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!

Foreign policy flourishes in social media

I am a frequent reader of the State department’s blog, Dipnote, that attempts to give a human angle to foreign policy -beyond the press releases, official statements and ‘code words’ we have come to know so well.

Dipnote links to an @Google interview with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and her British counterpart David Miliband (a MIT graduate who happens to have his own YouTube channel, and blog.) This interview is hosted on …YouTube. Suddenly foreign policy via social media doesn’t look so dry.

Rice makes an excellent, passionate albeit slightly flawed analysis of Iraq; between her and Miliband, you get a sense that this is the kind of discourse we (and the world) missed in the last eight years. I’m not saying that social media made this happen, but without doubt these discussions were stifled by the old media that only permitted slogans and sound bites. Only at a venue like this could she say that “we are not, as a government, ever going to ‘improve’ the image of America.” That’s what the people of America do best, she concedes. Which is another way of saying that the government should not be in the business of image building.

The new managing editor of Dipnote, Luke Forgeson, calls the blog the online version of a town hall meeting. As Miliband observes elsewhere, “diplomats need to reach out beyond governments to talk to people – at home and around the world.”