Diplo’s roots can be traced back to 1992 when we realised there was a need to merge ICT tools with diplomatic practice. Ten years later, Diplo was officially established by Malta and Switzerland as a not-for-profit organisation, and since then, it ha...
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Why do we need diplomats? Diplomats are members of a profession developed over many centuries. But why do we still need them in a world transformed by electronic communications? This course examines the nature of diplomacy; when it is appropriate;...

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Effective bilateral diplomacy is essential to advancing a country’s external interests. Bilateral diplomacy is a key building block of international relations, i.e. the way a pair of countries deals with each other. This course offers a practition...
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Explore the origins of multilateral diplomacy and its evolution within a dynamic and rapidly changing environment. This course introduces participants to the diplomatic interaction among more than two actors, with particular emphasis on the multil...
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Diplomatic privileges and immunities usually receive attention only when exceptions or abuses are reported in the news. Starting with the evolution of diplomatic privileges and immunities and ending with the question of whether the Vienna Conventi...
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In recent years, consular and diaspora diplomacy have both emerged as important areas in diplomatic studies; governments are becoming more citizen-centric. Consular diplomacy has gained prominence in many foreign ministries, a dramatic turnaround...

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Submitted by Mina Mudric on Mon, 01/30/2012 - 22:52
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Naim Dedushaj’s thesis “Paradiplomatic relations between the United States and Kosova” studies the relations between the Albanian nation and America that date way back in history. The first Albanian immigrants moved to the United States in the second half of the 19th century. The major migration flows from Kosova and other parts in ex-Yugoslavia took place in the 20th century. Albanian-Americans from Kosova organized themselves actively and played a crucial role in sensitizing the American leadership about the Albanian and Kosova issue. Dedushaj argues that the activities of the Albanian-American community should not be underestimated when studying the American policies towards Kosova in the 1990s. How were the paradiplomatic relations established and maintained between the representatives of Kosova and the United States administration? What has been the role of these relations in the recent developments in Kosova? This thesis shows how the establishment of the LDK (Democratic League of Kosova) branches and their paradiplomatic activities had a crucial role in influencing both the policies of the American Congress as well as the White House and finally in the determination of the status of Kosova.

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Year
2006-01-01T00:00:00
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Naim Dedushaj
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Naim Dedushaj’s thesis “Paradiplomatic relations between the United States and Kosova” studies the relations between the Albanian nation and America that date way back in history. The first Albanian immigrants moved to the United States in the second half of the 19th century. The major migration flows from Kosova and other parts in ex-Yugoslavia took place in the 20th century. Albanian-Americans from Kosova organized themselves actively and played a crucial role in sensitizing the American leadership about the Albanian and Kosova issue. Dedushaj argues that the activities of the Albanian-American community should not be underestimated when studying the American policies towards Kosova in the 1990s. How were the paradiplomatic relations established and maintained between the representatives of Kosova and the United States administration? What has been the role of these relations in the recent developments in Kosova? This thesis shows how the establishment of the LDK (Democratic League of Kosova) branches and their paradiplomatic activities had a crucial role in influencing both the policies of the American Congress as well as the White House and finally in the determination of the status of Kosova.

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Dissertation library
 Naim Dedushaj, 2006
 
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Submitted by Mina Mudric on Mon, 01/30/2012 - 10:27
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The aim of this research was to examine the communication trends in diplomacy with a focus on Uganda. The central question examined the role of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in diplomacy and the extent to which States have adopted its use. In this Thesis the application of ICT in the conduct of Uganda’s diplomacy is also compared to best practice in other countries. The findings indicated that the Government of Uganda has put in place an ICT policy and created institutions to support the formation of E-government, even though full implementation is yet to materialize. Findings also show that Uganda’s diplomatic service is cognizant of the importance of ICT in the conduct of diplomacy and has since 2004, formulated an ICT master plan, which is currently being implemented, despite the challenges faced. The study concludes that the use of ICT as a channel of communication in diplomacy can only thrive based on the wider effort of successful implementation of E-governance in Uganda. Some recommendations are also made with regard to enhancement of Uganda’s diplomatic communication.

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Year
2011-01-01T00:00:00
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Caroline Nalwanga Magambo
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The aim of this research was to examine the communication trends in diplomacy with a focus on Uganda. The central question examined the role of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in diplomacy and the extent to which States have adopted its use. In this Thesis the application of ICT in the conduct of Uganda’s diplomacy is also compared to best practice in other countries. The findings indicated that the Government of Uganda has put in place an ICT policy and created institutions to support the formation of E-government, even though full implementation is yet to materialize. Findings also show that Uganda’s diplomatic service is cognizant of the importance of ICT in the conduct of diplomacy and has since 2004, formulated an ICT master plan, which is currently being implemented, despite the challenges faced. The study concludes that the use of ICT as a channel of communication in diplomacy can only thrive based on the wider effort of successful implementation of E-governance in Uganda. Some recommendations are also made with regard to enhancement of Uganda’s diplomatic communication.

Source: 
Dissertation library
 Caroline Nalwanga Magambo, 2011
 
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Submitted by Mina Mudric on Fri, 01/27/2012 - 22:12
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As times change so do customs generally. In diplomacy protocol too changes and develops, mirroring broader societal norms. This paper discusses developments in protocol and how it provides the commonly accepted norms of behaviour for the conduct of relations between states.

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Introduction

Protocol may not be the most exciting area of international relations, but every foreign ministry maintains a protocol department. Protocol goes as far back as there have been contacts between states, with evidence of diplomatic protocol being found in reliefs at Persopolis. The twentieth century has witnessed a growing informality in the practice of diplomacy, though there is always the underlying necessity, in the existing Westphalian system based on the sovereign equality of states, that states must see that they are being treated equally.(1)  The trend towards informality in the treatment of individuals as representatives of their state is underpinned by the evolution of formulas which assure that all states are, and are seen to be, treated as equals. Protocol concerning permanent diplomatic missions between states is now well established, but the area which is seeing the most innovation is that involving meetings between leaders.(2)  Historically, personal meetings between rulers of states were infrequent before the nineteenth century, the logistics of travel making such meetings difficult.(3)  Developments in technology and transport have made meetings easier and safer to arrange, and there has been a vertical rise in summitry since 1960. Little changed in the protocol of meetings between leaders until the twentieth century boom in summitry, when protocol has had to evolve in order to facilitate political leaders’ desire to meet. The result has been, for the most part, a further relaxation in protocol.

Venue

The problem of where to hold meetings is often caused by the implied prestige conferred upon the host, as well as the opportunities provided by the host to utilize this role. The problems of venue are not new. Initially, neutral areas were used because of the mutual suspicion of leaders. The fifteenth-century meeting between Edward IV of England and Louis XI of France on a bridge is symptomatic of the problems surrounding such meetings. Leaders were reluctant to travel through potentially hostile territory. Even in 1807 Napoleon and Tsar Alexander I met on a raft in the middle of the Niemen at Tilsit.

The nineteenth century, however, saw an increasing frequency of meetings between leaders of states, and by the early twentieth century a shift in protocol was beginning to emerge. One important turning point came at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, convened to settle the events of the First World War. France insisted that the peace conference be held at Paris, supposedly as a tribute to France’s role in the conflict. By custom, the head of the host state chairs the conference, and therefore has a greater degree of control over the agenda. Both Britain and the United States were unhappy with this arrangement, and advocated neutral Geneva. Indeed, one reason why Switzerland was originally such a favourite venue for meetings is not only its oft cited neutrality but the advantages of it unique head of state, the Federal Council in corpore, which meant Switzerland was unlikely to interfere in this way.

