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I think we tend to stand back mentally so to speak. If you say this is an Arab revolution You speak as if you remember or were speaking from some sort of golden age of stability. That was Mr. Francis Robert McGinnis deputy director general of the British Information Services in New York speaking at the twenty sixth annual Institute on world affairs conducted as a special feature of the instructional program at San Diego State College the institute is dedicated to the use of the free academic forum for the presentation and discussion of current and continuing issues of international significance. The main theme of this year's Institute is expressed in one word revolution. To introduce our speaker at the session here is Professor Minas generalise director of the Institute on world affairs. We're very pleased and honored to be able to have with us this evening to talk to you Mr. Francis Robert
McGinnis deputy director general of the British Information Services in New York. And Mr. Maginnis is a professional diplomat who has served in his country's service. He is nineteen hundred and forty nine. Initially assigned to Washington he was subsequently best secretary of the United Kingdom delegation to Natal and subsequently also head of the chancery in Roswell. Give us a flood of great pleasure to introduce to you to address this institute Mr. Francis Robert Maginnis the making of the revolution is a big theme and indeed looking at your program I see it's being covered from every possible angle. When I was asked to participate among a very
distinguished company I felt flattered and slightly out of place and I asked myself what qualifications of all people in the world as a British official got to talk about revolution. Three hundred years ago we were thought of in civilised Europe a dangerous radical Republicans revolutionaries regicide that's what sort of worn off recently and I don't think people think of us that way anymore. I wondered was it my name. McGinnis which is Irish. I say two eyes for beauty and three for a fight but I'm for a last time a member of a peaceful profession. You don't think of envoys in their embassies. Creating and participating in revolutions. It's not their function it be they wrong if they did so.
I wondered if it was the transition from cookies to Cocteau's. But I think the reason why I chose the same I did the diplomatic revolution revolution pervades the world today and inevitably it has its effect on public business of every sort and nowhere more so perhaps than in international affairs. So that I could describe I could have described my team tonight as diplomacy in an era of revolution. I called it the diplomatic revolution and later in this talk I will explain why. The revolutionary ferment in the world affects not only the world in which the PMC operates but inevitably its come to affect the objectives and the methods of
diplomacy itself so that in a certain sense there has been a revolution in diplomacy. I should at this early stage I think say that they feel as I'm expressing our personal view on personal views I'm not here in any sense as a spokesman of my government. I'm going to try to give you an impression simply as one diplomat sees his profession and what has been happening to its methods and its objectives. And I am humble about this. I would not tend to be a scholar of diplomacy say I'm simply a humble practitioner. Perhaps we ought to define the word. It's commonly defined as the art of conducting relations between states so that in that
correct and strict sense of the word diplomacy it is a technique. It's a method to it is not the substance of the relations between states. The same techniques the same methods can be used for nefarious purposes as they can be used for worthier purposes. As I say it's a tool and the correct term. I think for the substance of what it deals with is foreign policy. But the two in time act and there is a need in conducting foreign relations for some accepted norms of diplomatic method and indeed for a theory of sorts as to what that method should be. I don't propose to go over the historical background but
the greatest contribution made to the theory of diplomacy was made by the French in the 16th 17th the 17th and 18th centuries. And the essence I think of the theory was that successful diplomacy had to be based on principles of trust and on the identification of common interests. There is nothing more illusory than a diplomatic victory. You can put people can have in history put a fast one over somebody else some other country and it's described at the time as a diplomatic victory but inevitably what it does is to create resentment bitterness and hatred and lead to greater differences on the web previously so the diplomacy
in the classic Western view and the view with which I think our own countries subscribe its aim should be to be based on honesty and trust and its purpose to compose differences between states. Now we often use the word diplomacy in a more loose sense to cover foreign policy as well as diplomacy in the sense of the method. And the era in which we live in which the main revolutionary developments of such far reaching scope and so many fields has inevitably had effects not only on the methods and techniques of diplomacy but also on the substance of foreign policy. So what I want to do this evening is first of all to look briefly at the nature of the era in which we live. As seen from the point
of view of the practice and conduct of international relations then to discuss a little hollow methods diplomatic method has developed in arms to the changing circumstances of the present. And then finally to look at some of the new problems in foreign policy which the changes have brought about. We talk of this as an era of revolution and looking around the globe. The really isn't very much China in the throes of an op evil which very few of us can interpret with any surety. The tragic conflict in Vietnam. Many of the Arab and the African countries in a state of profound unrest.
