The Queen’s Ambassador to the Sultan: Memoirs of Sir Henry A. Layard’s Constantinople Embassy, 1877-1880

(The Isis Press: Istanbul, 2009), pp. 721 (incl. index), ISBN 978-975-428-395-2. Sinan Kuneralp (ed.), Twixt Pera and Therapia: The Constantinople Diaries of Lady Layard (The Isis Press: Istanbul, 2010), pp. 279 (incl. index), ISBN 978-975-428-398-3.

Once more students of Ottoman diplomatic history are in debt to the scholar-publisher, Sinan Kuneralp, for Sir Henry Layard was one of the most remarkable and controversial of British ambassadors to Turkey in the nineteenth century and served there during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-8 – and yet the volumes of his memoirs dealing with this period have hitherto languished unpublished in the British Library, in part perhaps because of their size. (Layard admits himself to having been ‘somewhat minute, perhaps a great deal too much so’, p. 692.) They are here published almost in their entirety, the only exclusions being repetitive parts and some official despatches inserted into the text by Layard. The editor has also added numerous sub-headings to aid the selective reader and provided a very sharp, warts-and-all introduction to the ambassador’s apologia for his embassy to Constantinople. An otherwise excellent production is let down – as so often happens these days – only by its index, which is too short, and unaccountably divided by themes, persons and places. It also appears to have been devised by a computer: for example, the entry on Sir Alfred Sandison, the Anglo-Levantine chief dragoman of the embassy, refers the reader to twenty-one different pages but only three of them contain information on the subject of any significance.

Sir Henry Layard was a notable archaeologist and politician but as a diplomat he was also remarkable. As the editor of his Constantinople memoirs says, he was ‘probably one of the last if not the last British ambassador to have wielded some influence in the Ottoman capital’, and ‘probably one of the first Westerners to talk about double standards when Turkey is concerned’. He was unceremoniously recalled by the incoming Gladstone administration in 1880, largely because of this latter attitude but whether he was also remarkable in the professionalized diplomatic service, as Layard says himself in his bitter concluding pages, by virtue of being dismissed ‘without a cause assigned and before he had completed the terms required to entitle him to a pension’ (p. 680), I am not sure – but he was probably right. Layard was not a perfect diplomat (he was too hot-tempered and too inclined to speak his mind) but he is the more attractive for this reason; in any case he had many other diplomatic virtues and was a genuine liberal. He was also an elegant and trenchant writer, and a perceptive judge of character – not least that of the Sultan, Abdulhamid II. These memoirs are strongly recommended. Those with no prior knowledge of Sir Henry Layard and his extraordinary career before taking up diplomacy might also consult the excellent essay on him by Jonathan Parry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

The Constantinople diaries of Layard’s wife, Enid, who was only half her husband’s age, are also valuable, although in a very different way. Twixt Pera [where the British embassy was located in winter] and Therapia [the home of the summer embassy] is more revealing of life – especially the social life – of the embassy, than of high politics and diplomacy. As it happens, Lady Layard’s complete journal has been available in searchable form on the internet since 2004 but the editor of the Isis Press edition was probably right to bring out this copy in book form. As he says, students of nineteenth century Ottoman diplomatic history would be unlikely to stumble on it on the particular website where it is to be found (the present writer is a case in point!) and he has provided annotations not available in the online edition. Besides, Enid’s diaries perfectly complement the larger book containing Sir Henry’s memoirs.

Lady Layard’s diary entries tend to be rather formulaic, it is disappointing that she only rarely tells us what she thought of the many interesting personalities she met as opposed to describing their physical appearance and what they were wearing, the logging of her frequent headaches gets rather wearying, and the long lists of dinner guests are at best tantalising. The index is only a name index. Nevertheless, the entries have their compensations. For example, ‘embassy dined with us as usual’ is a frequent one, and on one occasion she records a ‘serious conversation’ with Sandison ‘on the subject of the imprudent marriage his mother was afraid lest he should make’ – all of which leads me to conclude that the family embassy survived for rather longer in Constantinople than I had thought. The entries usually record the arrival and departure of the Queen’s Messengers, thereby confirming that the service was at least fortnightly and, it seems, sometimes even more frequent. We also have further confirmation that the ambassadress was sometimes enlisted to copy the ambassador’s despatches and other documents, especially when – as we know from his own memoirs (p. 398) – it was necessary on Lord Salisbury’s insistence to keep them secret from the chancery. Those with different interests from mine will find other nuggets in these diaries.