French plans almost came unstuck, however, when the American president, Woodrow Wilson, announced his intention of attending in person. He hoped to play the leading role in the negotiations and therefore wanted to chair the conference. As the only head of state present (the others being heads of government) he would have precedence, and as he observed, "I assume also that I shall be selected to preside."(4)  The French were flabbergasted, as no American president had previously travelled abroad, much less personally participated in a conference. French complaints were so great that Wilson agreed not to press his claims for precedence, a solution which confirmed the drift to greater informality at these gatherings. Wilson observed that "no point of dignity must prevent our obtaining the results we have set our hearts upon and must have."(5)  This was an important breakthrough, establishing a precedent that, for working purposes, there would be no difference between heads of state and heads of government. The practice has now become general, for example with ASEAN agreeing that at its meetings no difference will be applied between heads of state and heads of government, confirming this break with traditional formality.(6)

During the Second World War, Stalin, in his three summit meetings with his fellow allied leaders refused to travel to any destination which would force him to leave territory he controlled. There was no willingness to rotate the venue among the allies. The postwar era, however, has seen the principle of rotation become the norm. The EU rotates the now semi-annual EU Council summits.

While the first EC/EU summits were held in the capital cities, it has become more common to hold the sessions in provincial settings, allowing for a more informal atmosphere. The principle of rotating the venue according to a principle established in advance has eased the convening of summits. ASEAN has agreed that its triennial summits will rotate through member states in alphabetical order.

The growing appreciation of the value of informality in facilitating discussion is noticeable. The G-7’s original ethos was minimal formality in order to allow the broadest scope for discussion, starting originally as the "Library Group" in the White House Library, and though now institutionalised, many of its most successful sessions have been held in resort venues. The ASEAN leaders meet formally every three years, but have also (formally) agreed to meet at least once informally in between. This is not to suggest that diplomatic meetings are becoming free-form events. ASEAN provides detailed rules, e.g., all heads of state/heads of government are to be accorded accommodation of two bedrooms and a chauffeur driven car, and so on, with a descending order for other officials. This is clearly intended to ensure that there is seen to be equality of treatment.

An increasingly favoured way of meeting, again the by-product of modern travel, is the "unarranged" holiday drop-in. Tony Blair, at the beginning of his 1997 summer holiday in France did admit that he knew Premier Lionel Jospin "lives nearby. We will see one another," which almost had the feel that he expected to bump into him in the local hypermarché. In fact, Jospin dashed from a papal visit to Paris, hundreds of miles away, to "drop-in on" Blair.(7)  The aim was to have as informal an atmosphere as possible. As it was a "drop-in" visit Jospin could justify not meeting the British prime minister along with President Chirac, which would be the normal practice in a period of cohabitation in French political life.

The 1997 Anglo-French summit in London was not held at 10 Downing St., or any government building, but in a previously vacant office suite, specially furnished for the day, in the newly developed London docklands. The hope was to create as informal an atmosphere as possible, away from the formalities that would inevitably surround any meeting at a traditional venue.

Another indicator of the move away from status based protocol is the increasing use of other formulas. At the 1818 Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle it was agreed that states would sign treaties in alphabetical order. Many International Organizations now use this principle for seating representatives, rather than working out precedence as one still does with ambassadors accredited to states. While alphabetization is popular, there are several forms in use. The UN seats delegations alphabetically by the state’s name in English, with the first letter of the alphabet being determined annually by lot. NATO’s permanent representatives are seated alphabetically.(8)  The Council of Europe uses a mixed system, with the Committee of Ministers being arranged by their date of taking office, the Assembly by age, and at Official Meetings of the Council by alphabetical order in French. Alphabetization can raise issues of language politics, and the EU Council resolved this issue by seating states in alphabetical order following the state’s own language, while the EU Commissioners sit by date of appointment. The OAS draws countries by lot each time it meets.

Creative approaches to protocol are often resorted to for particular purposes. The funeral of Japan’s emperor Hirohito became a major international event, with leaders from around the world attending. The Japanese were delighted when the United States president, George Bush, announced that he would attend. A problem was posed by traditional protocol, which dictates that heads of state be accorded precedence by the date on which they assumed their position. As Bush had only just taken office he would be the most junior in the seating arrangements. Japan, however, wanted to make the most of having the world’s most powerful leader present at the funeral of its emperor. The solution hit upon was to treat the funeral as a celebration of Hirohito’s life and not as a state event, and it was thus announced that heads of states would be treated in the first instance in the order of countries Hirohito had visited during his life. This resulted in placing the American president at the centre of the front row of attendant heads of state.

The Diplomatic Handshake

One recent phenomenon is the increasing importance of handshakes as part of diplomatic practice. The proffered hand is now taken as an signal of good faith and willingness to cooperate, the refusal to do so is seen as the opposite, and ignoring a proffered hand a significant diplomatic insult and a clear signal of disapproval. Prince Charles pointedly ignored Idi Amin’s proffered hand at Jomo Kenyatta’s funeral (1978). The question of whether or not Yitzak Rabin would shake Yasser Arafat’s hand was focused on to such an extent that President Clinton virtually threw the two together on the lawn of the White House. Symbolic as this was seen at the time, this tepid handshake was a far cry from Begin and Sadat’s embrace when Sadat visited Jerusalem. Perhaps embraces will be the next development. British Prime Minister Tony Blair in meeting Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams temporized, shaking hands with him, but out of public sight. There is, of course, the issue of paranoia amongst leaders. Nicolae Ceacescu feared assassination from poison made to be absorbed through the palm and so kept his hand to himself.(9)  President de Gaulle was a master at ignoring proffered hands.

 

Diplomatic Insults

Some diplomatic practices do not change. The diplomatic insult has existed since the origins of diplomacy. In the Bible there is an account of the king of the Ammonites shaving off half of the beards of the envoys sent by King David.(10)  The diplomatic insult today can be a carefully crafted instrument of statecraft used as a way of communicating extreme displeasure when all other efforts at communication have failed. France in particular is a consummate user of the diplomatic insult. Napoleon "insulted the British ambassador in 1803, the Austrian in 1808 and the Russian in 1811 - a sign that war with each power was imminent."(11)  The French signalled their displeasure with a number of American policies, including their differences over the UN secretary-generalship and the command of the NATO southern command, through just such a gesture. At United States Secretary of State Warren Christopher’s last NATO dinner the secretary-general of NATO (Javier Solana) proposed a toast to Christopher, whereupon the French foreign minister Hervé de Charette abruptly left the room. To make the gesture clear, the French ambassador to NATO (Gerard Errara) took Charette’s place and ostentatiously turned his back on the room while the toast was conducted.(12)

Such gestures are not the preserve of France. During the November 1997 visit of Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to Washington the White House announced the "scheduling difficulties" prevented a meeting being arranged, a snub clearly intended to convey American displeasure at what was seen to be Netanyahu’s lack of cooperation over the Middle East peace process.

 

Conclusion

As times change so do customs generally. In diplomacy protocol too changes and develops, mirroring broader societal norms. Protocol is often considered to be synonymous with formality, but for diplomacy protocol provides the commonly accepted norms of behaviour for the conduct of relations between states. As informality becomes the norm in diplomacy, so diplomatic protocol will help systematize and therefore stabilize these new forms in the communication and negotiation between states.

NOTES

1. Richard Langhorne, "The Decline of Diplomatic Protocol" (paper delivered at the inaugural meeting of the British International History Group, Bristol, September 1988).

2. John R. Wood and Jean Serres, Diplomatic Ceremonial and Protocol: principles, procedures and practices (New York: 1970).

