Review: Diplomacy for the Next Century

Diplomacy for the Next Century
Diplomacy for the Next Century
Abba Eban
Yale University Press, New Haven, 1998

Review Copyright © 1998 Garret Wilson — August 25, 1998 7:30pm

I have just recently started acquiring the books recommended for my International Studies and Diplomacy program in London. After glancing over a few of these books, it became immediately evident that Diplomacy for the Next Century by Abba Eban, a book I had finished reading several weeks ago was in a different category. It was extremely readable.

Which is not to say that it contains more information — in fact, the opposite is true. I had already come to the conclusion that I myself would not include the book in a recommended reading list for a diplomacy course, if I were doing the recommending, merely because of the lack of what I might call "meat." But Diplomacy for the Next Century is perhaps a good starting point for my ventures into the unknown (to me) field of diplomatic studies.

The work reads very much like a gift-able motivational book one might find on a shelf in the Wal-Mart "Magazines and Literature" section. It is made up of little meaningful tidbits, bringing to mind the University of Hard Knocks book I received for a long-gone birthday. The list of chapters bear out this correlation: "The Perils of Analogy." "Human Rights Seldom Win." "Where — If not at the Summit?" I almost expected a chapter entitled "The Power of a Smile," or some other Dale Carnegie-type advice.

This very readable book can be read very quickly, and its meat-less content in no way overwhelms. It as if former Israeli Ambassador Eban, whose wise-looking face peers at you from the front cover, is sitting down beside a young novice in international relations and saying, "son, there are a few things you should be aware of. Let this book be a guide to your future endeavors."

If taken in this manner, the advice given by Eban seems to me to be sound. Not that I would know at this point, of course, but they nevertheless appear quite logical. The following points, paraphrased, stick out in my mind as what the fatherly Abba seemed to be saying:

Those points seemed quite plain, and they deserve some consideration, in my opinion. Perhaps those will serve the purpose of the "before you begin" points usually found at the beginning of textbooks. I expect to be able to have more of an idea whether these points are more or less correct, along with more controversial points in the book, such as Eban’s horror-filled reaction to the suggestion that the world was never in a real danger of nuclear destruction (which he seems later to lesson by implying that we are past any real danger at the moment).

Eban is no novelist, and a few of the pithy expressions he comes up with he inadvertently duplicates in the afterward. The books nevertheless does well as a non-intimidating first-look at the world of diplomacy. Get this book instead of calling Eban for advice before beginning your diplomatic career. If you find that the content isn’t "meaty" enough for you, you could always give it to someone as a birthday present.