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Diplomacy in the Digital Age

Diplomacy in the Digital Age

Essays in Honour of Ambassador Allan Gotlieb
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Diplomacy functions best where it appraises and advises power, and does not attempt to substitute itself for the very real world of politics.
ROBERT BOTHWELL
 
Like authority, sin, Christmas, and winter, secrecy isn’t what it used to be. Secrecy has lost its sanctity.
ANDREW COHEN
 
The diplomatic pouch has been torn asunder by the digital age, which is characterized by immediacy, transparency, profligacy, and universality. . . . In the digital age – building on the industrial age – we move from the some to the many, from the stately to the frenetic, from command to influence, from deception to candour, and from interests to issues.
WILLIAM THORSELL
 
Open diplomacy and open policy development – building vast global networks to harness ideas and nurture support everywhere, all the time – are the hallmarks of modern diplomacy.
ARIF LALANI
 
A remarkable group of scholars, essayists, and practitioners have come together in this volume to celebrate Allan Gotlieb’s revolutionary contribution to the theory and practice of diplomacy in the last three decades of the twentieth century. They have come together to celebrate an outstanding intellect as well as a brilliant practitioner, a man who thinks lucidly and writes elegantly about diplomacy.
 
The contributors to this volume are also interested, as is Allan Gotlieb, in thinking forward about the future of diplomacy at yet another moment of significant change. Diplomacy is now being practised in the digital age. What does it mean to be a diplomat in a digitized world? What does a diplomat do differently in an age in which the information cycle spins continuously and hundreds of millions of people provide upto- date information and engage in discussion through interactive social media? We asked our contributors to look back at Allan Gotlieb’s seminal contribution in order to better understand the future.
 
This volume went to press in the aftermath of WikiLeaks and the beginning of the Arab Spring. WikiLeaks stunned the diplomatic community when it made public some of the more than a quarter million cables that it now has in its possession. Professionals worried actively about compromising sources, the threat to confidentiality, and the likely refusal of people to confide in diplomats now that there was no assurance that their identity would be protected. Secrecy, as Andrew Cohen puts it in his chapter, has lost its sanctity. How, diplomats worried, can they do their jobs, communicate confidential and valuable information, protect their sources, and provide the kind of analysis their governments need?
 
The public reaction to the leaked cables was quite different. Diplomats, people said with some surprise, are smart. “I didn’t get much new information,” one well-informed journalist told me, his voice tinged with envy and some uncertainty, “but, my God, diplomats write well.” Seasoned observers were certainly titillated by the occasional surprising morsel of gossip and entertained by some of the fripperies. Overwhelmingly, however, they were engaged and impressed by the analyses that they read. Even within the skeptical and occasionally snooty academy, colleagues grudgingly acknowledged that “these diplomats” really do provide thoughtful and incisive analyses.
 
Diplomats, in short, are not valuable because of the information they provide, but because of their authoritative knowledge and the quality of their analyses. Especially in a digital age awash in information, indeed drowning in information, knowledge and elegant analysis matter. They may matter even more than they did in the age of print, where editors traditionally assured the quality of what people read.
 
In the wake of WikiLeaks came the Arab Spring, one in a series of significant revolutionary waves in the digital age. Social media were important in helping demonstrators to organize, in feeding video to the world’s media, and in giving a platform to the protestors as they struggled against governments who were desperately trying to close off global access to disturbing pictures and stories. Al Jazeera, the Arabic television station based in Qatar, provided saturation coverage of the protest movements, but often its journalists were denied access or expelled as contestation deepened. It too relied on social media for the critical content that it needed. Diplomats, at times removed from the pitched battles in the streets, were well behind the flow of information. They were not behind, however, in the analysis their governments needed as they struggled to craft responses to rapid developments in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, and Syria.
 
In a Paris hotel room late in the evening of March 17, 2011, the top U.S. diplomat struggled to coordinate the international response to the advance of Colonel Moammar Gadhafi’s forces and the threat they posed to civilians in Benghazi, Libya. Initially opposed to any kind of military intervention, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton changed her mind after listening to some of her senior diplomatic advisers. She worked closely with the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, who had been urging a use of force to protect civilians from the vengeance of Gadhafi’s loyalists.
 
Rice worked the halls of the United Nations with classic diplomatic skills and promised the Secretary that she would get at least ten affirmative votes for a resolution that was far stronger than simply a no-fly zone. From Paris, Clinton worked to secure the support of Arab governments for the resolution that would be approved by the United Nations forty-eight hours later. It was this capacity to garner support for a strong resolution in New York at un headquarters, as well as Arab engagement that persuaded President Obama to move ahead.
 
It was very much old-school, classical diplomacy – hands-on, informal, private conversations that put together the coalition in favour of intervention in Libya. Skilled diplomats worked the phones, called in favours, and kept their political leaders informed of which country was where on what issue. They built the coalition and drafted political leaders to make the important high-level calls that were necessary to cement the deal. In the midst of a revolution that got its oxygen from social media, the protestors in Benghazi depended on the skills of professional diplomats to survive.
 
These two vignettes bookend the themes of this book. When Allan Gotlieb was sent to Washington as Canada’s ambassador three decades ago, he recognized immediately that the prevailing model of diplomacy would not be enough. Gotlieb continued to do what previous ambassadors had done, but also, as Marc Lortie tells us, vastly more. He reached out beyond the White House and the State Department to the Senate and the House of Representatives, to journalists and columnists and opinion makers, to the broad swath of people who influenced the open policy process with its many points of access in Washington. Sondra Gotlieb played a crucial part in this diplomatic transformation, becoming a Washington celebrity in her own right through her widely read column in the Washington Post and her talk-of-the-town parties.
 
