The announcement by British prime minister David (‘Sleepwalker’) Cameron that Britain is to send military advisers to Ukraine is the latest of a long series of Western blunders that has contributed to the catastrophic crisis in Ukraine. This is because its net effect has been to encourage the government in Kiev to ignore the implications for its foreign policy both of its geopolitical situation and its large Russian-speaking population. It’s time to re-read this excellent blog and the many comments on it, as also Noam Chomsky. The Foreign Office in London cannot escape censure either, as pointed out recently by Mary Dejevsky. The hopes of those keen to see a diplomatic settlement in Ukraine remain with Angela Merkel and François Hollande. The less heard of David Cameron (and kindred spirits in Washington) the better.
‘A DIPLOMATIC WHISTLEBLOWER IN THE VICTORIAN ERA’ – Second edition (revised) now available as free pdf
Click here to read online or download your free copy. (Check on the title page that you have the ‘Second Edition (revised)’. You should get this if you download the file but if you are reading from your browser you might need to reload it.) Entertaining as well as instructive, it’s ideal reading for the conscientious student of diplomacy also trying to get a life. Writing recently to a mutual friend, Robin Fairlie said of the first edition: ‘What an astonishing story: I sat up till half-past midnight last night finishing it.’
At this time last year, I advanced a long list of reasons for self-publishing this book in the form of a PDF on my website. One of these was that it would give me the opportunity to produce a revised edition quickly, thereby enabling me to correct the inevitable mistakes and patches of poor drafting before sowing too much confusion among readers and causing myself undue embarrassment. I regret, therefore, that – distracted by other projects – it has taken me longer to get round to this than I had hoped, for a careful re-reading of the published pdf has uncovered more failings than I had anticipated. I found only a few typos, but some inexcusable solecisms, too little respect for the comma and too much for the semi-colon, and some over-long sentences – all weaknesses that good copy editors have no doubt been silently removing from my manuscripts for years. In this completely overhauled edition I have, therefore, not only eliminated those errors I have spotted but also pared off unnecessary words, sparked up some sub-heads, reorganized here and there, and re-worked some dense passages – all in the hope that this has made the whole thing spin along more clearly. I have also taken the opportunity to offer some new thoughts, and I have stiffened the Odessa section with new material from the papers of Sir Andrew Buchanan (British ambassador at St Petersburg at the time) held at the University of Nottingham, for alerting me to which I must thank John Young. I am also grateful to Richard Grenville Clark, Robin Fairlie and especially Sir Brian Barder for their warm comments on the first edition, which more than anything encouraged me to think it was worth a winter pruning – and sprinkling with just a little fertiliser.
PRAISE FOR THE FIRST EDITION: For comments on the First Edition, see the Recent Research page. Sir Brian Barder has also kindly posted a full blog about the book on his website. Like the earlier edition, the Second Edition of A Diplomatic Whistleblower is available as a free PDF that can be read online or downloaded to a computer or e-reader such as a Kindle. Just click here.
I was mildly astonished to learn recently that the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office re-named its commercial attachés ‘Prosperity Officers’ some time ago, apparently after William Hague (a former management consultant) became Foreign Secretary. Unless self-parody, this is a deplorable departure even by the tawdry standards of the present Tory-dominated British coalition government. I am afraid that it is typical of the modern political culture in which targets are announced in such a way as to suggest that they are achievements. Clearly immune to the embarrassment that use of this kind of language would induce in most of us, the FO might well not stop there. Perhaps it is just a matter of time before we hear about ‘Higher Wages Officers’ instead of labour attachés (if any remain), ‘Bumper Crop Officers’ instead of agricultural attachés, ‘Truth Officers’ instead of press attachés – and ‘Victory Officers’ in place of defence attachés.
It is worth keeping in mind – and reassuring – that throughout this undeclared war each party has kept open its embassy in the other’s capital, although the Russian Embassy in Kiev was savagely attacked by protesters in June. For discussion of the role that diplomatic missions can play in such circumstances, see the final section of Chapter 1 (‘Embassies in Enemy States’) of my Embassies in Armed Conflict.
The ‘road map’ metaphor in important international negotiations, on which I dwelt at some length in the chapter called ‘Diplomatic Momentum’ in my textbook, is alive and well, and why not? These are the published road maps on which to keep an eye at the moment:
- Syria: Action Group for Syria Final Communiqué, 30 June 2012 – ‘a very concrete road map’ (Hillary Clinton).
- Iran: Joint Plan of Action, 24 November 2013 ‘We have here a clear roadmap in terms of the timing and sequencing of the steps that will be taken by Iran and by the international community’ (Senior State Department official, 13 January 2014)
- Afghanistan: Road map lacking, although not for want of trying (see the High Peace Council’s ‘Peace Process Road Map to 2015′ of Nov. 2012). Following the opening of the short-lived Taliban liaison office in Qatar in June 2013, the State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said ’we’re going to continue to work through the bumpy road, and we’re hopeful that we can get it back on [the railway] track.’ In the circumstances, mixed metaphors of movement must be forgiven!