There is no doubt that structuring proper relationships with foreign countries remains an extremely important task for every country, and the United Arab Emirates is not the exception to this rule. Speaking about the modern world, it is necessary to say that there is a wide range of problems that may occur due to conflicts between representatives of different countries. Even though modern people are formally divided into a great number of groups sharing the same cultural values, it is always necessary to remember that there are not great differences between nations if we regard them on the global scale and every country should follow certain principles while working in the field of foreign relations.
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Regarding foreign relations and diplomacy in the United Arab Emirates, it may be stated that knowledge related to these spheres can be extended due to the information reported in many valuable sources. The source chosen for the present review is a book written by Thomas Fletcher who is a famous British diplomat and a researcher in the field of international relations. The importance of the given source is difficult to overestimate as it contains a lot of significant and interesting information related to the beginnings of diplomacy and the present level of its development in the world where technology and digital communication become more popular and extend people’s opportunities. About the United Arab Emirates, certain points mentioned by the author of the given source can be used to improve foreign relations of the country and introduce newer practices related to diplomacy.
Is Diplomacy Dead?
In the first part of the book, the author reflects upon the beginnings of diplomacy as it is supposed to help the readers to understand current foreign relations and problems that may occur in this sphere more thoroughly. Discussing the present state of diplomacy, the author briefly compares it to the situation in the middle of the twentieth century (Fletcher 11). He has decided to quote Cohen, declaring that “diplomacy is dead” and, as it is clear from the arguments that he uses in the chapter, there is a lot of researchers who support this idea (Fletcher 11). The author supposes that it can be quite easy to introduce new practices in diplomacy and find the best solutions to foreign problems that would benefit both parties to a conflict when there are not significant inner problems in the country. According to him, economic prosperity and media coverage of achievements of a certain country remain factors that simplify building diplomatic relationships that would bring benefits because only powerful and successful political players can use the right to set rules and requirements. As for the present situation of the United Arab Emirates in connection with the given statement about the diplomacy that is dead, it is necessary to remember that it remains one of the wealthiest countries in the world based on its gross domestic product per capita.
If we try to apply the assumption from the book to the United Arab Emirates and its present situation with foreign relations, it is clear that the country is unlikely to have significant problems with establishing foreign relationships upon favorable terms. Furthermore, considering the number of countries that the United Arab Emirates collaborates with, it needs to be mentioned that there are no significant conflicts connected with its foreign relations. Therefore, the position of the given country in the world can be called stable. Because it belongs to the number of the wealthiest ones, as is clear from its large gross domestic product per head, the country possesses the ability to influence the decisions of the world community when it comes to the most urgent problems of humanity. Nevertheless, even though its decision-making power is rather great because a substantial part of proven oil reserves in the entire world belongs to the United Arab Emirates, it would be a great mistake to think that the country makes attempts to abuse its rights to force certain policy and make other countries act by the rules and principles that they do not accept.
Throughout the book, the author makes numerous attempts to attract the reader’s attention to the fact that righteousness and justice remain essential components that allow countries to build and to maintain truly diplomatic relationships. For instance, according to the opinion supported by the author, clear rules that all countries in the entire world are supposed to comply with act as one of the most important factors helping different nations to live in harmony. Therefore, appropriate rules that can boost the development of diplomatic relationships between political players should have no exceptions. Discussing the nature of diplomacy, the author supposes that it is quite easy “when all the nations are playing on the same chessboard” and I suppose that this very statement can be used to describe the attitude of the United Arab Emirates towards other nations and the best approach to building stable intercultural relationships that would be beneficial for both sides (Fletcher 12).