Enid Layard was obviously a first-rate ambassadress and had charitable instincts that were strongly aroused by the appalling sufferings inflicted on the Turks by the unsought war with Russia which broke out within days of the arrival of the couple in Constantinople, and dominated the first years of their embassy. I wish that I had read her diaries before completing my history of the British embassy in Turkey.

The Queen’s Ambassador to the Sultan: Memoirs of Sir Henry A. Layard’s Constantinople Embassy, 1877-18802019-10-14T20:28:42+01:00

Diplomats at War: British and Commonwealth diplomacy in wartime

(Martinus Nijhoff: Leiden and Boston, 2008), pp. 304 (incl. index). ISBN 978 90 04 16897 8

In their Preface, the editors of Diplomats at War say that the two world wars in the twentieth century had a “catalytic impact upon the practice of diplomacy”; among other things, they continue, this produced “an unprecedented revolution” in the way heads of mission conducted their business. The first statement is unexceptionable but the second is presumably hyperbole because revolutions generally mark the fact that fundamental changes have occurred, and the corollary of this is that they are lasting – or at least not quickly overturned. As a result, had Baxter and Stewart been serious about the question of revolutionary change they would have needed to ask their contributors not only to record the character of mission practice prior to the outbreak of war but also for some years after it had been concluded. However, their book casts light only on the short term effects of war, and even these do not appear to me to be always as dramatic as they rather sweepingly assert. Since they provide no comment on the effects on embassies of pre-twentieth century wars, it cannot be said that they prove that such changes were “unprecedented” either. While the cases they choose are quite varied, the selection also seems a little idiosyncratic.

Diplomats at War contains twelve chapters, most of which concentrate on the experience of a head of mission rather than the mission as a whole, while one deals with a commercial attach and another deals not with diplomats but with British imperial proconsuls. Six of the chapters are about missions in allied states, four about missions in neutrals, and one about a mission in a state engaged in a war in which the sending state was an interested neutral; there is no chapter on a mission in a state with which the sending state was at war (to point this out is not as silly as it might sound because the missions of belligerents are not always expelled immediately, while when they are their role is usually assumed by the mission of a protecting power and this may shelter a few staff from the ‘expelled’ mission). Three chapters (a quarter of the book) are about missions in Washington, and the work has a strong Australian flavour. It begins with the Russo-Japanese War (1904-5) and concludes with the opening years of the Cold War. It has an Introduction but no formal Conclusion (the conclusion is in effect to be found in the final section of the Introduction, pp. 19-21). This is what tends to happen when scholars have a good idea but then follow it up not by means of a sole-authored monograph but via a collection of essays written in the main by other people, some of which essays are also, inevitably, re-treads.

What emerges from these studies that bears generally on the theme of the book are the unsurprising conclusions that, in war-time, diplomatic missions tend to become militarised (as today in the case of US embassies in the front line of the ‘War on Terror’); suffer privations and even shifts of location; find themselves with a more crowded agenda; need to give much more attention to propaganda; and have to cope with an upsurge in special missions, para-diplomats and war correspondents – the general upshot of which is usually that the influence of the diplomatic component in the mission is diminished. However, in reality the extent to which the influence of the diplomats diminishes varies considerably and, in his own chapter on Knatchbull-Hugessen in Ankara, Baxter comes close to arguing against himself by admitting that the ambassador ultimately won his battle with Churchill (of all people) over the issue of Turkish neutrality. He might have added, too, that this was not least because the huge military component in his embassy could – by virtue of being permanently on the spot – see for itself how vulnerable Turkey was to German power, and so supported his more sympathetic view of its predicament. (The military component was quickly wound down after the war; see my British Diplomacy in Turkey.)