3. Erik Goldstein, "The Origins of Summit Diplomacy," in Diplomacy at the Highest Level: the evolution of international summitry, David Dunn, ed. (London: Macmillan, 1996), and The Politics of the State Visit (Leicester: Centre for the Study of Diplomacy, 1997).

4. Wilson to House, 13 November 1918, Arthur S. Link, ed. The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, vol. 53, November 9, 1918 - January 11, 1919 (Princeton: 1986), p. 66.

5. Ibid.,Wilson to House, 16 Nov. 1918, pp. 108-9.

6. Handbook on ASEAN Protocol and Practices (Jakarta: ASEAN Secretariat).

7. The Independent, 21 Aug. 1997.

8. I.M. Radlovic, Etiquette and Protocol (New York: 1956).

9. Cal McCrystal, "What’s in a handshake," The Observer, 19 Oct. 1997.

10. 2 Samuel 10.

11. Philip Mansel, The Court of France, 1789-1830 (Cambridge: 1988), p. 74.

12. Daily Telegraph, 13 Dec. 1996.

Year
1998-01-01T00:00:00
Author
Erik Goldstein
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As times change so do customs generally. In diplomacy protocol too changes and develops, mirroring broader societal norms. This paper discusses developments in protocol and how it provides the commonly accepted norms of behaviour for the conduct of relations between states.

Source: 
Modern Diplomacy. Ed J. Kurbalija (1998)
 Erik Goldstein, 1998

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Submitted by Mina Mudric on Fri, 01/27/2012 - 11:11
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In this paper, Drazen Pehar analyses the argumentation made by George Lakoff of the University of California at Berkeley in his seminal paper  on ‘Metaphor and War’, in which he tried to deconstruct the rhetoric U.S. president George Bush used to justify the war in the Gulf. He also analyses a reading by psycho-historian Lloyd deMause, whose theory differs from Lakoff’s. Throughout his analysis, Pehar describes the role of rhetoric in diplomatic prevention of armed conflicts, and its several functions, and concludes that the methods of preventive diplomacy depend heavily on the theory of leaders’ rhetoric one considers credible.

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Analysis of the rhetoric that leaders use to explain, justify, and pre-program their foreign policies seems to offer a sound basis for diplomatic prevention of armed conflicts. There are two reasons for believing that this is the case. First, rhetoric, together with historical memories, cultural practices etc., belongs to the set of spiritual and psychological causes of war. Rhetoric usually precedes armed conflicts and hints at the important issues over which the upcoming war will eventually be fought. Thus, through leaders’ rhetoric, one can witness a not yet fully materialized "war of minds". This may then, ideally speaking, prompt one to try to remove the spiritual incentive to fight a war; to cool down the "war of minds" before it turns into a "war of arms". Second, the rhetoric that leaders use is, as a matter of principle, extremely rich in imaginative projections, in fanciful descriptions of the international affairs of leaders’ concern. The rhetoric is therefore always half a dream, and half a reality, which, from the perspective of critical and rational argumentation, makes it fragile and relatively easy to debate. More than one plausible rhetorical device has the potential of explaining away complexities of the international system, and the "king’s" one may not be the best one. Leaders’ rhetoric thus being principally fragile, debatable, and open to alternative readings, one again has a chance to prevent wars from erupting simply by showing the fragility of a leader’s narrative and of the metaphors he or she chooses.

Such a tool for conflict prevention was tried during the public debate in the U.S. before the U.S.-led operation "Desert Storm" against Iraq was launched. A leading linguist and cognitive scientist, George Lakoff of the University of California at Berkeley, wrote a seminal paper "Metaphor and War", in which he tried to deconstruct the rhetoric U.S. president George Bush used to justify the war in the Gulf. Lakoff hoped to incite a public debate which would forestall the U.S. preparations to launch a war against Saddam, and he hoped his grassroots, Internet mediated diplomacy might save "tens of thousands of innocent lives".

Lakoff’s idea was simply to show how the system of rhetorical schemes, the metaphorical system Bush applied in advance of the Gulf war, kept important aspects of international realities hidden, and did so in a very harmful way. Lakoff focused on several metaphors, but it will suffice to present the two most important ones: the metaphor of "Saddam as Hitler", and the metaphor of "Kuwait as innocent victim of a villain’s aggression and rape". Bush, in comparing Saddam with Adolf Hitler, was, according to Lakoff, wrong on several counts. The predicament of the U.S. in 1991, after Iraq’s excursion into Kuwait, did not resemble the predicament of the western powers at the Munich conference with Hitler. Iraq, for instance, was not comparable to Germany in the late 1940s. Besides that, there was no reason for anybody to believe in 1991 that Saddam was an irrational villain, like Hitler was, ready to take the riskiest action and to declare war against the entire world of liberal democracies. Lakoff thus rightly states that "the Hitler analogy also assumes that Saddam is a villainous madman. The analogy presupposes a Hitler myth, in which Hitler too was an irrational demon, rather than a rational self-serving brutal politician. In the myth, Munich was a mistake and Hitler could have been stopped early on had England entered the war then. Military historians disagree as to whether the myth is true. Be that as it may, the analogy does not hold. Whether or not Saddam is Hitler, Iraq isn’t Germany. It has 17 million people, not 70 million. It is economically weak, not strong. It simply is not a threat to the world. Saddam is certainly immoral, ruthless, and brutal, but there is no evidence that he is anything but rational."

According to Lakoff, it was also incorrect for Bush to draw a comparison between "Kuwait" and an "innocent victim of a rape". Kuwait was an oppressive monarchy, resented by most Arab countries because of its discriminatory policy against the cheap labour it imported. Kuwait further committed a serious injustice against Iraq after the war between Iraq and Iran, by having refused to assist the war-exhausted economy of Iraq, which fought the war against Iran partly for the benefit of Kuwait itself. And finally, Kuwait launched a de facto economic war against Iraq by, as Lakoff points out, "overproducing its oil-quota to hold oil prices down" and thus lowering Iraq’s chance to fight its post-war poverty.

Lakoff concluded his analysis with two important messages. First, the rhetoric Bush used to prepare the U.S. for a major war was fundamentally wrong since it presented America as a purely selfless hero, while America was a self-interested state eager, perhaps too eager, to protect the oil-pipelines on which its economy to some extent depends. According to Lakoff, the U.S. should not fight a war lacking clear rationale and an unambiguous enemy, following the rhetoric of a misleading leader. Second, he called upon the Internet browser community to spread his message for what seemed to be a very humanitarian purpose: to renounce the possibility of war and to try alternative means to find an overall solution benefiting Iraq, Kuwait, and the U.S. along with other western democracies. Lakoff’s "Metaphor and War" was thus a critical analysis of a leader’s rhetoric combined with an attempt to serve as an unofficial diplomat trying to prevent a conflict by putting into use the most democratic medium of today’s communication to familiarize the public with his sophisticated expertise. Unfortunately, it did not work and America is still at war with "the dictator". I will not try to explain why an attempt to prevent a conflict through a sophisticated analysis of a leader’s rhetoric failed: it may have failed for an infinite number of reasons. But I believe that Lakoff’s attempt is worth probing more extensively, since it may tell us something important about many things we, as diplomats, humanitarian officers, members of an international team for crisis management, or public and elite opinion analysts, are deeply ignorant about.