There is a wide range of situations in the global community that involve possible conflicts between the largest political players based on cultural values that differ markedly from each other and, therefore, different objectives that countries may pursue. It is a common truth that customs, traditional clothing, and the rules of conduct may be extremely different in countries where the majority of the population is represented by Muslims, Christians, or atheists; nevertheless, even though Muslim traditions can be regarded as one of the most significant parts of life in the United Arab Emirates, the country and its diplomatic representatives make attempts to iron the given differences out and focus on the basic values shared by all the people in the world while establishing and maintaining foreign relationships. Therefore, possessing a substantial influence due to its wealth, the country does not try to use it to force its values onto people living in non-Muslim countries. As for my personal opinion, this point can be considered as one that partially illustrates the way that the United Arab Emirates sees playing “on the same chessboard”. In general, the willingness to treat other nations with respect despite the given country’s strong traditions that could become a roadblock on the way to the establishment of equitable relationships may be listed among the reasons explaining the diplomatic success of the United Arab Emirates.
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Having analyzed the first chapters of the book, it can be said that the author has extensive experience in the field of foreign relationships, and it helps him to see the situation with diplomatic relationships in the world in their true colors. Thus, discussing the statements made by other specialists who support the opinion about the current decline of diplomacy in the Western world, the writer assumes that diplomacy faces “a crisis of legitimacy and trust” and I suppose that this point of view can be proven if we try to analyze the current experience of the United Arab Emirates with certain countries (Fletcher 14). It is not a secret that it can be rather difficult to carry on an effective intercultural dialogue because there are traditions that cannot coexist peacefully. Nevertheless, it often happens that intercultural differences are intentionally exaggerated by certain people who act as representatives of some countries; it is important to say that such actions are usually caused by a willingness to protest against some tendencies or decisions that may have nothing to do with the question of culture.
If we speak about similar cases connected with the relationships between the United Arab Emirates and Western countries, it can be important to mention one of the most recent cases when diplomatic relationships were hit due to the disrespectful attitude of one of the sides and failure to adjust common practices to show readiness to collaborate despite any difficulties. Thus, at the end of February, there was an unpleasant situation with the new ambassador to Latvia who was supposed to take off her traditional clothes in the airport in Riga; when she refused to comply with the given request relying on the possibility to do that only being surrounded by women, airport workers said they could not provide her with such opportunity, and a few objectionable remarks from them followed.
This situation caused righteous indignation of people in the United Arab Emirates because the behavior demonstrated by those who knew about the important visit of the ambassador shows the crisis of trust discussed by Fletcher in his book. Moreover, such a mistake can be seen as a demonstration of inconsistency related to the activity of certain non-Muslim countries in the field of diplomatic relationships. Of course, it can be supposed that those people who offended the ambassador were just expressing their personal opinion; nevertheless, once the decision to collaborate with a country with a different cultural background is made, you should not make attempts to show that you do not respect their outlook on life because such behavior can be regarded only as inconsequential. Unfortunately, it is necessary to assume that the current decay of diplomacy in the world manifests itself from time to time can hit the relationships between the United Arab Emirates and other countries.
Diplomacy and the Digital Revolution
Another important idea expressed by the author of the given book refers to the nature of diplomacy that has changed due to the rise of technology that can broaden the opportunities of modern diplomats significantly. Discussing how digital technology can be used by those responsible for maintaining diplomatic relationships to achieve better results and strengthen the links between different nations, the author supposes that “the next wave of diplomatic innovation will be driven by big data” (Fletcher 110). Explaining the meaning of this “big data”, Fletcher pays increased attention to the fact that modern means of communication allow diplomats to work more effectively; to him, it seems clear that this progress becomes even more obvious if we take into consideration practices for the exchange of important information related to global issues that were used at the end of the twentieth century.
Therefore, he mentions the extensive use of telegrams that took place during that period and certain difficulties that such a way of communication could involve. To begin with, it is necessary to say that this practice was very time-consuming because important documents had to pass from hand to hand and this is why it was extremely difficult to make important decisions as soon as possible. As for the modern situation with the distribution of critical information in embassies, it is important to mention that its effectiveness and speed have increased because of a wide range of services allowing people who may be in different countries to exchange text messages, audio files, and videos instantly. Thus, it is necessary to say that people working in foreign ministries started using a new communication system that involves constant e-mail notification of all the employees when there is information that deserves attention. Due to that, the number of diplomatic messages received by diplomats in developed countries has significantly increased.
