Okay, so you've just gotten suckered into your first PBEM Dip game
that features huge amounts of press; and you've suddenly realized
that you know absolutely nothing about the country you've been
assigned to play. What do you do?
You could do what Manus does, appoint a committee to find a solution
to your problem. Or you could do what Simon does, pass the buck
to Thad Black. Or you could do what Vincent Mous does, con somebody
else into writing your press for you. Or, if all else fails,
you could adopt a Peericratic approach to the problem. Here's
what I would suggest.
Take advantage of the power of the Net and make it your own.
Each of the seven powers of the regular Diplomacy game have Web
addresses for their embassy in Washington (and probably in your
country as well unless you are in The Maldives or Vanatu) and,
usually, a separate one for tourist
information (a few combine both into one site). Check
out the site, find the appropriate official, and send him/her
an email and explain your situation. Ask them for information.
Believe me, you'll get more than you ever dreamed of.
I started doing this when I was in high school back in the early 1960s (Long pause for shocked silence, followed by gasps, and then "My God, is he really that old? --- The answer is yes. How old? Old enough to have advised God on the creation of le monde.)
During my days as a Model United Nations participant (along with other local Dip legends Rod Walker, Conrad von Metzke, Hal Naus, et al.) I regularly wrote various embassies and UN delegations asking for help. I always got something. The quantity and quality varied greatly but I always got at least an interesting letterhead for my collection. The most personal response I got was from the Ambassador to the United Nations from the Maldives who also served as that country's ambasador to the USA, Canada, Mexico; and Foreign Minister. He was the brother of the elected Sultan who ruled The Maldives at that time. He sent me a hand-written note on what looked like a brown bag from Sammy's Deli in NYC and an invitation to contact him with any questions. Questions and answers followed and I actually got to meet him (no brown bag lunch, however) years later. The French UN delegation, on the other hand, sent me boxes of information, press releases, background notes, pictures (including an 8 by 10 inch glossy of French President Georges Pompidou), and put me on every mailing list in France. I was still getting their newsletter when I finished my university studies six years later!
Today it is all much easier, of course, you can just crank out a form letter and send it out by email; and you'll get a lot of form letter responses. But if you take a few minutes to write a letter that can't be answered with a form letter, and address it to a person (even the wrong person) by name, you'll probably get a personal response and personal help. I have experienced this recently with some communications with the Belgian Embassy in Washington. It took six people to provide the information I had asked for, but they did it.
Here's a bit of background for you U.S. players. Most embassies in Washington, D.C. are located along and around Massachusetts Ave. They range from old mansions to ultra-modern buildings, and some have both. Staffs range from a few dozen to over a thousand people. Technically, the embassy exists to support one person, the ambassador to the United States from that country. In practice, the embassy is a living organism with its own unique character because individual ambassadors come and go, although a few of them have been in Washington almost forever. Today most ambassadors are professionals, although Washingtons still attracts (and sends) a few political appointees to choice spots. Each ambassador is supported by a team of experts (who are supported by their own experts and specialists) covering a variety of fields: political affairs, military affairs, economic affairs (now perhaps the most important sub-field), cultural affairs and, of course, intelligence. All embassies worthy of the name have a resident spy or two. Normally the spy in charge is a second secretary or counselor, and the grunts, so to speak, are found among the embassy's chauffeurs and support staff. An area that is getting more and more attention from embassies (and national tourism offices) is tourism. It can mean big bucks to a foreign country. Your initial query will probably go to the embassy's press and information office; which handles most incoming mail. From there, with luck, it will go to the appropriate office or official.
Keep in mind that each embassy reflects the current status of the relations of that country with the United States. Information on that subject, among others, can be found in The Department of State's Background Notes.
It also helps to know something about the current situation in the country. For general background information on countries, The Washignton Post's International site can't be beat.
For the latest news on a specific country consult a wire service,
such as WebNews
- Up-to-the-minute news
The Diplomacy Embassy Grand Tour
So, let me take you on a personal guided virtual tour of eight
(Eight? Yes, eight!) key Diplomacy & diplomacy embassies
in Washington and related sites. You may wish, as we go along, to check out each
site on the Web. I've provided a URL (and Simon, clever guy that
he is, has no doubt put in a direct link for you to use) so you
can find them. I wanted to list them in order by the date of
accrediation (which determines the hierarchy and pecking order
in Washington protocol), but I couldn't find that information.
Instead, I'll use the traditional Diplomacy ranking.
For each site, I'll provide a list of the most important types
of information it provides, a numerical ranking (from 1, low,
to 5, high), and perhaps a comment on the over-all impression
I got of the site.
The hardest thing for any Dipper or diplomat to do in Austria is to get behind the surface veneer or mask of whipped cream that Austria uses to hide much of what it is thinking. Most Dippers and many diplomats think that all of Austria is just like Vienna, and that is a big mistake. Vienna is no more Austria than New York City is the United States, as many UN delegates assume. There is another Austria. To understand it you have to brush up on your 1930s Austrian history and take a look at current domestic Austrian politics. If you do that, you'll see that there is much more to the Austrian psyche than just whipped cream and pastries.
The Austrian Embassy site is a barebones site for essential information and contacts only. However, their Press & Info site includes everything except a recording of The Sounds of Music. Very nicely done with lots of info: home page, news, tourism, history, cultural, staff, and other organizations. It also includes a variety of links to sites in Austria.
