two sides of the diplomatic coin
One of the most enduring stereotypes of the foreign service lifestyle is the image of diplomats blithely chatting at a cocktail party. To be fair, developing contacts is a key element of this career, and social gatherings are an excellent way to do that, but there is much more to the art of diplomacy than attending receptions and exchanging business cards. The events of the last week serve to underscore the point.
A few weeks ago, the DCM decided to host a reception for first and second tour officers and their spouses at his residence. The idea was for each entry-level officer to invite a contact and to practice both representational and contact-building skills while also having a good time. Three days before the proposed event, however, an oil pipeline exploded in Nairobi, killing over a hundred people and injuring many more. In light of the tragedy, the DCM decided to tone down the festive mood of the event, but he did not cancel it outright.
Among the invitees was an adviser to the Prime Minister, who had a long talk with the DCM about the pipeline explosion. D didn’t get a chance to meet him, but the next day the DCM gave D his phone number and asked D to coordinate the Embassy’s response to the disaster. Half a dozen phone calls later, D obtained an official government request for assistance and went back to the office late on a Friday night to transmit a disaster declaration cable. That same night, D had an answer from Washington that the US Government was willing to help the Kenya Red Cross purchase medical supplies for the burn victims. Not only will these disaster funds help save lives, but the connection made at that reception will also go a long way towards promoting US-Kenya partnership.