As for the way that the concept of a current technological revolution in the field of foreign relations can be applied to the situation in the United Arab Emirates, it is necessary to mention that people responsible for the statements that the country makes in the global community already utilize a lot of information mediums to increase the productivity of their work and propel the diplomatic activity of the country to the next level. Apart from the given tools that have become quite popular in different institutions as they allow to simplify many working processes, Fletcher refers to a few practices that can be called peculiar to the international realm. Thus, in one of the chapters, he states that the use of blockchain technology can be really important for diplomats in the nearest future (Fletcher 111). I suppose that this idea is essential, and the government of the United Arab Emirates should make a note of this opportunity.
Assessing the modern situation with data administration in the country, one cannot suppose that UAE diplomats use outdated practices to manage the information they receive and tackle important issues as they arise; instead, the country possesses enough material resources to improve current administration practices. Nevertheless, investment into the development of blockchain technology in the United Arab Emirates can be a necessary measure as the given system will be able to store a lot of information and ensure its safety; in other words, it will be possible to create a special database containing the information on all processes connected with foreign relations of the country and persons involved. Besides, the system will help to forget about the problem of document forgery as there will be no possibility for anyone to forge signatures and, therefore, to disturb others’ judgment. Although the security system in the United Arab Emirates (related to different aspects including data administration) is quite developed, there is no doubt that introducing databases for diplomats based on blockchain technology will be an important improvement in solving possible problems related to control.
Also, continuing on the topic of technologies in diplomacy, it is important that the data that appears in social media can be used to improve foreign relationships as well (Fletcher 117). Thus, a few applications are allowing the authorities to analyze the information shared by users of social networks to better understand the urgent needs of common people and the opinions concerning political line and foreign collaboration that citizens of their countries support. Even though some people would say that such measures are inappropriate, it needs to be mentioned that the information on social networks is posted willingly. About the United Arab Emirates, I suppose that this practice can also be important for foreign relationships. More than that, for the given country, it could be effective to analyze references to UAE that appear in foreign social media as such analysis can provide authorities and diplomats with additional information allowing them to define further measures that may be needed to deescalate tensions and prevent conflicts with their strategic partners.
Another crucial factor that is paid attention to throughout the book is how the citizens of the country and their achievements are represented in the global media scene; according to the author, it may have a significant influence on the diplomatic success of a country (Fletcher 140). As is clear from the point of view expressed by Fletcher, there have been many cases when performances of some artists did more for the reputation of their countries than the hard work of diplomats. I suppose that this assumption can be applied to the United Arab Emirates and its foreign relations as well because, even though the country is usually seen as wealthy and powerful, people in non-Muslim countries may think that the opportunities of people living there are limited due to total authority of religious traditions. Such stereotypes can be harmful for the reputation of the country, and it may be necessary to develop additional measures allowing to represent people from UAE as they are to remove the barrier dividing people based on their religious persuasion. Therefore, solving issues related to media representation of people from the country can be a good way to improve its foreign relationships; to begin with, it would be necessary to ensure disclosure and show that people in UAE manage to enjoy life without crossing a line and violating the rules prescribed by national religion.
To sum it up, it can be said that the book by Fletcher contains a lot of important information on diplomacy and foreign relationships as the author seems to be an experienced specialist. About the United Arab Emirates, there is a lot of assumptions the author supports that can be used to improve relationships with other countries; for instance, the rise of technology provides the opportunity to ensure the safety of essential data and analyze public sentiments based on information from social media. Apart from that, it can be crucial to pay attention to the way that citizens are represented as it also influences opinions supported in other countries. Nevertheless, there are the ideas (primarily concerning the decay in diplomacy) that are difficult to be applied to the UAE situation as there have been no attempts to abuse its power made by the country.
Fletcher, Thomas. Naked Diplomacy: Power and Statecraft in the Digital Age. William Collins, 2016.