George marshall

The true diplomat considers the future more than the present

The 17th-century diplomat Sir Henry Wotton said that an ambassador was ‘an honest man sent to lie abroad for his country’. It is a neatly punning definition. An ambassador is a messenger, who has to live (lie) abroad long enough to understand the interests, the preoccupations and the driving emotions of the people he deals with. He has to be honest if his own government and his foreign interlocutors are to trust him to manage their business effectively. He may occasionally have to be economical with the truth to further his government’s interests. If he doesn’t relish that, he can resign; few do. He may find himself disobeying his masters’