Posted on June 1, 2011 by Natalia Tsvetkova
St. Petersburg State University, Russia
JB: This essay, written by someone for whom English is evidently not her native language (but then how many Americans could write in Russian as well as she writes in English) makes an important point, often overlooked in inside-the-beltway academic/bureaucratic discussions of "Public Diplomacy 2.0": that the new social media should not solely be used as a tool for Washington to "engage" with the world, but also as an important instrument for diplomats in the field to interact and stay in touch with their local interlocutors ("live diplomacy"): To quote from the article:
Live diplomacy will connect, first, the governments of all the counties within the Internet through communications and, second, public and governmental diplomatic activities in real time. The diplomatic practice will finally use the Internet as global fora or a virtual, interactive, and global diplomatic gate which will link up states, problems, negotiators, and, moreover, will invite the public to make a contribution to the resolution of diplomatic problems in terms of real time. The The State Department moves in this direction. But the American digital diplomacy and its innovative projects as i-diplomacy, tech@state, Opinion Space 3.0. and etc. mostly connect the foreign public with the American government rather than foreign governments and American diplomats in real time.From a social media perpective, in my view, this "live diplomacy" of engagement -- although Ms. Tsvetkova seems to limit it to essentially diplomat-to-diplomat rather than diplomat-to-people discourse -- is indeed the most "public" kind of public diplomacy. But only from a social media perspective. For, I would suggest, "the last three feet in face- to-face conversation" (to quote Edward R. Murrow) far surpasses facebook-to-facebook diplomacy as a means of human communication (if you actually can still have a lunch today with someone who won't thumb his cell phone rather than speak with, or even pay attention to, his luncheon partner).
Finally, a new generation of diplomats, who were born in the period of complete computerization will not be able to resolve any diplomatic question without the digital technologies. This generation will more often negotiate in social media than in traditional rooms located somewhere in Ministries of Foreign Affairs. this Live diplomacy encourage social networks to become the primary methods of negotiations and engagement policy. Those officials who exploit the well known social networks to engage the autocratic states into a dialogue have known that the Internet accelerates the policy of engagement. This engagement in real time will make some diplomatic reports be valueless in terms of their confidentiality.
Having said that, I must confess that after over twenty years of person-to-person contact as a public diplomacy practitioner, I can understand why, in the eighteenth century, members of "the republic of letters" often preferred exchanging correspondence than being in each other's presence. Also, in a letter, like a blog, you are reassuringly talking to yourself, while pretending to be communicating to others, a far more dangerous and challenging enterprise.
I often think of the words of Pascal: "I have discovered that all human evil comes from this, man's being unable to sit still [presumably alone] in a room." Or, as Greta Garbo said in the film Grand Hotel, "I want to be alone."
Just kidding (but not quite).
St. Petersburg State University, Russia
The publication of confidential American diplomatic cables has a great many dimensions and opinions. U.S. officials, experts, journalists, and researchers estimate this event in such terms as free speech, espionage, censorship, power of corporations in Internet, piracy, cyber attacks, statecraft and Internet, radicalism, political secrecy, and etc. Most of experts argue that this disclosure is damaging the American foreign policy and diplomacy, and most of their interpretations relative to the release are strongly-worded.
We state that the publication of the diplomatic documents, on the contrary, will finally produce a positive effect for the development of both American and global diplomacy in terms of establishing a new form of diplomatic intercourse in the frameworks of the Internet. The reason for our favorable judgment is an analogy relative to previous leaks happened in world politics.
We live in the epoch of so-called Open Diplomacy: what is it?
According to the theory and practice of diplomacy, we live in the epoch of so-called open diplomacy. The system of open diplomacy began developing after the end of the First World War due to the well-known efforts of President Woodrow Wilson. The President called for the replacement of a secret European diplomacy by an open one.
