Look out, Foreign Policy! Here comes Talyn!

Written by Charles Crawford

My article in DIPLOMAT about Diplomatic Loyalties has been recycled by Grassroot Diplomat, a site run by Talyn Rahman-Figueroa.

She opens with this ambitious statement:

"Imagine this. You are a diplomat representing your birth country, but your heritage lies with two other states from your parents and you are married to a non-native national. You are proud of your heritage, you love your family, and you are a strong supporter of the country you declared yourself to. One day, your country starts a fight with your partner’s country, and you have to lead the negotiations which may split the country, create political refugees, and potentially turn to war. Where does your loyalty lie?

“This is quite an intricate question that many diplomats have to struggle with. As a British woman from Bangladeshi origin married to an American, I wonder what I would do in that situation and find myself thinking hard for quite some time in silence.”

Actually, it’s a strikingly rare situation, thank goodness. The answer in principle is simple: if you want to be paid to do a job, do the job as best you can (which is not always easy). If you have real qualms about the wisdom or morality of what you are told to do, go and get another job. Foreign Policy moves on, with you or without you.

She concludes:

How do diplomats cope with the instructions of HQ if every nerve in their body rebels against it? Would you rather trust the government you work for, or the family that have always been by your side? It’s not an easy question to answer, but it is one that all diplomats must one day be prepared for. 

What’s odd in fact is how few diplomats ever feel their bodily nerves a-rebelling against their instructions. Are diplomats insensate, wicked creatures little more than slaves whose servitude comes with better than average accommodation and lots of dull receptions?

Or is it that they know that as part of the way the world works and always will work there need to be ways for messages to be sent frankly between countries and leaders, even (especially?) when things get tough and unpleasant? A dirty job sometimes, but someone has to do it.

I report. You decide.

Reading Talyn’s ambitious self-description I feel exhausted:

“Training in diplomacy with a special focus on corporate social responsibility, climate change, UN reform, gender justice and nuclear disarmament. My vision is to one day close the gap between civil society and key decision makers for a common cause. I am also in the process of publishing my fiction novel, based on the popular video-game, Street Fighter.” 

My advice to Ms Rahman if she wants to achieve anything serious in any of these areas?

Forget policy. Policies are like fashions – they come and go.

Focus instead on Technique.

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