Saturday 21 Jul 2018 | 10:01 | SYDNEY
Saturday 21 Jul 2018 | 10:01 | SYDNEY

Behind scarves: Reforming diplomacy


Fergus Hanson


25 August 2009 08:59

David Rothkopf had a great piece in the Washington Post recently. He lays into the caricatures of Secretary of State Clinton and commentary on her weight, hair, choice of scarves etc. What this chitter-chatter masks, he argues, is that 'the secretary has quietly begun rethinking the very nature of diplomacy and translating that vision into a revitalized State Department'.

As the Lowy Institute Blue Ribbon Panel report, Australia's Diplomatic Deficit, found earlier this year, Australia also faces the challenge of rethinking its approach to diplomacy.

To bring about this change in the US, Clinton has brought in some key new staff members. Anne-Marie Slaughter is now head of policy planning. Slaughter's A New World Order is all over the decentralisation of foreign policy and the need to reconceive the way we think about it. Reflecting this she is quoted in the article as saying:

We envision getting not just a new group of states around a table, but also building networks, coalitions and partnerships of states and nonstate actors to tackle specific problems...To do that, our diplomats are going to need to have skills that are closer to community organizing than traditional reporting and analysis. New connecting technologies will be vital tools in this kind of diplomacy.

Other officials brought in by Clinton include Alec Ross — 'one of the leaders of Obama's technology policy team' — as senior adviser for innovation. Bill Clinton-era budget chief Jack Lew will be trying to claw back money for diplomacy — someone DFAT must wish it had for the tight upcoming budget negotiations — and former Goldman Sachs International vice chairman Robert Hormats has come in to run economic issues while Judith McHale, former chief executive of Discovery Communications, is running public diplomacy.

Aid reform is also on the cards with 'Lew, Slaughter and the acting head of the US Agency for International Development...leading an effort to rethink foreign aid with the new Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, an initiative modeled on the Pentagon's strategic assessments and designed to review State's priorities.'

Back home it is hard to imagine quite so much innovation disturbing the peace of the R.G. Casey building.

Photo by Flickr user christhedunn, used under a Creative Commons license.