As the Communist Revolution ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the Information Revolution reached the tipping point as corporations embraced the new technologies. The U.S. Department of State, while marking the end of the Cold War, continued to be guided by practices more fitting to an earlier age. Indeed, decision making has become more centralized, access more restricted, and information flow more inhibited.
This state of affairs has been documented by several studies, including Reinventing Diplomacy in the Information Age, Equipped for the Future: Managing U.S. Foreign Affairs in the 21st Century, and America's Overseas Presence in the 21st Century. In the first week of the Bush administration, former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci presented to Secretary of State Colin Powell a "resources-for-reform" proposal calling for the Department of State to undertake fundamental change, including upgrading information technology and adopting modern management practices. Cosponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the proposal, State Department Reform, represents a consensus among research institutions, scholars, and professionals that the time has come for action. "In short," the task force said, "renewal of America's foreign policy making and implementing machinery is an urgent national security priority.
The National Intelligence Council invited a group of scholars to look ahead and describe the security environment of 2015. Their discerning report, entitled Global Trends 2015: A Dialogue About the Future with Nongovernment Experts, was published in December 2000. The panel concluded that "diplomacy will be more complicated. Washington will have greater difficulty harnessing its power to achieve specific foreign policy goals: the U.S. Government will exercise a smaller and less powerful part of the overall economic and cultural influence of the United States abroad."
In July 2001 iMP: The Magazine on Information Impacts invited twenty-three American and British experts to examine the Global Trends study and imagine the state of diplomacy in 2015. How will it look? And how will we get there? Among the writers, broad agreement exists that diplomacy must change if it is to continue to be an effective element of statecraft in a world endangered by a panoply of destabilizing threats. They also agree that even as information technology wisely deployed is a necessary element of a new diplomacy, profound changes in its culture and practice will be required to restore its primacy by 2015. And practically everyone agrees that the public dimension of diplomacy increases in importance as the world's population becomes more engaged.
About the Report
This report is the third of three in a special series published by the United States Institute of Peace's Virtual Diplomacy Initiative. The series, entitled "Net Diplomacy: Toward the Year 2015," was originally published July 23, 2001, by the online magazine iMP: The Magazine on Information Impacts, http://www.cisp.org/imp/, a publication of the Center for Information Strategy and Policy (CISP) and of Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). Guest editor Barry Fulton invited authors to speculate on the state of diplomacy in 2015. What turned out to be the final edition of iMP for the foreseeable future became an opportunity to print and circulate its contents to the Virtual Diplomacy Series' audiences. We are grateful to Amy Friedlander, editor of iMP, who edited the original online version, to all of the authors, and especially to Barry Fulton who agreed to reassume the duties of guest editor for the Virtual Diplomacy Series production.
About the Editor
Barry Fulton is a research professor at George Washington University and director of the Public Diplomacy Institute. He retired from the Foreign Service as a minister-counselor after a thirty-year career with the United States Information Agency. He joined the Center for Strategic and International Studies in 1997 and directed the CSIS study "Reinventing Diplomacy in the Information Age."