PREVENTION THROUGH RATIONAL ARGUMENTATION

The first thing we can recognize in Lakoff’s piece is his affiliation with the tradition of the Enlightenment. He at least implicitly believes that one is in a position to reach the population in a purely rational state of mind, and that the bad things happening in politics are due to the inclination of leaders to mislead and misinform people. In "Metaphor and War" Lakoff quite explicitly said that the Gulf War would serve the interests of only one particular establishment, the military-industrial one, and that Bush was simply trying to sell the interests of that particular establishment to the American people under the guise of "vital national interest". Bush thus offered a theory modelling the relations between a number of countries and made the rest of the country over which he presided re-shape its political preferences, i.e. desires, in accordance with the model. Had Bush not used the means of the above rhetoric to provide the U.S. action against Iraq with a deeper, or superior, meaning, American people would not have started considering Saddam their mortal enemy. In other words, Lakoff holds that the stream of causes leading from rhetoric through human mind to eruption of full-scale war, is approximately as in the chart below:

/RHETORIC/ leads to /EXPLANATORY MODELS/ leads to /BELIEFS ABOUT THE OUTSIDE WORLD/ leads to /DESIRE TO CHANGE THE WORLD/ leads to /BELIEFS ABOUT THE ACTIONS LIKELY TO CHANGE THE WORLD/ leads to /DECISION TO WAGE A WAR UPON LEGITIMAZION OF THE DECISION/.

Notice here that Lakoff believes that the primary role of rhetoric is to provide knowledge about foreign affairs and to explain the mechanisms responsible for certain events. Notice further that Lakoff believes that the cognitive part of our brains has priority over the volitional, or emotional part of our brains, and that our beliefs give shape to our preferences and not vice-versa. Lakoff’s theory stipulates that the offer of alternative, metaphor-cleansing pieces of real knowledge should tear the war-causing desires apart and wake one up from the bizarre dreams in which "Saddam is Hitler", while "Kuwait is a small, unprotected and innocent country raped by the devil". Finally, notice that, along the lines Lakoff proposes, preventive diplomacy, based on deconstruction of leaders’ rhetoric, should not lead to controversy at all but that once one presents both inductively and deductively valid arguments against the leaders’ rhetoric, the temptation to wage a war should simply disappear. It is certainly under the conditions of a democratic environment and in the spirit of equality and tolerance that such an open presentation of arguments is likely to take place and deliver positive results. But do our minds really behave in the way Lakoff believes? Do we really focus primarily on the cognitive, information-processing aspect of metaphors? Do our minds really first form an image of their environment, upon which they then shape, construct, or reconstruct their preferences, their volitional parts? If we compare our minds with a colourful cuisine, does the descriptive dimension of our rhetoric really play the role of chief cook?

I am raising these questions because rhetoric performs several functions. It first, but not foremost, serves to create an image of whatever it refers to. If I compare Saddam with Hitler then my image of Saddam differs from the image I would have, had I compared Saddam with Martin Luther King. But rhetoric also serves to raise emotions. If I compare today’s Bosnia with the triangle between China, U.S., and U.S.S.R from the early 1970s, my emotions concerning Bosnia would differ from the emotions I would have had I compared Bosnia with a patient dying in a coma. And, last but not least, rhetoric serves an outstandingly important function of defining and redefining one’s identity. I say very different things about the identity of the people of a nation when I say that they always behave like an elephant in china shop, on the one hand, and when I say that they are only a "shooting star", on the other. The paradigms that nations adopt to forge or promote their own identity are always expressed through a number of historical analogies, and thus inevitably contain a rhetorical ingredient.

Rhetoric performs several functions, and this implies that several parts of the mind feel a need for rhetoric, and are equally operative in its creation. This further means that the origins of the rhetoric that leaders use to explain and prepare their foreign policies are multiple, and that what seemed to be a sound theory explaining the chain of causation of armed conflict, the theory George Lakoff proposed, may now encounter some complications. Lakoff also proposed a method of conflict prevention one could call "prevention through argumentation". It almost needs no mentioning that the method itself could now run into troubles. Why?

Imagine an individual with a strong in-built self-image or identity, who is getting involved in a situation he or she understands only partially. The basic question the individual will usually raise is not "What else do I need to learn to fully understand this situation?" but rather, "What can I do to reconfirm my identity under conditions not fully transparent to me?" The individual will probably try to adapt understanding of the conditions to his or her self-image, and not other way around, because, speaking psychologically, it is more dangerous to question one’s identity than to question one’s understanding of conditions which are not fully compatible with all relevant evidence. When one is forced to choose between leaving the self-image intact while the understanding of the environment remains incomplete, on the one hand, and deepening the understanding to fit relevant evidence, which would cast doubt on one’s sense of identity, on the other, the individual is likely to choose the former. Otherwise he or she would have to suffer for a while, and to develop a new definition of his or her identity, which is a challenge few people are ready to accept.

Applied to Lakoff’s critique of the rhetoric Bush used to justify the war in the Gulf, the above psychological pattern would imply the following explanation. America has a strong sense of identity, and like other states, it chose a particular historical moment of its extreme assertiveness to serve as its role-model, as the core of its self-image. That moment, that role-model meeting the need for identity, is the America which won the Second World War. Now, whenever a crisis occurs in international affairs, American leaders start with the assumption that the crisis is similar to the crisis preceding World War Two, because America’s self-image leads them to choose the narrative and the rhetoric most suitable to the country’s inner sense of identity. They therefore project the imagery of the past Word War Two experience into new crises and new challenges almost automatically, and cannot really change this process. The sense of identity cannot be challenged easily, and if America sees itself as a "selfless hero leading a coalition of the free world against dictators and rapists of this world", it will read empirical evidence accordingly, and, if necessary, neglect data not fitting the imagery of the Second World War. With regard to Lakoff’s critique of the rhetoric President Bush used, a proponent of the theory of identity would say that it does not really matter whether Saddam is both an irrational and ruthless dictator, or just a ruthless dictator. America reacts to either ruthless or irrational leaders with the determination of the great World War Two victor, and will do anything to punish the leader who severely violates the principles of international law, as it did with Hitler. The rhetoric that Bush used to justify the Gulf War was thus not rhetoric he simply picked from a menu. He was actually not in a position to deliberate and choose the means for persuading the American people. He was just somewhat semi-consciously aware of the key layer of the American self-image, which implied that Saddam must be Hitler while Kuwait must be a victim of a brutal war machine. Bush’s pre-Gulf War rhetoric came not from the cognitive, information processing part of his brain. It came from a deeper layer, from an inner sense of identity, from a drive to take an action for the sake of the actor’s identity, from the need to confirm the self-image, the self-definition.

For that reason, Lakoff’s interpretation of the chain of causation connecting leaders’ rhetoric with eruption of war may be too simplified, too neat. A host of inner, mental processes compete for the role of the key cause of lethal aggression, and consequently, a number of alternative interpretations of the etiology of the Gulf War and the rhetoric that led to it have been offered. The famous psycho-historian, Lloyd deMause, proposed a reading of the Gulf War which is similar to the above theory of identity, which, as we see, significantly differs from Lakoff’s theory.

PREVENTION THROUGH RE-CHANELLING

DeMause believes that the decision to launch a war against Saddam was not motivated by considerations of political utility. According to him, it was launched to help America act out some of its 1990 and 1991 frustrations. In deMause’s opinion, prior to the war with Iraq America had an intense need for inner, mental order, which one may compare with the sense of identity as described above. As anyone who needs to experience catharsis to recover a sense of inner identity also needs a symbolic stage on which to pull the basic role together, America needed such a symbolic stage too. DeMause argues, for reasons I will discuss below, that the stage America set to pull itself together was a stage with three characters: Terrifying Parent, Hurt Child, and Good Parent. Saddam’s occupation of Kuwait offered America the first two characters, while Bush, in making the decision to wage war against Saddam, assigned to America the role of the third character. Thus, the war was inevitable. Good Parent had to punish Terrifying Parent to save Hurt Child. The rhetoric that was used to explain the policy towards Iraq was, according to deMause, a symptom rather than a cause of the Gulf War. It was, in actual fact, an expression of the fantasies that America had to cultivate for a while to restore its inner core. With that we come to deMause’s explanation of the etiology of armed conflicts and the role that rhetoric plays in that etiology.

