Naked Diplomacy in the Digital Age by Tom Fletcher

Subject: Politics & Government
Pages: 10
Words: 2548
Reading time:
9 min
Study level: College


Diplomacy is the foundation of growth and development in any country. In his book, Fletcher (2016) argues that diplomacy helps a country to promote and sell its brand in the global arena. At the same time, countries rely on strong international relations to build allies and friendships in the world. Peaceful coexistence is made possible through the establishment of alliances between nations.

It is from these relationships that trade, transfer of information, and sharing of policies and resources, as well as the exchange of programs and intergovernmental cooperation, is realized (Fletcher, 2016). All these results in growth and development. In the book Naked Diplomacy, author Tom Fletcher (2016) compares diplomacy to social development. The author says that international relations are affected by technological advancements. As such, it is expected to transform to meet today’s needs.

In this paper, the author addresses various aspects of diplomacy as highlighted in the abovementioned book by Tom Fletcher, Naked Diplomacy: Power and Statecraft in the Digital Age. The paper will cover the major arguments made by Tom Fletcher and how they relate to diplomacy in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). To this end, the author will focus on the transformation of diplomacy as explained by Fletcher, along with its relevance to the UAE’s international relations. The ideas postulated by Fletcher that are inapplicable to UAE diplomacy will also be highlighted.

Transformation of Diplomacy and Foreign Policy as Explained in Naked Diplomacy

Fletcher’s Naked Diplomacy digs into the history of diplomacy and the evolutionary changes it has gone through over the years. In this book, the author notes that the first diplomat in the world remains unknown. However, the history and evolution of diplomacy can be traced back to 1492 (Fletcher, 2016). The author argues that diplomacy began to take shape when people stopped using messengers and opted for communication through writing.

There were changes in structures and rules of law, which were meant to allow for civilized coexistence. Tom Fletcher highlights the evolution of old diplomacy. The bureaucratic records of trade between Imperial China and Shen Weiqin symbolized this old diplomacy (Fletcher, 2016). A Guide to Diplomacy, written by Chanakya, the Indian Maurya Dynasty’s advisor, is another form of evidence mentioned by Fletcher. Fletcher says that the advisor believed diplomacy involved appeasing, bribing, dividing, punishing, and deceiving neighboring countries. His ideas on the preservation of wildlife and rule of law are still relevant, and his ideas, in general, remain relevant to UAE’s international relations.

Countries and kingdoms believed in dominance through wars to expand their territories and to achieve a market advantage. The struggle for resources necessitated the need for proper channels of communication. Countries were able to form ministries of foreign affairs dating back to the 1840s. Such a ministry was meant to ease communication between countries (Fletcher, 2016). For instance, policies to do with international relations are formulated and implemented by the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

As a result of the establishment of ministries of foreign affairs, diplomacy has changed significantly. Fletcher talks of the Vienna Convention’s Diplomatic Relation of 1961, of which the UAE is a signatory, which was meant to protect diplomats from the trial in foreign countries. Slowly, diplomacy became a tool for political and economic management.

Traditionally, the information in international relations was passed from one person to the next through the help of a messenger. Messengers used various means of transport to carry out their duties. With time, this has changed. The road to diplomacy is slowly taking the shape of video conferencing. At the same time, virtual embassies are arising in different parts of the world. Social media is taking over the communication space (Fletcher, 2016).

Immediate feedback is available from direct communication through Twitter, Facebook, or Skype. The changes are bringing diplomacy as it is known today to an end. However, things may remain relatively unchanged in the UAE if the country continues to gag social media. Creativity and innovation, according to the World Economic Forum, are the only recommended tools for diplomacy. The reason is that international relations are as important today as they were 200 years ago.

Ideas from Naked Diplomacy that are Applicable to UAE Diplomacy

Public Diplomacy and Leadership

Keeping the public “vaguely informed” can be a source of rebellion against the government (Fletcher, 2016). The UAE is undergoing rapid development, while some of its contemporaries in the Muslim world require foreign aid. As such, the government must appeal to public and foreign envoys. Fletcher (2016) explains the importance of providing information to citizens. An example is given by Winston Churchill, who realized the need for public information after the Second World War. He became the first diplomat to establish a communication system where the public was well informed. At that time, it was called public diplomacy (Fletcher, 2016).

