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Diplomacy

Diplomats negotiate with other countries.

Diplomacy is the art and practice of conducting negotiations between representatives of groups or states. It usually refers to international diplomacy, the conduct of international relations with regard to issues of peace-making, trade, war, economics, culture, environment and human rights.

An ambassador is the highest ranking diplomat who represents a nation. In everyday usage it usually applies to the highest-ranking government representative stationed in a foreign capital. In the United States, ambassadorships are often awarded by the president to big campaign contributors.  Rewarding political supporters in this way is called political patronage.

The United States Department of State (often referred to as the State Department or DoS), is the U.S. government department responsible for international relations. It is equivalent to the foreign ministries of other countries. The State Department oversees the work of U.S. ambassadors and embassies worldwide.

The State Department is led by the Secretary of State, who is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The Secretary of State travels to all corners of the world to negotiate treaties and conduct international relations. The current Secretary of State is Rex Tillerson.

To facilitate international diplomacy, countries typically allow foreign ambassadors to control a specific territory called an embassy. Embassies are considered to be the sovereign territory of the guest country. Even law enforcement officers of the host country cannot enter the embassy grounds without permission.

The concept of sovereignty also extends to diplomats, who typically enjoy diplomatic immunity. The concept of diplomatic immunity—safe passage for diplomats in enemy territory—has existed in some form for centuries. Messengers between armies, approaching under a white flag, have long been understood to be safe from attack. The principle involved wasn't law or treaty so much as self-interest: if we skewer their emissaries, they'll skewer ours.

Today, the concept of diplomatic immunity means that diplomats cannot be prosecuted for breaking the laws of the country they are visiting. At most, the host country can kick them out. It does this by declaring the diplomat a persona non-grata (an unwelcome person) and informing the diplomat’s nation that the diplomat must be returned.

 

Check Your Understanding

  1. This term refers to the art and skill of conducting international negotiations.
  2. The highest-ranking diplomat stationed in a foreign country is called an __________.
  3. What is the U.S. agency responsible for conducting international relations?
  4. The U.S. Secretary of State is the head of what federal department?
  5. Who is the current U.S. Secretary of State?
  6. What is the U.S. equivalent of the “foreign ministries” in other countries?
  7. This term refers to the official residence and offices of an ambassador in a foreign country.
  8. Who has sovereignty over an embassy in a foreign country? Is it the host country or the guest country?
  9. If you get into trouble with the law while travelling in a foreign country, why might it be wise for you to go to a U.S. embassy?
  10. In the 1989 movie Lethal Weapon 2, Riggs and Murtaugh (the characters played by Mel Gibson and Danny Glover) attempt to arrest a gang of South African drug smugglers. One of the smugglers is Arjen Rudd, a Minister of Affairs for the South African Consulate. When Riggs tries to arrest him, Rudd snidely tells him: “My dear officer, you could not even give me a parking ticket.” Why can’t Riggs arrest Rudd, despite having strong evidence that Rudd is a drug trafficker?