Categories
Technology Diplomacy

Diplomacy in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Image courtesy of Steve Jurvetson/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This article was originally published by the Elcano Royal Institute on 11 October 2019.

Theme

The key question on the mind of policymakers now is whether Artificial Intelligence would be able to deliver on its promises instead of entering another season of scepticism and stagnation.

Summary

The quest for Artificial Intelligence (AI) has travelled through multiple “seasons of hope and despair” since the 1950s. The introduction of neural networks and deep learning in late 1990s has generated a new wave of interest in AI and growing optimism in the possibility of applying it to a wide range of activities, including diplomacy. The key question on the mind of policymakers now is whether AI would be able to deliver on its promises instead of entering another season of scepticism and stagnation. This paper evaluates the potential of AI to provide reliable assistance in areas of diplomatic interest such as in consular services, crisis management, public diplomacy and international negotiations, as well as the ratio between costs and contributions of AI applications to diplomatic work.

Categories
International Relations Government Foreign policy

Secret Diplomacy and the “Dirty Hand” Problem

US President Nixon gives a speech on Cambodia, courtesy of Jack E Knightlinger/wikimedia commons

This article was originally published May 2 2014 by E-International Relations (E-IR)

The classical “dirty hand” problem in political theory, which involves the choice between two morally challenging “evils”, sums up well the ethical puzzle of secret diplomacy: the lesser evil choice (the practice of deception) remains morally disagreeable even if it is judged to be politically necessary for avoiding a greater evil (e.g., potential military conflict). Arguably, “dirty hand” decisions are much easier to make when the distinction between the two “evils” is clear-cut. However, such clarity of purpose is rarely available in practice. On the one hand, secret diplomacy, which I refer here as the method of conducting international negotiations without public scrutiny, may generate unwarranted suspicion and distrust between nations, or it can undermine domestic orders by undercutting public confidence in political leaders. It can also make negotiators overestimate what they can implement amid domestic opposition once the agreement enters the public domain. This argument has been often mentioned as an explanation for the failure of the 1993 Oslo agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. At the same time, secret diplomacy can create a conducive environment for constructive talks by insulating foreign policy makers against grandstanding and by granting them a minimum level of security, informality and autonomy. It also offers parties a much needed space for “saving face” in front of domestic constituencies or international partners. Protracted relations of enmity such as that between the US and Iran or Israel and its Arab neighbors require, for instance, significant political capital to break on both sides, which political leaders might not be willing to entertain unless the benefits are clear and tangible.