As illustrated by Fletcher (2016), leadership is another trait of a good diplomat. Diplomats represent their leaders and countries on many occasions. As such, they should be effective representatives. They should be able to develop a compelling vision, engage people, and establish structures and plans to help them achieve their goals. When this happens, the trust and confidence of public and foreign envoys are earned. It is a strategy that can be used to improve diplomacy in the UAE.

Concorde and Foreign Cooperation Diplomacy

Leaders and diplomats believe in conferences to solve global challenges. International diplomacy can only be achieved when there is an ease of movement. Road Diplomacy, as Fletcher (2016) explains, continued after the Second World War. To highlight this point, Fletcher talks of US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger as the first practitioner of this trade. Kissinger believed that direct diplomacy was necessary for personal interaction between statesmen.

He called the process of Concorde diplomacy. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is said to have visited 112 countries during her time as Secretary of State. Barack Obama and David Cameron bonded aboard the President’s Marine 1 in July 2010.

For the UAE to increase its trade and resource mobilization in the world, and increased global presence is needed. The country can only achieve this through Fletcher’s Road Diplomacy, which is also important in establishing bonds between UAE citizens and other people around the world. The ability to interact enhances the sharing of information, which is useful in building the economy (Fletcher, 2016).

Promoting National Brand and Citizen Diplomacy

The image of any nation depends on how the government sells itself to its citizens and the outside world. The operation of foreign investment and global markets depends on the brand of a country. As Fletcher (2016) illustrates, diplomats have the role of marketing their country to the rest of the world. They should also ensure that they provide relevant information to the global audience to paint a picture of a beautiful nation. Understanding the content and application of this brand is important to diplomacy (Fletcher, 2016).

Promoting the national brand involves investing in emerging economies. Such economies include media, cultural institutes, and education (Fletcher, 2016). To this end, the UAE should focus on what is directly under its control. It can do this through internal development, strengthening defense, and improving foreign relations. It is important to remain on the side of the citizens to avoid rebellion. It also helps to gain trust both locally and internationally. The effective use of diplomacy to smoothen rough edges and champion for what is right, as explained by Fletcher (2016), should be encouraged in the UAE.

The use of a universal language is another tool for brand promotion. It fosters trade, education, information sharing, and other opportunities. Fletcher says that in the next 100 years, English-speaking countries will have more advantages in trade and cooperation than their non–English-speaking counterparts. As of 2015, approximately 2 billion people were using English as a common language (Fletcher, 2016). To this end, the UAE’s government should promote the use of English in the country as that language matters greatly in managing global power. Creativity is also important in diplomacy. New powers will demand the prioritization of creativity and even create a department for it in their ministries of foreign affairs (Fletcher, 2016). The UAE should not be left behind.

Mediation and Peace-making Diplomacy

The need for human growth and development necessitates the evolution of interactions. The UAE and other Arab countries often suffer from unsettled internal conflicts. Internal and international differences deny these countries the chance to heal and develop. To resolve this problem, UAE diplomats are expected to mediate the tricky issues dividing the countries. For instance, Fletcher (2016) explains the ongoing peace negotiations in Northern Ireland as an example of good diplomacy.

Diplomats are expected to be smart and resilient. They should know their opponents and understand the rhythms of negotiation. They are required to be humble and polite. Fletcher (2016) uses David Cameron to highlight the importance of sincerity and humility. His apology regarding Savile’s 2010 Bloody Sunday Inquiry was honest and sincere. Diplomats in the UAE can learn from this leader.

Ideas in Naked Diplomacy that are Inapplicable to UAE Diplomacy

Hard Power and Threat Diplomacy

Traditionally, diplomats believed in threats against neighboring countries to expand their market space. Hard power came in the form of punishments, violence, espionage, discrimination, and military war (Fletcher, 2016). Some countries still employ these tactics to acquire resources today. According to Fletcher (2016), Theodore Roosevelt explained the irrelevance of hard power in today’s society. His sentiments are captured by Tom Fletcher when he says, “Nothing could more promote iniquity for free and enlightened people rather than to render themselves powerless while leaving every despotism and barbarism armed” (Fletcher, 2016, p. 23).

Force is no longer effective in contemporary diplomacy. Consequently, the UAE’s diplomats should avoid chest-thumping and harassing their way into the global arena. Instead, they should change their tack and embrace soft power diplomacy.

Tom Fletcher adds that diplomats need to offer something more sophisticated than the mere use of force. There should be the use of highly integrated cultural and economic tools. The best way is to combine soft and hard power. However, the UAE needs more soft powers to grow and develop. Also, for continued peace in the Arabian countries, military action and other forms of violence should be discouraged.

