Posted by: graemebird | January 23, 2010

What Is Diplomatic Success? What Is Diplomatic Failure?

Rumsfeld made a few mistakes, didn’t get what he wanted in terms of strategy, and was one of the subjects of almost unceasing political warfare that finally had him marginalised. Still I would see him as really a high-quality character. A person of great intellect and abilities. Though I do recognise that matters went quite bad for him.

Anyway the first time he was secretary of defense he was the youngest secretary of defense ever. Later he became the oldest secretary of defense ever, as well. Its a pity he didn’t follow Reagan as President instead of Bush-The-Elder. But we shall not dwell on these things.

When Rumsfeld was the youngest Secretary Of Defense he would use his influence and gravitas to organise a meeting with any of the individuals the State Department had just appointed to be the Ambassador for the United States in some other country.

So the newly appointed Ambassador shows up in Rumsfelds office. Probably greatly flattered for the attention and it may be that it was a friendly meeting, and it may be it was a meeting to congratulate the new Ambassador on his appointment. But somewhere in the meeting Rumsfeld would put his GLOBE model of our wondrous planet, front and centre. Rumsfeld would perhaps joke around or feign some loss of memory. But the point of the exercise was to get the new appointee to put his finger on the globe to show which country it was that the new appointee would represent. “Show me again which nation you will be representing?” Rumsfeld might have said. Maybe he said it as if it were a question.

So the Ambassador would turn the globe to that part of the world wherein he was about to fly to, and put his finger on THAT country.

And then Rumsfeld suddenly stern, and the light-heartedness gone for one moment, would spin the globe back to the United States. And he would say ” No. Its THIS country that you represent.”

I expect our diplomatic folks to have hearts full of authentic love. I expect them to like their foreign counterparts. I expect them to memorise every damn thing these people have said to them in the past, and have a better seduction strategy then any ageing Lothario wearing a male girdle and going after 20-somethings. I expect them to feel the love. I expect them to mean it. But meetings with overseas bigshots. These are business sessions. And before anyone steps on the jet-plane they have to go into war-room mode. They need to know exactly what it is they want out of the foreign taxeaters. And if our diplomatic staff fail to get these things that they are pre-ordained to go after; then that is diplomatic failure.

Schmoozing is not for its own sakes. The diplomats are not AUSTRALIA. They are not the arbiters of AUSTRALIAN RELATIONS with any other country. Their job is to get what Australia needs to maintain the sovereignty of her internal communities. The non-interference into the workings of the localities of Australians. That is to say to the extent that Australians are practicing humane and decent conduct internally, our diplomats are there to section off the influence of taxeaters from other countries. Taxeaters acting with some sort of overall INTENTION.

Now if some decent minded diplomat pointed out that lacking homesteading rules in Arnemland effectively was subjecting our aborigines to living under communism, well this sort of valid criticism isn’t something we need our diplomats to guard against. We want to be strong, so that an attack on us is implausible. We want to be adept, so that an attack on us will be avenged. We want to find and remove all agents and manifestations of influence that foreign governments might like to inject into our scene; Foreign regime influence of the sort that serves the foreign regime on a realpolitik basis. While we are at it we ought to try and fish out and block banking cartel and billionaire influence as well.


It seems to me that our diplomats have lost sight of what is diplomatic success and what is diplomatic failure. The bonds of flattery love and friendship that are extended to their foreign counterparts are there to be put under some strain in the ruthless pursuit of our national goals. And our national goals amount to acting decently within the world, but acting by our own choice.

“WE will decide who comes into this country AND the circumstances of their arrival”

Damn straight. One of the most iconic phrases of the last ten years. I would play a tape of this rhetorical point to my American correspondents. I liked the staunchness of this statement. I couldn’t agree with it more. But if we had more power to decide these things, unschackled by our signatures on foolish international agreements , we could STILL THEN decide who came here. We could decide the circumstances upon which they arrived. And we could decide these things with a great deal more DECENCY.

We have treated refugees with less than the full measure of decency that is in keeping with the spirit of Australia. Why have we done this? It is because we gave away some of our sovereignty signing international agreements. So in that case, the really quite excellent (in some ways) Howard-Costello government had no choice but to stridently maintain our sovereignty, by being staunch ….. or otherwise to not maintain our sovereignty at all.

