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Talking to the Taliban 2010 – 2011: A Reflection

When then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked in early 2011 if I would become the United States’ Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP) – after the sudden death of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the first SRAP – she described the foundations Ambassador Holbrooke had laid to manage one of the most challenging tasks facing the nation. Secretary Clinton also said that she wanted to continue the experiment: having the SRAP organization prove that the “whole-of-government” philosophy – the idea that the United States must employ expertise and resources from all relevant parts of government to address the nation’s most important challenges – was the right model for 21st century diplomacy. The SRAP team brought together experts from across the U.S. Government (and included several diplomats from NATO countries) to develop and implement integrated strategies to address the complex challenges in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the region

Marc Grossman
A Diplomat's Philosophy

American diplomats begin their careers by taking an oath of office to support the Constitution, but they embark with their own philosophies. Professional diplomacy requires a specific philosophy of diplomacy and a commitment to America that draws on a number of thinkers and practitioners and is built on optimism, belief in justice and honesty, and a sober outlook complemented by acceptance of pluralism. The resulting worldview could be called “optimistic realism,” which acknowledges that strategic and deliberate initiative will bring the desired results as long as diplomats recognize the limits on where, when, and at what speed these results can be achieved.

Marc Grossman
Diplomacy Before and After Conflict

Conflict is a universal condition, older than diplomacy. While conflict is a constant in human history, the nature of armed conflict, and especially the nature of 21st-century warfare, has been transformed. General Rupert Smith identified these changes in his book The Utility of Force: “The ends for which we fight are changing; we fight amongst the people; our conflicts tend to be timeless; we fight so as not to lose the force; on each occasion new uses are found for old weapons; the sides are mostly non-state.”
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