Technological Advancement and Revolution of Diplomacy
Technological Advance and Revolution of Diplomacy
International relations is a vital aspect of collaboration between sovereign states. The global geopolitical, economic, social, and cultural landscape demands closer co-operation among like-minded countries in trade, politics, religion, sport, the arts, and military-wise. Consequently, diplomacy is an integral principle by which various countries channel their values, needs, grievances, and policies to pursue their national and regional interests. However, technological advancements in the transport and communication sectors have revolutionized the art of diplomacy since the 19th Century. Notably, the shift to the ”new diplomacy” primarily focuses on creating order and justice around the world, which is a major departure from the past goal of ensuring equal stratifications of different societies. The evolution of technology has made a revolutionary impact on diplomacy by making it more transparent than secretive.
Background of Diplomacy
The ”old” diplomacy was conducted by a small clique of elite individuals who pursued a secretive aristocratic culture by holding few informal meetings in secluded locations and unilaterally making decisions with little regard to the views and opinions of other stakeholders within the society. International relations theorists opine that such small but powerful European nobilities ruled the world based on their blood and marriage ties from approximately 1815-1920 (Keene & Church, 2010). Nevertheless, the greater social inclusion of societies through the League of Nations during the post-World War I period heralded an ideological shift in the need for holding frequent meetings of world leaders, thereby expanding the ”character” of diplomacy beyond the aristocratic composition described above. Therefore, the ”new” diplomacy demanded greater inclusion of members of the diplomatic community to enhance accountability to the public.
Globalization increased the interdependence between countries hence forcing nations to adopt signature foreign policies based on their sociocultural and political ideals. Similarly, each state saw the need for creating a ministry of foreign affairs which acts as a link between different governments (Sending, Pouliot & Newmann, 2011). Moreover, modern diplomacy involves the use of state resources and platforms by nonstate actors to reach foreign entities to forge business and political ties. For instance, non-governmental organizations are a constant feature in world politics owing to their ability to augment government interventions in disaster-prone areas and conflict zones. Therefore, the new diplomacy is multi-faceted and integrates a wider section of the population compared to the ”old” model, which relied on bloodlines and aristocracy by a few members of the international community.
The different diplomatic overtures currently employed by policy experts across the globe are premised on the fact that different statehoods have varying and often complex political and social histories (Reus-Smit & Dunne, 2021). Nevertheless, the prevailing social order is instrumental in resolving conflicts, fixing multilateral trade, and facilitating military co-operations for the sake of peace and security. Therefore, the world powers primarily influence the globalized social order under the auspices of G20 and G7 groups of countries whose economic, military, and political spheres are superior to the other nations. International bodies such as the United Nations also offer platforms for the interaction of the diplomatic community.
Moreover, the change in diplomacy from a government-to-government principle towards a people-to-people model is a glaring difference that insinuates that it now relies on individuals rather than institutions to pass foreign policy messages across various states. The mandates given to diplomats are tenured, and members of the public routinely offer performance appraisals of such individuals but reserve their ultimate verdicts for the election period in which they exercise their right to vote to either approve or expel the current administrations based on the execution of their foreign policy pledges.
Impact of Technological Advancements
The evolution of diplomacy follows the societal changes in the needs and wants of the various global eras. For example, there are differences in the foreign policy objectives during the Victorian era, the progressive era, the post-War era, the Cold War era, the Information Age, and the Modern era. However, the technological advancements during these periods revolutionized the nature of diplomacy by transforming the modes of transport and communication through which states could interact, and gatherings of global leaders could occur. The National Research Council’s Diplomacy for the 21st Century: Embedding a Culture of Science and Technology Throughout the Department of State identifies technological advancements as vital components of diplomacy because they increase the array of the diplomatic arsenal available to the US government and its allies in a rapidly changing world.
Similarly, sovereign states have varying local, national, regional, and international interests, all based on an expansionist ideology to enhance their influences on major global issues. Consequently, technology is a vital pillar in the progress and prosperity of any nation (Aharoni, 2015). For instance, the industrial revolution made countries compete in areas such as manufacturing, while the Space Age witnessed the development of satellites for space exploration. Likewise, the arms race launched a proliferation of nuclear weapons, whereas the Information Age introduced computing technologies to the world. Therefore, technology has characterized different periods in the premodern and modern eras, and changes in diplomacy have followed a similar pattern.