DeMause presented his theory of armed conflicts and the rhetoric that leaders use to prepare a nation for war in his paper "Historical Group-Fantasies". He first notes that a high percentage of the figures, metaphors, similes, and symbols that leaders use in advance of a war group around the image of a "body trying to set itself free", as well as around the image of a "mother-child relationship". In other words, he notices that the official discourse servicing war propaganda frequently refers to the "need to protect mother", the "need for mother to protect her children", a "state of pregnancy", a "birth-giving". One needs here to recall idiomatic expressions such as "the nation fought for survival", "the nation fought out its right to live", or the "birth of nation". Based on this observation, as well as on a number of additional ones, deMause draws the conclusion that before war actually breaks out a group-fantasy catches the minds of the people, who then simply have to experience the group-shock of war to live through the fantasy. DeMause believes that the group-fantasy is the fantasy of rebirth and that people put their lives at risk in times of war for one single purpose: to re-experience or re-enact the trauma of birth. This explains why the rhetoric is rich in the aforementioned imagery. He thus, in an elegant way, answers the question as to why people decide to wage war despite the fact that war brings more losses than gains. He says that people simply see in war something that war is not, and that one can understand this very easily by looking deeper into the rhetoric that precedes armed conflicts. The Gulf War was about a Hurt Child who needed protection from a Terrifying Parent, as we saw. It was not about soldiers, oil, and sovereignty. But notice here to what an extent deMause’s theory differs from Lakoff’s theory.

DeMause believes that war, or serious inter-group enmity, is a must-be. He further believes that the key cause of war is a group-fantasy, the fantasy of rebirth, something many people of similar background share. The trauma of birth is not restricted to a particular establishment. It concerns almost everyone, and it shapes almost everyone’s identity. The trauma recurs time and again. Both incidence and abundance of wars, together with their eye-catching irrationality, prove that the cognitive part of our brains does not partake in their making. The rhetoric explaining, preparing, and inciting wars is not a conceptual tool for understanding international relations. The rhetoric is literal truth. It is a creation, not a description of the world. This means that for those who in 1933 said that their mother "Germany" needed to expand to embrace all her children, and to ultimately give birth to one gigantic nation, the land referred to had the meaning of a real mother experiencing real birth pangs. The rhetoric comes from our deepest memories, the memories of birth, and it does not follow the rhythm of our rational thoughts. Finally, its charm is overwhelming and irresistible. Since I presented a chart illustrating Lakoff’s theory, I will do the same for deMause’s theory.

/BIRTH/ leads to /TRAUMA OF BIRTH/ + /INCIDENT, DISAGREEMENT, AND THE LIKE, BETWEEN GROUPS/ leads to /RHETORIC OF STRANGULATION—A NEED TO RELEASE THE CHILD—PROJECTION OF THE BIRTH IMAGERY/ leads to /FANTASY OF REBIRTH/ leads to /CHILD’S LIFE AT RISK/ leads to /WAR/.

It may sound strange, but deMause does not believe that wars are quite inevitable. I deliberately exaggerated when I said that, according to deMause, war is a "must-be". DeMause himself holds that conflicts may be prevented. But his vision of preventive diplomacy differs from our official concept of prevention like heaven differs from hell, and, as one can easily predict, conflict prevention, in deMause’s view, is not something that foreign ministries or diplomats should be doing. DeMause believes that there are actually three ways to prevent conflicts. The three represent what I like to call "prevention through re-channelling", which, of course, significantly differs from Lakoff’s "prevention through rational argumentation", which certainly is something that foreign ministries and official diplomats are able, and more than welcome, to do. "Prevention through re-channelling" basically takes three forms: first, a leader may understand that his people have started to approach a very dangerous state of mind, the state of obsessive need to re-experience the trauma of birth. He may then offer his own sacrifice. He may enact the drama of birth himself, using himself as a scapegoat for the "hungry" masses. He may offer himself as a screen onto which his people will then project their inner drama of rebirth. DeMause holds that this is exactly what Nixon did through the Watergate affair. Second, a leader may simply simulate an action which will meet the need of the people to re-enact the trauma of birth. The leader should, according to deMause, use the opportunity of increased international tension to allow the people to let off steam by pretending he is ready to launch a war but really launching a very limited quasi-aggressive action. The leader thus plays the role of a movie director, who, by taking only a half-complete, risky but not harmful or lethal action, satisfies the public’s need to see and feel "blood and suffering". DeMause claims that Dwight Eisenhower was a mastermind of this type of "prevention through re-channelling". For instance, the actions Eisenhower took in late 1954 during the period of increased friction in relations between America and China was an example of the second means of conflict prevention. The third, and final, way deMause suggests to try decreasing the number of conflicts taking place in this world is through appropriate child-rearing. If one brings up a child in a safe environment, and is sensitive to the child’s need to re-experience the trauma of birth, then the likelihood that people raised thus will need to act out the trauma through political means or lethal conflicts will decline. I like to call the third type of conflict prevention "prevention through the most timely re-channelling".

Notice here to what extent deMause’s conflict prevention measures differ from all the wise things one learns in schools of diplomacy, international relations and law. Just imagine the consternation a junior diplomat would cause by proposing to his minister to propose to a head of state to initiate a mini-Watergate to calm the innate need of his people to re-experience the trauma of birth, which would definitely save "tens of thousands of lives", etc. Or imagine a diplomat deciding to resign from the ministry in order to rear a child in ways more sensitive to the child’s experience of birth in order to aid in the prevention of future conflicts. Sounds silly, but if one believes that re-channelling is a better way to cope with the lethal and aggressive parts of our nature, then the ways of classical, formal diplomacy are definitely far less promising than those deMause proposes.

DeMause is not the only theoretician who believes that rhetoric originates from deep and irrational layers. David Campbell, for instance, holds that the rhetoric of danger and of the alien is inherent to our making of foreign policy, and that without a rhetoric to describe the existence of a threatening other, neither states nor their foreign policy element would have an identity. There is no identity without an enemy. Campbell thus believes that rhetoric comes from a need for identity, that it is based on quasi-perception of a threat, and that without the sense of threat states would not have anything to do internationally. He writes that "the constant articulation of danger through foreign policy is thus not a threat to a state’s identity or existence; it is its condition of possibility". Campbell in actual fact time and again voices his belief that the foreign policy element of the modern state is comparable to the role the church used to play in the age of pre-modernity. Like the church, which "relied heavily on discourses of danger to establish its authority", modern states rely on rhetoric and "evangelism of fear", to secure and maintain their identity, and finally, to maintain their authority through promising their "followers" salvation, immortality, and a role worth fighting for. Campbell’s theory is very similar to deMause’s, and can be summarized along the following lines.

Leaders’ rhetoric comes from the deepest layers of our selves. It forms and maintains our political identity as it meets our most basic need to have all things threatening to us sharply defined and kept separate from ourselves. The concept of preventive diplomacy through "re-channelling" would be a clear implication of the tenets of Campbell’s theory. Campbell himself would probably say that rational argumentation would do no harm to the discourses and the rhetoric of danger, and that one should find better ways to meet our needs for identity, protection, and salvation, in ways less harmful and less threatening to others.