Having said this much, there is not one essay in this book that is not worth reading. For example, Keith Hamilton – whose command of detail is awesome and droll asides are always to be savoured – provides a sparkling refresh of his long extant biography of Sir Francis Bertie, the ageing British ambassador in Paris during World War I; Thomas Otte revisits more deeply and with his usual authority the story of Sir Francis Oppenheimer, the scandalously maligned British commercial attach in The Hague during the same conflict, thereby incidentally reminding his readers that there are other people in embassies besides heads of mission; and Christopher Baxter – although I wish his chapter had not been quite so narrative – provides what will probably prove to be the definitive account of the affair of the spy ‘Cicero’ at the British embassy in Ankara during World War II. I was impressed, too, by the attention drawn by Greg Kennedy to the belief of Lord Halifax, British ambassador in Washington during World War II, that laying the ground work for peace was his own priority. It would have been interesting to know to what extent this was a general reflex of ‘diplomats at war’ in the first half of the twentieth century.

Diplomats at War: British and Commonwealth diplomacy in wartime2019-10-14T20:28:42+01:00

The Blair Years: Extracts from the Alastair Campbell diaries

(Hutchinson: London, 2007), pp. 794, incl. index. ISBN 9780091796297

Until his resignation amid huge controversy in August 2003, Alastair Campbell was Tony Blair’s official spokesman and director of communications and strategy – ace spin doctor, closest confidante, and constant travelling companion. His diaries have probably been mined chiefly for their astonishing revelations about the internal machinations of his government and the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. However, they should also be read for the sharp and often amusing light they throw on certain aspects of diplomacy.

First among these is summitry. Here, what emerges in general is the risk of ‘getting hooked on the international stuff’ (p. 585) despite the exhaustion it generates, the danger of neglecting the domestic agenda to which it can lead, and the unpleasant surprises it may contain. In the last regard, I knew about Blair’s ‘total banjaxing’ by President Assad in Damascus in October 2001 during his campaign to wind up the pressure on Iraq, despite ‘having been promised the guy was going to be supportive’ (p. 585) but not about what happened in Moscow in April 2003, although it was evidently reported at the time. According to Campbell, Vladimir Putin had invited Tony Blair to visit him and ‘we thought we’d agreed lines’. Unfortunately, ‘unbeknown to us Putin was gearing up for a direct big whack on WMD and plenty else besides’. At the press conference ‘he let rip in the opening statement … TB was doing his best to look unfazed’ but it was a ‘diplo-disaster’ (p. 693). Nor was the British prime minister able to do his summiteering in any great style. To the Anglo-French summit at Le Touquet in February 2003 he flew on ‘a tiny plane that Chirac wouldn’t be seen dead in’ (p. 661) and usually had to take scheduled flights with all of their risks of delays: ‘He is effectively vice-president of the free world’, Campbell reports Jack Straw, foreign secretary, observing, ‘and has to travel around like a cost-cutting tourist’ (p. 670). For diary entries dealing with summitry, use the index: Bush, George W., Jnr; Chirac; Clinton; G8 summits; NATO [summits]; Putin; Schroeder. For the EU summit in Nice (not indexed), see pp. 482-3, and for the P5 meeting in New York in September 2000 (not indexed), p. 468.

Tony Blair spent a great deal of time on the telephone to other world leaders, especially to Bill Clinton and then George Bush the Younger. These calls are not indexed in the book, so look particularly at pp. 319, 333-4 (‘In all TB had eight calls with Clinton over an 18-hour period up to Sunday 4.30am, when he finally went to bed’), 393, 399, 413, 485, 566, and 671. The telephone was vital to Blair’s diplomacy but he was well aware that it was no substitute for personal contact. After one call with George Bush shortly after 9/11 in 2001, when he felt that he had failed to make the US president understand the importance of rallying other major states behind America, Campbell records that ‘TB was quite troubled afterwards, said we had to think of a way of getting to the US for a face-to-face meeting. He said he needed to see him in a room, and look in his eyes, not do all this on phone calls with 15 people listening in’ (p. 566).

As for the presentation of British policy to the world, there is a great deal on this for the very good reason that this was Campbell’s great talent and a large part of his formal responsibility. What strikes me, however, is that he put no rubbish in his diary about the allegedly new ‘public diplomacy’, although this idea was already fashionable during the years he served Tony Blair. Campbell is too hard-headed and intelligent to have had any truck with this sort of nonsense. What he recorded instead were problems to do with ‘communications’, ‘presentation’, ‘PR’, ‘media management’, ‘spin’, and – above all – ‘propaganda’ (on the last, see pp. 278, 344, 555, 572, 659, 686). Other than in mentioning the appointment of Charlotte Beers as US ‘under-secretary for public diplomacy’ (p. 583), and reporting its apparent use by someone else (p. 664), Campbell never once uses the term ‘public diplomacy’ himself.