The Renaissance period of European civilization laid the foundation for modern-day diplomacy by initiating the concept of human beings having rights that need protection and the first theory of international law, which asserts that diplomacy is an ongoing process. Additionally, the latter further reiterates that diplomacy is a permanent activity whose main objective is to protect the rights of all citizens by ensuring peace prevails. Notably, the 1648 Westphalia agreement that secured peace from the religious wars in Europe established a vital concept of diplomacy; the supremacy of sovereign states. Therefore, the invention of the telegraph in 1792 changed the nature of diplomacy by tilting the balance of power within various segments of society. For example, it provided the US and European allies a higher bargaining power in global affairs owing to their ability to control the banking system.
Likewise, the telegraph enabled the West to control information flow, hence facilitating the emergence of big and small powers. The US and the UK became the dominant players in the telegraph sector, and other nations gradually embraced the need to invest in similar infrastructure to enhance their citizens’ industrial and individual communication. However, the dominance of the two nations necessitated the need for international negotiations and bilateral agreements on the installation and management of telegraph communication. Therefore, the telegraph symbolized a potent weapon for controlling the flow of information among allied states and a huge liability in the leakage of state secrets amongst enemies (Kurbalija, 2021). Notably, the telegraph ensured that state and private entities could interact much faster and diplomats capitalized on this to engage more frequently. For instance, the telegraph led to the expansion of diplomatic missions abroad owing to its ability to connect various arms of any sovereign government with overseas missions. Moreover, it also enabled the centralization of diplomacy by monitoring all government communications through a single ministry.
Furthermore, the skewed distribution of cables and the reluctance of the Soviet Union to embrace the telegram, albeit in the initial phase, is an indicator of the tectonic shift in the balance of world powers and illustrates that technology is a vital tool in determining the supremacy of a nation. Additionally, creating bilateral agreements on the use of the telegram led to increased government bureaucracy because such frameworks provided a structured method of holding state-to-state interactions (Kurbalija, 2021). Notably, it also instituted resolving conflicts through peaceful means, which hitherto had been overlooked in favor of military combat. Moreover, the telegram introduced the principle of diplomatic reporting back to the ”headquarters” rather than direct negotiations between parties. For example, diplomats and statesmen became followers of events instead of creators of government policies which was all due to the emerging communication technology.
The telegraph encouraged diplomats to make hasty responses to the messages sent, thereby eliminating the practice of critical analysis of events which is a hallmark of any foreign policy. The urgency of telegram responses was to blame for the misinterpretation of some historical events and harmed diplomacy because diplomats abandoned the tried and tested method of conducting due diligence before reacting to sudden events (Kurbalija, 2021). However, the longer that diplomats became accustomed to the technology, the better they were at making sound judgments. Therefore, the telegram revolutionized diplomacy by forcing diplomats always to be knowledgeable on the past, present, and possible future consequences of certain actions or inactions because the world was moving at a great pace and political leaders needed instant solutions to the problems faced by various societies.
Aviation is a major transatlantic industry that connects several global destinations, which in turn aids in the faster delivery of diplomatic messages across numerous geographical locations. The fragmentation of imperial entities into sovereign states and institutions requires diplomats to travel from one country to another to attend meetings (Reus-Smit & Dunne, 2017). Consequently, the invention of the aircraft simplified transportation between countries, thus enabling the face-to-face meetings of even senior political leaders such as presidents and their aides at short notice. The industrial revolution was a significant period in human development owing to its vast infrastructure projects that made life easier. Accordingly, air transport influenced diplomacy by encouraging direct connections between diplomats because a lot of issues could be discussed with instant feedback given and confidential messages could be relayed verbally with minimal chances of interceptions by unwanted parties as was the case in the traditional means such as letters.
Therefore, ”aviation diplomacy” is today an integral part of the job description of the US Secretary of State as well as the ministers of foreign affairs of the other nations because it enables governments to demand accountability from their counterparts by engaging directly with the people in authority much quickly. Additionally, air transport promotes the transfer of key print and electronic media stakeholders such as journalists who accompany members of the diplomatic community to meetings, thus highlighting the issues under discussion for the public’s consumption. Furthermore, the airline industry is sometimes used for promoting national identities by some state-run companies hence assisting in creating good international relations with other countries. Similarly, aviation diplomacy increases the number of people interacting with foreign allies aside from the traditional consulates and embassies (Kobierecki, 2021). For instance, scientists, think tanks, NGOs, celebrities, activists, CEOs, and local leaders can link directly with their counterparts abroad thus share ideas and experiences rather than depend on official government narratives as is the case in autocratic regimes.
