The Future of American Diplomacy
Image Credit: REUTERS/Jason Reed

The Future of American Diplomacy

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Globalization has been changing U.S. foreign policy since the beginning of the American Republic. From our first diplomatic post in Tangier, Morocco founded in 1777, to the more than 285 diplomatic facilities around the world today operated by the U.S. Department of State, the business of diplomacy has evolved over time.

While it is obvious that thriving markets and global security go hand in hand, along with America’s central role in both arenas, often our diplomacy and institutions do not reflect this reality. In other words, the channels of influence that America could once rely on—large, multinational consortia of first-world powers—are waning in power. If one thing is clear to ambassadors around the world, it’s that U.S. diplomacy needs a jumpstart into the 21st century.

The key for American diplomacy is not doubling down on its great-power past, but harnessing the future on the ground. The enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit that became infectious in the “Arab Spring” countries will remain the norm. Young people are tapping into the culture of innovation, even amidst the political difficulties and a lack of access to money and resources. In turn, effective, pragmatic partnerships based on shared objectives—economic growth, stability and more—will be the engine for increased security and prosperity. This is the future of diplomacy, not just at the U.S. State Department—but worldwide.

On The Ground 

While terms such as “Economic Statecraft,” “Global Engagement,” and “Strategic Partnerships” have come into fashion in Washington, the tangible impact of these buzzwords is difficult to measure. Ironically, some of the most challenging places for U.S. foreign policy represent some of the greatest opportunities for these new approaches in 21-century statecraft.

The key is to create and empower stable business conditions in unstable places through private-sector leadership.

The intersection of public and private sectors has now blurred the lines in diplomacy. Today, our diplomats are beginning to understand that public-private partnerships can get the most out of available resources, technology, knowledge, and networks. In fact, these partnerships might be the most effective foreign policy tool America has at its disposal today.

Take Israel and Palestine, where U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is pushing towards a final diplomatic peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. Last year, I visited the Palestinian Territories to support an event called “Celebration of Innovation,” a locally organized business development and investor pitch competition. Essentially the State Department’s own prototype of Shark Tank, fifteen young Palestinian entrepreneurs were selected from hundreds of applicants to compete for the chance to present their ideas to an international audience. The two winners, Alaa—a twenty-four year old from the Gaza Strip who had never left his home before winning the chance to pitch his business—and Aya, the first Palestinian woman to own and raise sheep from Nabulus, are representative of a global change. If one thing became clear, it was that the next generation doesn’t want charity; they want a chance. 

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