THE VEIL OF OUR IGNORANCE

There seems little doubt that leaders’ rhetoric plays some role in the etiology of armed conflict. There also seems little doubt that analysis and deconstruction of leaders’ rhetoric offer an attractive method to prevent a "war of words" from sliding into a "war of arms". However, our key problem lies in the fact that we do not yet know where rhetoric and metaphors come from. What parts of our minds are responsible for the generation of metaphors in the context of international politics? Is it the part which strives for objective knowledge, for objective theories that retain their validity in all imaginable contexts of our action? Or is it the part which cares for maintenance of our self-image, our inner sense of identity? Or is it perhaps a deeper part, more irrational than the first two, the memories of pre-natal stages, of our birth-fantasies?

There is another possibility. It is quite possible that the locus of origins of both rhetoric and metaphors changes from case to case, depending on complexity and severity of conditions. But we do not know this either. We may start with the assumption that some metaphors reflect our biological design (type A), some reflect our historical experience (type B), while others reflect our daily practices (type C). For instance, if I said "Malta is my mother", then the metaphor would reflect my biological design and have a deMausean flavour. If, on the other hand, I said "Kissinger is Prince Metternich reborn", then the metaphor would reflect our historical experience and have the flavour of an identity theory, so to speak. And finally, if I said "today’s Bosnia resembles a victim of a traffic accident in which all drivers violated a number of traffic-regulations", then the metaphor would reflect my daily, practical experience and would have the flavour of the theory of rational argumentation. Now, the psychological theories in which we believe would predict that the more complex the conditions in which mental imagery and metaphors occur, the more likely our minds to regress. Thus, rhetoric of type A is most likely to occur under the most complex conditions, rhetoric of type B is most likely to occur under conditions of average complexity, and rhetoric of type C is most likely to occur under the least complex conditions. But, first, the complexity concerned is complexity relative to the mind which perceives it. Unfortunately, we are not yet in possession of a measure of that kind of complexity, although the sciences of complexity seem to accumulate more and more extremely interesting findings along the borderlines of math, physics, and molecular biology. Second, even if we come into possession of such a measure, no one will be able to isolate perception of complexity from arbitrary and randomly fluctuating factors. Leaders will probably continue enjoying the privilege to use rhetoric of type A even under the least complex conditions of international politics, contrary to what the aforementioned theory predicts. Will they ever stop dramatizing non-dramatic events, a natural inclination because drama gives them an opportunity to portray their role as more important than it actually is? Will they ever learn that the line dividing drama from hostility is a thin one? We may only guess. Are they, and are we ourselves, capable of learning that? We do not know that either.

Finally, I would like to emphasize that as statecraft itself is highly dependent on the image of human nature it considers credible, the methods of preventive diplomacy debated here depend heavily on the theory of leaders’ rhetoric one considers credible. Since we remain ignorant about the origins of rhetoric, about conditions of its appearance as well as about its effects, the measures of appropriate rhetoric-based conflict prevention remain unclear too. The issue as to whether one should conduct classical prevention through rational argumentation, as Lakoff proposes, or prevention through re-channelling, as deMause proposes, thus remains unresolved. Would it be better to opt for face-to-face prevention, with its immediate, short-term, and individually directed effects? Or to opt for prevention oriented towards the culture of an entire group, which, with its indirect, long-term, and slowly accumulating effects, can hardly be subsumed under the concept of preventive diplomacy as run by professional servicemen of foreign ministries? There also remains the third and safest way. Ignorant as we are, perhaps we should use both ways until we find which of the two, and under what conditions, is better.

Year
2002-01-01T00:00:00
Author
Drazen Pehar
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In this paper, Drazen Pehar analyses the argumentation made by George Lakoff of the University of California at Berkeley in his seminal paper  on ‘Metaphor and War’, in which he tried to deconstruct the rhetoric U.S. president George Bush used to justify the war in the Gulf. He also analyses a reading by psycho-historian Lloyd deMause, whose theory differs from Lakoff’s. Throughout his analysis, Pehar describes the role of rhetoric in diplomatic prevention of armed conflicts, and its several functions, and concludes that the methods of preventive diplomacy depend heavily on the theory of leaders’ rhetoric one considers credible.

Source: 
Knowledge and Diplomacy. Ed by J. Kurbalija (2002)
 Drazen Pehar, 2002

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In his paper, J. Thomas Converse focuses on four records-related areas where the issues of knowledge management and diplomacy come together and provide the greatest challenges to archivists, diplomats, historians and technology providers: validation, trustworthiness, context and longevity. He also explores some of the changes and challenges brought about by technology, and urges for a continued embrace of technology, while at the same time demanding the validating and relational functions which give archives their trustworthiness.

Long Text

When preparing this presentation I initially found it somewhat difficult to decide what its focus would be. Archival and records management theory and practice, knowledge management, information technology and diplomacy at first glance seem to be a pretty disparate group of topics for a 30 minute presentation. It can, however, be done. I chose to focus on four records-related areas where these issues come together and provide the greatest challenges to archivists, diplomats, historians and technology providers. These areas are: (1) validation, (2) trustworthiness, (3) context and (4) longevity.

Having been intimately concerned with diplomatic records as a creator of them, a consumer of them and a custodian of them has given me a well-rounded view of their importance, their functions and their limitations. As a result of my background with the State Archives of Kentucky, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. National Archives and my current position as head of the records section of the Inter-American Development Bank I have become more and more convinced that an organization which has a well conceived and fully functioning records management program will have a solid archives and that that archives can be an essential contributor to the information and knowledge needs of the organization. On the other hand, an organization which lacks a solid foundation regarding both its current and its non-current records will be building its information structures on sand and will pay a heavy price for such a state of affairs. So, with my biases exposed, let us turn to some definitions of archives and look at their implications for diplomacy, especially in light of the new technologies.

 

DEFINITIONS OF ARCHIVES

 

The archival Magna Carta is Sir Hilary Jenkinson’s A Manual of Archive Administration, published in 1922. This manual is the departure point for discussions of archival theory and practice, at least in the English speaking world. Sir Hilary, in a later essay, defined archives as "the Documents accumulated by a natural process in the course of the Conduct of Affairs of any kind, Public or Private, at any date; and preserved thereafter for Reference, in their own Custody, by the persons responsible for the Affairs in question or their successors." In an article in the Spring, 1994 issue of the American Archivist, Luciana Duranti quotes this definition and further cites Jenkinson’s Manual in which she notes that "because they [archival documents] are created as a means for, and a by-product of, action, not ‘in the interest or for the information of Posterity,’ and because they are ‘free from the suspicion of prejudice in regard to the interests in which we now use them,’ archival documents are impartial and ‘cannot tell…anything but the truth.’" Now this is a startling concept—that archives are inherently trustworthy and useful precisely because they were generated as a by-product of recording the daily business transactions of an organization (or individual) and without regard to how they might be used by other people for other reasons in other times.

Laundry lists

A couple of examples might be illustrative. Consider, for example, the laundry lists of a medieval monastery and why they might be a very useful research tool. Some monk, or succession of monks, created, over a period of time, lists of dirty linen and what happened to it. These records express no interest in anything else going on in their organization, much less in their society as a whole. Whatever went into the laundry lists was validated as having to do with that topic by the mere fact of inclusion. Those responsible for the laundry records did not intermix records dealing with other matters; if it didn’t have to do with dirty linen, they didn’t accept them. Once accepted as germane, the records were arranged in ways most useful to the laundry department—by name of monk, by type of material, by date, whatever was organically most useful to them. The fourth point to note is, of course, that they survived the vagaries of the centuries.