In Eastern Europe in the last few weeks we see erupting the same forces which 12 years ago erupted in Poland and Hungary and 20 years ago in Yugoslavia. Even in the west it's not many weeks since that we saw France stand on the brink of revolution and in our own countries yours and mine. There are sufficient signs of tension of one sort or another to give profound disquiet. One of the striking things to me damns of international relations is to find that this very broad current of revolution is not confined to any one particular political system. It is affecting all of them internally. You have it within the Communist albeit as you have it within the Western world
as you have it in the uncommitted nations. And the other thing which is interesting to observe is that the seed ideas if I can call them that behind the revolution the greater revolution are of course virtually all of them western ideas democracy Marxism written by a German in England who worked in a German who worked in this country. Nationalism again I Western invention and technology. Now when we talk of an age of revolution it's true but I think in doing so we perhaps make some misleading assumptions. I think we tend to stand back mentally so to speak. If you say this is an Arab revolution You speak as if you remember or where speaking from some sort of golden age of stability
and the reasons for this I suppose are partly historical and partly psychological to compensate for our uncertainty about the future and perhaps also a measure of ah mental illness and resistance to change. Historically if you are British or American the reasons why we may think of this we may think of the 19th century as having been unusually secure. If you think of the Pax Britannica or in American terms the Monroe Doctrine the 19th century does look broadly rather stable and secure as a period but I think that's misleading. If you look at what was happening in New York at the same time there was a profound repercussions nationalist repercussions of the Napoleonic era which were shaking the Western European and
central European countries. And if you look outside Europe the impact of the imperial powers or of the Western countries during the 19th century was profoundly unsettling. Think of the opening up of Japan. Think of developments in India and Africa. So that the 19th century was not I think in global terms a golden age of stability to the extent that it did show a degree of stability that was probably attributable to special factors. The more what I'm driving at is that in my view the more typical state of international relations is a state of insecurity. I don't know if you know the story of the Scottish atheist who didn't believe in hell when he died
and to his intense prize he found himself in front of the judgment seat and the Lord pointed down into the pit. And the Scotsman shook his head in my hand and he said Lord Lord I didn't I can. The Lord pointed down and he said you can the new you know now. Now the moral of that story is that one must not go through life Andrea Lucian's. You've got to base your policies on the facts and I suggest that one of the historic facts. It's an obvious one about international relations is that they have tended to be unstable. There has never been a single well which was in a position to impose law and order throughout the globe. So I don't think the current age should be considered unusual because it's unstable and full of revolution.
But there are nevertheless a number of things which differentiate it from other ages. Several factors which have had a revolutionary effect on international affairs and therefore on the practice of diplomacy over the last twenty or less years. The obvious but I think it is just worth drawing attention to them. Foremost we must I think Place the invention of nuclear weapons and then they attainment by the Soviet Union of a strategic nuclear capacity. The fact that the nuclear weapon no longer rests exclusively in benevolent hands has obviously affected the host of the basis on which international relations are conducted. Now that it is physically possible to contemplate the
incineration of the planet it is no longer rational to think of war in terms of its a simple terms as a continuation of policy by other means. On the other hand it is not rational to go to the other extreme and to take the view that a nuclear exchange is so unthinkable that we won't think about it. I'm not going to pursue this topic which saw more expert people than I have discussed and written and talked about. But it is the background to the whole international scene. The second point that I want to bring out and again it's an obvious one is that a transformation which has come about as a result of the emancipation of the former colonies independence is.
I myself find it difficult to remember what a very very recent development that is and how fast it's gone. Twenty years ago in 1948 there were 58 members of the United Nations. Today there are a hundred and twenty four. That is six to six new states submitted in no more than 20 Yes. Thirty five of the members of the U.N. today are countries in Africa either Arab or black Africa. Scarcely less than 20 years ago 15 years ago there were only three independent African countries Ethiopia Egypt and Liberia and it's only 11 years since the first of the black African colonies Ghana became independent.
