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which I consider valid for American diplomats of any rank.
After all, every member of the Foreign Service takes the same
oath, works together toward a common goal and is subject to
the same high expectation of trustworthiness.
Loyalty to Country
Kishan Rana, a retired Indian ambassador, is a prolifc
author of books about diplomacy. His considerable diplomatic
experience includes stints in the United States, where he had
a chance to observe not only American diplomats, but also
Americans and their culture. He now serves on the faculty
of DiploFoundation, a European-based institute devoted to
teaching diplomatic skills.
Rana includes a short segment on ethics in his book,
21st-Century Ambassador: A Practitioner’s Guide
Academic, 2011). In it, he approvingly quotes Sir Harold Nicol-
son’s classic 1939 work,
“Te professional diplomatist is governed by several dif-
ferent, and at times conficting, loyalties. He owes a loyalty to
his own sovereign, government minister and foreign ofce; he
owes loyalty to his own staf; he owes a form of loyalty to the
diplomatic body in the capital where he resides; he owes loy-
alty to the local expatriate community and to its commercial
interests; and he owes another form of loyalty to the govern-
ment to which he is accredited and to the minister with whom
he negotiates.”
In Rana’s view, such ties should be considered the “profes-
sional obligations” of any diplomat, which do not rise to the
level of loyalties. Still, he acknowledges, ambiguity about these
diferences can arise when a diplomat works for an epistemic
community like the United Nations or other multilateral and
intergovernmental bodies—that is, a transnational network of
knowledge-based experts who help decision-makers defne
the problems they face, identify various policy solutions and
assess the policy outcomes.
He cites the cases of national diplomats working to pro-
mote the European Union or negotiating binding, multilateral
environmental agreements. In such situations, he notes, diplo-
mats work to advance issues for the greater good—even if they
encroach on their respective countries’ sovereignty.
Loyalty to the International System
Although “My country, right or wrong” has been the
watchword of the professional diplomat ever since the era of
Richelieu, it may no longer have the same resonance in some
countries. For instance, while the authors of most of the essays
Martin Florian Herz has compiled in
Te Modern Ambassador:
Te Challenge and the Search
(Georgetown University Press,
1983) seem to subscribe to a strict interpretation of loyalty,
Hideo Kitahara, a former Japanese ambassador, has this to say:
“Ambassadors [i.e., diplomats] must certainly strive to pro-
mote their country’s national interests, but should not follow
narrowly nationalistic impulses to which people are subject
who have not made international relations their career. A good
ambassador must be a patriot—that goes without saying; but
he must always bear in mind that every country is part of an
international system, and that the future of the world depends
on at least a tolerably good functioning of that system.”
Kitahara arrives at that conclusion after describing how
during his own lifetime the world had changed dramatically,
requiring diplomacy to adapt. For that reason, he identifes the
key attribute of an ambassador as “broadmindedness,” which
he defnes as the ability to appreciate cultural diversity and to
use it to suggest efective approaches for attaining diplomatic
In other words, Kitahara is of the school that sees modern
ambassadors as being part of the policymaking process, not
merely executing directives.
Loyalty to the Sovereign
Many of the essays in
Te Modern Ambassador
discuss the
perennial question of the loyalty of diplomats to their own
governments. Tis has been a large issue in the United States
from its earliest days. Politicians often look askance at our
diplomatic corps, somehow deeming Foreign Service person-
nel “unpatriotic” when they advise new administrations about
The issue of loyalty to one’s own values
can be particularly challenging for diplomats.