particularly in a couple of roundtables on deriving from the volume on relational public diplomacy edited by Rhonda Zaharna, Amelia Arsenault and Ali Fisher.  Kathy Fitzpatrick explicitly  proclaimed herself an idealist so I couldn’t resist coining the term ‘networked realism’ to label my own position.
  1. The identity of public diplomacy.  There was some discussion about the implications of  the rapidly developing fusion between diplomacy and public diplomacy for the identity of public diplomacy as practice and as a research area.  Somebody made the point that secret diplomacy is a tiny subset of an increasingly public diplomacy.   One idea that was floated was that the State Department should merge its Political and Public Diplomacy career cones.  This might be read as the ‘end of public diplomacy’ but how many other foreign ministries have separate PD career tracks?  I wouldn’t be surprised if the answer is none and there still seems to be plenty of PD going on.

Overall lots going on and you’ve got a couple of months to get your ideas for the 2014 convention in Toronto into the ISA


Diplomacy in a Time of Scarcity

March 25, 2013

Last October (yes, I’ve only just got around to reading it) the American Academy of Diplomacy, The Cox Foundation and Stimson put out a paper looking at the challenges faced the State Department in an era of declining budgets.  The key reference point is a report that they put out in 2008 on A Foreign Affairs Budget for the Future.  The earlier report  called for large increases in staffing at State and USAID.  The new report recognizes that there have been staffing increases but notes that changing in staffing levels don’t map on to empty posts.  In particular there are big gaps in the mid career posts with the Public Diplomacy specialization the worse affected being unable to fill 220 posts, 22.5% of the total.  Their argument is that because diplomatic jobs require experience it’s difficult to make up for staffing losses in the past.  Their solution is to ease restrictions on retired FSOs being brought back on a temporary basis.  Their earlier report also called for a 64.8% increase in PD spending (including the creation of a network of cultural centres, more academic and professional exchanges) but the actual increase in funding has been only 28.8%

In an effort to avoid similar staffing problems in the future the report argues that any cuts should be focused on programmes rather than personnel  The rationale for this is that programme spending can be easily reconstituted while trained staff can’t be. They also suggest that if it’s faced with big cuts in personnel State should look to cut its network of embassies and consulates in order to demonstrate to Congress that cuts have real costs. ‘There could be no more visible metaphor for  “America in Decline” than the closing of some of our embassies.’ -

One thing that struck me is this list of what America’s diplomats are supposed to do

Today’s and tomorrow’s diverse diplomatic challenges all require frontline activity by skilled diplomatic professionals. They must:

›     Highlight and demonstrate American values;

›     Strengthen the growth of civil institutions and the rule of law;

›     Promote democracy;

›     Serve and protect the millions of Americans who live and travel abroad;

›     Promote trade and investment;

›     Fight illicit drugs;

›     Stop the trafficking of persons;

›     Support sustainable development to combat poverty;

›     Prevent genocide;

› Strengthen foreign cooperation and capacity to address global security challenges such as terrorism, weapons proliferation, international crime, disease, and humanitarian disasters.

America’s diplomats will still seek to influence foreign governments—bilaterally and multilaterally. But in a pluralistic world changed by information technology, they will increasingly work directly with other nations’ emerging interest groups and future leaders—businesses and academia, urban centers and remote villages, and religious institutions—who shape their nations’ values over the long term.

The traditional business of diplomacy, managing relations between states, is almost reduced to a footnote.


The Anglo-French Diplomatic Mutual Admiration Society

February 9, 2013

When William Hague become Foreign Secretary in 2010 he expressed concerns that under the Labour government the FCO had become too dominated by managerialism and was losing focus on core diplomatic skills such as reporting, writing and negotiating, languages and area expertise.  The response  was to launch (in true managerialist fashion) a ‘Diplomatic Excellence Programme’ including a bit increase the budget for language training.   This activity was accompanied by new performance targets and a benchmarking exercise . The FCO convened a panel of outside experts from NGOs, business etc who compared the performance of the FCO to other foreign ministries and reached the conclusion that the FCO was the second best in the world.  Who could be number 1?

It’s worth saying that I haven’t seen a list of who composed this panel or what their methodology was.  But just on my experience of the FCO if you were going to get them admit they were second best who might they just be willing to admit a certain admiration for? If you were going to give them a competitor to catch up with?  Of course their could only be one answer: the Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres et europeennes of the Republique Francaise – The Quai d’Orsay (sorry about the missing accents)

In giving evidence to Parliament in November  last year the chief permanent official at the FCO, Simon Fraser,  discussed this  comparison.  Somewhat conveniently the reasons for the superiority of the French echo areas where William Hague had previously voiced the need for improvement in British perfomance.

