Only in the protocol-heavy, choreographed world of global diplomacy does basic candor create controversy. In her first global excursions new Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has created waves across diplomatic circles with her “blunt and unadorned” style. Check out this article for a good summary of the commotion.
In addition to being direct and openly voicing policies that are usually inferred or shared only behind closed doors, Clinton showed a willingness to reach out directly to local news media and citizens, rather than just official channels. Critics have complained that Clinton crossed “taboo lines” and broached the traditional etiquette that directs the careful tap dance of innuendo and jargon common to diplomacy. Others aren’t happy that Clinton has taken a clear stance on controversial issues (such as pushing for human rights in China) that doesn’t favor their position. (Presumably they were more comfortable with a non-committal.)
Clinton should be commended for her direct and expedient approach. It’s true that diplomacy must be modulated and tactful, but surely we are all better served if organizations and leaders spend less time crafting vague and inoffensive statements and more time addressing the real issues and disagreements. In the age of social media and transparency, diplomatic obfuscation is becoming an anachronism and obstacle to progress. Welcome to Diplomacy 2.0.