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Diplomacy in the Digital Age

Diplomacy in the Digital Age

Essays in Honour of Ambassador Allan Gotlieb
also available: Hardcover
tagged : diplomacy, essays
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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.
Like authority, sin, Christmas, and winter, secrecy isn’t what it used to be. Secrecy has lost its sanctity.
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.
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.
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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Crossing Borders

Crossing Borders

Essays in Honour of Ian H. Angus
also available: eBook
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Royal Progress

Royal Progress

Canada's Monarchy in the Age of Disruption
edited by D. Michael Jackson
foreword by Margaret McCain
also available: Paperback
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Introduction: The Crown in a Time of Transition
D. Michael Jackson

Queen Elizabeth II is approaching a record-breaking seven decades as sovereign of Canada, the United Kingdom, and fourteen other Commonwealth realms. This book considers how the monarchy may evolve in Canada when her reign eventually comes to an end. Our contributors look at the historic relationship between the Indigenous Peoples and the Crown, the offices of the governor general and the lieutenant governors, the succession to the throne, and the likely shape of the reign of the next monarch. How will the venerable institution of constitutional monarchy adapt to changing circumstances in twenty-first-century Canada?

Royal Progress: Canada’s Monarchy in the Age of Disruption is a deliberately paradoxical title. Can progress and disruption coexist? Certainly the third decade of the twenty-first century may be termed an age of disruption. Yet a theme running through the essays in this book is the continuity of the monarchical institution — its sheer staying power and adaptability, which have earned it the sobriquets of “shapeshifting Crown” and “chameleon Crown.” The authors of some of the essays recognize republican objections to the British-based constitutional monarchy in Canada. They respond by emphasizing two cardinal points: (1) the Canadian monarchy is here to stay for the foreseeable future because it is entrenched in the Constitution; and (2) the Canadian version of the Crown, if properly understood, supported, and adapted, is a distinct asset to Canada’s political and social culture.

On this basis, the authors explore the positive roles the Canadian Crown can, does, and should fulfill, and changes that would facilitate the “progress” of the institution. These range from deepening and extending the link between the Crown and the Indigenous Peoples to thoroughly reforming the way viceregal representatives are chosen. Along the way, the authors offer specific proposals for strengthening the provincial dimension of the Crown, enhancing the relationship with the sovereign, and understanding the basic philosophy of constitutional monarchy. The final chapter, “Heritage and Innovation,” neatly sums up the thrust of the book.

The Indigenous Dimension
In part one, “The Crown and Indigenous Peoples,” four authors, two of them Indigenous, explore the meaning and potential of this centuries-old relationship. For them, it involves not just political and constitutional arrangements, but a profound, almost mystical, rapport with the sovereign, and with the principles and ideals she represents.

Respected Six Nations scholar Rick W. Hill Sr. and Nathan Tidridge, a perceptive observer of First Nations–Crown matters, hearken as far back as the seventeenth-century encounters of French and Dutch settlers with the First Nations in eastern North America. Negotiated through “wampum diplomacy,” peace agreements between Indigenous nations and European monarchs allowed “radically different cultures to be incorporated into the complex networks and relationships that already existed between the various Indigenous nations.” English, then British, settlers quickly picked up on the practice, which evolved into the rich and complex Crown-Indigenous rapport that continues to this day in Canada. For Hill and Tidridge, it is symbolized by the “Silver Covenant Chain of Peace,” representing mutual respect and self-rule. This covenant chain protocol, they say, is not simply a colourful relic of the past: it is equally relevant today as an instrument to foster reconciliation. Of this, the historic gathering of Canadian viceregal representatives with Indigenous leaders in 2019 at the Chapel Royal of Massey College, Toronto, was a poignant illustration.

The leader who gave the keynote address at this gathering, National Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations, contributes the next chapter. He focuses on the history and intent of the treaties between the Crown and the First Nations. These constitute the “fundamental relationship, the foundation for this country called Canada. And that relationship was built on peaceful coexistence and mutual respect — to mutually share and benefit from these lands.” Bellegarde emphasizes the essential role of the sovereign in the treaty process. While elected politicians come and go, the Crown is always there to symbolize and embody the principles and ideals of Canada’s relationship with the Indigenous Peoples.

That relationship is not just one of governance or even peaceful coexistence, however. For Perry Bellegarde, the treaties are more than negotiated agreements: they are sacred covenants. “Our treaties are covenants with God, Creator, and all of creation.” As Canadians face major challenges such as climate change and biodiversity, the First Nations can contribute the wisdom and experience of their world view to their non-Indigenous partners, developing with them a holistic vision of environmental stewardship. The national chief concludes that as “the direct representatives of the Queen and therefore the holders of a sacred trust on behalf of the Crown,” the viceregal persons “are the caretakers and witnesses to this immutable relationship.”

Appropriately, the third chapter in this part of the book is written by a former viceregal representative. Judith Guichon has spent much of her life close to the land: “I am at the core a farmer and an environmentalist.” Perry Bellegarde’s notion of the treaties as sacred covenants with the natural world therefore strikes a strong chord, and she notes that this view is shared by the Prince of Wales, heir to the throne. During her time as lieutenant governor of British Columbia, Guichon gave high priority to the provincial Crown’s interaction with the First Nations, which, she affirms, needs to be characterized by “respect, relationships, and responsibility.” She concurs with the authors of the preceding essays that the monarchy is key to the treaty relationship.

Indeed, Judith Guichon sees a parallel between monarchy and Indigenous culture: “Monarchs have a role somewhat like hereditary chiefs and elders in the First Nations communities. The monarch in our constitutional monarchy represents sober second thought and wisdom, not the next political cycle but rather enduring truths and the historical evolution of our nation through generations.”

Reviewing and Reinvigorating the Viceregal Offices
The provincial manifestation of the Crown comes to the fore in the opening chapter of part two, “The Evolving Viceregal Offices.” Fortuitously, its author is Andrew Heard, a prominent political scientist from Judith Guichon’s home province, who has written about her use of the reserve power to refuse dissolution of the legislature in British Columbia in 2017. This was in itself an illustration that viceregal powers are by no means obsolete: the lieutenant governors continue to fulfill the role of “guardians of the constitution, who may at times refuse to act on unconstitutional advice from their first ministers and cabinets.”

The path of Canadian lieutenant governors toward the status of full representatives of the monarch, provincial equivalents of the governor general, has been long and circuitous and, in Heard’s view, is still incomplete. At the time of Confederation the lieutenant governors were deemed not to be representatives of the Queen but merely federal officers appointed by and reporting officially to the governor general, but in reality reporting to the prime minister. Now they have come to embody a coordinate provincial Crown. But only to a point: Heard enumerates a number of instances, both symbolic and constitutional, where the lieutenant governors remain subordinate to the governor general. He offers some intriguing suggestions of how these anomalies could be overcome.

Regardless of their nominal status, the lieutenant governors are key figures in their jurisdictions, and not only in constitutional matters. “Viceregal officers are supposed to personify the provincial society and polity as figures who are above politics and who can appeal to all in their community,” says Heard. 3 He calls for a more effective way of selecting lieutenant governors, who must be politically neutral while in office. For better or worse, the appointment is entirely in the hands for the federal prime minister. When Conservative Stephen Harper occupied that position, he established a committee to advise on viceregal appointments. Despite its positive track record, his Liberal successor, Justin Trudeau, scrapped the process. For Andrew Heard, this reversion to political, sometimes overtly partisan, appointments, is regrettable.

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