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Raymond F. Smith

The Commentary section of this issue offers perspectives on the practice of diplomacy that range from the historical through the contemporary to considerations of future challenges. Thomas E. McNamara offers a perspective on the Monroe Doctrine that emphasizes the brilliant diplomacy practiced by John Quincy Adams, the first American secretary of state. In her account of violent struggles for power in the Central African Republic, June Carter Perry captures both the personal and professional challenges faced by diplomatic personnel in dangerous environments. Those who think diplomatic life is all tea and crumpets should read this. Mark Wentling explains how a required document, the mission strategic plan, which is often regarded as no more than a tedious bureaucratic exercise, could be transformed into a more useful tool for shaping development and assistance efforts. Finally, David Satterfield outlines some of the ways the US diplomatic service has adapted successfully to the institutional and technological challenges of the last several decades and points to areas where it still has work to do. He discusses the diplomatic challenges posed by the war in Ukraine, the rise of China, and the internal conflicts that continue to ravage Sudan.

In their Eyewitness accounts, William Harrop and Ed Marks illustrate how a clever diplomat thinking outside the box can, or at least might, make a large impact with limited resources. Diplomats often serve assignments in places with limited opportunities for social activities. Robert Pearson describes pick-up baseball games in 1980s China, some of which, for a time, involved a Spanish-speaking opponent that did not identify itself, and that the US team did not particularly wish to identify. Romania in the 1970’s was also not a particularly congenial environment for Western diplomats. Jonathan Rickert describes a grand, carefully planned farewell dinner party that relieved the tedium of daily life. And yes, sometimes diplomatic life does include tea and crumpets.

The first of this month’s selections from the Association for Diplomatic Studies Moments in History archive concerns how one diplomat dealt with a situation in which US policy conflicted with his conscience. The second demonstrates an embassy facing a democratic electoral process that wound up putting in power someone the US did not like.

Our own archive section provides links to three articles discussing aspects of the US/China relationship over the decades.

Two of the external Links I have selected for this issue cover aspects of the war in Ukraine and US policy in dealing with it. The third provides an update on Russia’s involvement in Africa that might be read in conjunction with William Harrop’s Eyewitness account of an earlier period of Soviet/Russian activities in one of the countries on the continent.

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