So here is a process which has proceeded in historical times with extreme speed technology. I mentioned the nuclear bomb but this is only one aspect of it. In so many other aspects it has changed the nature of the Weald the nature that has affected politics and life throughout the world and therefore affected international relations. One of the more regrettable aspects is the spread of conventional. We have a position today where all over the world are armies which in any other age would have been considered highly sophisticated and dangerous but jet fighters and all the other paraphernalia of conventional military might are widely spread
now. Finally the most revolutionary fact or presumably is the spread of the communications media and the results it is produced in the spread of ideas and the spread of education. I said finally I should mention also the population explosion. All of these things have transformed the world in which we live. I want to look at some of the ways in which these changes in the world have affected diplomatic method. I drew that distinction as you remember between diplomatic method and foreign policy. Let us first look at the question of method. Now I don't want to pretend there's been a revolution than the last 20 years because they real revolution in
methods of diplomacy the real modern revolution is already mid leg creek. I see as rather an unfashionable thing for a revolution to be but it dates back to the aftermath of the First World War and to Wilson's 14 points of which the first one was open covenants of peace openly arrived at after which he said there should be no private understandings of any kind but the premises should proceed or ways frankly and in the public view. Well of course it didn't turn out quite as Wilson to the doctrine he was propounding represented an absolutely radical break with the classic diplomatic tradition and it was obviously not in the power of one man however powerful the office he occupied to bring
this change but it wasn't Wilson but it nevertheless embodied in some way the spirit of that a and. I was adopted. I think it's a reflection of the widening popular participation in government which the democracies adopted in the post World War 1 era and whatever the origin. The fact is that from that day onwards at least in the democracies diplomacy has had to be conducted under a harsh light of publicity and with a very much more active popular debate. One of the effects of this is to make to bring
into the net and concern of diplomacy a much wider range of topics and in many ways I think it's made it a more interesting profession. The diplomat today is not merely interested in knowing the views of a small segment of expert opinion in the countries he's dealing with. Who are they. The diplomats of that country. But he is concerned with the whole of the process of government and the popular reaction. But certainly that was a real revolution in method and one I think it's right and proper that government should be open. In other words it agreements when they're reached should be publicly known debated and accepted or not accepted by whatever body is responsible for this and in fact it is a requirement of the United Nations
charter that if you wish to be able to invoke a treaty in that formal before the International Court it must be published and registered with the United Nations. Nevertheless this conduct of negotiations themselves in public is not always a blessing. One of the aspects which it has and which is always girling I suppose to the professional diplomat is that some reason diplomacy and foreign relations are a topic which everybody considers that they are expert here. And I think this is very good for us probably that we shouldn't think that we're pundits. But it has always made in England at least in the last 40 50 years the Foreign Office is I suppose the leading
bought of the cartoonists in the newspapers. And this is sometimes rather difficult to take. But it's good for sales I should say. Whether it's good for peace and for international relations is another matter. I suppose two of the outstanding achievements in the direction of peace or America peaceful world than we might otherwise have had over the last five or six years as one thinks of the Cuban missile crisis or the Test Ban Treaty and wonders whether they sort of things could have been achieved if the head of the negotiating process itself had been carried out in public. And of course it wasn't or carried out in public. The end result was public. But to achieve it a great deal had to be done in confidence to produce a settlement. However
that's a bit of a historical digression. Because they as I said the impact of published on diplomacy is no longer a new phenomenon. And I think if one wants to ask oneself one to identify what are the more recent changes in techniques I pictured to myself how a diplomat of 1939 for instance would react to the diplomatic scene today and I think his first reaction if he went to one of the great diplomatic centers would be to be amazed and to pull at the sheer numbers of diplomats. There are far too many of us. It's not just I wanted to illustrate the numbers where I was in a place like London or Washington before the wall the diplomatic corps numbered perhaps two or three hundred today. In London there are something there
were order of 5000. And in Washington I believe more. And it's not just that there are more countries which are represented by embassies but the size of the individual embassies has grown out of recognition. My uncle was in the embassy in our embassy in Washington up to the 1930s and they still have their little photographs taken and they hope to start of the British embassy in Washington numbered I think 15 or 16 people it's a small group. Today of course you would find it ran into the hundreds and the same is true in Grosvenor Square in London. The American embassy. It I think would be an obvious relief to the taxpayer if the numbers could become. And I think it might indeed be a relief to diplomacy itself and my government and your right and have put a lot of effort into reducing the
sizes of diplomatic staffs broad. But the fact remains that in order for an embassy do its job properly in our days it has to be a considerably larger organization than it used to be. Why. Well the functions of an embassy have expanded enormously over the last since the last world we'll take for instance a subject of a. Pre-war it was not unknown for one country to give another egg but this was usually a simple loan or credit. And anyway diplomacy entered into the process was a negotiation of a fairly straightforward agreement today. Oh I'm way richer countries have accepted in the United Nations a target that they should give 1 percent of their gross national product in aid to the developing countries
and all of the developing countries not only America are maintaining large aid programs. The British one runs somewhere over 500 Million Dollars A Year present and this involves not just handing out large sums in lumps with a simple agreement but it involves a whole range of a new form of work of taking part in detailed aid projects. That's simply one example of the new functions embassies have taken on. Another is in the field of trade promotion. Trade has historically been a subject of diplomacy but it in the past it was more generally in the form of negotiation on tariffs. That sort of thing and protecting the trade who was oppressed arrested thrown into prison. That's sort of bizarre stuff. Today your
Revolution: 20th century phenomenon
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#12 (Reel 1)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Identifier: 69-13-12 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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Chicago: “Revolution: 20th century phenomenon; #12 (Reel 1),” 1969-03-27, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 3, 2023,
MLA: “Revolution: 20th century phenomenon; #12 (Reel 1).” 1969-03-27. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 3, 2023. <>.
APA: Revolution: 20th century phenomenon; #12 (Reel 1). Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from