Exactly because of this specificity in why they were gathered together (validation); the fact of their being accepted by the organization as reliable (trustworthy); their internal groupings (context and arrangement) and their survival (longevity) it is possible to use such records with confidence in, for example: an analysis of administrative costs of religious institutions; the names and status of individual monks based on the numbers of articles to be washed or numbers of changes of clothing; studies of medieval textile trade patterns, perhaps even determining the names of individual weavers or cloth merchants; the internal hierarchy of the monastery; liturgical customs based on the use of various vestments; the dating of visits by passing royalty; seasonal changes in clothing; etc., etc. The very fact that the creators of the laundry lists were supremely indifferent to providing information on administrative costs, names and status of monks, the textile trade, weavers, hierarchies, liturgical issues, royal visits, seasonal changes, etc., etc.—makes the information which they provide about these areas so very valuable. They unconsciously provide the peripheral vision of history, without which history would suffer from tunnel vision.

As an aside, the examples I am using here illustrate that diplomatic (and indeed all) archives share certain common traits which offer particular challenges to the consumers of today’s information technology. These challenges include the development of computer functionality for the creation and maintenance of true records. To do this, records produced electronically must: (1) be able to be validated as being relevant to the business transaction at hand, (2) provide an environment which will allow records created in the normal course of business to maintain their inherent trustworthiness, (3) provide some architecture for maintaining a meaningful relationship among records and, perhaps the most difficult, (4) ensure survival over time. Surely it is not too much to expect the latest technology to at least provide the functionalities available to medieval monks.

Concentration camp records

This continuity of traits could be illustrated in any number of other examples. The records of Hitler’s Germany, for instance, captured by the U.S. Army after the fall of Berlin in 1945 were useful at the War Crimes trials in Nuremberg precisely because they were created without consideration of how they might be used outside the context of their creation. They did not have subject files arranged under the title "Atrocities" or "the Holocaust" but rather they were organic records of routine transactions relating to, for example, the administration of concentration camps. These routine transactional records might include orders of the day, receipts for supplies (such as poison gas), bills of lading for the shipment of personal effects (such as eye-glasses and gold teeth), personnel records which listed everyone from the camp commanders to the guards (including periods of service and position descriptions), routine periodic reports from the camp medical unit (which might include the results of experiments on human beings), mortality registers, incident reports of uprisings and how they were quelled; in short, all the usual, mundane records likely to be produced in the daily course of business in a well-ordered military installation. Only by reviewing such routine records does the full impact of what went on in these camps hit home. And these routine records were accepted without question by the War Crimes Tribunal because they were inherently trustworthy. As unalike as these records are from the monastery laundry lists, they share the common threads mentioned above—they are trustworthy because they had no interest in documenting anything other than the routine transaction at hand, the act of inclusion in the files served to validated the records, they were maintained in a meaningful order and they were preserved over time.

State Department records

Another body of records to consider might be those of the U.S. Department of State. Regular reports are submitted to Washington from all diplomatic and consular posts, and have been since the 1790s. Studies of U.S. foreign policy can be enhanced by going beyond the selected documents published in the "Foreign Relations of the United States" (the FRUS) and looking at these raw reports. Indeed, since the documents printed in the FRUS are selected after the fact, they are inherently less trustworthy than the original reports which must be, by definition, trustworthy. These reports were filed by name of diplomatic post and chronologically thereunder. The pre-1903 reports have been microfilmed and are available for use and purchase at the U.S. National Archives. An early 19th century consul might never have mentioned the words "foreign policy" in a report, but his comments on the treatment of U.S. ships by the local harbour master, the relative status of the U.S. ex-patriot community, the progress of civil and criminal cases through the local courts, the treatment of U.S. prisoners, the status of negotiations over export licenses, local gossip, rumours of coups, complaints about the unhealthy climate, currency fluctuations, local customs, language issues, legal issues, etc., provide a rich soup of information which was used then in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy and which can be mined for a variety of purposes today. This body of records is still receiving accretions to this day.

Let’s follow the path of how more recent diplomatic information becomes a part of these files by looking at the first foray of a junior foreign service officer into diplomatic reporting in the mid-1980s. To protect the innocent, let’s call him, oh, Tom, for the sake of this discussion. Shortly after his arrival at post, where he had begun his first tour as third secretary working in the consular section on the visa line, Tom attended a large reception at the ambassador’s residence. The food and liquor were excellent, the music and the lights were soft, all the movers and shakers were there. In other words, all the elements were in place for a hard night of diplomatic representational work. Now I’m not being sarcastic here—this is the setting in which much of the most important work of diplomacy is done. Here is where information (and misinformation) is exchanged, where friend and foe are sized up, where friendships are made and rivalries contested. What is of interest to the archivist, as well as to the historian and the diplomat, is how such environments produce meaningful records.

Well, back to Tom. During the course of the evening, he acquired some startling information. It could have been about currency fluctuations, or export restrictions, or the flow of illegal aliens, or the love-life of a prominent local figure or any one of a thousand topics. For the sake of this discussion, let us say that it related to a coup d’etat planned for the following month. As soon as he could find his consul general, Tom told her of his hot item and suggested that they notify Washington immediately. She, much wiser than Tom in the ways of diplomacy and how information was treated, listened and suggested that they follow the usual channels. (She certainly knew that awakening the Secretary of State at one in the morning to discuss coup rumours with a junior officer would not be a career-enhancing move.) Disappointed but undaunted, Tom began to navigate those channels which would lead his information into the safe waters of the diplomatic archives.

At Tom’s earliest opportunity he wrote a standard "memcon", or memorandum of conversation, going on for pages about what an important piece of information he had and how it would change history. He took the time and trouble to set the scene, providing copious background information about the party, the ambiance, his reactions to it, how he thought the information he was sending should be used, whose side we should take in the imminent civil war, what he thought of all parties concerned, etc., etc. Little did he realize the process through which his multi-page opus would go before being transformed from information to record.

The first step was to transcribe it from hand-written notes into a customized word processing package and print it out onto a standard form, compatible with the communications equipment in use at the time which would convert it to a cable and transmit it to Washington. (Now this is an important part of the validation process—the physical format must be correct or the record will be summarily rejected.) Excitedly he sat down at the terminal and began to work. Certain information fields were required, such as drafter. That would be proud young Tom. Then the system asked for clearances. Young Tom put down his boss, the consul general. He put in certain codes which were attached to the cable-to-be, such as CO for consular matters, reflecting his assigned position. Proudly young Tom took the great document to his boss, sure it would be flashed to Washington at once, re-writing diplomatic history. Alas, illusions are grand but not always long-lived. The consul general took a heavy blue pen to the draft, pruning out much deathless prose, not even trying to be gentle as she pointed out that no one cared that Tom’s favourite scotch had been served at the party, whether or not the minister of justice’s wife had on the same dress as someone else, how the newly redecorated residence looked, and certainly no one wanted Tom’s opinions about the past, present or future. The purpose of the memcon was to report facts. Analysis was outside its scope. She also pointed out that even the subject code was incorrect. It had nothing to do with consular affairs, even though Tom might have been a consular officer. The proper subject was PO for Political issues. She increased the number of clearances to include the Deputy Chief of Mission and several others who had been at the reception. Unconsciously, as an organic part of her function, she was deepening the validation process by making sure that this embryonic document conformed to the standards of the records system of which it would form a part, both in terms of format and content. Once she had finished pruning, it went through the clearance process. The DCM made a few additions to the message, such as the fact that the high-ranking officer who was the source of this report was involved in a simmering dispute with another high-ranking officer whose career he had often tried to damage. Another clearer mentioned that the source had been drinking heavily all evening and that he had been overheard saying that he was going to "get el Colonel" that night. Other clearers added other details. When all the clearances were signed off on, the much shorter cable was taken to communications where it was sent. Once received, it was copied, distributed and filed with two centuries of similar reports.

