The Future Of Diplomacy by Philip Seib

The Blurb On The Back:

Never before has diplomacy evolved at such a rapid pace.  It is being transformed into a global participatory process by new media tools and new empowered publics.  “Public diplomacy” has taken center-stage as diplomats strive to reach and influence audiences that are better informed and more assertive than any in the past.

In this crisp and insightful analysis, Philip Seib, one of the world’s top experts on media and foreign policy, explores the future of diplomacy in our hyper-connected world.  He shows how the focus of diplomatic practice has shifted away from the closed-door, top-level negotiations of the past.  Today’s diplomats are obliged to respond instantly to the latest crisis fuelled by a YouTube video or Facebook post.  This has given rise to a more open and reactive approach to global problem-solving with consequences that are difficult to predict.  Drawing on examples from the Iran nuclear negotiations to the humanitarian crisis in Syria, Seib argues persuasively for this versatile and flexible public-facing diplomacy; one that makes strategic use of both new media and traditional diplomatic processes to manage the increasingly complex relations between states and new non-state political actors in the twenty-first century.  

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Philip Seib is a professor of journalism at USC and in this fascinating book he describes how international diplomacy has moved away from a secretive, behind closed doors activity that the public are unaware of until the diplomats are ready to announce to an activity that’s increasingly carried out within and informed by the social media arena, necessitating a different range of skills and a more open approach.

I was particularly interested in the chapters where Seib describes how countries use cultural diplomacy to advance their agendas by encouraging public engagement with their language and culture but his brief summary of the history of the effect of media on public engagement with international issues is also interesting, particularly in its examination of the effect of television as is his discussion of the growing role played by on-governmental international actors such as Medicine Sans Frontier.

My only issue with the book is one of timing.  First published in 2016, Seib’s observations on the role of social media pre-date the Trump era and it would be interesting to see an update to this work to take on board the contradictory and provocative messages the current president sends out and how that effects his Secretary of State in managing foreign policy.  This is especially relevant given that one of Seib’s examples is to look at the social media announcements after the nuclear deal was struck with Iran and Trump’s most recent Twitter and official announcements have been to undo that work.  That aside, I found this a fascinating and informative read and it’s well worth a look by those interested in the subject in these volatile times.

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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