JANUARY FEBRUARY 2015
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
BY EDWARD MARKS
ost countries provide profes-
sional education for their
diplomats, and some operate
establishments speci cally
for that purpose. Few of us would claim
that the Department of State or any other
U.S. foreign a airs agency provides the
equivalent with any degree of seriousness
or comprehensiveness. Our Foreign Ser-
vice Institute, for all its virtues (and our
fond memories), is essentially a training,
not an educational, institution.
However, there are signs of grow-
ing interest in diplomacy education,
expressed, for example, in a paper the
American Foreign Service Association
recently submitted to the Quadrennial
Diplomacy and Development Review
drafting team. If that proposal is pursued,
we may yet see a serious program of
professional education put in place for
America’s professional diplomats.
First, though, we need to reach agree-
ment on what diplomacy means.
much confusion about the concept—and
not just among lay people, but among its
practitioners, as well. Part of this derives
from the fact that English is a tricky
language, requiring a good deal of care to
ensure that what is said is what is meant.
Even at the level of single words, misun-
derstandings can occur, given that words
often have multiple meanings.
A good example is the word “diplo-
Edward Marks spent 40 years in the U.S. Foreign Service, including an as-
signment as ambassador to Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde. A senior men-
tor at various military institutions, Ambassador Marks currently serves as
a retiree representative on the AFSA Governing Board, a member of the
American Diplomacy board and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at George
macy”—which, in addition to its formal
reference to a specialized activity of gov-
ernments, has come to denote personal
qualities involving pleasing manners.
Even in the context of its original mean-
ing, there is much confusion among sev-
eral terms that many people erroneously
believe are synonyms for diplomacy: e.g.,
foreign a airs and foreign policy.
Using some fairly standard dictionary
de nitions, we nd that “foreign a airs”
means “matters having to do with inter-
national relations and with the interests
of the home country in foreign countries.”
e term “foreign policy” introduces a
further distinction: it means “the diplo-
matic policy of a nation in its interactions
with other countries.”
In contrast, diplomacy is generally
de ned as “the art and practice of con-
ducting negotiations between nations”
in order to implement those polices and
pursue those interests.
A Semantic Overlap
is gives us a nice progression from
the general subject (foreign a airs) to a
speci c manifestation (foreign policy),
and on to implementation (diplomacy).
But that leads, in turn, to another poten-
tial source of confusion.
In the policy context, each govern-
ment has its own diplomacy. But in the
operational sense, diplomacy also refers
to the conduct of business between and
among governments, carried out through
bureaucratic institutions and processes.
Or, to put it another way, the former is
loosely intended to refer to a country’s
“foreign policy,” while the latter concerns
the activity of a country’s foreign policy
Obviously, these terms and what they
e continuing and
inevitably intimate relationship between
foreign policy and diplomacy—between
the objective and the means—ensures
they can never be completely separated,
at least in the mind of the general pub-
lic. But there are fundamental di er-
ences between them.
For instance, most Americans would
probably agree that U.S. foreign policy
includes support for democratic govern-
ments; consequently, it is appropriate for
our diplomats to pursue activities that
support democratic governments. Yet
that objective is a comparatively recent
addition to our foreign policy structure.
For most of our history, John Quincy
Adams’ 1821 declaration that the United
States “does not go abroad in search of
monsters to destroy” was a more accurate
representation of American diplomacy.
In any case, as we know, many other
governments do not include democracy
promotion in their foreign policy; nor do
their diplomats pursue such activities or
work with those who do.
Diplomacy is the instrument of com-
the message commu-
nicated. George Kennan, who thought
about his profession as seriously as he
did about foreign a airs and foreign
policy, noted: “ is is the classic function
of diplomacy: to e ect the communica-
tions between one’s own government and
other governments or individuals abroad,
and to do this with maximum accuracy,
imagination, tact and good sense.”