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The Naked Diplomat: Understanding Power and Politics in the Digital Age | Foreign Affairs Latin America

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April 12, 2018 •
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Matthias Erlandsen


The Naked Diplomat: Understanding Power and Politics in the Digital Age, Tom Fletcher, London, William Collins Books, 2016, 312 pp. $16.99

If it’s about learning the basics of public diplomacy, former UK Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher wrote an interesting short book, The Naked Diplomat: Understanding Power and Politics in the Digital Agewith a nod to Jamie Oliver’s text The Naked Chef. Fletcher, who acted as a foreign policy adviser to three British Prime Ministers between 2007 and 2011, published this volume in the same vein as The future of the #Diploma (2016) by Philip Seib, The Digital Diplomacy Handbook (2014) by Antonio Deruda or Digital Diplomacy: Theory and Practice (2015) by Corneliu Bjola and Marcus Holmes.

The text is divided into three parts, as if about the past, present and future of the diplomatic career. The first six-chapter article focuses on the history of public diplomacy and playfully explains that the first view of the discipline is as old as the earliest forms of writing. Fletcher always emphasizes technological advances and their services to diplomatic tasks, such as when the telegraph was seen as a threat to national security and interest because it could be intercepted by third parties. Sir Harold Nicholson said i On Diplomacy (1961) that “the telephone is a dangerous little instrument, not good for diplomacy.” Fletcher points out that while almost all communication methods were seen as dangerous tools in the old days of traditional diplomacy, when public diplomacy emerged, diplomats changed their minds and decided to experiment with them, in the context of the innovative idea. to open questions of international relations to the opinion of the general public.

To describe the diplomat, Fletcher paraphrases the poet Robert Frost: “A diplomat is a man who always remembers a woman’s birthday, but never her age.” He also explains the four stereotypes of diplomats: the Ferrero Rocher ambassador, the one who uses tableware and fine products to entertain his guests; the amateur gentleman, who is portrayed very well in the TV series Yes, Prime Minister; the treacherous Machiavelli, a folkloric example of a murderer who will do anything to achieve his goal, and the hopeless but well-intentioned fool, who always comes when the most important decision has already been made and disappoints all companions who require consular assistance. Fletcher loses himself in idealized romantic images of diplomats while presenting the current profile of foreign service officers.

The second part – made up of seven chapters – is dedicated to the discussion of public policy in the interconnected world of the 21st century and covers broad topics, such as how governments must face new challenges or deal with hard and soft power. The third part includes chapters 14 to 18, which are short and give an overview of the work of diplomats, with an analysis of who uses and owns the digital terrain or what role a citizen diplomat should play.

As well as being an entertaining and lightly written book, which makes it a good read for academics and the general public interested in overseas service, i The Naked Diploma The author raises three important questions for the 21st century: should one country’s diplomat intervene in a third country’s war, and if so, on what terms? How do states create institutions that serve only one purpose for them, such as the United Nations, and how do they compete with the interests of the great powers? And how to solve the problems of inequality in the world? If these questions and problems are examined from the diplomat’s point of view, the reader will be able to change their stereotypes about this character.

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