In 1949 the Vice Marshall of the Diplomatic Corps advised new British diplomats that they “should always take the option that is more pompous and old fashioned”. He might have been right then, though somehow I doubt it. He is certainly wrong now.
At a moment of rapid transformation of other trades, ours retains customs first constructed around the diplomatic encounters of the Renaissance. Here are seven changes that would make us leaner and more competitive in the digital century.
1. Junk the jargon. I’ve written before about meaningless diplatitudes such as “discussion of regional issues” or “matters of mutual concern”. Diplomats talk about “being unable to remain indifferent” to human rights violations – a phrase that drips indifference. There are ambassadors who could write of a mugging that “he took all my possessions, but the atmospherics were warm”. Just sometimes there is a place for obfuscation. But we should replace the jargon with more…
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