A Neutral Career

(Over)Thinking about my future career aims, the choice of diplomacy as a noble career appears legitimate in a certain idealist sense. That is, diplomats are supposed to be peace makers and engineers of amicable economic and political relations between countries. Some of them become the heads of international humanitarian organizations or leaders of committees on pressing issues such as the AIDS epidemics, women’s rights, or child soldiers.  In such a light, it is often depicted as a self-giving  career that demands the creation of the utmost openness and cooperation between the two or more parties involved through the powers of persuasion and negotiation.

But then I started to wonder how such peace and “good” things were achieved and to what end. Essentially, the diplomat’s job is similar to that of a lawyer. While he/she may not have the right to interfere in the politics of another nation, the diplomat is still representing the interests of her/his client, namely their government (or governments/security or interest groups in the case of international org leaders). Therefore, national interests may hold a stronger sway than more Wilsonian efforts towards peace. A diplomat may also be instructed by their clients not to give away or discuss any information that would diminish the security advantages or disadvantages of a given nation or  to hide evidence that there would be any future hostilities or abandonment of cooperative interests to the country subject to the diplomatic mission. For example, if a stronger country is planning to go to war against a weaker country, which had previously been protected by amiable diplomatic relations, . Whose fault is it then, if the weaker country is not warned by the stronger country’s diplomat who was instructed to keep his or her mouth shut? By persuasion, a diplomat of a powerful country may have the ability to place intense political pressures on other countries, by implying that diplomatic relations may not continue if the subject country’s government is not changed to mirror the political ideals and principles of the powerful country, as in the case of the US’ promotion of democratic ideals over other forms of government. Because the diplomat is “valueless” and represents only interests, he or she is able to paint his or her country in whatever light in order to manipulate the target country to reflect the more powerful country’s desires. Thus, diplomacy can become a profession of illusory gains and veiled threats which can create an international climate of distrust and wariness.

I wonder to want extent this “neutrality” is prevalent in other careers…

One thought on “A Neutral Career

  1. Interesting post Clare!

    But as to you question about neutrality in careers, in politics at least, I feel that may be hard to come by. As a diplomat, or anyone really who represents a particular country would be required to act at all times in the interests of that country, even when it is clear that their actions are not right ( Iraq war? lol)

    Of course, you could work for an NGO – they are supposed to be impartial to all governments in theory at least, though whether that is always the case is up for debate. I have a cousin that works as a lawyer for a environmental NGO – currently they’re trying to sue BP for that massive oil spill in the US. She loves her job, but I don’t think it pays a lot, lol.

    Also: does every new administration have its own diplomats? Like, are they affiliated with a particular political party in the country that they work for?

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