Unfortunately they weren’t staunch, strident, or harsh enough to do what took even more courage. Pull out of these legal obligations and fashion a flexible strategy based on national sovereignty, national interest, and decency. Decency in the way we relate to the outside world. Drawing a line in the sand took courage. But the full measure of courage needed was actually lacking.

In taxeater town the real courage would have been to pull out of the treaties. Then we could start acting like Australians again. How can you turn back women and children mid-ocean? I like Abbot. He’s a decent fellow. But he’s got this side of things wrong. We are Australians. And no matter what law they have broken, and no matter what wrong they have done or what risk some others in the boats represent, it is not OK for us to turn back women and children in a situation where everywhere they look there is only blue ocean.

This is not OK and its never going to be OK. And the only way to act decently would be to pull out of all relevant legal obligations and then use our new-found flexibility to fashion a strategy based around sovereignty …… and decency as well. A strategy that was consistent with LOCAL law. One that was consistent with AUSTRALIAN self-interest. One that treated these people as law-breakers sure. But not egregious lawbreakers. Not lawbreakers that represented a threat. You have lawbreakers that have done the wrong thing. And you have lawbreakers that are really bad pieces of work. We want to be able to act towards these people in an understanding way. In a way more with the first hypothetical group than the latter. Because most of them probably aren’t bad eggs. Most of them are probably good people.

What is diplomatic success and diplomatic failure in this regard? Diplomatic success is for our coterie of trained seducers to be able to smooth things over and maintain excellent communication and relations even as we break a whole string of internationalist tabboos. So no we don’t agree that taking these people all the way to Alice Springs means that we are now obligated to them legally. So no. All that bullshit has to go. We are obligated to all parties MORALLY. But the government is obligated to the people paying THEIR BILLS first and with almost no overlap. So diplomacy is smoothing over matters whilst Australia acts ruthlessly to shore up its own sovereignty and freedom of action.

There is to be no schmoozing for its own sakes. Whose fucking minding the store? Sure its got to LOOK LIKE schmoozing for its own sakes. But thats all part of the plan. And on one level we need diplomats who can follow the plan with extreme prejudice ………. Yet still they must feel the love for their foreign counterparts. The love has got to be genuine even as it is enhanced by extreme planning and ruthless stage management, and carried out with military effectiveness.


Here is a post from this blog. Here is a post that tries to cut through the confusion. Since we have come to a strange state of affairs. A strange state of affairs where people don’t seem to know how to tell diplomatic success from diplomatic failure:

“Yeah isn’t it funny. Here he is, an ex-diplomat as you say. Doesn’t appear to know the difference between success and failure in diplomacy. Success for him appears to be getting along with world leaders, starting another new international body for cocktail-drinking and diluting sovereignty, getting to sit next to Caliph Obama at Copenhagen, and bribing and armtwisting Indonesians to solve a problem for us.

Whereas in reality success would have been getting the Raptor, trading more weapons sales for us getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan without rancour, sweet-talking China to pull all their agents of influence out on the sly, so as to avoid embarrassment, pulling out of a range of international treaty obligations without being branded a pariah, going nuclear on our navy, not to target civilians but simply so our guys aren’t getting about in floating coffins and everyone knows that they cannot mass forces for an invasion into Australia, since to mass them is to lose them……..

…….. convincing China that any ill-treatment of Australian citizens means being suspended from coal purchases, payments of interest and capital, not to be made up at any time, and a caterpillar of diplomatic shoes falling hard on their ass such that their entire standing in the world would be diminished……..

…. And most of all taking care of these refugees, with good fucking toilets, in a decent place to live, where they can get low-paid work in a rural setting, locals compensated with a tax-free zone, even as the interlopers are put to the back of the line in terms of long-term immigration to Australia.

I fucking cannot abide the milky bar kid. wasting time in Copenhagen, when we have our Sri Lankin brothers and sisters in the position of not even so much as having enough toilets and the humiliation, discomfort and bad hygiene that implies. Imagine women and young kids or anyone, having to got to the toilet and there is no toilet available. If this isn’t a violation of human rights I don’t know what would be.

This is not an anti-labour thing. Labour has had good people in the past.”



  1. Diplomatic success requires empathy and a poetic sensibility. Suaveness is essential too. And the ability to engage, persuade, even seduce, with well-wrought language.

    My favourite diplomat-humanist-poet-sensualist is Octavio Paz.