I also found the diaries very useful on the negotiations over Northern Ireland, and there is an interesting description of the diplomacy at the funeral of King Hussein of Jordan in February 1999 (pp. 365-7). This is a primary source of first class importance and is readily available at very low prices on the internet through abebooks.

The Blair Years: Extracts from the Alastair Campbell diaries2019-10-14T20:28:42+01:00

Twentieth-Century Diplomacy: A Case Study of British Practice, 1963-1976

(Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2008), pp. 224, incl. index. ISBN 978-0-521-83916-7

Some years ago, John Young, Professor of International History at the University of Nottingham and long-serving Chair of the British International History Group, turned his thoughts and research in the direction of diplomatic procedure. This is the first monograph to be the product of his shift in direction and it is to be most warmly welcomed. It is original in focus, impeccably researched (private papers and oral history transcripts have been sifted as well official documents in The National Archives), crisply written, and altogether a major contribution to the contemporary history of diplomacy. What is so original about the book is that the author has asked himself: What are the major forms of diplomatic contact? And followed this with the question: How and to what effect were they each employed by one state over a period sufficiently short to make detailed research possible but not so short as to make it impossible to identify trends? Having chosen Britain over the years from 1963 until 1976, he seeks to establish which diplomatic methods were the most useful for which purposes.

Young begins with two contextual chapters. The first provides a succinct overview of the issues confronting British foreign policy in the period, a penetrating – and at times amusing – analysis of how policy was made, and a most useful description of the significant changes in the composition of the diplomatic service during these years. The second chapter is on ‘the diplomatic machine’, which he tackles by examining in turn the three major official post-war reports of which it was the object, which happened to fall more or less within his period: Plowden (1964), Duncan (1969) and Berrill (1977). He rightly praises the first, salvages the second from the mistaken charge that it was inconsequential, and damns the last with faint praise (Berrill made the elementary mistake of failing to recognise that declining military and economic power meant more diplomacy not less). My only reservation about the account of the Duncan Report is its relatively slender treatment of its impact on the commercial priorities of embassies as opposed to the economies which it urged in the diplomatic service itself.

It is with chapter 4, ‘Resident Embassies’, that Professor Young gets into diplomatic method itself, and it is an impressive launch. The role of the British embassy, whether accredited to states or international organizations, did not diminish in either the volume of its work or its importance, he demonstrates; instead, the increase in ministerial visits and multilateral diplomacy simply produced a change in the character of its role. But this varied from embassy to embassy (“There is no ‘typical’ embassy.”) and could vary in the same embassy in just a matter of years. To support and illustrate his theme, he looks in some detail at the work of six ambassadors during these years: David Hunt in Nigeria (1967-9), John Freeman in India (1965-8), Patrick Reilly in Paris (1965-8), Christopher Soames in Paris (1968-72), Lord Caradon at the UN (1964-70), and Michael Palliser at the EC (1973-5). “Their experience confirms that … it was essential to have an efficient, permanent and large diplomatic service”, he concludes, adding interestingly that some of these ambassadors contributed not only to the efficiency with which foreign policy was executed but also to its content.

The chapter on special missions is illustrated with a multitude of examples, especially that of Rhodesia. Here the author demonstrates how such missions multiplied massively during the period, using a host of different kinds of person for a host of different purposes. He rightly concludes that while resident ambassadors sometimes saw special envoys as a threat to their standing as well as a practical nuisance (especially in the case of the much put-upon Washington Embassy), the relationship was symbiotic: each needed the other. The dependence of visiting envoys on their country’s resident embassy is obvious enough but why does the latter sometimes value the former? In light of his research, Young suggests that this is not just because of the specialist knowledge that visitors can bring but because it is easier for an embassy to preserve good relations with the government to which it is accredited if it can pass to the visitor the task of delivering any unpleasant message. This is certainly true but some governments in this period undoubtedly also valued visiting envoys, especially high-ranking ones, because there was no better way of getting the local government’s favourable attention, increasing the embassy’s access, and giving it a peg on which to hang its propaganda work. My own recent research has revealed that during the 1960s the Turkish government felt undervalued by an absence of high-level visitors from Britain, and as a result the British Embassy in Ankara repeatedly begged for more of them in order to improve the bilateral atmosphere and make its own job easier. The author later makes the same point in connection with bilateral summits (p. 140) but many embassies would settle for less!

