The Craft of Political Analysis for Diplomats

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The Craft of Political Analysis for Diplomats

” . . . the best ‘how-to’ manual for political reporting that I have seen. Lucid, concise, and filled with telling examples, it will be an essential vade mecum for reporting officers learning their trade . . . [and] as relevant to the work of journalists and scholars as to that of diplomats.”
  ––JACK MATLOCK, U.S. Ambassador to Moscow (1987-1991)

Some of the finest political analysis in the world –– the classified reporting cables sent from U.S. embassies to Washington––never reaches the public eye. Now Ray Smith has filled this gap in the literature on diplomacy with The Craft of Political Analysis for Diplomats (Potomac Books, 2011). Smith explains how to write for one’s intended audience, how to make best use of the intellectual and analytical tools of the trade, what happens when the analyst’s views differ from government policy, and why political analysis risks becoming irrelevant, even though it remains urgently needed.

Using declassified cables he presents two case studies: first, four highly restricted Embassy Moscow cables on events surrounding the collapse of the Soviet Union; and second, two cables on the Arab-Israeli conflict that received the State Department’s highest award for political analysis. Smith provides a guide to understanding the work behind the scenes that produces embassy reporting. He offers a practitioner’s view of what is required to do good diplomatic political analysis. In the process he exemplifies the professionalism the best diplomats employ in serving their country.

RAYMOND F. SMITH specialized in political analysis in his work for the State Department and retired with the rank of minister counselor in the Senior Foreign Service. Along the way he served as minister counselor for political affairs at Embassy Moscow and director of the Office of Russian, Central Asian, Caucasus, and Eastern European Affairs in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Author of Negotiating with the Soviets (Indiana University Press, 1989) and articles in the Foreign Service Journal, Journal of Peace Research, Journalism Quarterly, and others, Smith has a PhD in international affairs from Northwestern University.

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by Raymond F. Smith
Potomac Books, October 2011
176 pp, notes, bibliography, index
Softcover $30.00 (members' price $26.00)

"Diplomatic reporting…is useless if not readable and harmful if not accurate. Smith provides a guide to all aspiring envoys on how to achieve both of those qualities in their dispatches. ... I wish that this superb primer had been available during my own diplomatic apprenticeship and hope that a copy will henceforth be supplied to every new Foreign Service entrant."
JAMES F. DOBBINS, former Assistant Secretary of State for Europe