    His writings on international politics and diplomacy are riveting. And he wrote this:

    and this:

    Homage to Claudius Ptolemy

    I am a man: little do I last
    and the night is enormous.
    But I look up:
    Unknowing I understand:
    I too am written,
    and at this moment
    someone spells me out.


    A butterfly flew between the cars.
    Marie José said: it must be Chuang Tzu,
    on a tour of New York.
    But the butterfly
    didn’t know it was a butterfly
    dreaming it was Chuang Tzu
    or Chuang Tzu
    dreaming it was a butterfly.
    The butterfly never wondered:
    it flew.

    Between what I see and what I say,
    Between what I say and what I keep silent,
    Between what I keep silent and what I dream,
    Between what I dream and what I forget:
    It slips
    between yes and no,
    what I keep silent,
    keeps silent
    what I say,
    what I forget.
    It is not speech:
    It is an act of speech.
    speaks and listens:
    It is real.
    And as soon as I say
    “it is real”,
    it vanishes.
    Is it then more real?

    Tangible idea,
    comes and goes
    between what is
    and what is not.
    It weaves
    and unweaves reflections.
    scatters words on our eyes.
    Eyes speak,
    words look,
    looks think.
    To hear
    what we say,
    the body of an idea.
    Eyes close,
    the words open.


    You spread out beneath my eyes,
    a land of dunes – ochre, bright.
    The wind in search of water stopped,
    a land of heartbeats and fountains.
    Vast as the night you fit
    in the hollow of my hand.

    Later, the motionless hurling down,
    within and without ourselves.
    With my eyes I ate darkness,
    drank the water of time. I drank night.
    Then I touched the body of a music
    heard with the tips of my fingers.

    Dark boats, together,
    moored in the shadows,
    our bodies reclined.
    Our souls, unlashed,
    lamps afloat
    in the water of the night.

    In the end you opened your eyes.
    You saw yourself seen by my eyes,
    and from my eyes you saw yourself:
    falling like a fruit on the grass,
    like a stone in the pond,
    you fell into yourself.

    A tide rose within me,
    with a weightless fist I beat
    at the door of your lids:
    my death wanted to meet you,
    my death wanted to meet itself.
    I was buried in your eyes.

    Our bodies flow through the plains
    of night: they are time wearing itself out,
    a presence that dissolves in a caress;
    yet they are infinite, to touch them
    is to bathe in rivers of heartbeats
    and return to the perpetual beginning anew.


    Perhaps to love is to learn
    to walk through this world.
    To learn to be silent
    like the oak and the linden of the fable.
    To learn to see.
    Your glance scatters seeds.
    It planted a tree.
    I talk
    because you shake its leaves.

  2. The tendency is though, for these skills to be turned to warped use, as diplomats from different countries start identifying with eachother and looking askance at the people who are paying their bills.

    The boss needs to tell these guys what it is this country is after. The diplomats must then go after this with ruthless intent. Always we have the problem of agency. The problem of the gardener feeling like or acting as though, he has taken over the estate.

    Here I advocate a healthy number of sackings to keep these people humble and to let folks lower down know that promotional opportunities are always available.

    One of these clowns has now become Prime Minister. He is clearly not house-trained. This may be an indication that the others are not working humbly for the national interest either.

    Thanks for the poem. Its a bit of an odd one. I’d feel happier if he were writing it for a woman. I’ll just use a bit of zen thought control and imagine its written by a woman.

  3. “So then, are we through the worst of it or have we simply delayed and increased the worst of it by the stimulus packages?”

    John H. Why ask idiots from Catallaxy who cannot give you a good answer? What do you know now that you didn’t know before you asked them this question?

  4. how’s your skipping?

  5. No room to skip where I am. As you see I wrote a little bit on international relations as requested. But the real deal is making our act resistant to nuclear attack and intimidation.

  6. yeah good piece Graeme.

    not denying that, just wondering why you’re dissing the economic expertise of catallaxians

  7. I cannot remember what it is in relation to. But if its to do with slotting obvious looters like Goldman Sachs, in with serious wealth-producers like Steve Jobs, that would show bad economic judgement.

  8. Oh right I remember now. It was JohnH asking some question, and then expecting an answer from the bonehead Cambria.

    You guys have to remember how soft you were on the Keynesian multiplier. Thats got to be a hard one for all you people to live down.

  9. graeme
    we’re talking about you again the Open forum

  10. What else is new. Just so long as that stupid wop doesn’t join in and start the lying again.

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