I think that the group felt that the French diplomatic service like Britain’s has a very long diplomatic tradition and culture and they are very effective in advancing their national interest through diplomacy. They are effective in supporting their commercial and economic objectives. For those reasons they were felt to be a very effective diplomatic service.

One of the things that has been stated in the past is that the French Government as a whole are more organised in their collective support of French economic interest through diplomacy.

The Quai D’Orsay probably is a more focused organization with a stronger sense of its own history and mission as the representative of France than the FCO is in regard to Britain (which is not to say that the FCO is exactly lacking in this) Dgging into the self descriptions  on their web site you do get something of the romance and history of diplomacy.

But the reason for this post is that if we open the Winter 2011-12 issue of Mondes: Les Cahiers du Quai D’Orsay the ministry’s version of Foreign Affairs things are not so rosy.  This is a special issue devoted to la diplomatie d’influence.  (Thanks to Ellen Huijgh for flagging up the importance of this concept).  In the editorial the head of the forsight unit at the Quai relates  diplomatie d’influence to soft power but much of the discussion is more about the use of diplomatic influence beyond bilateral relationships rather than the very diffuse way that soft power is used in some other contexts.   The lead essay by Nicolas Tenzer, ‘The Global Influence of Major Powers and their Strategies for the Future’ argues three key areas for influence to operate are in are

    1. Tendering processes by which states commission major projects
    2. International processes for standards setting
    3. The international processes of opinion formation, the conferences, think-tanks and media where  agendas are formed and issues framed.

The point is that influence in these spheres works through relatively diffuse international networks and that countries other than France have been working hard to build their positions.  Which country get the most mentions in this article as having been doing this?  The UK (Sweden, Canada, Germany also get multiple mentions).  In Tenzer’s view linkages betweens government, NGOs, professional organizations and universities  allow the formation of a national view on issues while at the same time allowing that perspective to be advanced in multiple arenas.

Genuinely influential states have that ability to operate in multiple registers.  All those countries understand that influence requires strong public diplomacy but mainly an ability to promote certain ideas and concepts discreetly in the right international places

These networks also allow the rapid deployment of expertise.  This an area where France has been building up  a new organization to allow it to compete (this is taken up in another article)

The issue also includes a piece on strategy in international organizations where the French approach of trying to place candidates at the top of the organization is contrasted unfavourably  with the British method of placing experts at the working  level.  There’s also an article on ENA, L’Ecole Nationale d’Administration as a tool of soft power.

It’s interesting to look at these two discourses together.  There’s an element of the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence here but we may be looking at two different points on a continuum.  The Quai is narrower, more focussed, more closed while the FCO is operating in a more diffuse, open manner.  Following the type of analysis that Ronald Burt in Brokerage and Closure you can see both of these positions have their own strengths and weaknesses.  More closure will build identity and performance while openness offers benefits through better information gathering and a greater range of connections to operate through.

Burt, R.S. (2005) Brokerage and Closure: An Introduction to Social Capital. Oxford: OUP Oxford.

Tenzer, N. (2011) ‘The Global Influence of Major Powers and their Strategies for the Future’, Mondes: Les Cahiers du Quai D’Orsay, 117–123.

[ Mondes publishes its articles in French and English but it was noticeable that the formatting of the French articles was sometimes clearer than the translations so its worth checking the French version even if you’re reading the English version[




The Obama Administration and Democracy Diplomacy

January 16, 2012

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace have just issued a report by Thomas Carothers, Democracy Policy Under Obama: Revitalization or Retreat that looks at the place of democracy promotion in recent US foreign policy.  The basic thrust is that while the Obama Administration came to office inclined to deemphasize democracy under the force of events they have take on a greater prominence

As popular uprisings spread across the Arab world in 2011, the administration faced its most important and high-profile democracy challenge. While the advance of political change in the Arab world could be a watershed moment for the region, it also threatens to jeopardize various American economic and security interests. The U.S. policy response has been correspondingly mixed, combining support for democratization where it appears to be occurring with a willingness to continue close ties with seemingly stable authoritarian governments.

The Obama team’s overall engagement on democracy support is multifaceted and significant, and is rooted in a set of guiding principles that have helped revitalize the U.S. profile on the topic. At the same time, the administration downplays democracy and human rights in a number of nondemocratic countries for the sake of other interests. This inconsistency represents a familiar pattern rather than a change in U.S. policy.  The difference is that today, in response to growing multipolarity, the United States has moved away from any single, overarching foreign policy narrative rooted in the idea of remaking the world in the image of the United States.

The democracy agenda creates a need for traditional diplomacy – high level interventions in support of democracy – but also a range of public engagement activities that involve aid  agencies and civil society actors.  This is an area where the distinctions between diplomacy, public diplomacy and development become extremely blurred.


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