My post below on the proliferation of useless ‘diplomacies’ prompts Shaun Riordan into further action:

… Simply asking what diplomats do, and then assigning the title of diplomat to anyone else doing it (or describing as “diplomacy” anything where people are doing diplomat-like things) won’t wash.

Many people gather information, communicate, represent and negotiate (I am not sure what “reproduce international society” means). Some people do all of them, but without being diplomats. For example, private sector lobbying companies do all of these things, but without being diplomats. Most multinational corporations do these things, but without being diplomats.

If we want to apply the term “diplomat” to non-government actors without emptying the term of all meaning, we have to start thinking about what it might be like to be a diplomat. It is not just what diplomats do, but the diplomat-like way in which they do them, or the diplomat-like way in which they see the world while doing them.

Yes. Spot on. What does a ‘diplomatic’ approach eg to climate issues involve?

Maybe you think that looking at the question thusly succumbs to traditional fustiness about what ‘diplomacy’ really IS. The whole point is that NGOs and activists are inventing a new form of diplomacy! And like them I’m really cool because I’ve spotted that!

Well. Are they? Who’s deciding? How would we in fact tell? What specifically new and different is happening? How are the actual decisions reached? Maybe that is not changing much, if at all?

The key question then becomes not “is a non-governmental actor doing the same things as a diplomat?”, but “is the non-governmental actor doing it in the same way as a diplomat?” …

I suspect that only diplomacy scholars fear diplomacy becoming anachronistic. Real world diplomats are too busy managing the changes in global affairs (they were, after all, crucial to the Paris Climate Change Accords).

The greater danger is that Diplomatic Studies is losing the link between diplomacy, strategy and policy objectives.

Hmm. That’s not a ‘danger’. It’s the whole point!

Diplomacy as practiced is not some kind moral activity aimed at international peace and understanding. It is an approach to securing policy objectives established by the authorised decision makers.

Oh so cynical. But true.

Nonetheless, are we seeing the rise of ‘unauthorised’ decision-makers putting all that traditional way of doing things under meaningful pressure? Or is it all just noisier, bigger more-of-the-same?

[Diplomacy] combines in strategy with other approaches (e.g. warfare, economic or cyber coercion). This will not change if we accept that non-governmental actors are “doing diplomacy”: their authorised decision-makers will similarly set policy objectives which their diplomacy will be deployed to promote. The promotors of the “new diplomacies”, by treating them as ends in themselves, break this link to broader strategies and objectives.

I know that the same thing could be said about many other things (even including most embassies and *gulps* former ambassadors?). But if every single Diplomatic Studies faculty on Earth was smashed by a ruthless bolt of lightning and not replaced, would it make a scrap of difference to anyone other than those ‘analysts’ now working there who claim to be contributing something new and interesting, but really aren’t?