An ‘Insult School’?
The President of the United States has asked Congress to establish a National Academy of Foreign Affairs to train American diplomats just as diplomacy by insult appears to have reached its finest flower both here and abroad. Plain speech or the knuckle-duster approach in forcing relations has in recent weeks raised the hackles on nations that were, at least on the surface, kissin’s cousins. In the world arena, our Secretary of State, thanks to a few blunt words, has so infuriated Canada that I am prepared to hear that our Northern neighbor is contemplating a wall to keep our dollars in and our citizens out. As for “le Grand Charles,” he has recently been so busy insulting his friends that he has had no time to dust off his enemies. Khrushchev has violently denounced the Franco-West German rapprochement. And the third Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Conference, just to keep in practice, used the most insulting language to condemn Great Britain, France, the United States, the United Nations, Israel, Portugal and South Africa, to name a few.
To Perfect The Insult?
In suggesting a National Academy of Foreign Affairs, it is difficult to know whether the President is contemplating the perfection of the new insult technique or a return to old-fashioned diplomacy, once described as the ability “to do and say the nastiest things in the nicest way.” That ability “to do and say the nastiest things in the nicest way” kept the world wagging along on an uneven keel for centuries during which diplomacy was conducted behind closed doors. It was the rapier vs. the bludgeon approach, that has come to characterize “open diplomacy openly arrived at.” The demand for “open diplomacy openly arrived at” developed out of World War I, in a misguided belief that this was the only way to conduct foreign affairs in a democratic manner. In recent years, there has been a growing belief that perhaps a few closed doors in the conduct of foreign affairs is not a bad idea and that maybe — for once – Grandpa knew best.
It Hasn't Worked Yet
No one can honestly claim that open diplomacy openly arrived at has evened the world’s keel, prevented wars or endeared nations to one another in any noticeable degree. Probably its most notable contribution to the conduct of world affairs has been the introduction of the shoe as a diplomatic weapon or equalizer. Surely this nation has also reached a maturity that demands that the two major political parties stop regarding the big and important foreign posts as political plums. For 100 years diplomatic appointments to such foreign posts as London, Paris, Rome, Madrid and even Berlin – in the old days – have been handed out by Republicans and Democrats alike as rewards to the rich party faithfuls who contribute handsomely to the party war chests. The going price of London and Paris was pegged at a contribution of $50,000 some 30 years ago. How inflation has affected the asking price knoweth not. But is surely a preposterous way to run a railroad or a diplomatic service. – Inez Robb, 1963
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