The term soft power (and its siblings hard power and smart power), employed to embrace a particular category of resources of potential power, originated in the stable of Joseph S. Nye, Jnr., a Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor and former senior member of the US military-intelligence complex. Not only has it subsequently spread like a virus through the pages of academic works in International Relations; it has also found its way into the statements of foreign ministers and their bureaucracies – and even of presidents. Keying the term recently into the search box of the website of the US Department of State spewed up 1,160 hits, and even 125 on the English version of that of the Quai d’Orsay – 222 for puissance douce in the original French. I learn from a chapter on the subject in the recently published Oxford Handbook of Modern Diplomacy (to which all (more…)
My latest book, A Diplomatic Whistleblower in the Victorian Era, is now available to anyone to read online or download as a FREE PDF from this site (it can also be read on a Kindle): just click here. Why am I self-publishing here and also giving the book away (as also my articles)? This is emphatically not because I believe that all books still in copyright – any more than music and films – should be freely available to everyone on the internet, for the obvious reason that their creators need to earn a living. (I felt strongly about this before at least five of my own books were pirated.) Nor is it because I think that the days of the physical book are behind us. Instead, the reasons for my decision in this case are as follows: (1) I am retired from the University and so have no career reasons for publishing research monographs ‘properly’; (2) there is little if any money to be made from handing (more…)
The revelations by Edward Snowden, supplemented by aerial photography, have merely highlighted what has long been known to some (including the odd historian! see my British Diplomacy in Turkey, publ. 2009, p. 223); namely, that the attics and roofs of embassy and large consular buildings provide ideal platforms for the staff and equipment of eavesdropping agencies. This is not only because these buildings are inviolable under diplomatic and consular law but also because they tend to be located very close to the government offices which are their targets. In this regard, the US Embassy in Berlin, on which so much attention has recently been focused, is not alone. However, diplomatic law insists that information gathering must only be undertaken by ‘lawful means’ and, while it is one thing to wink at this in time honoured fashion by placing a few intelligence officers in embassies under diplomatic cover (which all states can do), it is quite another to so flagrantly disregard it in the manner adopted by the ‘five eyes’ states (USA, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) when it was inevitable that sooner or later the whole world would know about it. Of course, the fact that embassies have had such value for the NSA, GCHQ and no doubt kindred agencies in other rich states helps to explain why such missions have survived the death notices served on them by the uninitiated in the 1960s and 1970s, but the techno-spooks are no longer doing them a favour. Let the spooks find other platforms; or, rather, make more use of the other platforms they already possess.
A lot was beginning to be heard about ‘expeditionary diplomacy’ before the disaster at US ‘Special Mission Benghazi’ on 11 September 2012, somewhat less since. It refers to the despatch to high threat, lawless environments (failed states or fragile new ones) of short-term diplomatic missions reliant for their security on local goodwill and their own resources. It has even been suggested by recently retired senior American diplomat Marc Grossman that ‘expeditionary diplomats’, with extra training provided by the Department of Defense and the CIA, might be ‘a new personnel speciality’. Sending in members of the diplomatic equivalent of the military’s ‘special forces’, or sending in more conventionally trained diplomats with such persons in close attendance, can, with luck and good judgement, pay high (more…)