Britain is going through another of her occasional post-midlife crises. For years the Brits have preoccupied themselves with The Royals and a variety of sitcoms as a means of diverting themselves from the real problems that face them. Now, with Tony Blair in charge of a massive Labor majority in the Commons, Britain is making up for lost time. For better, as some think, or worse, as some fear, Blair is moving Britain into the 21st century. One thing is certain, Britain will never be the same.
The British have followed the Austrian example. The actual Embassy site is pretty basic, but the Information Service site is filled with lots of goodies: home page, news, tourism, history, staff, other organizations and more. I loved the graphic that combined the British and American flags.
France is another major European power that is undergoing a stressful period. Most of the French believe it is possible to have both a Big Government and The Good Life. They are unwilling or unable to accept the notion held by some other Europeans that that is not possible in an integrated Europe. The conflict resulted in the overthrow of the old regime and a shift toward a more socialist one, a trend seen recently throughout Western Europe. France has still not come to grips with some key internal problems: reforming its education system, dealing with a large immigrant population of Arab muslims, and finding a proper balance between the needs of Paris and the demands of out-lying cities and regions.
But here too there are signs of change. France has changed, at least on paper, its policy in Africa. France is reforming its military. And France is trying to find a way to rejoin NATO, now that NATO is more of a European police force and less an anti-Russian Empire military force. Still, when all is said and done, the French will do it in their own good time and in their own way and, as always, with style.
The French Embassy site is technically the best of all of them, but it does have some problems (e.g., I couldn't access it at all on a Friday afternoon during the busy summer season.). It includes all the basics: home page, ministry, news, tourism, cultural, staff, and other organizations links, but I found that many of the sites I picked led directly to French language only sites. Lots of information available, but not always user-friendly.
I tried twice to access the French Info site and couldn't get through either time. They seem to be very popular. Maybe Simon has some info on it?
[Temporary problems, I guess... I just tried and got through without any difficulties. -SS]
A very well done site with home page, ministry, news, tourism, cultural, staff, and other organization links. Very thorough and well organized.
There is also a second Embassy site that includes some information on the new German embassy in Washington with details on everything, except the keys to the wine celler. It was interesting to me to note that the new site and building cost just over $18M. By comparison, the land alone that the US embassy in Tokyo sits on is worth about $200M! The German information site is typically efficient and informative, just what you would expect from the Germans.
The Italian Embassy site looked good until I started trying to access the individual pages. A lot of them aren't connected. Still, the basic information is there: home page, news, tourism, and cultural links. They say the site is in an "experimental" state; an Italian euphemism for "it probably won't work." However, the audio version of the Ambassador's Welcome and the National Anthem came through loud and clear.
What can I say about Russia in this limited space? Not much, except to say that in my opinion as a student of Russian affairs for the past thirty-five years, Russia is going down the tubes fast. If you want my views on that, you need to check out my own Dip&dip home page. I have been trying desperately to find something good to say about Russia's current situation because I want them to make good on this, their first real experiment with democracy. Unfortunately, I can't find anything favorable to report. And, even worse, Russia's past history offers no encouragement at all. As for Russia's future, I am completely pessimistic. The Russians have always lived on hope. Now even that is gone. Or it would be if they really knew how bad off they are.
The Russian Federation site was done by a contractor and contains only the bare points information: home page, news, tourism, staff, and (!) some history. That last link shows courage given the current situation in Russia. The Russia info site is barebones and mostly relies on email links to various other sites. It's a start.
The Turkish Embassy site was very basic: home page and staff. The Turkish info site is a pleasant surprise. It is not quite as fancy as some of the others, but the information is well presented and very comprehensive. One treat I discovered was the ability to send a virtual postcard by email from a Turkish city. I sent 6 to friends in Israel and they all got there! Maybe there's something to be said for the cyberworld after all!
The Swiss Embassy site was one of the best with a home page, news, tourism, history, cultural, staff, and other organizations links. It also offered a good source of news and documents on the Swiss role in WWII, including the Gold.
I know I have painted a pretty dark picture, especially in light of some of the pie-in-the- sky sentiments currently being put out by the mass media, but that is my peerispective; and from a national perspective that's the way it is. Does this mean Europe is going to take its diplomacy into a Diplomacy game scenario? Not necessarily. Although the individual nations of Europe, including the traditionally most powerful ones, are having some serious problems, many of the mid-sized and smaller countries are playing a bigger and bigger role in moderating European affairs. In addition, many international and European organizations are assuming a greater and greater responsibility for Europe's external and internal affairs. (All of these organizations have Web sites of their own if you are interested.) If individual nations cannot solve their foreign and domestic problems, perhaps the collective nations can. A wide variety of economic, cultural, social, and even political organizations are taking more and more power from the traditional states. Even NATO has a new lease on life with its recent expansion into Eastern Europe (even though I oppose it, it may be good for the Europeans) and a new role as Europe's policeman on the beat.
I can't tell you what will happen to our contemporary Diplomacy board next. I doubt if anyone can. But I do know that the changes aren't through yet. However, if anyone can give you some of the information you need to keep track of what is happening in today's European Diplomacy and diplomacy, these embassy sites can.
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