The Foreign Service Journal - December 2017

24 DECEMBER 2017 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL The American Diplomatic Tradition On Oct. 26, 1776, less than four months after signing the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin set sail from Philadelphia to France, where he became the first American diplomat. Franklin was a cosmopolitan inventor, businessman, politician and writer. He was also a skilled representative of his new nation, negotiating the first American alliance with France. Franklin and his contemporaries understood that interna- tional diplomacy—the cultivation and management of rela- tions with other states—was crucial for national survival and prosperity. He was part of a broader trans-Atlantic community of learned, wealthy gentlemen who used their personal skills to manage relations between rival governments in an era of aggres- sive empires. Diplomacy was not an alternative to war or peace, but instead an essential part of eliciting support from potential allies and, when necessary, balancing against potential foes in a complex international system. For Franklin and his many successors foreign relations meant a mix of cooperation, competition and negotiations to maximize the emerging power of the United States and minimize its weak- nesses. In a complex world with diverse actors, no country could go it alone. Diplomacy facilitated survival through interdepen- dence and the pursuit of the national interest through direct communication, intelligence gathering and, when necessary, manipulation. The founders and successive generations concen- trated their foreign policy activities on the work of diplomats, not the military, and the most talented American statesmen served their country in this capacity, following Franklin’s footsteps. The 20th century was, in some ways, an era when this vision came to fruition. The United States and its counterparts on other continents expanded their diplomatic services, placing greater emphasis than ever before on sending some of their most talented and best-trained citizens abroad to negotiate treaties, manage daily relations and report on potential dangers. Embas- sies proliferated around the world, diplomatic conferences became more numerous and specialized, and organizations (especially the League of Nations and the United Nations) turned intensive diplomatic deliberations into a form of global gover- nance. On the eve of World War II, the United States possessed a small, divided military (the Army and Navy were entirely separate) and would soon have a growing, highly educated and increasingly active Foreign Service. The diplomats largely deter- German Diplomatic Culture German diplomatic culture derives from the combined legacies of geography, history, tradition and philosophy. Although Germany did not achieve statehood and national unity until 1871, it has an extensive history and rich diplomatic tradition that long predates unification. Its contemporary diplomatic style reflects the competing 19th-century traditions of Klemens von Metternich and Otto von Bismarck. The tradition of Austrian Foreign Minister Metternich was charac- terized by the maneuver and compromise needed to hold together the multiethnic Austro-Hungarian Empire, whereas the tradition of Prussian Chancellor Bismarck was that of machtpolitik (power politics) employed to unite Germany’s disparate principalities into a modern nation-state. Trained as a diplomat himself, serving as ambassador to Russia and later to France, Bismarck created the modern diplomatic corps and left behind a tradition of urbane, well-prepared diplomats. The Auswärtiges Amt (foreign office) at Wilhelmstrasse 76 was a highly centralized and rigid operation, organized along mili- tary lines and tightly controlled by the chancellor, who once declared that “if an ambassador can obey, more is not required.” —From“Developing Diplomats: Comparing Form and Culture Across Diplomatic Services,” Country Report: Germany, pp. 78-96. ManfredBrückels (ownwork ) [CCBY-SA2.0de],viaWikimediaCommons Entrance of the Federal Foreign Office of Germany in Berlin.