Despite their idealism, his points led a foundation for a structural reforming the diplomatic system after the end of both the First and after the Second World Wars. The traditional and secret diplomacy, existed in Europe since the Renaissance, was accompanied by such new diplomatic structures as the League of Nations and later the United Nations and by such new diplomatic notions as multilateral diplomacy, two-track diplomacy, public diplomacy, mediation diplomacy, and finally the diplomacy of non-state entities as well.
Although these new structures and notions did not completely substitute the secret diplomacy, they contributed to the building of a more open channel of communication between makers of foreign policy and public. This channel transmitted certain information about the policy in the field of diplomacy, selected of course by governments. This transmission was carried out by means of the publication of diplomatic documents, treaties, and diplomatic correspondence in both local newspapers and separately edited books. In addition, the system of open diplomacy established press services in each Ministry of Foreign Affairs of European countries to disseminate certain information. Finally, the open diplomacy created a parliamentary control over governmental diplomatic activities.
However, few politicians and diplomats can answer the question of which events served as the reasons for Wilson’s statements and for establishment of the open diplomacy. The reasons turn out to be found in the cases relative to the publication of secret diplomatic documents happened in European countries during the period 1917-1919.
How Nikolai Markin and Woodrow Wilson undermined the Old and Secret Diplomacy
In November 1917, the government of Bolsheviks unexpectedly published all the secret diplomatic treaties and correspondence of tsarist Russia. A group of “editors” was led by Nicolai Markin, who made a great work. He retrieved, deciphered, and edited more than one hundred secret diplomatic documents by himself. Initially, Markin published the part of documents in Bolshevik newspapers. Since December 1917, the secret documents were published as seven volumes called Compilation of Secret Documents from the Archive of the former Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Traditional diplomacy, existed then, has never known such a radical move conducted by any entity. The Great Britain, France, Germany, the United States and Russia had efficiently prevented any leaks by releasing the volumes of documents called Blue Books, Yellow Books, White Books, Foreign Relations of the United States, and Orange Books, respectively. Selecting and editing its documents, the global diplomatic system had satisfied the interest of the educated segment of public, who concerned in international politics. Since the end of the First World War, this system of communication between the public and governments encountered with the first and huge leak of diplomatic documents.
In contrast to the current case relative to WikiLeaks, Nicolai Markin published certain authentic secret treaties but not only diplomatic reports. Markin released, for example, a secret treaty called the Sykes-Picot Treaty of 1916 which stipulated a division of the Ottoman Empire by the Great Britain, France, and Russia. Another secret treaty said about the alliance between Russia and Japan against expansionist intentions of both the European countries and the United States of America in China. In addition, the new Russian government published a great many sensitive diplomatic memoranda with critical comments about European and American ambassadors accredited in Russia.
The publication of the Russian secret diplomatic documents produced certain impression in Europe and in the United States. The newspapers of the Great Britain and France provided excerpts from the diplomatic correspondence and treaties. The parliaments of these countries initiated hearings on the secret diplomatic activities of their governments raised by Bolsheviks. A response to this leak from the governmental circles in Europe and opponents of the Bolsheviks inside Russia remind the response to the current case relative to WikiLeaks: the documents contained nothing new. The New York Times wrote that “The publication of the secret documents at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs aroused no sensation. The substance of most of them was known beforehand. <…>…and the crowd, ignorant of geography and incapable of understanding diplomatic style, will simply be bored and bewildered by multiplicity of documents published in the Bolsheviki press.” (NYT, November 26, 1917).
After this disclosure Germany, being defeated and excluded from the European diplomacy, decided to publish, like the Bolsheviks, certain diplomatic correspondence. First documents began appearing in Berlin’s newspapers, notably Berliner Tageblatter, since January 1918. Later, the Weimar government established so-called Kriegsschuldreferat (War Guilt Division) in the Foreign Office. This Division published voluminous books titled the Grosse Politik that contained diplomatic correspondence between the German and other European states relative to the beginning of the First World War. These documents, carefully selected by the Weimar government, showed that the governments of the Great Britain, France, Italy, and Russia should assume their responsibility for the beginning the war.
