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The Diplomatique Internationale of Seinfeld

Dr. Matthew Crosston

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The American situational comedy, Seinfeld, which basically dominated television in the 1990s and still enjoys a healthy residual life in reruns all around the world, remains an emotional and philosophical touchstone for just about anyone in the United States over the age of 40.

Its ability to find the hilarious in the everyday mundane, to point out ridiculous aspects of life that we have all experienced but never bothered to truly examine the real impact on our lives, is perhaps still unchallenged to this day vis-à-vis other comedies. This is why its place in the pantheon of humor will be eternal. But some of that comedic wisdom can actually be downright profound and practical for diplomacy and global affairs. In a world that becomes increasingly interdependent and hyper-connected, with the commensurate effect of not only limiting our ability to create private space but possibly questioning whether the concept of privacy will even exist in large degree in the future, some of the axioms used throughout Seinfeld’s run for comic relief might matter in gravity for the 2020s even more than they did in laughter for the 1990s. To wit:

  1. It’s worth having an alias

Just as with the show, this is not so much about having an alias in order to commit some heinous crime against humanity or engineer a massively corrupt embezzlement initiative. Rather, it’s more about having an alias in order to gerrymander an element of anonymity behind some of the more creative ideas we have and might be afraid to risk if we had to do them completely in the open with explicit attribution. People would likely be surprised just how little is negotiated and accomplished in diplomatic global affairs up on the dais with a microphone in front of your face. In fact, there is probably a direct inverse ratio between the level of publicity and the subsequent depth of success: the strategic utilization of aliases might allow sides to engage more substantively in secret, outside of the glaring spotlight of media scrutiny and public criticism. This creation of operational space often proves critical and positive for negotiation.

  1. Privacy and home security are of the utmost importance

This axiom feeds rather naturally from the point above. If it can be valuable having an alias for purposes of keeping the external world from interfering and hindering true diplomatic progress, it is equally valuable being ‘master of your domain’ internally, as it were. Today’s world is not just epitomized by the ubiquity of technology in our everyday lives. More intriguingly (or disturbingly as the case may be), technology has made the ability to keep secrets and control your own narrative almost impossible to the point that many people now openly scoff at the idea as pure fantasy. But this ability, to keep secrets in-house and control your own strategic narrative, is an incredibly important aspect to successful negotiations in global diplomacy. The world of American politics shows how devastating ‘leaks’ are to agendas and strategies. It renders what could have been an effective initiative to something more chaotic and inconsistent. In the world of diplomacy, chaos and inconsistency are the enemies of success.

  1. It’s possible for your standards to be too high

One of the most common plot-enablers of Seinfeld was when a good idea was allowed to run free and ended up mutating into a truly ridiculous plan of outrageously grandiose ambition, with absolutely no chance of success and total guarantee of hilarity to ensue. It is impossible to underestimate the value of this lesson for almost every state in the international community that aspires to elevating its position and prestige on the global stage. Perhaps it is ironic, but the common individualist axiom of aiming too high so that when you fall a little short you will still be high up regardless doesn’t actually work in global diplomacy. Rather, this world works best when governed by actors striving to keep rationality, realism, and pragmatism in the forefront of their strategic minds. Overreach and image inflation are easily two of the most common flaws to derail what once could have been successful diplomatic overtures. So, please, let this axiom encourage states to be a bit more self-aware and humble in what they seek to accomplish.

  1. You’ll avoid a lot of headaches if you just let people have their quirks

The discovery and attempt to manage or change those ‘quirks’ became the source for some of the most insanely funny moments in the entire series of Seinfeld. However, in global affairs and diplomacy, while it is crucial to learn as many of the quirks as possible, it is even more important to not attempt to ‘remake’ those quirks into something more palatable to or pliable by you. Any such attempts are usually met with resentment and indignation and instantly sour the negotiation atmosphere between parties. And anyone who has been involved even remotely in the field of diplomacy, conflict resolution, and negotiation will tell you that the maintenance of a positive atmosphere of communication and trust is the most important, and precarious, initial element. In this beginning stage, it is often the small style details that can throw a meeting off-center, rather than any deep and important substance point. So, breathe deep, breathe easy, let the quirks run free. It’s not personal. It’s strategic.

  1. Do the opposite to broaden your horizons

In Seinfeld, more often than not, an attempt to ‘think outside the box’ for any of the main characters usually resulted in them getting into hot water and awkward situations resulting in embarrassment and/or hilarity. Quite the opposite would likely happen were diplomats more successful in moving more easily off of their talking points and buzzwords. The ability to think beyond your own comfort zone, to truly be able to ascertain and consider the perspective of the ‘other’, is in fact the unique skill innate to all of the greatest statesmen in the history of the world. ‘Doing the opposite’ in the world of international diplomacy is not just effective for being able to properly perceive the priorities of your counterpart, it also has an added benefit of tilting the negotiation field to your favor, as you have likely surprised the other side and left them scrambling to consider new tactics themselves. So, do the opposite to not just broaden your horizons but to strategically position your side for greater negotiating dominance.