In dealing with summitry, first bilateral and then multilateral, John Young confirms most of what we already knew about this subject. This is a relief! However, some interesting new points also emerge: summitry may be used to boost the domestic position of a favoured leader; the ‘exchange of views’ category, which I had favoured, is too broad; and at least during this period the telephone conversations between British and other leaders were too trivial to be bracketed with face-to-face summits. State visits are also dealt with at length in a particularly original and interesting chapter. ‘Outward’ visits by the Queen, which totalled 18 over the period, were designed chiefly to promote ‘Great Britain plc’ and were generally thought to be successful, and ‘inward’ visits by foreign heads of state, which came to 26 in all, were designed principally to advertise Britain’s achievements and show what it had to offer. The chapter on this subject brings out how difficult the planning of such visits could be.

The book’s final chapter deals with British diplomatic practice in these years in dealing with unfriendly governments, or at least governments making unfriendly gestures on a narrow front. In particular, it describes how and why Britain brought its policy on recognition into line with the less problematical one of its European partners, shifting from recognising regimes to recognising states; and then followed willingly a path pioneered by the Egyptians and West Germans in the mid-1960s in employing interests sections to preserve diplomatic contact with governments which had severed relations with it as a publicity stunt.

I am full of admiration for this book but no reviewer worthy of the name will pass up the opportunity to point to some sin of omission. So I shall say that it is a pity that Young does not say more about so-called ‘public diplomacy’. This is a pity not because this is now such a wearyingly fashionable subject but because it was roughly at the beginning of his period that the Drogheda Report, which had urged the importance of this in 1953 (it was then known as ‘information work’), first began to be taken seriously. But the author is aware of the gap and in any case does touch on it at more than one place in passing.

What is the general conclusion of the book? Special envoys, bilateral summits and multilateral conferences all increased in number over these years but still left “plenty of room for more traditional forms of diplomatic contact to flourish”. This was not just because each of them met different needs but because each was dependent in some degree on the others. And so does Young convincingly demolish the still widespread assumption that ‘new’ forms of diplomacy are by definition competitors to old ones. His book is not just a sound test of existing general ideas about diplomacy during this period but a model which, if carefully emulated by others, using different states in different periods or different states in the same period, would advance dramatically our understanding of diplomacy.

Twentieth-Century Diplomacy: A Case Study of British Practice, 1963-19762019-10-14T20:28:42+01:00

Just a Diplomat

*Zeki Kuneralp, Just a Diplomat, trsl. by Geoffrey Lewis with a preface by Andrew Mango (The Isis Press: Istanbul, 1992), pp. 152, incl. appendices and index. ISBN 975-428-029-0

*Theophilus C. Prousis, British Consular Reports from the Ottoman Levant in an Age of Upheaval, 1815-1830 (The Isis Press: Istanbul, 2008), pp. 289, incl. index. ISBN 978-975-428-360-0

*Centre d’Histoire Diplomatique Ottomane, De Bagdad Berlin: l’Itinraire de Yanko Aristarchi Bey Diplomate Ottoman. Correspondance officielle et prive [in 2 vols.]. I Bagdad (1846-1852), pp. 355, incl. glossary and index; II Berlin (1854-1892), pp. 341, incl. glossary and index (The Isis Press: Istanbul, 2008). ISBN 978-975-428-361-7
Close students of the new, Conservative Party Mayor of London, the at once engaging and alarming Boris Johnson, will know that he has Turkish cousins. One of these is Sinan Kuneralp, a son of the late Zeki Kuneralp, probably the most distinguished and well liked Turkish diplomat of his generation. Sinan Kuneralp is a scholar-publisher and runs The Isis Press in Istanbul, a house at the forefront of publishing scholarly works and original documents on the Ottoman Empire, chiefly in English and French. The three works noticed here are all its products and reflect the publisher’s own special interest in Ottoman diplomatic history.

Zeki Kuneralp was twice Turkish Ambassador in London and, in between, secretary-general of the foreign ministry in Ankara. He finished his career, which was marked not only by great achievements but by great personal tragedy, as ambassador at Madrid. His Just a Diplomat is the memoir of this career, prefixed by a short account of his early life. The book has now been out for many years (it appeared in Turkish in 1981), and a full and sensitive obituary of the author, who died in 1998, is available here.

