A Diplomatic Note: "A formal communication between an ambassador and a minister (usually the foreign minister) of this host government or another ambassador."
Back in 2007, the U.S. State Department, in an attempt to offer the public an “alternative source to mainstream media” as well as an “opportunity for participants to discuss important foreign policy issues with senior Department officials,” created its first ever blog, DipNote. In the welcome section the State department spokesman said: “This blog represents your opportunity to engage State Department officials, to contribute to the discussion of U.S. foreign policy.”
Creating a sense of transparency and openness is the signature of the Obama administration, so it is no surprise the new Administration has chosen continue the blog and ask the general public for input. They’ve even added a feature that has allowed the public to text the Secretary on her recent trips. But this week, we were really struck by the timing of the “Question of the Week” that was thrown into the blogosphere.
“What actions should the international community take to resolve the situation in Darfur?” the State Department asks on the blog.
The question appeared while the administration was conducting its Sudan policy review, during which acting State Department spokesman Robert Wood continuously has refused to discuss any details regarding the actions the U.S. was considering.
Wood’s inability to discuss the U.S.’s response to the deteriorating situation in Darfur was a marked contrast to DipNote, the blogging arm of Wood’s own agency. DipNote received a litany of responses from the general public and seemingly encouraged public discourse on the matter. Among the many suggestions for President Obama, appoint a high level special envoy to Sudan. Five days later, the President did just that.
The DipNote exercise seems at best like a case of the right hand not being aware of what the left hand is doing. We have to wonder how many in the Department actually know that this type of forum exists. More than anything, the DipNote question this week made me wonder, what is the State Department really trying to accomplish?
The Enough Team contributed to this post.