And there you have it. Five simple but oh-so-profound axioms from Seinfeld that were effective in making the whole world laugh in the 1990s but might be able to make the whole world get along better heading to the 2020s. If we can have a Tao of Poo and a Zen of Motorcycle Maintenance (not that there’s anything wrong with that), then perhaps it is time to recognize the value and advancement that can be achieved with the Diplomatique Internationale of Seinfeld. After all, this world needs all the help it can get.

Dr. Matthew Crosston is Executive Vice Chairman of ModernDiplomacy.eu. He is Senior Doctoral Faculty in the School of Security and Global Studies at the American Military University and was just named the future Co-Editor of the seminal International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence. His work is catalogued at: https://brown.academia.edu/ProfMatthewCrosston/Analytics

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Pakistan and India: Changing Minds, Winning Peace

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Aaghaz-e-Dosti, Indo-Pak Peace Calendar

With the emergence of world as a global village, relations between two nations getting more popularity as compared to relations among respective governments. Governments always attempt to communicate with foreign public to export their ideas, its institutions and culture, as well as national goals and current policies. Public diplomacy can be defined as the efforts of one nation to influence public or elites of the next nation for using foreign policy to achieve its targets and cherished goals. Pakistan and India as two rival nuclear powers in south Asia have fought many battles because of their conflicting regional interests and still both states are on the edge of a new war. This leaves public diplomacy as the only option to normalize the situation.

Many efforts have been made in nineties during the democratic government in Pakistan which can offer a wide canvas for interaction such as South Asian Dialogue, Pakistan Peace Coalition and Pakistan-India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy. More recently two media groups one from each country has started a media campaign Aman ki Asha to promote sector-wise cooperation and engagement on both sides and provide a human touch to serious matters of war and conflict.

This campaign has organised several events bringing people of two countries to a common forum including women empowerment, poverty alleviation and basic human rights. Every year many Sikh’s Visit Pakistan to pray their Holy Places and Pakistani people always welcome them and show hospitality. Many civil society organizations and NGO’s are working to promote peace and harmony between Pakistan and India which include South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA),Pakistan Green Circle Organization (GCO),ISSP etc. Both countries also paying much attention in education sector as well.

In present time, the tension is decreased because of human rights, civil society , artists  , scholars role which brought two countries closer to each other and is also providing new ways for a peaceful and democratic relations. Both countries also relaxed their citizens for visas making it more comfortable. Not only this, both countries are also paying attention for releasing prisoners from jail.

We found our many artist like Rahat Fateh Ali Khan is working for Indian industry. Rahat Fateh considered as a success symbol for films in India. So media can bring the people of two  nations closer to each other and create harmony between both nations.

Every year, Aaghaz-e-Dosti launches an Indo-Pak Peace Calendar which includes paintings from students of both countries. This calendar exists of shared dreams of peace and friendship. It is a reflection of shared dreams and hopes from both sides for a better tomorrow. In addition to these efforts, there has been a rise in trade between both countries. This multi-layered diplomacy has ensured that during the time of tension, links between both sides were not totally broken

Lastly cricket diplomacy has played and still can play a pivotal role in bringing both nations together beyond anyone’s imagination.

Public diplomacy in its real sense can bring these two rival countries closer to each other as it enables a country to reach out to a large audience in the other country, whether through social media or books or events for a greater good. It can lead us towards social and economic development in which both the countries lag behind from the rest of the world.

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UK Public Diplomacy: Soft Power games in South Asia

Hajra Batool

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Public diplomacy refers to the ability of a country to attract foreign states through image building rather than using old coercive and stiff methods to forcefully get the things done in one’s own way. One may say that public diplomacy is a public face of traditional diplomacy. In this diplomacy neither a relationship that a state has with other state can be neglected nor the role of public in the government’s policies. States use various ways to stand tall on international forum thus no state ever wants to do anything against their international reputation. This reputation is achieved through huge efforts and then requires consistency to maintain it. Britain with no denying fact is among those states who have been prominent in international society since centuries. It already has a better and strong image in the eyes of world as for as its public diplomacy is concerned. All it needs to do is to maintain this very image by sticking to its various soft power approaches.

