Will Clinton’s push for ‘smart power’ bring networked diplomacy?

At the heart of diplomacy, says incoming Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (speaking at her visit to the State Department yesterday) is smart power. I trust this is not as something analogous to ‘soft power.’  To me smart power would be all about taking diplomacy into a 3.0 world. We all understand what 2.0 stands for, since this thinking debuted three years ago.

Like web 3.0 thinking (see Google’s Eric Schmidt take a crack at it), the folks looking at how to engage in diplomacy 3.0 would do well to understand how information, ideas, even value systems move virally across networks. They would do well to look at a paper that was written by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, titled ‘Network Diplomacy.” Amazingly, it was written in 2001! It’s about networked intelligence, dialogues, listening, sharing and trust.

Much of what it talked about is more or less accepted now in business and public relations –and only grudgingly in diplomacy. I say this because I asked a friend at a State Dept agency about networking and he said they were disallowed from joining networks for security reasons. That didn”t seem right since I know from closely tracking Dipnote, how engaged and networked some of them were.

Rules against networking existed in the murky 1.0 world. Where we locked down our employees, and monitored what links they clicked on, and then blamed them for not sharing knowledge or having rotten data. Or as they called it in the intelligence 1.0 era, for having ‘faulty intelligence.’

Back to the Carnegie paper, it observes that networks trump hierarchies, and that foreign policy is not just a sum-total of discrete events but an ongoing global engagement. To this end,

“networks are able to bring together much broader communities to flexibly address problems in ways that hierarchies often cannot.”

Let’s hope we see ‘smart power’ grids roll out fast!

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