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26
JULY-AUGUST 2013
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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
The Eternal Dilemma
Diplomacy in modern terms focuses on the political and
bureaucratic process and institutions by which political enti-
ties—traditionally nation-
states, but also non-state
actors and international
organizations—establish and
manage their ofcial rela-
tions. Writing in the May 1961
Foreign Service Journal
on
“Diplomacy as a Profession,”
George Kennan declared:
“Tis is the classic function
of diplomacy: to efect the
communication between one’s own government and other gov-
ernments or individuals abroad, and to do this with maximum
accuracy, imagination, tact and good sense.”
Te diplomat is thus charged with a double task: studying
and comprehending the nature of the outside world, and com-
municating with other governments concerning his or her own
government’s interests and aspirations. As Kennan puts it, the
diplomat’s job is to be “the bearer of a view of the outside world.”
Tese sometimes con-
ficting obligations between
the amorality of the state—
especially when consciously
practicing realpolitik—and
the professional morality of
the diplomatic agent create a
murky, ethically ambiguous
situation. In a fundamen-
tal sense, the professional
diplomat cannot efectively
perform the agent’s task without acting with at least a modicum
of professional ethics.
Ironically, even an immoral government is badly served by
an immoral agent. Herein lies the ethical dilemma which often
faces the individual diplomat.
n
Because political leaders tend
to value personal loyalty, career
ofcials who introduce opinions
and information at variance
with the ofcial policy line risk
adverse consequences.