«Introduction Diplomats often find international relations (IR) books strange. If they read - or more likely reread (as many Western diplomats have ...»
Seabrooke begins to answer that question in his analysis of the outsourcing of diplomacy from governments, NGOs, and las to private actors. He distinguishes between traditional diplomatic mediation and brokering, the later involving market logics and the creation of new information.81 Seabrooke's distinction hinges on the assumption that traditional diplomats are mediators who do not "actively create new information problems at the national and international levels.,,82 Following this argument, consultancy groups such as Independent Diplomat may increase the heterogeneity of diplomatic actors, but
not necessarily change diplomacy as a practice of representation and mediation (because arguably that's what diplomats do). Seabrooke concludes that outsourcing can help keep politically sensitive topics secret.83 Indeed, outsourcing provides a perfect way of avoiding domestic scrutiny and legal responsibility.84 It also makes it possible for diplomats to enter into a tricky game to simultaneously allow international cooperation and communicate a sense of sovereignty to the domestic audience. Diplomacy and diplomats are deeply involved in everything from humanitarian work to economic consultancy.
Hurd shows how international law and foreign policy are mutually constitutive: legal resources exist by virtue of being used by states to justify their policies, and state poliCies depend on a legal justification.85 This view of international law as a political and strategic product, which shapes future negotiations (rather than an ordered system), has shaped insights in a range of academic fields, including postcolonial and development studies86 and historical international relations.87 However, diplomatic scholars have hitherto not shared such critical views of international law and governance. Perhaps they uncritically accept the diplomatic self-narrative: diplomats "grease the wheels" without ever becoming greasy themselves.
Neumann notes that "diplomacy is about the formulation and pursuit of national interests, and it is about systems maintenance.,,88 Yet, as Neumann and the other contributors show, the pursuit of national interests is more complicated than IR usually admits. But so is the international system that diplomats help maintain. It is also not a sta ble, unchanging system. In fact, system maintenance has evolved, partly under the radar of public attention, to governance. Diplomacy is still focused on living together in difference, but this life together - in its Ibid.
Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen and Rebecca Adler-Nissen, "Introduction to 8' Sovereignty Games," in Rebecca Adler-Nissen and Thomas GammeltoftHansen, eds., Sovereignty Games: Instrumentalizing State Sovereignty in Europe and Beyond (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).
85 Ian Hurd, Chapter 1, this volume.
S. Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Intemational Law from Below: Development, Social Movements and Third World Resistance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).
87 Stephen Hobden and John M. Hobson, cds., Historical Sociology of Intemational RelatiOlls (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).
ss Iver1'leumann, Chapter 5, this volume.
Conclusion multilateral and networked forms - has become increasingly demanding for all parties involved. According to Sharp, the modern diplomat moves away from representing the notion of a sovereign state toward engineering new international institutions.89 As a consequence, "representation - of sovereigns, interests, or ideas - has been replaced by metaphors of constructing and building by which issues were to be managed and problems was to be solved.,,90.
This leaves us with a question: who become the losers in this struggle? What ideas, projects, and groups are marginalized when diplomats engage in forum talks, build new institutions, outsource, and engage in military diplomacy? In demonstrating diplomats' ability to not just represent but also produce world politics, this book has been more silent on those that diplomats get to govern, from Iranian civilians to HIV-positive homosexuals in Africa. Moreover, it has not addressed situations where diplomacy is excluded, silenced, or disempowered in world politics (beyond when it is strategically outsourced or when diplomatic tasks are shared with others). Yet, given the potential of the relational approach to address exactly such processes, this is a task that needs to be taken up in future studies. Exploring the nondiplomatic blank spots on the map will be crucial to our understanding of the diplomatic production of world politics.
Diplomacy and power: just greasing the wheels?
The second challenge to the relational approach adopted in this book concerns the way in which questions of power and responsibility become obscure. 91 To see how this plays out, let us return to the Sharp, "Who Needs Diplomats?"; Kelley observes a move from "diplomacy as an institution".to "diplomacy as a behavior"; see John Robert Kelley, "The New Diplomacy: Evolution of a Revolution. Dil"6A.8ej & Sr8t~," Diplomacy & Statecraft, 21(2), 2010, 288.
Sharp in an earlier piece also called "Who Needs Diplomats" writes about the dilemma of diplomats being I 00 percent true to the sending state or diplomats being "ambitious internationalists" who act so detached from the state that their action is not authoritative for their se-nding state anymore; see Paul Sharp, "Who Needs Diplomats? The Prohlems of Diplomatic Representation," l"ternational Journal, 52(4),1997,610.
For another version of this argument about power and diplomatic studies, see Rebecca Adler-Nissen, "Just Greasing the Wheels? Mediating Difference or the Evasion of Power and Responsibility in Diplomacy," The Hague Journal of Diplomacy, 10(2), 2015.
Rebecca Adler-Nissen conversation with my MFA colleague about the gap between theory and practice. What did my colleague mean with "being within target"?
It is a way of saying that the foreign service is merely the skilled interpreter of a gut feeling, diplomats try to "sense" or "embody" the national interest. As Sending notes, whereas diplomats simply "manage frictions" as professional strangers, "humanitarjans can be said to share a substantive commitment that cuts across territorial units";
they act as professional friends.92 In other words, diplomats are messengers, but the substance is defined somewhere else and by someone else (the minister, the line ministry, or an external consultant).
