The History of Diplomacy

history of diplomacy
Diplomacy is a crucial aspect to the success of any modern society, and it has existed since the inception of even the earliest civilizations. But the political activity and history of diplomacy go beyond harboring friendships abroad; diplomacy is used as a pathway to negotiate and exchange ideas, strategies and goods. In an increasingly globalized world, it is easy to see why diplomacy has become such a fundamental aspect of governments around the world.

What began as sending high-ranking officials to foreign entities via ship or horse-drawn carriage has turned into the existence of thousands of permanent embassies worldwide. In the times of ancient Greece and Rome, diplomats were often sent to negotiate issues related to war, peace and commercial tactics. Today, however, diplomats remain in designated countries in order to constantly negotiate issues of peacekeeping, trade, environment and human rights.

In the United States, the history of diplomacy stretches back to the revolutionary period, during which figures like Thomas Jefferson maintained a great legacy by serving as the Minister to France from 1785 to 1789 and as the first Secretary of State from 1790 to 1793. America’s diplomatic relationships during this period were essential, as they gained the U.S. the credibility that it needed coming out of the American Revolution.

While government officials were responsible for maintaining diplomatic relations around the world in the post-revolutionary period, the Constitution was interpreted in such a way that using the taxpayers’ dollars for foreign aid was disallowed. Since then, however, foreign aid has been adopted and convincingly used as a political tool that brings great results to the U.S.

Today, partly as a result of Jefferson’s early diplomatic successes, there are only a small handful of nations with which the U.S. has no relations. At the same time, there has been a ton of political contention over what the focus of U.S. foreign policy should be. Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio stated in a speech last year his belief that diplomacy and foreign aid should be the backbone of American foreign policy rather than the precedential focus on military intervention.

Each year, the U.S. doles out approximately $50 billion to foreign aid, with roughly a third of that money going into training, supplying and aiding foreign militaries. If the government pulled just half of this foreign military assistance budget and allocated it to USAID–about $10 billion–clean water could be provided to the world’s entire population.

That $10 billion is half of what the U.S. spends on pet food each year. One-tenth of what Europe spends on alcohol. Solving the issue of global poverty is not a matter of money; it is a matter of priority.

It was said in the U.S. State Department’s 2014 budget proposal, which was approximately $48 billion, that “deploying diplomats today is much cheaper than deploying troops tomorrow.” As bipartisan an issue as it may be, being on the same page about American diplomatic efforts can shift a lot of focus toward the foreign aid necessary to maintain everyone’s best interest, solving the poverty that is plaguing billions around the world.

Conner Goldstein

Sources: U.S. Office of the Historian, Huffington Post, NY Times, U.S. Department of State
Photo: NPS