How to manage the Canada-U.S. relationship remains a central question, perhaps even more complicated in the digital age than it was when the Gotliebs were in Washington. Colin Robertson looks at how the principles of Gotlieb’s diplomacy travel forward into the future. Brian Bow, Jeremy Kinsman, and David Malone engage in a lively and vigorous debate about restructuring Canada’s diplomacy as the world rebalances to include the newly rising powers of Asia and Latin America. How should Canada’s diplomats continue to pay the United States the attention it deserves but stretch to make space for Asia, Africa, and Latin America? Does the digital age enable new kinds of Canadian initiatives in parts of the world where historically Canada has not been a significant presence? Can digital platforms compensate for scarce resources? Or is Canada simply too late to a worldwide party that is well under way?
 
 

From the Hardcover edition.

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The Canadian Kingdom

The Canadian Kingdom

150 Years of Constitutional Monarchy
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Royalty and the Arts in Canada
Carolyn Harris

On February 6, 2017, Queen Elizabeth II reached her blue sapphire jubilee, having reigned for sixty-five years in the United Kingdom, Canada, and other Commonwealth realms. While the name of the Queen’s great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, became synonymous with her era, the description of the current Queen’s reign as a “new Elizabethan age” did not endure for more than a few years after her accession in 1952 and coronation in 1953. Elizabeth II has reigned over a period of such profound social, political, and cultural change that the unifying themes that will determine her historical legacy remain a matter of debate. The Queen has been praised for her roles as Head of the Commonwealth, a politically impartial constitutional monarch, the leader of a “service monarchy” devoted to philanthropy, and matriarch of a multi-generational royal family that represents the future of the dynasty.

In a 2012 biography written on the occasion of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, journalist Robert Hardman speculated that the Queen will have another lasting legacy: the “curator monarch.” Since the reign of King Henry VIII, the Queen and her predecessors have accumulated a vast collection of between seventy-five thousand and one million paintings, decorative objects, and sculptures. For centuries, these cultural treasures were accessible to a privileged few and managed by a small curatorial staff, but the Queen has ensured that the Royal Collection has become accessible to a wide international audience.

In addition to displaying items from the collection at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and Holyroodhouse, the Queen has approved touring exhibitions that have showcased the Royal Collection to aninternational audience and loaned individual pieces to museums and galleries abroad. Richard Dorment, art critic for the Daily Telegraph newspaper in Britain, praised the Queen’s expansion of public access to the Royal Collection, writing at the time of her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, “It is the Queen who set up specialist conservation studios for the care and preservation of paintings, furniture, frames, armour, textiles, ceramics, works on paper, and bookbinding. She is also renowned for her generosity in lending works of art from the Royal Collection to other institutions here and abroad.” Dorment observed that most major international exhibitions include pieces from the Royal Collection, as the Queen’s policy is to agree to all requests from reputable cultural institutions for loans of art works that are in a suitable condition to travel.

The Queen’s role as curator monarch has exerted a profound impact on Canadian art and culture, building upon centuries of patronage of Canadian artists, architects, and cultural institutions by past generations of royalty, most notably members of the royal family who resided in Canada for years at a time. A number of Canada’s past royal residents, including Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Louise and granddaughter Princess Patricia, were accomplished artists in their own right who raised the profile of Canadian galleries by founding new cultural institutions, attending events, submitting their pieces for judgment in Canadian exhibitions, and donating their work. Over the course of her reign, Queen Elizabeth II has loaned or donated art to Canadian cultural institutions and acquired works by Canadian artists for the Royal Collection, expanding the scope of royal involvement in the arts in Canada and setting precedents for future generations in the royal family.

The patronage of art and culture was part of the identity of English and French monarchs from the time of their first engagement with the lands and peoples of North America. Medieval monarchs were valued for their ability to lead troops into battle and administer justice, but a sixteenth century king or queen was also expected to preside over a cultured court frequented by artists and writers who helped shape the monarch’s image. In England, King Henry VIII and members of his family were painted by Hans Holbein, while Henry’s contemporary, King François I of France, provided Leonardo da Vinci with a residence in the Loire Valley, Clos Lucé, a short distance from the royal palace at Amboise. The artistic output of the English and French royal courts was intended for an international audience. Diplomacy between monarchs included exchanges of portraits, and artists travelled widely to seek royal patronage.

European engagement with First Nations leaders prompted early examples of royal art patronage in a Canadian context. In 1710, Queen Anne invited “the four Kings of Canada” — three Mohawk chiefs from the Iroquois Confederacy, including Peter Brant (grandfather of Joseph Brant), and a Mahican leader of the Algonquin peoples — to Britain as part of diplomatic mission to negotiate a continued alliance against France. Anne commissioned four majestic portraits of her visitors by the Dutch artist Jan Verelst, which were displayed at Kensington Palace in London until the current Queen’s reign. In 1977, when Elizabeth II toured Canada on the occasion of her Silver Jubilee, she presented the paintings to the National Archives of Canada. In 2010, the images appeared on a Canadian postage stamp to commemorate the three-hundredth anniversary of the meeting between Queen Anne and the four kings. In 2017, the paintings went on display in the new Canadian History Hall at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau.

Early visits by members of the royal family to what is now Canada focused on military matters rather than cultural patronage. The only recorded interaction between the future King William IV and an artist on the voyage of the HMS Pegasus, which visited Newfoundland and Nova Scotia in 1787 as part of a larger voyage, was an altercation with a German landscape painter in the Caribbean who offended the prince.

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Dignity, Democracy, Development

Dignity, Democracy, Development

A Citizen's Reader
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also available: Paperback
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Too Critical to Fail

Too Critical to Fail

How Canada Manages Threats to Critical Infrastructure
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