The disruption caused by airplanes in the transport sector by limiting the time taken to travel between destinations signaled a new wave of diplomacy by enabling closer multilateral co-operation between states private commercial interests through international organizations like ICAO. In fact, national carriers are sources of soft power, an essential diplomatic tactic meant to enhance the country’s image abroad. Consequently, successive governments are forced to maintain the brand visibility and profitability of such state assets to benefit the ordinary citizen and taxpayer.
Furthermore, the aircraft industry contributed to the distribution of vital airlifts for necessary supplies such as medicine, food, and volunteers in conflict zones. The merchandise mentioned above was essential in ”soft” diplomacy because it enabled donor countries to reach the victims of artificial and natural disasters quickly with supplies that would guarantee their survival for longer as long-term resolutions were sought (Kobierecki, 2021). Therefore, recipients of such aid, such as the Berlin Airlifts, would instantly switch their allegiance to the donor countries for helping them during their time of need and such shifts in public opinions often influenced the course of negotiations for peace across different capitals.
The 21st Century witnessed a radical transformation in technology unavailable in the premodern period (Musgrave and Hexon, 2013). Social media is one such innovation that allows users to create and share personal information and content through online communities. Notably, the leading social media sites are Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Therefore, diplomacy is another beneficiary of technological advancements because governments and public policy experts can reach a wider audience. Moreover, governance officials using these platforms can monitor global events and respond to them in real-time, thus preventing the previous delays in acquiring and disseminating information to the public (Clay, 2018). Additionally, political and economic leaders from different sovereign states can hold virtual online meetings using sites such as Zoom within short notice, saving them time and costs accruable from traveling in person (Aharoni, 2015). Therefore, international relations are easily handled from the comfort of one’s home or office without diluting the importance attached to the matters under discussion.
Notably, social media eliminates the pageantry associated with summits and other face-to-face meetings between political leaders by forcing participants to be brief and precise during the online sessions (Naylor, 2020). The real ”business” of policy discussions happens way after the galas and dinners are over during such meetings but the current trend of holding virtual meetings even by powerful global entities such as the UN Security Council, World Health Organization, and the G20 signifies the importance of technology in maintaining global connections in an uncertain world marred by conflicts, health pandemics and instability in various geographical locations. Accordingly, public officials are still able to discharge their duties hence taxpayers’ resources are accounted for.
Therefore, social media has transformed the manner of conducting diplomacy by forcing participants to stick to behavioral scripts which dissuade them from engaging in ” off-the-cuff” banter. The traditional forms of diplomacy valued ”bodily co-presence” whereby negotiators would interact at length on issues outside the agenda items, especially during breaks (Aharoni, 2015). However, social media norms during such virtual summits significantly dissuade from this behavior due to time considerations. Notably, diplomatic niceties are no longer necessary. It is informed by the need to record all diplomatic engagements for future reference.
Diplomacy is an art that entails expertly persuading and sometimes coercing other nations into accepting or rejecting policy positions on various issues affecting societies. The practice dates back to the 19th Century, although it has evolved because it seeks to remain relevant to the events prevailing at any given time. Different global experiences occasion varying levels of attention, especially by the superpowers hence the diplomatic community is constantly engaged in the sifting of information, intelligence, and events to determine those with a significant impact on the geopolitics of the world. Therefore, technological advancements in the transport and communication sectors are integral in the success or failure of diplomatic efforts worldwide. Notably, some of these developments revolutionize diplomacy by altering state and nonstate actors’ behavior and modus operandi. However, the underlying objective of creating a peaceful and secure world remains unchanged. Additionally, diplomacy is the newly adopted mode of conflict-resolution. At the same time, military combat is now the last option because the latter portends the great loss of human lives and the destruction of property.
Aharoni, I. (2015, Sep 8). How Technology has Revolutionized Diplomacy. TIME. https://time.com/4015667/how-technology-has-revolutionized-diplomacy/
Clay, J. (2018). How Twitter, Instagram, and other Social Media are Transforming Diplomacy. Trojan Family. Retrieved from https://news.usc.edu/trojan-family/twitter-diplomacy-using-social-media-for-good/
Kurbalija, J. (2021). Renaissance Diplomacy: Compromise as a Solution to Conflict. Diplomacy and Technology: A Historical Journal. Retrieved from https://www.diplomacy.edu/histories/renaissance-diplomacy-compromise-as-a-solution-to-conflict/
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