January 17, 2018

Guerrilla Diplomacy: Rethinking International Relations

Guerrilla Diplomacy: Rethinking International Relations By Daryl Copeland

by wpengine | Jul 20, 2011 | FeaturesPast IssuesSummer 2010: Pursuing Human Rights Through Public Diplomacy

Given the often-stodgy perception of “the diplomat,” author Daryl Copeland sets out to modernize and reinvigorate the field of diplomacy and the role of the diplomat in his engaging book, Guerilla Diplomacy.  A career diplomat in the Canadian Foreign Service, Copeland draws from personal experience to question the role of diplomacy within the international system, as he believes that role is ill-adapted for the age of globalization. He calls for a restructuring of the traditional “diplomatic ecosystem”—comprised of the foreign ministry, foreign service, and diplomatic corps—through a convincing four-part framework.  His solutions are not simply tailored for the traditional diplomat or government official but are relevant for an audience comprised of NGOs, business people, and trade commissioners.

Copeland begins by examining how elements of the Cold War, which carried over into the globalization era, have created conditions for instability in today’s world. In addition to a lingering “us vs. them” mentality in which terrorists have replaced communists, he describes how a scarcity of resources during the Cold War gave way to the desire of populations for goods, services, and technology in the post-Cold War environment.  Businesses recognized this opportunity and took advantage of conditions by raising capital in finance centers, assembling products in cheap labor markets, and marketing in areas of product demand.  Economic centers were created through a diffusion of business responsibilities interconnected with mass communication ability.  All of this, Copeland believes, played a role in building a hierarchy of dependent nations and resulted in present day poverty found throughout many parts of the world. He calls development a double-edged sword, where prosperity is increased in one location while poverty and dependency are, in turn, elevated in another.  The relationship between development and security is a major introductory theme, where he argues, contrary to the military theory of establishing security before development, such development is a precursor for security; concurrently, however, development may also ultimately lead to insecurity.

With this in mind, Copeland proposes a new world order as an overarching concept that he touches upon throughout the book.  The three-tiered world order of development, created by way of the Cold War Eastern and Western Blocs, he believes, is outdated and, instead, should be modernized by adapting a system based on globalization’s level of impact on development. This new categorization system avoids adherence to national boundaries and instead encompasses areas such as the nation-state, regional specific populations, and even specific career fields.  Copeland considers Science and Technology (S&T) as the new currency for development and characterizes globalization’s footprint in a particular region by its level of S&T present in the “global political economy of knowledge”. The author uses the term “digital divide” to explain the difference between groups advancing in globalization and those who are largely excluded.

After laying out the historical context and establishing a framework for a new world order, Copeland moves forward with his argument that the skill sets of traditional diplomats are outdated and not equipped to address the complex challenges of today.  The state of diplomacy is best described by Copeland when he writes, “[D]iplomats don’t know what they need to know, do not know where to get what they need to know, and would not know what to do with it if they got it”. He calls for a more effective approach to diplomacy that moves away from direct government-to-government relations and toward one where partnerships are formed between governments and foreign publics through a dialogue facilitated by civil society.

Copeland applauds public diplomacy as an advance on the diplomatic spectrum, especially when it is grounded in local cultures and demonstrates shared political values abroad.  While public diplomacy is admired, however, he believes this practice can be taken one step further to create the diplomat of the future.

On the diplomatic spectrum, “guerrilla diplomacy” falls farthest away from traditional diplomacy but incorporates all elements of public diplomacy including listening and seeing.  Copeland believes in experimenting with the role of the diplomat.  He proposes that diplomatic “posts” should include internet cafes, virtual desks, and Fortune 500 companies in order to take advantage of 21st century venues of influence and regional knowledge.  He also proposes a diplomatic reserve force as well as diplomatic SWAT teams with roving ambassadors in post-conflict zones to assist with reconstruction instead of generals and tanks.  In defining the role of the guerrilla diplomat, Copeland develops a comparison between counterinsurgency operations and the new world order where guerrilla diplomacy should characterize future diplomatic relations.  Just as the military has rules of engagement, guerrilla diplomacy has the rogue tools of engagement borrowed from warfare.  In today’s counterinsurgency operations, the soldier must keep his ears to the ground and eyes on the horizon using every sense to interpret his environment.  The guerrilla diplomat, in turn, will have to employ a high level of situational awareness, agility, and self-sufficiency, while also utilizing abstract thinking.

The unique themes and revolutionary proposals in Guerrilla Diplomacy are exactly what the diplomatic community needs today as a guide to entering the 21stcentury.  Copeland thoroughly explains how the world has evolved since the Cold War and why new methodologies are necessary and relevant. Guerilla Diplomacy provides the much-needed innovative tools of diplomatic engagement to navigate the dimly lit path ahead

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