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Research Report

Transformational diplomacy

Justin Vaïsse
Copyright Date: Jun. 1, 2007
Pages: 116
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 7-8)

    On 18 January 2006, speaking in front of an audience of Georgetown School of Foreign Service students, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice outlined a new concept to describe her policy directions: transformational diplomacy (see Annex 1):

    ‘I would define the objective of transformational diplomacy this way: to work with our many partners around the world, to build and sustain democratic, well-governed states that will respond to the needs of their people and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system.’

    It would be just as excessive to identify the core of American foreign policy in those two words as it would...

  2. (pp. 9-20)

    Who coined the expression ‘transformational diplomacy’? Everything points to Condoleezza Rice herself, or to someone from her inner circle (Jim Wilkinson has been mentioned as one of the possible ‘inventors’ of the phrase, as well as Steve Krasner), the concept having progressively taken shape over the course of 2005, and coming into frequent use, in its current meaning, in December 2005- January 2006.¹

    The etymological origins of transformational diplomacy are easy to pin down: they start with the World War II and Cold War victories. For George W. Bush, and even more so for Condoleezza Rice, who was directly involved...

  3. (pp. 21-26)

    If threats to the security of the United States now come from within States rather than from their foreign policy, then nation building and good governance aid become more important than diplomacy. As a result, the work of diplomats is being redefined. That is exactly what transformational diplomacy implies. According to Philip Zelikow, former special advisor to Condoleezza Rice:

    ‘You need a diplomatic corps that’s not just watching, observing and reporting, but a diplomatic corps that is helping with local partners to actually make change happen on the ground. What does that mean? That means things like advising them on...

  4. (pp. 27-46)

    During the Cold War, when it was born, American development aid policy possessed a strong coherence that derived from the fight against communism. Basically, it was about promoting economic development and prosperity of European societies, and later of Third World societies, in order to reduce the appeal of communist ideology and the threat of revolution. But it was also, in a more direct way, about buying influence, prestige, permission to establish military bases, or offering military assistance to allied countries – be they democratic or not – in their efforts to battle insurrections or communist infiltration.52

    At the end of...

  5. (pp. 47-60)

    Although geographic redeployment, development aid reform, and the creation of the Director of Foreign Assistance position were announced when the concept of transformational diplomacy was formulated in January 2006, the reform of the stabilisation and reconstruction tool predates that concept. But that does not make it any less closely tied to it: what could be more transformational than the capability to rebuild a war-torn country, and also to democratise a dictatorship that has just been overthrown (Afghanistan, Iraq)? Here we reach the very heart of the Bush doctrine continuum (regime change – democratisation – requirements of nation building – support...

  6. (pp. 61-68)

    Strictly speaking, the Pentagon is only indirectly affected by transformational diplomacy, through the increased coordination that is being put in place for stabilisation and reconstruction operations. This is why this chapter will be limited to a brief assessment of some ongoing reforms at the Department of Defense, with two specific objectives. On the one hand, to show that the political impetuses for transformational diplomacy (ideological evolution of the administration and upheavals in the geopolitical context) have also had a notable, and in many ways similar, impact on the Pentagon. On the other hand, to formulate the hypothesis that this impact...

  7. (pp. 69-74)

    These closing remarks will not focus on the bureaucratic changes linked to transformational diplomacy at the State Department and, to a lesser degree, at the Department of Defense, but rather on the overall validity of the concept of transformational diplomacy and on the limitations affecting its area of implementation and its future.

    First, the effort of American diplomacy to adapt to a new geopolitical context should be commended. It is a well-established attitude in Europe and elsewhere to criticise the United States in a schizophrenic fashion – to blame Americans for their lack of coherence in foreign policy when no...