Diplomatic history was not, alas, re-written. No coup occurred. Luckily the "fact" had been vetted, placed in its context, recorded as a rumour and then properly filed away with all its brother and sister reports going back two hundred years. Young Tom could, however, take comfort in the knowledge that he had contributed to both diplomacy and history, albeit in a very small way, since his information had been converted into something worthy to be part of the archives of the U.S. Department of State. It had been (1) validated, making it (2) inherently trustworthy, (3) it had joined with many other accretions to the reporting files, putting it in its proper context and (4) it would be kept for further reference.

Other examples could include aerial photographs of Europe and Japan, Stasi files, secret correspondence of Louis XV, baggage lists from U.S. immigration, visa files, Czar’s secret police, and so on and so on, but I think that I have made my point about what gives a record archival value. I would now like to turn again to the issue which I raised earlier about new information technologies and the challenges and opportunities they offer to the "traditional" archives and records keeping systems.

CHANGES AND CHALLENGES OCCASIONED BY TECHNOLOGY

 

Because of the very success of archives in storing knowledge, new types of researchers are clamouring at their doors, demanding information in new formats and with new expectations of what can and should be done with the information "locked away in dusty old boxes". These new demands hold great promise and create perils for archives and their users.

One of the results of this change of users and uses is the blurring of the distinctions between information and records. All records are information but certainly not all information is a record. Those who ignore this distinction do so at their peril. Let me give you a couple of instances to illustrate this distinction and how technology has been involved.

TWA Flight 800

This blurring of lines was brought home to me when Pierre Salinger, the former aide to John F. Kennedy, claimed to have proof that the U.S. Air Force shot down TWA flight 800 over Long Island a couple of years ago. I remember him standing before the TV cameras in Paris, waving a piece of paper and saying, "Here is proof that the Air Force did it." As near as I can figure it out, the following happened. Mr. Salinger knew someone who worked in a French intelligence service. This person had obtained a copy of something which reportedly had been acquired by someone with access to the CIA’s computer system. What they found, and posted on the Internet, was a statement that the Air Force had been responsible. The mistake that Mr. Salinger made was to transfer the assumed trustworthiness of a properly "archived" document to a piece of free-floating information. The information which was obtained (or leaked or planted) was deracinated, it had no context. Where was it from? Was it indeed from the CIA? If so, how had it been identified? Was it from their "rumours" file? Or from their "usually reliable sources" file? Was it in their cables from the field or was it a photocopy of something from a tabloid which they had as part of their reference files of nonvalidated information? Had it been forged and put out as part of an attempt to exculpate the airlines or the manufacturers of the plane or by some conspiracy-obsessed individual or by someone who wanted to make a movie? Where is it now? It fails every test of "archivability", to coin an inelegant word. It was nonvalidated, untrustworthy, without context and impermanent. And yet, because it came from a computer a person used to handling important information accepted it at face value. Where is technology taking us?

In the interests of time, I will pass over the issue of subject files and reference files and how they relate to archives. This could be the topic of a paper in itself.

To avoid merely complaining about misapplied technology and get specific I offer the following as minimum requirements which must be in place before records in electronic format could be acceptable to archivists, historians, diplomats or anyone else who depends of records on a daily basis:

  • A sine qua non is meaningful metadata. The capability exists to ensure that all relevant data about data being created and preserved electronically is present and accounted for. I would want to know that any system purporting to be an electronic records system is robust enough to carry the heavy burden of validating the information.
  • If electronic information is being represented as an archives, the standards which make it inherently trustworthy should be clearly defined. This can be done, but is expensive and complicated. Already there are records-keeping standards being developed in Australia and by the U.S. Department of Defence which are widely available. All of us must be clear that the computer term "archives" means to make a back-up copy. It has nothing to do with the functions of an archive. To mention a pet peeve of mine, "archives" is a noun, never a verb.
  • Provide context. A simple, direct-access, relational database is wonderful for quick answers, but as anyone who has done even a simple search on the Internet knows, the results of that search may provide you with every single one of the thirty references you may want for Marie, Princess of Battenberg of the House of Hesse, but if those references are buried within 250,000 hits covering Battenberg lace, the Hesse Oil Company, the Princess cruise line, every real estate company selling houses and Herman Hesse, what have you got? In the field of archival cataloguing some of the most fiendishly difficult challenges involve the linkages between related files, series, sub-series, documents, etc. It can be done, but is also expensive and complicated.
  • Provide longevity. (This may be the biggest challenge of all.) The current life-expectancy of five years for a computer application is not enough to guarantee that records will survive for as long as they are needed. In a related area, I also expect clear distinctions between the use of computers for access and for preservation and I expect both issues to be addressed. Confusion between them may present the greatest threat to the continued value of archives. They are not the same. Indeed they are sometimes diametrically opposed. Increasing access may put records at risk. Preservation issues may limit access. Those who say "Let’s use the power of the computers and scanners. Just put everything on the computer where we can search it and don’t worry about that old-fashioned paper" make ice-cold chills run up my spine. It’s not the paper I continue to long for, it’s the overt context I want to see. Another related spine-chilling comment is, "I’ve got what I need from this database. Just dump it." We do not have to be Luddites to have concerns about any organization’s commitment to keep data fresh, to migrate it every five years or so, to keep all the metadata intact and to keep all the archival relationships clear, especially when the original creator or user has finished with it. Archivists and historians may know that there are lots of secondary uses of information, many of which are more important (to us, anyway) than the original use was. We must make sure that the IT department understands this use. I wonder how many electronic records will not make it across the Y2K divide because someone will decide that what’s on them is "just old stuff" or "we’re through with that file" and throw out the diskettes rather than spend valuable time and money ensuring that the information is preserved?

CONCLUSION

So where are we? Right where we started as far as archival principles go but light-years ahead as far as the tools available are concerned. Archives (and archivists) have survived paradigm shifts before; we have gone from clay tablets to papyrus to moveable type to punch cards and, yes, even diskettes. We’ll survive again. It’s the attrition rate of information loss as we cross that technological boundary which I would hope to reduce to a minimum. So let us embrace the power of the computer to provide us with access speeds we never imagined even a few years ago; let us take advantage of data-mining technologies, of messaging possibilities, of the Internet and the Intranet and the Web, let us do all we can do using the technologies on offer, but let us also demand the validating and relational functions which give archives trustworthiness for as long as they need to be kept. It would be ironic if the 21st century, instead of leading to a technological utopia were to lead us backward to an informational Dark Ages where institutions loose the ability to create and maintain trustworthy records which can stand as guardians of individual rights and as sources of information which can be used to unite us. Working together we can ensure that computers will bring us great benefits. Failure to articulate our mutual needs as information consumers and custodians might well mean that records-keeping concerns are not addressed when designing information systems and we will all inadvertently contribute to an epidemic of organizational Alzheimer’s.

Year
2002-01-01T00:00:00
Author
J. Thomas Converse
Year
Resource type
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In his paper, J. Thomas Converse focuses on four records-related areas where the issues of knowledge management and diplomacy come together and provide the greatest challenges to archivists, diplomats, historians and technology providers: validation, trustworthiness, context and longevity. He also explores some of the changes and challenges brought about by technology, and urges for a continued embrace of technology, while at the same time demanding the validating and relational functions which give archives their trustworthiness.

Source: 
Knowledge and Diplomacy. Ed by J. Kurbalija (2002)
 J. Thomas Converse, 2002

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