These publications compelled to follow the Great Britain, France, Austria, and Belgium. The European powers opened their diplomatic archives and began publishing a selection of their confidential documents. Moreover, nongovernmental organizations leaked secret diplomatic documents obtained from various hands in European newspapers that disclosed the European diplomacy in the pre-war period.
Finally, Woodrow Wilson proposed the new principles of open diplomacy in his address to the U.S. Congress. He called European states for the elimination of secret diplomacy and articulated his famous statement that “Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.” Specialists in the field of Diplomacy Studies argue that this and other points articulated by the President were determined not only by Wilson’s idealism and by new aims of American global diplomacy but also by the disclosures happened in Europe.
Woodrow Wilson’s ideas and the leaks led the foundation for establishment of the open diplomacy, which dominates in our world today. Such new diplomatic structures as the League of Nations and later the United Nations and such new diplomatic notions as multilateral diplomacy, two-track diplomacy, public diplomacy, mediation diplomacy, and the diplomacy of non-state entities became common parts of world politics.
The new diplomacy allowed the public to obtain to some extent knowledge about what a government was doing in the field of international politics through mass-media, publication of diplomatic documents, press-releases, data compiled by various global and regional organizations, and, finally, the web-pages of agencies responsible for implementation of foreign policy. In addition, open diplomacy gave a voice to both new groups and states in the system of global diplomacy marginalized earlier.
WikiLeaks and Live diplomacy
However, this system of open diplomacy became obsolete due to existence and power of Internet community. At the end of the 19 century through the early 20 century, the circulation of printed mass-media created a segment of educated public which demanded an open diplomacy in terms of a parliamentary control, an access to any documents, and a role of non-state organizations in international relations. All these mediums effectively provided the societies with information of the diplomatic activities of governments. However, these channels of communication cannot satisfy the public, who exploited both computers and the Internet.
Today, the spreading of the Internet has globally formed the segment of public which demands a new diplomacy in terms of its access to governmental diplomatic activities in real time. The phenomenon of WikiLeaks has demonstrated that public is put aside from those layers of diplomatic activities of governments which is running by means of cyberspace but without control and participation of public, who uses the Internet.
Instead of the open diplomacy, which goes out of date due to the development of net technologies, a Live diplomacy will therefore take place.
Live diplomacy will connect, first, the governments of all the counties within the Internet through communications and, second, public and governmental diplomatic activities in real time. The diplomatic practice will finally use the Internet as global fora or a virtual, interactive, and global diplomatic gate which will link up states, problems, negotiators, and, moreover, will invite the public to make a contribution to the resolution of diplomatic problems in terms of real time. The The State Department moves in this direction. But the American digital diplomacy and its innovative projects as i-diplomacy, tech@state, Opinion Space 3.0. and etc. mostly connect the foreign public with the American government rather than foreign governments and American diplomats in real time.
Finally, a new generation of diplomats, who were born in the period of complete computerization will not be able to resolve any diplomatic question without the digital technologies. This generation will more often negotiate in social media than in traditional rooms located somewhere in Ministries of Foreign Affairs. this Live diplomacy encourage social networks to become the primary methods of negotiations and engagement policy. Those officials who exploit the well known social networks to engage the autocratic states into a dialogue have known that the Internet accelerates the policy of engagement. This engagement in real time will make some diplomatic reports be valueless in terms of their confidentiality. The diplomatic correspondence, comments, and diplomatic activities per se will be therefore posted in real time in the net.
Summing up, the phenomenon of WikiLeaks does not undermine either global or American diplomacy. Quit contrary, this phenomenon will establish the Live diplomacy, when the ninety percent of diplomatic communications will go through the Internet in real time and most of diplomatic correspondence will be an open data base, but only ten percent of all the diplomatic activities remain confidential. The only question is to find a politician similar to Woodrow Wilson whose political will would connect the new demands of the public with the statecraft.