Secrecy and Undermining the Power of the Media

Diplomacy is known to involve lies and secrecy. Diplomats hide behind lies to protect the image of their country. At the same time, they spy and further their agenda in secret. The lies and secrets have worked before, but the current era of social media makes it difficult to achieve the same level of success. People change with technology. As such, governments are expected to remain answerable to the people (Fletcher, 2016).

In so doing, transparency is realized. Social media is a free platform through which the public can demand accountability and transparency from the government. It changes the relationship between the governed and the governing body. In the case of the UAE, openness and giving citizens the attention they require should be prioritized.

Innovation and change in the social space have various impacts on diplomacy. For example, the number of people connected to the internet today is 3 billion. Fletcher (2016) highlights the daunting effects of social media on diplomacy. The media can be disastrous if not handled well. For instance, at one time, Hillary Clinton, while responding to WikiLeaks, claimed: “It puts people’s lives in danger; it threatens our national security and undermines our efforts to work with other countries to solve shared problems… disclosures like these tear at the fabric of the proper function of responsible government” (Fletcher, 2016, p. 70).

To avoid such embarrassments, diplomats should ensure that the information given to the public is accurate and reliable. The media reports on every form of diplomatic action. The information reaches a large crowd in a matter of seconds. It is something that UAE diplomats should be aware of. They should avoid unnecessary secrecy when dealing with the public.

About digital diplomacy, Tom Fletcher explains how virtual embassies are created. The author gives examples of the embassies of the USA and the UK in Iran. The aim is to protect diplomats. However, the lack of contact with the public impacts negatively on interactions and human socialization. The gap created is felt by everyone and this may result in distrust and violence. In other instances, social media can be abused. For instance, Fletcher (2016) highlights incidents where diplomats pick arguments with other leaders online. Michael McFaul, the former US ambassador to Russia, once picked a fight online with the Russian Foreign Ministry over freedom of assembly and speech. The diplomats working for the UAE should avoid falling into similar traps.

In terms of communication, the use of modern electronic systems to convey messages in the diplomatic world has evolved significantly. The first telephone message was sent by Samuel Morse in 1844 to his friend’s daughter. Her response was “What hath God wrought?” (Fletcher, 2016). The response signified an end to human diplomacy; on receiving the first telegram in 1860, Palmerston observed, “My God! This is the end of diplomacy!” (Fletcher, 2016). Similar technological evolutions have affected UAE diplomacy. However, the country should realize that as much as diplomats need technology to do their work, they cannot do away with human interactions.

Online Summit and Conferencing Diplomacy

Summit diplomacy involves meetings and other forms of discussions that end in meeting halls. It includes indoor and outdoor summits and conferences and can be achieved through physical or virtual meetings (Fletcher, 2016). According to Tom Fletcher, the use of the conference started in the nineteenth century. One example given by Fletcher (2016) involves the standoff between James Harris and the Spanish ambassador.

The quagmire revolved around the Cuban missile program in 1962. A summit held in Geneva in 1955 marked the successful use of video conferencing. It helped in the establishment of the European Westphalia system. The outcomes balanced the powers of the new states (Fletcher, 2016). About this, it is apparent that the UAE has serious issues that can be solved with a global unit. In themselves, online summits and conferences are not the best platforms to achieve these objectives.


The internal and international coexistence of a country can be managed through proper communication. In Naked Diplomacy, author Tom Fletcher argues that the information provided by a government to its citizens should be accurate and reliable. The UAE needs its neighbors and other allies for the country to prosper. To establish a functioning relationship between the government, its citizens, and its allies, a strong communication point is required. Fletcher’s brand of diplomacy can be used in such cases.

Diplomacy is the face of a country. Its functions surpass the mere appeasement of social media crowds. To survive in today’s changing environment, innovation and creativity are required. In Naked Diplomacy, Fletcher observes that governments need sharp diplomats to survive in the murky world of international relations. The officers should be able to sell the country abroad and employ the required techniques to achieve these objectives.

The UAE needs strong diplomatic relations to develop and thrive. Soft diplomacy is recommended, considering the fluid state of this nation. Consequently, most of the ideas postulated by Tom Fletcher in Naked Diplomacy apply to this nation’s diplomacy.


Fletcher, T. (2016). Naked diplomacy: Power and statecraft in the digital age. London, UK: William Collins.