I notice it so belatedly simply because it came into my hands only recently and struck me as the work of a quintessential diplomat. In its preface, Andrew Mango writes: “Wherever he went Zeki Kuneralp made friends for his country, because his own fair-minded friendship was never in doubt”. What better epitaph could any diplomat receive? It is also important, I think, for English-speaking students of diplomacy to take every chance they have to see the world through other eyes. By translating this memoir into English, Geoffrey Lewis has given us a valuable insight into the mind of Turkish foreign policy and diplomacy over the three and a half decades after 1940. It is still in print.

Theophilus Prousis, who is Distinguished Professor of History at the University of North Florida, has also provided us with a valuable primary resource. His book contains a selection of the reports and letters, to various addressees, written by a number of British consuls in the Levant in the early nineteenth century, chiefly against the backdrop of the Greek war of liberation from Ottoman rule. His choice falls on William Meyer (Prevesa), John Cartwright (Constantinople), Francis and Nathaniel Werry (Smyrna), and Henry Salt and John Barker (Cairo, Alexandria, and Aleppo). Consuls were expected to report – to the ambassador in Constantinople and, in emergencies, directly to the Foreign Office in London – on everything of political as well as commercial significance that occurred in their districts. Though the abilities of these men varied as much as the time they devoted to their official duties (many had to engage in trade to make ends meet), some of them provided highly revealing reports. In this collection, those of John Cartwright, the long-serving consul-general at Constantinople, are of particular interest to students of consular history. This is because it was during his time that the Levant Company was dissolved, and the British government looked to him, as the senior officer in the consular network that the company had hitherto financed and operated, for a detailed report on its staff. Prousis rightly includes this important document, dated 10 October 1825, in his selection. His book is ably introduced, each section provides background on the consuls whose reports follow, there is a very good bibliography, and a reasonable index. Prousis’s own sentences have a tendency to turn into lists, and I was puzzled as to why his section introductions should have contained such long quotations from the reports that he reproduces in full only a few pages later, but these are small niggles. Consular history deserves and badly needs more attention, and this is a very useful contribution to it.

Finally, I come to the two large volumes in French of the official and private papers (largely correspondence but including diary entries in Volume II) of the nineteenth century Ottoman diplomat, Yanko Aristarchi Bey. I have as yet only had time to read the separate introductions to each of these volumes (I do not read French quickly) but, written by Sinan Kuneralp himself, these are very interesting. Aristarchi was a member of a wealthy and well connected Greek family of Istanbul and began his diplomatic career in 1842 when he joined the Bureau of Translators of the Ottoman foreign ministry. From 1846 until 1852 he was director of political affairs of the vilayet of Bagdad, and in 1854 was appointed secretary and counsellor of legation at Berlin. Except for a short interruption in 1857, he remained in the Prussian capital until 1876, rising to charg d’affaires en titre, then minister, and finally ambassador in 1874; he was recalled in 1876. His papers published here were among those which were deposited on his death in 1897 in the Library of the Greek Literary Society of Constantinople, and eventually found their way – minus some losses suffered en route – to the Society of Turkish History in Ankara.

Among the tasks with which Aristarchi was charged in Bagdad, where he arrived barely 25 years old, were preserving harmony between the French and British consuls, in which he demonstrated dexterity; seeking to ensure that they did not abuse their rights under the capitulations, in which he was zealous; and reporting on the internal affairs of the distant province to the foreign ministry in Istanbul, in which he was so candid as to suggest, believes Kuneralp, that he enjoyed a degree of high-level protection. Bagdad was regarded by the Ottomans as an important observation post from which to keep an eye on Persia, and in 1851 Aristarchi was sent there on a special mission in order to probe the Shah’s intentions. His reports during this mission make up a sizeable part of Volume I of this book.

