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Diplomacy 2.0

FLORENCE – There is much talk in the air – especially in Britain and the United States – about reinventing diplomacy for the twenty-first century. Both US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the British Tories’ leader, David Cameron, have spoken recently of a new synthesis of defense, diplomacy, and development, noting that recent American and British foreign policy has placed too much emphasis on the first element at the expense of the latter two.

Meanwhile, the European Union has established a new foreign-policy apparatus called the European External Action Service (EEAS), which is meant to represent the common interests of all 27 of the EU’s member states. The lines of authority between the new Euro-diplomats and existing national foreign ministries are still unclear; but the EEAS is, nonetheless, a fact.

Similar plans for Asia and elsewhere remain largely on the drawing board; but the members of such organizations as the ASEAN Regional Forum, the African Union, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization at least are talking more and more seriously about harmonizing policies on issues of common interest.

Regionalism has moved to the foreground of global politics – except in the US, where the two are seen as antithetical. Clinton has described today’s major global challenge for her country as being the improvement of communication across borders and at all levels of society, evidently everywhere. To this end, her chief policy planner, the Princeton professor Anne-Marie Slaughter, has touted the US as the favored hub of a global network of people, institutions, and relationships.