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Some elements against the misleading idea that to be a good diplomat you should just be “cocktail-oriented”. An article by Stephen M. Walt explains how the professional background of the future Ambassadors needs to be.

  1. History. Trying to understand international affairs without knowing history is like trying to cook without knowing the difference between flour and flounder.
  2. Statistics. Most high schoolers have to learn a certain amount of math, but unless you’re going into a technical field, a lot of it won’t be directly relevant to a career in international affairs.
  3. Foreign Language. Diplomacy is all about communication, after all.
  4. Economics. Economists aren’t the wizards they think they are (see under: 1929, 2007-08), but you can’t understand world affairs these days if you don’t have a basic grasp of the key principles of international trade and finance and some idea how the world economy actually works.
  5. International law. It could seem a pretty weak instrument, especially when dealing with great powers. Nonetheless, states and other international actors use international law all of the time, and they certainly invoke it to try advance their own particular interests.
  6. Geography. We often hear that we live in “one world,” but it’s divided up into lots of regions, countries, areas, and physical configurations, and these variations matter a lot.
  7. Get some culture. Education in international affairs tends toward the technocratic, as the previous items on this list suggest. But some appreciation for art and culture is essential.
  8. Learn to communicate. It doesn’t matter what path you end up taking in life, being able to write clearly, quickly, and without enormous effort is a huge advantage.
  9. What about science?  Most of us had to take a lot of science in high school, and some of us continued to do so in college. Although in-depth knowledge of physics, chemistry, biology, computer science, etc., is not directly relevant to many aspects of international affairs, it is powerfully linked to a host of important political phenomena.
  10. Find your ethical foundation. Don’t expect your college to teach you what is right or moral. Nonetheless, if you haven’t figured these things out for yourself yet, college is a good time to get cracking on it.

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30902399_5bfc7bdc96_zImage source – Flickr Francis  (CC BY 2.0)

 

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