However, this argument is based on a fiction of a substantive national interest that can be identified and possessed. This fiction, of course, is necessary for most forms of diplomatic negotiations, but it does not always have the kind of vitalism or societal backing that most IR theories implicitly assume. Much of what is promoted as "national interests" is never (and has never been) discussed in parliamentary assemblies or among government ministers as the "information asymmetry" that Pouliot identifies also reveals. Nonetheless, even when they are deeply implicated in global governanceprojects, diplomats still pass as messengers.
This self-understanding as mediator and messenger - rather than manager and policy producer - can have almost perverse effects. I recall a discussion in the Danish MFA on the ED's response to the refugee crisis following the international intervention in Libya in March 201l.
I was working in the MFA when theArab Spring erupted. (It was not called" Arab Spring" internally in the ministry because everybody was aware of the important differences between the processes in the North African countries). Whereas the Ministry of Refugee, Immigration, and Integration Affairs called for a leview of visa possibilities for selected groups of refugees from Libya, the MFA concentrated on finding a position that could balance domestic concerns and the median position among the ED member states - our partners.
When I asked for a clarification of the MFA's position on the refugee crisis, the response from my superior was that "we follow governmental policy." But the governmental policy had yet to be defined, and the MFA was a party to the negotiations on how to handle the refugee situation. In the end, the Danish foreign minister was equipped with the
Ole Jacob Sending, Chapter 9, this volume.
following speech notes for the Council of Foreign Ministers' meeting:
"We support that the general visa dialogue continues with Southern neighbours. Still too early to consider negotiations on visa facilitation and visa liberalization." So we would just go with the flow. This is illustrative of what Neumann identifies as how "system maintainers experience themselves as minor players.,,93'lt is, hpwever, also a very comfortable position because one can pretend that one is not taking sides.
Yet, every MFA across the world has strategic departments and policy offices handling everything from the Middle East to development policies or international law and human rights. Over the years, these MFA offices and departments hav:e developed their own takes on these issues that they deal with on a routine basis. For instance, it is likely that every MFA in the world has its own position (and institutional memory) on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Of course, MFAs do produce policy. However, the way that scholars describe diplomacy, it is always about the process and bargaining tactics, but seldom about the production of ideas and policies. This book has begun addressing the ideological and practical work that goes into the diplomatic making of world politics and the engineering of new international institutions, using terms such as "collective intentionality," "commitment," "pure love-ethics," and "the international administration of war."
More broadly, then, the implication of the relational approach adopted in this book is that diplomacy cannot keep the innocence or detachment that some of its practitioners (and theorists) would want it to keep. This book has problematized the understanding of diplomacy as a third culture. Diplomats contribute to defense planning and organization,94 war making,95 humanitarianism,96 conflict management and mediation,97 polity building and multilateral governance,98 international law making,99 and economic reordering.lOo Diplomacy is deeply entangled in the world it helps constitute. On the one hand, as several contributors show, it is becoming militarized to the degree that
it becomes absurd to define it as the resolution of conflict by peaceful means. On the other hand, "when conflict is diplomatized, it changes the conflict, but it also changes diplomacy."lol The editors note: "As far as authority is concerned, what sets diplomats apart from other types of actors is not thatthey exclusively engage in representation, but that they claim - usually with success - jurisdictional control over it." 102 In other words, diplomats have the ability to officially represent - and act on behalf of - a state or an organization or institution of some sort. However, as we also learn,.this is only part of the story. Diplomats keep the conversation going, but in doing so they also help.shape it. What makes diplomacy particular is not just that it focuses on formal representation, but that it sees itself as responsible for managing relations, yet often sneaks away from responsibility for the content of these relations. It is now time that the power-diplomacy nexus is explored in more depth/03 and this requires further research.
If diplomacy is as deeply implicated in the making of world politics as this volume suggests, it not only questions IR theoretical understandings of what drives international relations, but it also challenges the idea that foreign policy is decided by (more or less democratically accountable) governments. So how is the'diplomatic making of world politics to be held accountable?
Adopting a relationalist view, the answer cannot be framed in terms of a principal-agent logic -whereby accountability equals control with diplomats depicted as power holders. A relational view of power does not see power as a resource or a substance, one that different individuals or states possess in varying quantities. Instead, power is conceptualiz,ed as productive energy that simultaneously shapes and is shaped by social interactions. To address the power involved in the diplomatic making of world politics requires us to trace power in practice, that is, the emergent power, which plays out as a neverending struggle for recognition as competent.104 Rather than seeking to attribute power in a reified entity - an actor such as a state or political leader- power can be studied by exploring the actual production of world politics.
Iver Neumann, Chapter 5, this volume. Introduction, this volume.
Sharp, "Diplomacy, Diplomatic Studies, and the ISA."
Rebecca Adler-Nissen and Vincent Pouliot, "Power in Practice: Negotiating the International Intervention in Libya," European Journal of International Relations, 20(4), 2014, 889-911.
ConclusionDiplomats and mainstream IR theory have been mutually estranged.
Many diplomats find IR scholarship problematic because it presents their job in abstract and reductionist terms. IR theory seldom takes diplomatic knowledge and practice seriously. Diplomacy, according to many realist and liberalist IR scholars, is doneby unitary, sometimes even rational, states with more or less fixed national interests that determine negotiations. Alternatively, constructivists. interpret diplomacy as inter-action with mutual signaling of values and identities.
Both the image of billiard balls bumping into one another and the image of continuous signaling are far from how diplomats experience world politics. Meanwhile, IR theorists complain about the anecdotal character of diplomatic history and ambassadors' memoirs. Basically, diplomatic self-narratives do not reflect the deeper mechanisms of international relations. lOS This is where this volume provides a richer view of how diplomacy works in practice, by snowing that diplomacy is much more than the mediation of estrangement.