In today’s global politics Britain seems much interested on enhancing its soft power image throughout the world. As we know that Public diplomacy of a state is highly linked with state’s foreign policy as well. The steps adopted by Britain in achieving its foreign policy goals through soft power include exchange programs for students and scholars, visitors programs, cultural events and exchanges, language training, radio and television broadcasting etc. Generally, Britain has been carrying out these practices all around the globe for quite sometimes however in South Asia, she has done a lot in recent years. In Bangladesh in 2013, for example, the English in Action project (funded by the UK’s Department for International Development) promoted the learning of English ‘as a route into work and out of poverty’. In Pakistan, British Council has been working in the areas of Arts, Education, English and Youth Engagement in all four provinces as well as in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. For instance Abaseen Foundation is a UK’s 3-year project with UK Aid directly focused on improving maternal health and reducing child mortality through developing health service delivery for a poor and marginalized community in North West Pakistan. Moreover, UK-India Education & Research Initiative i.e. UKIERI is a multi-stakeholder partnership program funded by both Indian and the UK Governments to support educational programs, develop professional capacities and facilitate policy dialogues on areas of mutual interest. Whereas Sri Lanka has the largest British Council Library membership.

In similar manners Nation branding is another technique used by the Great Britain to cash their better reputation. This not only provides an opportunity for states to interact on international platform but also mitigates cultural barriers among their citizens. Brands such as Burberry London, Dove and Sunsilk are acting as sensor that opens diplomatic door for Britain in various states. Actress and Model Humaima Malick is the brand ambassador for Sunsilk in Pakistan, whereas Sunsilk’s brand ambassador for India is currently Alia Bhut. The overall nation branding of Britain is famous owing to six factors i.e. Tourism, Culture, People, Immigration-Investment, Exports and Governance. According to one of the British Council’s report the UK ranked 3rd out of 50 nations for Tourism and 5th for Culture.

Furthermore, British government entities related to public diplomacy are well active in South Asia, for instance British Council and FCO (Foreign and common wealth office). BBC on the other hand is also playing its key role to inculcate right image of United Kingdom in the region.BBC Urdu not only provides its Pakistani viewers with right information of Pakistan in Britain but also shares unbiased analysis on Pakistan’s current domestic as well regional issues. Similarly BBC Hindi has also been so vociferous for the rights of Indian immigrants in United Kingdom and finally gained trust in public masses. Hence these public diplomacy techniques served as binding force between the UK and the region.

To cut the long story short, Britain seems much focused to safeguard its national interests. Its foreign policy is proving as stepping stone for its national interest whereas public diplomacy is acting as lubricant to it. By doing so it is successfully promoting its culture, tradition, products etc. in the world generally and in South Asia specifically. Since decolonization from subcontinent, The United Kingdom has always tried diplomatic ways to build friendly relationship with south Asian countries. Public diplomacy though is considered new in the racks of overall diplomacy yet UK has successfully used it to promote its culture and to keep influence in this region.

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Italian Culture: An asset for country’s public diplomacy

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Public Diplomacy is important for long term relationship and to create a positive image of a country. Italy, a European country with a long Mediterranean coastline, has left an effective mark on Western culture. Its capital, Rome, is home to the Vatican and also point of interest for ancient remains.  Over the span of 3,000 years, Italian history has been set apart by series of temporary unification and long detachment, of intercommunal friction and failed empires. At peace for more than half a century now, Italy’s inhabitants enjoy a high standard of living and a highly developed culture.

One example of Italian Public diplomacy is the exhibition of “Italian Style dressing body and daylife”, which was organized in Doha (Qatar) by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture, which opened on 12th November, 2007. That day, the Italian President, Giorgio Napolitano, inaugurated an event about Leonardo, composed by the Ministry of External Commerce. Napolitano presented the Emir’s wife, Moza bint Nasser al Missned, with a Bulgari handbag (a popular Italian brand) as National brands are helpful for attracting people’s attention towards a country and showing its quality.

The Year of Italian Culture in the United States was a phenomenal act of Public diplomacy. The fellow Italians in the United States, among them 26 million Italian Americans – companies, and institutions that worked hardly day and night to promote the “Italian brand” and even the press, which gave many positive articles to the initiative that felt the strong urge to rediscover the charm of Italy’s past, to uncover the best of its present, and to feature the examples of how it is progressing towards the future. This has done to open new doors for the citizens of both countries.  It’s about over 200 events in more than 200 U.S. cities. The main objective of this campaign is to bring the best of the most important country (Italy) which they have to depict through its culture, traditions and the elegance of its ‘Made in Italy’. “Italy inspires U.S.” is the slogan that has been chosen to best enfold the meaning of the Year of Italian Culture in the U.S. what they want to express is that Italy is not just a country, it is a lifestyle.

On December 12, 2012, at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, Italians inaugurated the exhibition of the popular David Apollo by Michelangelo. On this date, a huge number of visitors, observers and enthusiasts were all ready enjoy their ‘piece of Italy’ i.e. paintings, sculptures, present and past achievements, music and theater. Above all, the Year brought new partnerships between public and private world of two nations: among them, a cooperation agreement between NASA and the Italian Space Agency and in addition various new agreements between museums and cultural institutions, companies, local agencies and universities were made.

The Italian government should organize some more events and undertake nation promoting projects including its territorial and regional brands, with a basic aim of giving guidelines for Italy’s external cultural relations, through the promotion of their single regions and also national language and culture.

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