In Berlin, where he was head of the Ottoman mission for 18 years, Aristarchi was the observer of Prussia’s successful wars against Austria and France and the creation of the German Empire. He may have been a Greek and a Christian, like many Ottoman diplomats, but he remained an Ottoman – protesting if his title of ‘Bey’ was omitted in official communications from the Prussian government and insisting that all members of his mission should wear the fez. He was also a cultivated man with wide interests and perfect German, with a strong touch of the exotic provided by the Bedouin Arab servant whom he had brought from Bagdad. He entertained lavishly, and was altogether a tremendous success in Berlin society. In 1858 he married one of the daughters of General Eduard von Bonin, the Minister of War, which was a considerable diplomatic coup because it gave him privileged access to the court. On the other hand, his relations with Bismarck were not good, the outspokenness of his despatches found less favour with a new regime in the foreign ministry at home in the early 1870s, and in 1876 he was recalled. Though still only 54, he was never employed again.

The very large number of documents contained in these two volumes, each separately indexed, cover years of immense interest from an unusual perspective. The Isis Press is to be warmly congratulated for making them accessible. I am confident that they will be of great value to students of late Ottoman diplomacy, though it will be for students of nineteenth century diplomatic history to judge their importance in that field. I am looking forward to having the time to study them.

Just a Diplomat2019-10-14T20:28:42+01:00

Cyprus: the search for a solution

(I. B. Tauris: London and New York, 2005), pp. 256 incl. index. ISBN 13 978 1 85043 665 2

[ buy this book ]

Lord Hannay, a senior British diplomat with great experience of multilateral diplomacy, retired in 1995 but was then persuaded to accept the position of Britain’s Special Representative for Cyprus. In this role he played an influential part in the UN-led effort to broker a settlement to the Cyprus conflict until the negotiations temporarily foundered in May 2003, when, with a mixture of relief and regret, he stepped down. (There is a postscript on the referendums held on the island in 2004 on the fifth version of Kofi Annan’s settlement plan.) He has written a brilliant account of the course of these negotiations: lucid, economical, forceful, and authoritative; as for the organization of the book, this is a master class in how to blend analysis with narrative.

Hannay lays the main blame for the failure of the UN mediation up to May 2003 squarely at the door of the Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash, but also emphasises the contribution of generic and ‘Cyprus-specific problems’. This is all pulled together in Chapter 13: ‘What went wrong, and will it ever go right’. Hannay concludes that it will only ever go right if the Cypriots themselves take more responsibility for settlement negotiations and Turkey’s EU accession negotiations do not collapse. It is difficult to disagree with him.

This book is of great value to students of diplomacy as well as to those of the Cyprus problem. There are interesting passages on ‘linkage’ in these negotiations (pp. 99-110), the ‘single negotiating text’ (pp. 140-1), venue (p. 156), and telephone calls from the top as a last resort (p. 218). The usefulness (or otherwise) of deadlines in negotiations is an undercurrent throughout the book, as is the importance but great difficulty of ‘sequencing’ related negotiations, while the limitations of a mediation when the time is not ripe – but when this cannot be determined until the effort is made – is perhaps the major lesson. This is one of the best books I have read by a diplomatic practitioner for a long time.

Cyprus: the search for a solution2019-10-14T20:28:42+01:00

Diplomacy and Developing Nations: Post-Cold War foreign policy-making structures and processes

*(Routledge: London, 2005) pp. xi 280, ISBN-10: 0714654035

[ buy this book ]

Guest Review by Kishan S. Rana

This book is a valuable addition to the slim body of literature on foreign ministries and the process of external policy making. The book is all the more welcome as it examines the situation in that large part of the world that is all too often overlooked in scholarly works. The editors have marshaled a fine collection of essays that examine the situation in Brazil, China, the Eastern Caribbean, Egypt, Ghana and Malaysia. The country studies are balanced with overviews that consider the Westphalian frame, the choices that US dominance imposes on the Third World, the emergence of new diplomatic tools, especially information technology, and the role of the non-state actors, besides a concluding essay on narrowing distinctions among states.

The introductory essay by Justin Robertson presents a novel typology of foreign policy processes as a frame of reference for the entire book (he had edited a pioneering collection in 1998, also focused on developing states, in a special issue of the journal International Insights, published by Canada’s Dalhousie University). Robertson identifies six dominant patterns that can be applied to the making of external policy:

  • Conventional diplomacy is described as systems where security considerations dominate, though the neo-realism in such countries is moderated by the interplay of domestic factors and the country’s institutional elements. Egypt and Malaysia are presented as examples.
  • ‘New state capacity’ is juxtaposed as the counterpoint to the above, where the foreign ministry plays the role of coordinator, the institutions that influence policy are networked externally, and virtual diplomacy is also deployed. This segues into niche diplomacy, and countries small in size, such as the Seychelles, show greater adaptability than larger states.
  • ‘Capital-driven’ is another category, states where economic ministries play a dominant role, leading to the ‘competition state’, or globally networked central banks dominate, producing the ‘regulatory state’. Brazil and China are believed to show these tendencies, as also Trinidad.
  • ‘Marginalization’ of foreign ministries results when external powers and international institutions dictate policy. The expansion of US military bases abroad, the ‘imposed consensus’ practiced by the US and the UK in relation to international standards, and the conditions imposed by the IMF are offered as instances. Ghana is a country that suffers from weakened autonomy in such situations.
  • ‘Elite survival’ becomes the object of foreign policy in weak states, where the dominant domestic groups pursue international relations for their own survival. This is the case in Rwanda and in other unspecified African countries, as also in the Middle East.
  • Foreign policy ‘privatization’ occurs when domestic actors, such as business groups acquire dominant influence over policy, or guerilla factions become powerful and tap into international resources, as in Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Zaire.

Such classification raises anew the inherent contradiction between empirical study and theorization, given the multifarious elements that govern the situation in each country, and the dynamic evolution that occurs continually. For instance in 1997-98, immediately after the Asian Crisis that severely crippled the economies of several SE Asian countries, one might have described Thailand, which accepted the bitter prescriptions of the World Bank and the IMF, as a country that had surrendered policy autonomy and was dominated by these international institutions—a stark contrast to Malaysia which rejected external prescription, and did not do any worse for that. But even for Thailand that was a passing phase, and it would be a gross error to label that country as anything but fully independent, even innovative, in its policy-making.

What this book describes as privatization or elite survival types of foreign policy are often characteristic of failing states, or are found in states that are under severe stress. Again, these are useful analytical concepts, but their value as classification typologies is questionable.

Where classification is useful is in allowing us to identify and isolate specific trends, to examine these in comparative terms. But if we attempt to treat such trends as dominant factors, this leads us towards sweeping and erroneous generalization. In most cases the real situation is a mix of several factors. Further, there exist ‘traditional’ systems where little change or adaptation has taken place in the diplomatic process, owing to the resistance of the entrenched system, and unwillingness to consider new options.

Another point that sometimes comes up in commentaries on foreign ministries—and features en passant in this book—is that developing countries have aped Western institutions and processes in their diplomacy, rather than beaten their own path. Does the international system offer any other choice? Those critics that offer this comment do not themselves suggest alternatives. We might think back to the early days of the October Revolution, when the newly-coined Soviet Union briefly attempted its own diplomatic style. So did Libya in the 1980s, in its revolutionary zeal. Neither of these led to anything. What the post-colonial era has produced is pluralization in some forms of diplomatic practices, such as colorful national attire, and more relaxed practices in international discourse—ASEAN’s golf diplomacy—without affecting the real content of diplomacy. We might also observe that there is now something called an ‘Asian way’ or an ‘African style’, but these are subtle or minor variations around a standard method of inter-state discourse.

Maurice East’s elegant concluding essay offers useful insight. One broad conclusion offered is that differences between developed and developing countries are narrowing. That needs closer study, because my research suggests a somewhat contrary conclusion, that on average the gulf between the practitioners of ‘smart’ diplomacy and the traditionalists is widening, though all developing states cannot be placed in the latter catch-all group. East also offers four other conclusions:

  • In most countries, the internal and the external policies are closely tied, but we should see them as the factors guiding policies, and not as the perspectives behind policy.
  • Elites play a critical role in most countries. But is this not a truism, since any group that is in a leading position will be labeled as an ‘elite’? Do we really know of countries that are not led by elites?
  • Civil society is more active everywhere, and societal factors are at play in policy-making. But having said that, can we really assert that there are places where ‘citizen-based sovereignty’ is reality?
  • Regional diplomacy is active everywhere.

Everywhere, foreign ministries are in the midst of adaptation, as this book rightly concludes. One area that awaits research is the situation in the transition states of East and Central Europe, and Central Asia, where innovative change is underway.

Diplomacy and Developing Nations: Post-Cold War foreign policy-making structures and processes2019-10-14T20:28:42+01:00
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